Saluton! Last week I decided to start learning Esperanto, an artificial language created in 1887 by L.L. Zamenhof, a Polish Jewish doctor who invented it as a completely regular, easy-to-learn lingua franca for the whole world to speak as a second language. Zamenhof noticed that in his native land–then a quasi-territory of the Russian Empire–speakers of Polish and his native Yiddish had to learn Russian to get governmental jobs, and were therefore at a disadvantage to native Russian speakers. A similar situation exists in the world today, were it is becoming increasingly necessary for people in all parts of the world to learn English (a confusing and illogical language if there ever was one), while Americans and other native English speakers have no motive to learn other languages. Someone from Turkey is at a disadvantage to someone from the United States simply by virtue of not speaking English natively. In well-meaning attempts to give their children an advantage in the world, many parents worldwide have attempted to bridge this gap by teaching their children only English (or some other widely spoken language), leading to the decline of linguistic diversity worldwide. Esperanto presents a viable alternative to the onslaught of English and the cultural genocide English brings with it (I write on an English-language blog). It is much, much easier to learn than any other language, and everyone starts on the same footing, since nobody speaks it natively. (Actually, there are several thousand people who speak it natively, but if you ask me that sort of spoils the point. And even so, the language is so regular and free from idioms and bizarre meaning that they are not even at anywhere near the kind of advantage over Esperanto learners as English speakers are over Esperanto learners).
Of course, for the moment (and the foreseeable future) Esperanto is not spoken by anywhere near enough people for it to function as a universal language of international communication, but it has a huge and vibrant community of speakers (2 million according to some estimates) and there is ample evidence that learning it can help you learn another foreign language. It also has a diverse and vibrant history and has been endorsed by the likes of Tolstoy, Tolkien, and Jules Verne. And, above all, it has the potential to achieve its original goal.
So where to learn it? Well, the excellent website/app Duolingo, which I’ve been using for other languages for quite some time has recently added Esperanto to their selection of languages, which is how I have been learning the language. Other resources are the website Lernu! and the Esperanto Wikipedia. I urge everyone to give it a try.
And for your listening pleasure, here is La Espero, the Esperanto anthem.
Update [August 19, 2015]: I’ve started a blog entirely in Esperanto: Esperu kaj Parolu (Hope and Speak).