What is Esperanto?

A short history of the origins of Esperanto

Memorial of Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof
Zamenhof memorial in Herzberg

Esperanto is an invented language, also know as a constructed language or conlang. There are only a few grammar rules with no exceptions. The vocabulary is based on words from other languages (mostly Romanic, Germanic and Slavic languages).

The creator of Esperanto, Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof (1859-1917) spoke many languages and dreamt of the possibility to improve the intercultural understanding between people of different origins. To begin with, Zamenhof tested the functionality of his “international language” with translations. Then in 1887 he published the basics of this language in a brochure with several translations under the pseudonym Dr. Esperanto (Esperanto = hope). The author’s pseudonym soon became the name of the language itself: Esperanto.

Zamenhof’s international language quickly gained popularity and by and by the first Esperanto association was founded. By the beginning of the twentieth century there were organisations and local groups on every continent. However, world wars and dictatorships prevented the further spread of Esperanto.

Today there are, once again, Esperanto associations and groups all over the world who endeavor to spread the language, offer courses and use Esperanto to communicate with international contacts. Esperanto is spoken in over 100 countries.Thanks to the simplicity of the language and the huge commitment of its speakers, Esperanto is the most widely used conlang in the world with a superbly functioning international network.