2017’s YO!Fest, a key highlight of Europe Calling - a year of events to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Maastricht treaty - brought together 3,000 young people to debate key topics on the future of Europe.
6 and 7 february 2017

Esperanto 101: Learn the most widely used international auxiliary language!

Maija Maunu

Maija Maunu is an 18-year-old young person who’s passionate about discovering the world. She was born and raised in Finland but her heart has taken her all around the world and will hopefully continue to do so. In Finland she is the spokesperson of her local youth council. Maija trains youth councils around Finland and volunteers in a youth exchange organisation. She has also had the honor to be a young ambassador to the USA and the youth delegate of Finland in the Congress of the Council of Europe. Maija says she's very excited to be writing about her thoughts for the YO!Mag and she hopes you stick around and get inspired by her stories!


Saluton! Mi nomiĝas Maija. Mi estas de Finnlando.

I just introduced myself in Esperanto (a skill I gained in a YO!Fest workshop!) and if you speak at least one of the biggest European languages there is a high chance that you understood that. About 75% of Esperanto’s vocabulary comes from Latin and Romance languages, especially French. About 20% comes from Germanic languages, German and English, and the rest comes mainly from either Slavic languages like Russian and Polish or from Greek.

What is this language, and why would you want to learn it?

Esperanto is an international language devised in 1887 by Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof. Zamenhof originally designed the language to break language barriers, and to help the people living in intercultural areas to get along better.

The words from Romance languages were chosen to be the most recognizable throughout the world. For example, the word “radio”, although technically Romance, is now used internationally. Someone knowing only Russian and looking at a text in Esperanto would immediately recognize around 40 % of the words without even having studied the language.

Esperanto is the  most widely used international auxiliary language and is especially popular in Eastern Europe, Eastern Asia and South America. There are approximately 1,000 native speakers, 10,000 people who can speak Esperanto fluently, 100,000 who can use it actively, 1 million who understand a lot of the language, and about 10 million who have studied it to some extent.

For a native English speaker Esperanto is said to be five times as easy to learn as Spanish or French, ten times as easy to learn as Russian and twenty times as easy to learn as Arabic or spoken Chinese. Esperanto is considerably easier to learn than national languages, since its structure is simpler and more regular.

Did you know that knowing Esperanto can also help you with learning other foreign languages?

It’s said and experienced that it is very helpful to learn Esperanto before learning other languages. For example, you may become more fluent in French by first studying Esperanto for 6 months and then studying French for a year and a half, instead of just studying French for two years. The reason may be that Esperanto’s regular grammar and word formation make it easier to get a hold on other languages’ grammar and rules.

For example, lerni = to learn, lernejo = a school, lernanto = a pupil/student and lernejestro = a principal. The affixes also have a meaning alone: ejo = place, estro = leader/head and therefore all the compounds can be formed logically. Easy, right?

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The best part is that there are endless options for ways of studying Esperanto. Start with the Duolingo app and if you like it, you can find free courses online or find a university that offers courses for Esperanto learners. An Esperanto student explained why he studies Esperanto:

“It’s real. It has real speakers. It has literature. It does not have one culture, but rather a diverse beautiful mixed culture from all over the world. And learning it takes way less time than any other language ever, so I can just learn Esperanto fast and learn other languages after that.”

I think I will check out the Duolingo content for Esperanto right now.

Maija Maunu

Maija Maunu is an 18-year-old young person who’s passionate about discovering the world. She was born and raised in Finland but her heart has taken her all around the world and will hopefully continue to do so. In Finland she is the spokesperson of her local youth council. Maija trains youth councils around Finland and volunteers in a youth exchange organisation. She has also had the honor to be a young ambassador to the USA and the youth delegate of Finland in the Congress of the Council of Europe. Maija says she's very excited to be writing about her thoughts for the YO!Mag and she hopes you stick around and get inspired by her stories!

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