This week, in the town of Nitra, Slovakia, the annual World Esperanto Congress is being held. About 1,400 people from 60 countries are expected to descend upon this city of 80,000 in the western part of the country. The representatives are coming together to bring attention to Esperanto and to mark the anniversary of the publication of the movement’s seminal work, Unua Libro. This “First Book” was published on July 26, 1887 in Warsaw, Poland by L.L. Zamenhof who is considered the founder of Esperanto.
So, I’ve thrown around this term “Esperanto” several times, but what is it? Esperanto is the name of the world’s largest constructed language, that is a language designed for a specific purpose. Think Klingon in Star Trek or Elfish in the Lord of the Rings. But Esperanto was not meant for sci-fi or fantasy use. It was meant for the real world. Zamenhof hoped to create a universal language that would bridge the eternal “lost in translation” problem. While Esperanto has failed to allow us to overcome the cultural differences that different languages bring, it hangs on until today as a symbol of hope and human universality.
If you are interested, everything I have read on Esperanto claims that it is quite easy to learn – and no, I have not tried!