Many of us know that the numbers usually cited for the amount of Esperanto speakers is an estimate, and a rather old estimate by now that seems to circulate mainly because everyone repeats it over and over because it matches our gut feelings and vague impressions well enough (as we see on the current Wikipedia page for Esperanto, I see the common range of "between 100,000 and 10 million L2 speakers".)

I intend to differentiate my question from this one: How many Esperanto speakers exist? by asking: We know it's difficult to calculate the real number, so do we have any ideas for how it might one day be done?

The reasons for why it is difficult are clear. It's hard to calculate the "speakers" of any language (and we must first define "speaker"), let alone a language like Esperanto, which is not one of the "larger" world languages, and whose speakers are not concentrated in any particular region.

A starting place for exploring our attempts and successes/failures at calculating Esperanto speakers is here: Statistiko de Esperantujo.

Perhaps this is a question better directed towards specialists in the field of demographics or statistics, but I want to begin asking this question somewhere. And perhaps it's too theoretical, or too discussion-y and not question-y enough. And if my question isn't different enough from "How many Esperanto speakers exist?", I understand. But this is a lingering question in the Esperanto community, and finding a solution would be a great achievement.

Edit: IMO this answer by Marcos Cramer is worth reading (as are all of the answers to "How many Esperanto speakers exist?", but this one particularly) before discussing this topic:


  • I doubt you would even reach 1 % of the internet community, the active non-internet community and the local groups. Though I would die to see real reliable numbers in my lifetime. For the internet part, facebook would be one community, but facebook is rather controversial.
    – Joop Eggen
    Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 20:27
  • @JoopEggen I would love to see a method for gathering the numbers on the amount of people who use their Facebook interface in Esperanto, and who list Esperanto among their spoken languages (this wouldn't be too accurate, of course), and also a breakdown by age, gender, country etc. of the FB Esperanto group members and of people using the Esperanto interface on FB. I have no idea how to do that though I assume it can be done--doesn't FB exist to gather such info rather freely for people who might profit from it? :)
    – Kat Ño
    Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 20:45

5 Answers 5


It is always a hard problem to reach even a significant portion of a community. Here, even more so, as there is a growing apparent disconnect between "traditional" Esperantists and the "modern" ones (Internet, Facebook crowd). Only way I see it ever happening would be some kind of "chain letter" thing where a speaker would pass the request to other speakers (on- and off-line) and so on.

Doubt any one individual could pull it off on its own. Enlisting the collaboration of national associations for offline distribution and credibility, as well as the likes of Evildea and other well-known Internet Esperantists might be the way to go (and even so with no guarantees).

I'd tie it to something like Zamenhof Day, and also do it as simple as possible: short hand writable URL e.g. esperantocensus.org, just follow link, enter age and country. Anonymous, as well.

  • There may very well be a "growing disconnect" between "traditional vs modern" speakers. In the light of 130 years of history, though, I still consider this an unsubstantiated claim. 4000 YouTube followers may sound like a lot, but not compared to "two million speakers." Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 16:46
  • Completely agree that there are no actual rigorous facts and figures supporting this. A census such as the one proposed by OP would actually be a way to get those figures (and also corroborate those "two million speakers" not very substantiated to begin with). Having said this, note that it is not a matter of absolute numbers. It may well be that we are comparing 2M vs 4K (although this was not only about YouTube subscribers alone). The question is how many of those 4K know (and are known) by the rest of the 2M, to what extent different communities overlap.
    – domiriel
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 0:00
  • An article making a similar case in a much more eloquent way: teokajlibroj.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/cu-ekzistas-du-movadoj
    – domiriel
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 0:01

We need to find something that every Esperantist does but only Esperantists do.

Looking at Esperanto dictionaries is probably one of these things. If we collect data about the visitors of the most used online Esperanto dictionaries, we may be able to deduce some information about the number of Esperanto speakers online.

  • I had a similar thought when I commented to JoopEggen about finding the number of people who use the Facebook interface in Esperanto. Many popular sites and programs have Esperanto interfaces available, and I doubt someone who doesn't understand Esperanto would use them. However, it's not guaranteed that someone who understands Esperanto wouldn't be using some other language for their interface, either.
    – Kat Ño
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 5:01

Physical census of Esperantists worldwide is impossible in the near future. Survey-like census online will not be reliable as there will be little motivation for Esperantists to register there (hence only a few will do it) and because many Esperantists will never know about this survey). The only way to count Esperantists is to create a social network specifically for Esperantists. Almost all Esperantists will register there if 3 conditions are met: (1) it has features necessary for Esperantists but absent in popular social networks (e.g. possibility to see number of speakers of Esperanto, find Esperanto speakers and their number in a city, filter results by level of Esperanto, interface only in Esperanto, etc.); (2) it does not violate privacy of members (no aggressive ads, no precise location unlike in Amikumu, no unwanted trash feed unlike on FB and Amikumu); (3) profiles of inactive users are closed automatically after a certain period of time. If these conditions are met, any person who uses internet and is interested in Esperanto will register there. We will have detailed statistics how many people speak Esperanto at what level in what locations. Only those will not be covered who are non-users of internet and those who are not interested in Esperanto and therefore do not register in the social network. No such social network has ever existed. Those three that exist now do not meet even one of the conditions. Here is review of existing Esperanto social networks: https://discoverfuture.blogspot.com/2014/03/esperanto-social-network.html Until we have such a social network, the best way to count active Esperantists is to ask vortaro.net how many unique visitors they have every 3 months.


I was writing this as another question but I think it will work better here.

I may be an optimist but in my eyes a single, direct, official, worldwide Esperanto census built specifically for that purpose should work: one that would be advertised well in advance (~1 year) in all the big congresses, people would be instructed to tell everyone in their local groups, learning resources and electronic dictionaries would show a reminder to their visitors, it would be heard of. It would be made clear that every reply counts. There's one big advantage that separates Esperanto from other world languages and that is that Esperantists tend to be proud of their heritage and as such most who get the word would make sure that they don't miss out. Also they quite necessarily have some connections because they needed (or their relatives needed) to learn the language at some point, at least, which would be a way of reaching anywhere. So while it's being claimed that it's impossible to use such methods with other languages I believe Esperanto would be an exception. The accompanying questionnaire would presumably contain all the questions about background and level so the results wouldn't be biased towards active users only or towards beginners or towards online courses, and would allow filtering on any set of conditions.

To contrast with the information from the other answers here and in the number 1 question and from Vikipedio, what I mean would not be and would not encompass

  • a part of any larger census, targeted at a general population,
  • a survey of any sort, targeted by design at a sample,
  • a poll on Facebook or any other independent website,
  • passive user counting on any "common" Esperanto resource,
  • a study made for any other purpose like comparison with other languages.

It would be

  • a direct study aiming specifically to be immune against the flaws inherent to the above methods,
  • a dedicated website designed with cooperation with the leading bodies, open for entries in a pre-determined period and offering the results after that (re-opened every 5 or 10 years),
  • aiming at reaching the most Esperantists possible, and trying to ask each of them personally (via connections) to participate,
  • designed to be inviting, straightforward, and easy to participate in, with interface available in several world languages besides Esperanto,
  • having people assess in several questions their own use of the language, experience and proficiency, as well as other relevant information to account for where anyone using the results could be interested to draw the line for "speakers" / "non-speakers".

I believe some of the earlier research topics (like what people think of Esperanto, what resources they use, or what other languages they speak) would be valuable points as part of this questionnaire, but entirely optional. The core must not be intimidating in any way, especially in raising fears of wasting too much time on answering.


I would do the following

  • Make a list of all the Esperanto associations. Ask them how many unique members they have ever had.

  • Try to get statistics on how many people in China graduated with a degree in Esperanto. Also, find out how many people took Esperanto in school in Hungary.

  • Find the number of magazine subscriptions.

After that, I would estimate as best as possible.

This should be done sooner rather than later because more and more people are using the net to learn. It will be impossible to know how many people on the internet are learning Esperanto.

  • I don't think how many people learnt Esperanto in school would be good. In Hungary, a law in 1996 demanded at least one middle level language exam. Before that, most people spoke only Hungarian, and had to learn a new language fast if they wanted to receive their degree. Even in the 2006-2016 timeframe ~50k degrees were held back for the absence of proper language exams. So most people started learning the "easy" Esperanto, did the exam, and in a few years completly forgot about everything. (Since it was unused otherwise.)
    – kry
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 9:29

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