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I started learning Esperanto because it sounded so international, with words from many different languages. It was mostly first just out of a linguistic interest, but then I got to know so many interesting people and now a third of my life – or even more! – is Esperanto. (Watch the interview with me here: How I became an Esperanto speaker.) So do we know what the most common reasons are for people to learn Esperanto?

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From anecdotal experience, I find there are two main reasons:

  • People come from a geeky technical background and really like the idea of a “logical” language. I think this explains why there is maybe a disproportionately high number of computer programmers in the Esperanto movement.

  • Idealistic people who are attracted by the language’s ideals about uniting people and removing the injustices of having the dominate language belonging to one particular country. This probably also explains why there is a relatively high number of vegetarians and people concerned with climate change in the movement.

I think it’s also not uncommon to start learning the language because of one of those two reasons and then be heavy influenced by the esperantists and start adopting the other interests too.

Other probably quite common reasons are:

  • Having friends or relatives who already speak the language and being exposed to the Esperanto culture. It’s quite attractive that there is a bunch of enthusiastic people just doing stuff out of love for the language without expecting any financial gain.
  • Learning the language from your parents as a native speaker.
  • Wanting to be bilingual but not wanting to have to do the effort of learning a “hard” language. Duolingo probably helps here; the big friendly Esperanto button is quite tempting.
  • Indeed some youths learn from their parent(s), and the trend language English has more appeal to them, and they are convinced Esperanto to have no future. Real resentment does not have to be involved. – Joop Eggen Mar 12 '19 at 11:32
  • I was almost going to like your response, but then I had to change my mind because of your strange wording of the second item of the second list. Of course any language anyone learns natively is in a certain sense "forced" upon them by their parents or their larger environment, but normally we think of this as an opportunity given to someone rather than as something forced upon them, and I don't think it's any different in the case of Esperanto. Of course some native speakers don't continue to actively use the language as adults, while others do, but this doesn't justify the usage of "forced". – Marcos Cramer Mar 18 '19 at 17:50
  • @MarcosCramer Thanks, I think I will take out the comment about being forced. I guess the discussion of whether making native speakers is a good idea is a different topic and it’s not really related to the question. – Neil Roberts Mar 18 '19 at 17:59
  • Here is an interview with a native speaker who uses the word “forced” and describes some of the negative aspects of being an unwitting esperantist as a child. blogs.transparent.com/esperanto/… – Neil Roberts Mar 18 '19 at 18:21
  • Thanks for changing the wording. As for the interviewee that you cite: The problems he mentions all seem more related to the fact that his parents are both die-hard old-school Esperantism ideologists than to the fact that he learned Esperanto natively from them. Hardly any other parents of native Esperanto speakers have a comparable degree of ideological leaning as his parents, so I don't think that one can generalize from his experience. – Marcos Cramer Mar 20 '19 at 0:04

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