Esperanto, communicating with the language of hope

Since its inception in 1887 by a Polish student, Esperanto has become the most widely spoken artificial language in the world. Making possible the dialogue between very distant peoples and realizing the dream of a universal language.

The words of the young man Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof in the letter to the friend Nikolai Afrikanovich Borovko they are inevitably connected to the spirit with which the author of these lines thought of creating a language ex novo, Esperanto.

The population of Białystok is made up of four elements: Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews. Each of these groups speaks a different language and has unfriendly relations with the other groups. […] they taught me that all men are brothers and meanwhile on the street and in the courtyard everything at every step made me feel that there are no men, there are only Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews, etc.

Zamenhof lives in Białystok, a Polish city which at the time belonged to the Russian Empire. Careful observer of the reality that surrounds him, he notes that the lack of communication and linguistic misunderstandings are the main cause of clashes and violence between the inhabitants. Not an abnormal situation in the Russian Empire, which already then it boasted an enormous ethnic variety within its borders.

The birth of Esperanto

Zamenhof therefore decides to develop a language that does not belong to any political entity, extremely logical and easy to learn. His cultural baggage will be of great help in the enterprise: as a classical high school student he already knows Latin, Greek, English and French, and Polish and Russian as mother tongues. The first version of the artificial language, proto-Esperanto, was born right in the classroom. The young Zamenhof perfects it day after day, teaches it to his companions and in 1878, at the age of only 19, recites a poem written in the new lingo internacia (this is his original name) to demonstrate its effectiveness and expressiveness.

Unfortunately, Zamenhof’s father decided to burn all his son’s notes on the newborn “international language”, fearing that they would distract him from his medical studies. So it was necessary to wait another ten years, until 1887, to see the second version, this time the definitive one, of the Esperantist language; the same that today artists, writers, musicians and directors use for their works.

A universal ideal

The founding documents of the Esperantist world are the Boulogne Declaration (1905) and the Prague Manifesto (1996). With them the existence of a new auxiliary language to be used in international exchanges is not only sanctioned, but the creation of a community with its ideals is affirmed, strongly influenced by positivism and optimism towards the future. Right from the start, in fact, Zamenhof renounced any right to Esperanto: the language must not belong to an individual, but to humanity. The only Esperantist spiritual possessors must be those who will make the best use of it: poets, artists, writers.

It is also stated that Esperanto must not be a political tool, and for this reason it does not affiliate itself with any current, party or ideology that is not brotherhood and peace among men. In this sense it was symbolic proposal of the European parliamentarian Ljudmila Novak, Slovenian, to make the artificial language the one commonly used in the European Parliament.

Influences on society, art and literature

In its short history, the Linvo Internacia unfortunately it has not had much recognition in popular society, remaining exclusive to intellectual circles. Yet there are famous episodes such as that of theIsland of Roses, the state born on a platform off the coast of Romagna in 1967, where Esperanto, albeit briefly, became the official language of a nation for the first time. A similar proposition had already been advanced to the state of Moresnetwhich existed in Europe from 1816 to 1919, but without any continuation.

This language has also found its place in artistic works, especially in cinema and literature. Many movies, from Gattaca to Captain Fantasticcontain dialogues in Esperanto, and there is no shortage of songs, including “Con Te Partirò” by Andrea Bocelli, which Esperanto artists have translated and re-proposed in versions acclaimed by listeners.

This is the International Language. The first which, in addition to communicating information, serves to convey a clear and unequivocal message of hope, without exception, just like the medium that generated it. A language where nothing, not even its very name, is left to chance. Esperanto is the present participle of the verb experience, hope. And anyone who reads a book, listens to a song, watches an Esperantist film will read and listen the language of those who hope.

Lorenzo Luzza

Print this article

Esperanto, communicating with the language of hope