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I have been, for the last few months, ambivalent about learning Esperanto. Actually, I have yet to learn much of anything because I cannot gauge whether it would be reasonable to take time to do so rather than focus on other languages I have been dedicating my free-time to. I admire Esperanto for its emphasis on international cooperation, as well as its supposed relative ease to learn it. Being interested in language, also being a high school student who wants to be an ESL teacher, Esperanto does have its appeal for me. However, amongst all of its criticism, what stands out is this question:

Will Esperanto survive in the future? It has lasted surprisingly long, now that I have seen its history, but is the community of speakers growing sufficiently amongst younger people so that we can safely say that it will be active in 30 years? Is there a way to see statistics for this? If a language does not grow with younger people, it will die as soon as the older people do. Though I am in high school, I also already love languages and am politically pink in general and so fit a sort of stereotypical image of an Esperanto learner, so I do not consider my presence really indicative of any trends.

I see the course on Duolingo is at or near half a million learners, but how many of them are completing the course? What is the mean or median age of these people? Why are these people learning it? I know these aren't exactly solid questions, but they are things I cannot come up with answers for, so I figured someone with experience on here may have concrete answers for sharing. Thank you!

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    Welcome to StackExchange! I’m afraid this question is likely to get closed because a lot of people are sticklers for the rules and the question is not clearly defined. However, please don’t be discouraged. If you can split your question up into more concrete questions you might get a better response. In the meantime you might want to take a look at Esperanto on Telegram, Facebook and in the real-life events to get a feel for whether the language is active among young people. (hint: it is :p) – Neil Roberts Oct 27 '16 at 16:40
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    Esperanto keeps outliving its obituary writers. – Mike Jones Oct 27 '16 at 18:41
  • This might be on-topic at skeptics.SE, if you could find an unsourced quote predicting it would die. – smci Oct 27 '16 at 23:44
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    “La afero konsistas ne en rapideco, sed en certeco.” -- L. L. Zamenhof – Mike Jones Oct 29 '16 at 17:51
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“It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

― Yogi Berra

My first thought when I saw your question was that there may well come a day when nobody is interested in Esperanto. That might be 100 years off. It might be 200. Who knows? When I saw that you said "30 years" - I think that's very simple. There will still be a lot of interest in Esperanto 30 years from now. I will say that with confidence.

Consider - above all - that Esperanto is about to turn 130 years old. What's changed in 2016 that will kill it off now if two world wars and who knows what else has not?

I learned Esperanto about 20 years ago. At the Aŭtuna Renkontiĝo de Esperanto this fall (https://www.facebook.com/events/1706419916351181/) we lined up by the year we learned Esperanto. Something like two thirds of the people learned Esperanto after me -- and I am not that old.

I do think there's a danger in inflating the Duolingo statistics. My sense is that a majority of those 500,000 don't reach the first checkpoint. Something like 2% finish. 1% join the FB group for Esperanto Learners. Still, we see signs of life for Esperanto all around -- and never forget, Esperanto is old. It wasn't invented in 2015. It's been around and will continue to be around.

  • “What's changed in 2016 that will kill it off now if two world wars and who knows what else has not?” The Internet, a large portion of which is written in English (e.g. esperanto.stackexchange.com itself). – Slipp D. Thompson Oct 30 '16 at 3:42
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    "The internet" did not happen in 2016. It's been around longer than that, and many people think that the internet has been good for Esperanto. This has been said in 2016, and it was said in 2005 (on a podcast that I just happened to listen to last night.) The other thing that remains to be seen is how the internet will develop when more and more computers are in China and other countries where English is less spoken. – Tomaso Alexander Oct 30 '16 at 9:47
  • Of course not. But it has continued to grow more and more embedded in our everyday lives and in the last decade has become a primary communication channel for most of the 1st world. But my larger point is right here, right now we're talking in English as a default common world language, regardless of where in the world we are. There are also many Chinese people on StackOverflow and other StackExchange sites, speaking in good-enough English. – Slipp D. Thompson Oct 30 '16 at 9:51
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    Works for me. You stick to posing questions in your answers, and I'll keep answering them in the comments. – Slipp D. Thompson Oct 30 '16 at 10:52
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    to "there exists no in-Esperanto-StackExchange" - First, Stack Exchange is a very English-dominated site. There are very few non-English communities on here (only 5 or 6), and very few people who don't speak English know about Stack Exchange. Secondly, this Stack Exchange actually IS in part in Esperanto. People ask and answer in both English and Esperanto here. But the majority is in English because of my first point. – Raizin Nov 18 '16 at 20:32
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TL;DR

Yes, Esperanto has been relatively stabile over the last decade and the small data I could find suggests that the demographic will not seriously change that.


A measure of the popularity of esperanto is the relative number of searches on google for esperanto. enter image description here The y-axis is the relative popularity of the search term esperanto divided by the relative popularity of the search term Language. The conclusion of this graph is that amongst internet users, Esperanto has decreased in popularity over the last 12 years(the peak was Google celebrating Zamenhof's birthday). One has to remember that the number internet users has increased by a factor of 3.5 in this time period and most of the new internet users come from developing countries where Esperanto less common. A measure of the absolute number of Esperanto searches is enter image description here where the y-axis is the relative popularity of the search term esperanto times the number of internet users. To conclude, esperanto is stabile and does not grow with the internet.

This is the age distribution of the members of ISAE, an Esperanto organization communicating science to a broad audience enter image description here This shows that there is a decent amount of young people, however long they choose to stay.

So based on the search trends and the lack of pending demographic disaster; yes, Esperanto is likely to survive in the future.

  • Thank you for the data! Stability is acceptable, and the age distribution data I find interesting. I wonder how the era of of time that people ages 30-50 grew up in, influenced their presence? – MissDemeanor Oct 29 '16 at 18:55
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    I believe the initial graph is misleading. I remember seeing it a few years ago and it turns out that this kind of decrease is common for all search terms (or at least an incredibly wide variety of them.) It has to do with how the graph is generated. With regard to the third graph, one should be careful about drawing conclusions. It is well known that people in the age range of 30-50 are often involved with raising a family and working and so are less involved with "optional" organizations. I do see that the amount of young people is on par with the older bars, but what amount is "decent"? – Tomaso Alexander Oct 30 '16 at 9:53
  • @TomasoAlexander 'decent' means enough not to suggest a decreasing 'population'. Google trends plots C*(number of searches for x)/(number of searches for the most search word), where C is a constant making the highest point 100. People say that (number of searches for most searched word) is increasing more (in percentage) than the number of total searches - giving that general decrease you mentioned. That is not a problem in the first graph because it is simply K*(number of searches for esperanto)/(number of searches for language). – svendvn Oct 30 '16 at 11:22
  • I was running out of characters before. By "what amount is decent" I meant to point out that it's one thing to know that a certain organization has as many 18-20 year olds as 50-60 year olds. This, however, does not tell us trends, or what a healthy organization should have. As for Google Trends, it's useful for comparing other graphs from Google Trends, but not very useful with just one graph. – Tomaso Alexander Oct 30 '16 at 14:04
  • It is true that even though we should accept the third figure as representative for all esperanto, we are not sure that the influx is as large as the outflux.The first graph is a comparison between two Google trend graphs, while the second is not(so it might have some problems with not being increasing enough). – svendvn Oct 31 '16 at 0:44
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No sound statistics.

  • Esperanto has a community, also among the youth, also wide-spread.
  • It also has its own worth as a language one can acquire to a high degree.
  • It will certainly last for at least a century.

But for being a self-motivated Esperanto speaker one should seek a congress once a year or plan other activities.

So I think self-motivation is the main issue. Predictions can hardly be made of a new growth in the future.

It would not be such a great loss too, when one learned Esperanto and after some time would cease further occupation, one at least learned all those romance and germanic roots. And learned that language learning makes fun.

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