CARLOS “THE BARRACUDA” DEL GATO: [leering salaciously] Buenas noches. ¿Habla español?
ROZ DOYLE: Uh, not really.
CARLOS: [kissing Roz’s hand] Is no matter. I’m sure you are schooled in the “international language”.
FRASIER CRANE: Yes, Roz. Say something amusing in Esperanto.
Frasier, Season 5, Episode 6
For many centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, Latin continued to be the language of law, learning, literature, and politics, it having been the amber in which the collective wisdom of Europe had been preserved during the Dark Ages.
By the close of the 18th century, however, Latin had begun to lose ground to vernaculars, partly because of the rise of nationalism, partly because the ancient wisdom that Latin preserved seemed less relevant with each passing century, and partly because, to the modern student whose own language is relatively simple, Latin is just hard.
While there have been many attempts to restore the international intelligentsia’s lost lingua franca, only one has ever gained any lasting traction — the Internacia Lingvo by L.L. Zamenhof, later dubbed Esperanto after Zamenhof’s pen name, “Doktoro Esperanto” (Doctor Hopeful). As international auxiliary languages go, Esperanto’s mostly Romance lexicon makes it fairly decipherable to anyone whose own language is infused with Latin or Romance, its artificiality makes it more neutral than any national language, and its simplified grammar makes it easier to learn than any national language as well.
Like any constructed language, Esperanto has its shortcomings; when viewed without the utopian idealism of its marketing (Esperanto is the language of peace! Of international brotherhood! Of humanitarianism!), the nuts and bolts of the project itself have struck many a critic as a promising if quirky first draft of a language — which is why so many hobbyists continue to make “improved” Esperantos even today. Including me.
Still, for all the issues I myself have with the language — its dependence on convention for the meaning of derived words, its clunky method of indicating gender, the needless obscurity of some its lexicon, et al. — Esperanto was nevertheless my first love in the world of constructed languages (well, second, strictly speaking; I did know my way around a tengwar table prior to that), such that, years after I first put my Romániço site on the internet, I couldn’t help wondering, “Kiel aspektus ĉi tiu retejo en Esperanto?”
On this site, aspiring Esperantists will find everything they need to start using Esperanto today.
For quick random glances at what the language looks like, click on the site’s logo.
Questions? Ask Οὖτις!
- Lernu.net. Introduction, history, and information on the language’s culture and movement.
- Omniglot: Esperanto. A quick overview of the language, including alphabet and pronunciation, numbers, useful phrases and other translated texts.
- Wikipedia: Esperanto. History, grammatical overview, and sample texts.
- Esperanto-English Dictionary. By Montagu C. Butler.
- Plena Ilustrita Vortaro de Esperanto. By Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda.
- Simpla Vortaro. A simplified interface for Reta Vortaro.