Friday, January 15, 2021

Benefits of a second language

Saluton! Mi estas skribanta en Esperanto. Ĉu vi parolas dua lingvo?

I have been learning and speaking Esperanto for about two weeks now, and I’m really having fun with it. I hope to be fluent in a year or two.

Esperanto is a constructed language that was invented in 1887 by Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish doctor. Although Esperanto is not the official language of any particular country, its original goal was to facilitate international communication and bring people together where they would otherwise be separated by language barriers.

In the cyberculture we have today, in which everyone is instantly connected through Facebook and we can stalk celebrities on Twitter, many would assert that learning a second language is a waste of time.

However, learning a second language is a great way to meet new people and see the world.

For instance, a Spanish speaker can go to Spain or Mexico and immerse himself or herself into that culture. Likewise, an Esperanto speaker can visit one of many Esperanto chat rooms online.

Also, Esperanto has a distinct perk. There is a service called “Pasporta Servo” —“passport service” in English — where, if people are traveling to a different country, they can call a number to find a free place to stay. The only requirement is that they speak Esperanto.

I’m not sure I’m right on board with that idea, as some of these places are in others’ homes, but it’s worth considering. One of my dreams is to see the world and all it’s wonders. Maybe, just maybe, Esperanto might allow me to do that.

A few people have questioned why I bother learning Esperanto if it’s not an official language. That’s a fair question. The answer is simple: I enjoy learning new things. I feel like learning a second language opens gates to new opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

When I graduate and my employer sees a proficiency in Esperanto on my resume, I may not immediately be assigned to cover an Esperanto conference, but it will at least lead into an interesting conversation.

Some say learning Esperanto can make learning other languages easier.

Tim Morley, an English and French teacher, gave a TEDx talk in 2012 about introducing Esperanto to children in elementary school.

“Esperanto is a much simpler language than any other that I’ve ever come across,” Morley said. “I’ve learned a few, and I’ve taught a few.”

He said it was designed to be an easy language to speak. I can certainly agree with that. All the nouns end in “o”, the adjectives end in “a” and every present-tense verb conjugation ends in “as.” Things like that make for an easy and enjoyable language-learning experience. Once you have a background in a simple language like Esperanto, you can use that to build proficiency in other languages as well.

I started taking Spanish classes when I was in seventh grade. Since then, I have worked and lived in places where my Spanish skills came in handy. While I am still not fluent, I can speak enough to get by and understand at least some of what the other person is saying.

After 14 years, I find that there are many similarities between Spanish and Esperanto. As a self-described nerd, I enjoy the process of learning another language. It gives me hope.

Email Tim Lyman at

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