Esperanto is the International Language invented by Ludovik Zamenhof, a Warsaw eye specialist, and published in 1887. Of the many hundreds of similar language projects, it is the only one to have established a world-wide community, and a network of contacts in almost every country of the world.
I taught myself Esperanto from books when I was a child; but it was not until after my student days that I first went to an international meeting - the "Internacia Junulara Kongreso" (IJK - International Youth Congress) in the Netherlands in 1979.
I was hooked; since then I have been back many times to similar annual events: the
"Universala Kongreso" (World Congress), which like the IJK is organised in a different country each summer; the "Internacia Seminario" (IS), which is held each New Year in Germany (now so popular that the German Esperantists organise two gatherings held concurrently); the Easter gathering in Italy; the summer gathering in Hungary; and numerous smaller meetings.
For example, in 1996 I went to the Italian Easter Festival in Sant Orsola, with 200 people from 20 countries, the World Congress in Prague (3000 people from 70), the Hungarian summer gathering (75 from 15) and the IS in Freiburg in Germany (350 people from no less than 32 countries).
Each time I go back I meet about 50% old friends and 50% new ones.
I often receive visitors from other countries, making contact using an address-list which allows Esperanto speakers to arrange mutual hospitality. I am also program secretary for the London Esperanto Club. London being the cosmopolitan place it is, there are a large number of overseas residents, and also frequent visitors to the Club from other countries. Esperanto is the main language spoken.
In addition, Esperanto contains a number of mechanisms and makes many distinctions which do not exist in English or most ethnic languages. Apart from the much-criticised accusative case, there is also, for example, the distinction in the word "to change" in the 2 sentences: "the weather changed", compared with "he changed his clothes" ("la vetero ŝanĝiĝis"; "li ŝanĝis siajn vestojn"). These and similar features give Esperanto a power and precision which frequently cannot be achieved in English without cumbersome secondary clauses; but at the same time they can put off the beginner who may find them unfamiliar, or not understand their purpose.
This is the unavoidable position in which a language with the aims of Esperanto finds itself: no matter how straightforward it is in terms of regular grammar and word-formation, there will always be trade-offs between "easiness" and completeness. Esperanto doesn't make compromises on this second point - it is a complete language capable of expressing any idea or emotion in whatever context is needed, in many ways more so than English.
Esperanto is clear, precise and elegant; it is also neutral, belonging equally to whoever uses it. It is the best way I know of meeting people from other countries.
People who ask: "isn't Esperanto a lost cause?" miss the point of the movement, because for the most part it is just a crowd of people getting together to have a good time.
Having said that, much energy is put into promoting the advantages of the language, by the World Esperanto Association (UEA) and by local and national organisations. In the World Congress in Prague, in July 1996, UEA published a new statement of the aims, principles and thinking of the Esperanto Movement, called the Prague Manifesto, which you can read on another page.
Correspondence Courses by E-mail:
Meetings are each Friday, from 6 - 10 pm, and include a beginners’ class, a talk in Esperanto, and either an advanced class or a discussion forum.