Some people may laugh at the idea that thinking in a certain language would change one’s perception of the world, and, as a consequence, one’s being and acting in the world. (A famous variety of this idea is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.)

Yet, I so often hear newcomers to Esperanto being surprised by the ”welcoming”, ”friendly” (and so on!) society of Esperanto speakers. An article from The Verge claims that

to speak Esperanto is to become an automatic citizen in the most welcoming non-nation on Earth

This has me wondering:

  • Is the general friendliness of the Esperanto community merely a product of culture and traditions? – – or:
  • Does Esperanto as a language really somehow ”re-wire” your brain to think in a more holistic and empathetic way? – – or, in other words:
  • Would a jerk be less of a jerk when communicating/thinking in Esperanto?
  • 1
    a related question on the LERNU! site: lernu.net/eo/forumo/temo/23987 – Mike Jones Sep 16 '17 at 12:55
  • @MikeJones – thanks, that’s interesting. I’m more of a ”leftist” myself, I guess, but I have often wondered why there seemed to be so few, say, conservatives in Esperantujo. If Esperanto had the same mainstream role that English has today, there certainly would be Esperantists from all over the political spectrum. – Bjørn Sep 19 '17 at 8:36
  • Wonder no longer: It's because of O'Sullivan's First Law: Any institution that is not explicitly right wing will become left wing over time. (powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/02/…) – Mike Jones Sep 20 '17 at 13:18
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    If it helps I qualify as very conservative. My interest in esperanto came from my love of science fiction (the idea of a universal language to allow more interaction between humanity is huge) and it's total regularity appealed to me because I love systems. People learning esperanto find people who know esperanto to be friendly because they're bonding over a shared interest. If they first came into contact due to a situation that wasn't esperanto related, they may have a different opinion, but for now they become friends over Esperanto, and so can "write off" areas of disagreement as quirks. – cdm014 Oct 16 '17 at 17:58
up vote 15 down vote accepted

I'm sure there are several factors at play - including confirmation bias, since there are some Royal Jerk Esperantists out there - but to the extent to which it's true that Esperantists are friendlier, two big factors come to mind.

1 - Self Selection. The people who learn Esperanto often learn Esperanto because they're interested in learning about other cultures and making friends.

2 - Big Investment and Small World - it takes a long time to learn a language and when you meet someone who speaks Esperanto, you know that they're probably OK because if they're not, word would have gotten around about them. If someone were to go around causing problems, they'd run out of people to talk to really quick and all that effort learning Esperanto would have been wasted.

Usually, though, the way I explain it to people who ask about Esperanto is that Esperanto is common enough so that you can find speakers just about everywhere, but Esperanto is rare enough that when you do find them they are really really glad to meet you!

  • That is an excellent answer. Thank you! – Bjørn Sep 19 '17 at 8:41

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