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I barely remember why I started learning Esperanto. One day, I just thought: "Man, there exists a language called Esperanto, but I don't know anything about it, so why not investigate that matter a bit?" Well, after researching a bit on Wikipedia, I continued googling and found a lot of interesting stuff about the Esperanto movement and finally found myself signing up for Duolinguo's Esperanto course.

Now, after almost two weeks of studying, I can express simple ideas and understand simple texts relatively well. Now, a problem emerged:

We learn 'natural' (non-constructed) languages to connect to cultures that have been developing for centuries. These languages have been polished by lots of speakers, great writers, philosophers etc. among them. So, what we study through a (probably foreign) language is the life of a nation (or even nations), for whom this language is native. And this is a great thing to learn, I must admit.

What can we learn through Esperanto? What was Zamenhof thinking about while creating the language? :D And as Esperanto doesn't have that powerful cultural backend natural languages have, it starts to look like a beautifully wrapped but empty gift.

This is what probably many people would like to know: what are the benefits of learning Esperanto?

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    We don't typically encourage questions that are going to start a boundless "big list" or an open, protracted discussion. Let's see if this can be that rare exception — compiling the canonical purpose behind the subject of this site. – Robert Cartaino Aug 23 '16 at 19:48
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    This seems like a reasonable canonical question to have, so I'm voting to "leave open." But other questions of this type, especially those that are less central to the purpose of this site, would be too broad to me. – Nathaniel Aug 23 '16 at 21:14
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    @MikeJones, it looks like you could post an answer to this question. – ForceBru Nov 3 '16 at 6:57
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    @MikeJones, it looks like you could post an answer to this question. – ForceBru Nov 14 '16 at 19:42

11 Answers 11

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One good reason for learning Esperanto as one's first foreign language is its propaedeutic value, i.e. the value of learning (or teaching) it before learning (or teaching) other foreign languages. There has been some research on this topic. Some of it is discussed in What research has been done on the effects of learning Esperanto on acquiring other languages? on Linguistics SE. And Wikipedia has an entire article on the propaedeutic value of Esperanto that summarizes some research findings.

For example, in the 1990s, there was a project in Australia that tried to establish whether Esperanto would be a good language to learn as a first foreign language at primary school (see the EKPAROLI Project Report 1994 - 1997). These findings agree nicely with Tim Morley's experience (see the TEDx talk by Tim Morley).

However, I am not aware of studies on the propaedeutic value for people who already know a foreign language or for adults (since adults have, on average, more metacognitive skills than children, and such skills can speed up language learning).

  • oh, why wasn't my school one of the ones chosen for that EKPAROLI project, that would have been awesome!! – sevenseacat Aug 24 '16 at 4:04
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The previous commenters have focused on the rich history and culture of Esperanto. I want to focus on its future.

I'm a YouTuber who works with Esperanto everyday. There are days when I speak Esperanto more than my native language English.

For me things are very different. I feel like I'm a pioneer helping lead the way to a better future. When I started making videos in Esperanto (two years ago), I could count the number of Esperanto YouTube channels on one hand. Within the last year, I've seen an explosion of video content and creators. I feel like I'm riding a new wave of enthusiasm for the language. It's like I'm watching the snowball pickup speed and gain massive momentum. I absolutely love the fact that I'm at the forefront of this new wave. It's like I'm living history in the making.

I doubt Esperanto will conquer the world during my life. However, I believe it will become one of the giants within a generation.

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No other language – and I do speak a few – brought me even close to that many long lasting close international friendship than Esperanto. That's a good reason to learn Esperanto.

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I learned Esperanto because it has no irregular verbs or irregular plural forms, and that was psychologically satisfying to me. But I understand my psychological state is somewhat unusual.

But another advantage I found to learning Esperanto as opposed to another language is the diversity of speakers. If I learn Russian, I can communicate with people from Russia, and that's great. But if I learn Esperanto, I can communicate with people from all over the world; while there aren't currently as many Esperanto speakers as there are speakers of Russian, Spanish, Chinese, etc, they are not concentrated in one place, so I can meet people from every continent, from many different cultures. I've conversed in Esperanto with people from Brazil, Russia, Poland, China, and many other places, many of whom do not speak English, all by learning just one relatively easy language. And I think that's pretty cool.

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Esperanto is easy to learn

When you get to the point when you'll be able to understand and speak Esperanto relatively well, you'll gain confidence that it's not that difficult to learn a language, which may make you start learning some other language you always wanted to learn but we're afraid of difficulties.

In several months or even weeks you'll be able to read literature written in or translated to Esperanto.

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    Is it better to have one "reason" per answer, or is the voting going to be based on the best overall compilation? If this thread becomes a mixture of both, it will be unclear what folks are voting for — will this thread sort to the best possible reason(s) or the best overall answer? (this is why we don't like these boundless 'big list' questions). – Robert Cartaino Aug 23 '16 at 20:05
  • @RobertCartaino, actually, I could make this answer community wiki, so everyone could add something to it. Should I do this? – ForceBru Aug 23 '16 at 20:06
  • ForceBru, having one canonical wiki answer is not unheard of, but that pretty much forgoes any voting ("best answers rise to the top") that makes this uniquely useful to ask on a Stack Exchange-style Q&A. – Robert Cartaino Aug 23 '16 at 20:14
  • @RobertCartaino, then yes, it should be better to split my answer in many answers that focus on one aspect each and let people vote for the best reason to learn Esperanto and for the best explanation. I almost see how komencantoj (those who've just started learning Esperanto) come and ask this very question and their questions are getting marked as dupes of some other questions. – ForceBru Aug 23 '16 at 20:18
  • answer per reason sounds like a good idea here. voting would then allow the most popular reasons to move to the top. – eMBee Aug 24 '16 at 6:28
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traveling to countries where people don't speak your native language well.

generally when you travel you will meet people who speak some level of english or none at all. you can increase your chances by using couchsurfing, but even there the level of communication will vary.

esperanto-speakers on the other hand almost always speak it well (because it is so easy to learn), and you will be able to converse with them on a different level.

so if you want to have deep philosophical discussions with someone who doesn't speak your own native language fluently, esperanto is the way to go.

  • I want to add to this that while one is likely to find English speakers in most countries that doesn't mean you can just ask around for their phone number and go sleep on their couch. When you get in contact with other Esperanto speakers living somewhere there is a feeling of friendliness and a shared interest already. I feel like I have hidden friends waiting for me around the world. I dont want to say all Esperanto speakers are automatic best friends without even meeting but there's a distinct feeling for me when I meet a fellow "citizen" of Esperantujo even if we don't have alot in common. – Kat Ño Oct 9 '16 at 0:39
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It isn't true that there isn't a culture to learn about along with the language. I recently finished La Zamenhofstrato, a book about the life of Dr. Louis Christophe Zaleski-Zamenhof, Dr. Zamenhof's grandson. The history of Esperanto is the history of Europe from 1887 onwards. How can we learn the language without learning at least a little about the situation in Ludoviko's own Białystok? How the beginnings of the movement were affected by the horrors of the First World War? Read Julio Baghy. How the language and the movement that carried it forward survived the horrors of the second? Read about Lidia Zamenhof's life. The drive of those that came before us is astonishing, their histories heart-breaking, inspiring and well worth learning about. (I haven't even started reading about Edmond Privat.)

As for connecting with centuries old cultures - most root words in Esperanto and most grammar forms were not taken out of thin air. They have their basis in other languages. Would I have known that the correlatives exist in Polish and Russian, without first learning Esperanto? So on top of the propaedeutic value of learning Esperanto as our first language, it can be the gateway to other languages. One can probably learn the language without bothering about etymology or learning the history of these features ... But why should we? Esperanto is a peek-hole through which we can see the richness of different languages. We can taste many different languages, that all have contributed with their own unique beauty to make up nia kara lingvo.

Furthermore, to use Claude Piron's La Bona Lingvo perspective - using an "easy language" makes sure we know what an "infarkto de la miokardio” is - much better explained for the layman as “kormuskola tubŝtopiĝo”, or “kor-atako” (1). Instead of using specialist terminology, one has to use the root words to describe the same concepts, assuring that we really do know what we're saying. Learning Esperanto and using it this way can mean we actually understand the world better than before.

These are just a few of the things one can learn while learning Esperanto that are a benefit from the unique viewpoint that Esperanto can give us. The beautifully wrapped package only seems empty until you start using it.

1) as Jorge Camacho argues in his comment on this article http://lingvakritiko.com/2008/03/03/el-interna-kaj-el-ekstera-vortprovizo-analizo-de-la-diskuto/

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What are the benefits of learning Esperanto?

There are a lot of benefits. Entire essays could be written on the benefits, but the two most significant are:

  • Connecting with people.
  • The enjoyment of learning a language.
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    In particular the enjoyment of learning a language without the need to memorize large lists of words and tables of exceptions. – Joffysloffy Jan 18 '17 at 16:14
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    @Joffysloffy vocab is hell for people not european. lol – Zuoanqh Apr 30 '18 at 23:49
  • @Zuoanqh Oh, sorry, yea it probably is. But it is not as bad as most languages, I presume, thanks to the regularities, and versatility of the affixes and agglutination. – Joffysloffy May 1 '18 at 5:43
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    @Joffysloffy well im chinese so im used to that and didnt think of it i guess :p. you're right. – Zuoanqh May 1 '18 at 9:39
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    @Zuoanqh I see; I did not know that! I actually did a bit of learning Italian before I discovered Esperanto, but after half a year or so I just switched to Esperanto, because the memorization of lists of exceptions and conjugations and the like in Italian really took the fun out of it. (Learning five version of the word ‘good’ and having to know the gender and all that of every word I wanted to apply it too, merely to use an adjective was just torture haha.) This did not happen with Esperanto, despite the fact that quite a bit of the vocabulary of Italian and Esperanto is very similar. – Joffysloffy May 1 '18 at 9:45
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I love this thread because it gives so much personal insight into other people's motivation to make the Esperanto journey. Reading what inspired other people to learn Esperanto made me want to crystalize my own reasons for studying the language.

First of all, I fell in love with the idea of studying a language that you really could learn on your own from a book and be able to communicate with people from a multitude of different languages and cultures. Unlike any other language, people who learn Esperanto WANT to communicate with others. What if I decided to study the language of another country? I could study Lithuanian, Latvian, or Bulgarian and practice until I was quite fluent---but then what? I couldn't just show up on the streets of Lithuania, Latvia, or Bulgaria tomorrow and start talking to random people--they'd think I was weird--but more importantly, even if I did have people to communicate with, I'd be locked into just that one country. Esperanto makes it possible to truly have an international circle of contacts.

Secondly, it keeps me fresh as a language teacher. I'm a Spanish teacher as well as a translator, and even when I'm not in the classroom, I find myself using Spanish on a VERY regular basis. It would be a rare day, indeed, that I didn't use Spanish for some ordinary reason. Because Spanish is such a normal part of my life, quite honestly, it was hard for me to remember what it was like to be a beginner and to attempt to use a language in which I was not yet very fluent. Studying Esperanto gave me the opportunity to go back and revisit what my students go through when they first start acquiring a second language.

Currently, I'm a Ph.D. student studying language acquisition. There are so many theories out there about all the different facets of developing language skills: the role of grammar and how it is acquired, how people develop fluency, how people negotiate meaning, etc. Most of us acquire our Esperanto skills in segments--we have to wrap our brains around the word building features, we have to learn how to navigate the grammar (particularly the use of active and passive participles that show past, present, and future aspect), and then we STILL have to develop oral fluency and comprehension skills---Esperanto gives people the opportunity to fully appreciate each individual segment of the entire language acquisition process. I often find myself reading material about some aspect of developing skills in another language and relating it to some feature of Esperanto or of my experience learning or using it.

Finally, learning and using Esperanto feels like belonging to an exclusive, unique club. We're part of a fascinating group of people who are just talented enough, or "nerdy" enough, or interesting enough--as well as motivated enough--to teach ourselves a brand new language out of a book or off the Internet or something, and then go use it. Most clubs don't have their own "secret", private language--we do!

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Personally, I never learn languages for the purpose of the culture behind it, or even for the prospect of speaking with people I otherwise could not speak with. My reason is always very simple: the language itself. From an esthetic and linguistic point of view, languages interest me. I find them beautiful. This is true for just about any language, and Esperanto is no exception.

The reason, then, for Esperanto specifically, was how easy it is and, as a result, how quick it is to learn. Even if speaking to people was not my goal, speaking a new language itself was, and Esperanto offered this more easily than most other languages could.

  • I saw the discussion about 'one reason per answer' above, and so decided to split up my answer into two ones. I think both of the reasons I gave originally were not given yet, exactly, in the other answers. This answer now seems like it has two reasons, but in my mind, they go together: it is beautiful as any other language, but that still doesn't explain why Esperanto specifically. Anyway, the main reason is the first paragraph. – Vincent Oostelbos May 30 '18 at 9:41
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After many years of struggling along trying to learn various natural languages with little success, the fact that I was able to get relatively fluent in Esperanto in a number of months gave me a first-time experience of success up to that level, so that now again I feel that it is possible for me to get to that level of relative fluency in a language. Now that I have experienced this once I am aware both of the possibility and of the joy in doing so.

So learning Esperanto can be highly motivating for those of us who are interested in learning languages, generally. It can be a nice change of pace after what might otherwise sometimes become a rather frustrating experience.

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