Esperanto, the only artificial language that has come to life

Everything you need to know about the universal language, Esperanto, at the 100th World Esperanto Congress in Lille from July 25 to August 1, 2015!

On the occasion of the hundredth World Congress of Esperanto it’s time to take a look at this language, which, although rarely the target language for business translations, legal translations or medical translations, is so far the only artificial language that has been transformed into a living one.

The creation of Esperanto

Ludwik Zamenhof Lejzer was born in 1859 in the city of Bialystok, in northern Poland. He expressed his desire to create a fair and egalitarian language for international communication from a very early age. At 19, he presented his project to his high school classmates. In 1887, after completing his studies in ophthalmology, Zamenhof published his work in Warsaw, entitled International Language in Russian, the first ever guide to learning Esperanto, under the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto.

The development of Esperanto in the twentieth century

Esperanto enjoyed great success from its inception, first in imperial Russia and then Eastern Europe. It took the rest of Europe by storm and gained a following in America, before triumphing in Japan after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The first Esperanto courses in China were given in 1906. A year earlier, the first World Esperanto Congress was held in Boulogne-sur-Mer, an event that marked the emergence of a spoken Esperanto (hitherto it had only been a written language). The spread of this language slowed considerably during the two world wars, but regained vigor in the ‘50s with the creation of numerous Esperanto clubs and associations.

Towards legal and financial translations into Esperanto?

In the 2000s, with the advent of the Internet, Esperanto began to grow in popularity once again. Today, according to linguist Jouko Lindstedt, 1,000 people in the world speak Esperanto as their mother tongue while another million are fluent. Several novels have been published in Esperanto, which has finally led to the language being translated into several others.

Linguistic characteristics

Although the vocabulary of Esperanto is quite close to Indo-European languages, its morphological structure resembles that of isolating languages like Chinese, or agglutinative ones such as Japanese or Finnish. Esperanto has 28 phonemes, transcribed using 28 letters (22 letters from the Latin alphabet and 6 which employ two diacritical characters). Its spelling is perfectly phonological: each letter represents a single phoneme.

Lille 2015: Hundredth World Esperanto Congress

Today, the 25th of July sees the inauguration of the 100th World Esperanto Congress in Lille. The theme of the congress is: Lingvoj, valoroj kaj artoj en el Diálogo Inter kulturoj (which means, as you may have understood, “Language, art and values in intercultural dialogue”). 110 years after the first World Esperanto Congress in Bolougne-sur-Mer, the organizers  are expecting a turnout of over 3,000 participants from all over the world.

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This article has been written by Mathieu

Mathieu was born in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. After studying Literature and Linguistic Research, he moved to Argentina where he is currently a translator and a web editor.