About 2 million people worldwide greet the new day with a “Bonan matenon!” and say hello with a “Saluton!” These people are speakers of Esperanto, the world’s only constructed language.
In the 1870s and 1880s, a Polish scientist named Leyzer Leyvi Zamengov created Esperanto in an effort to construct a language that was equally accessible to all people. The language would be uniquely consistent. “All natural languages have exceptions of all kinds and various quirky features, which accumulate as the language changes and is subject to internal and external influences,” Elan Dresher, professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of Toronto told The Varsity. “But Esperanto had no history and was constructed with the aim of being easy to learn, so, as far as I know, no exceptions were built into it.” This regularity extends into Esperanto’s pronunciation rules.
Proponents of Esperanto claim that the consistency of the language means that Esperanto is uniquely easy to learn, and moreover, that it is universally easy to learn. Dresher isn’t so certain: “One might think that it could be adopted as a kind of ‘neutral’ language that is equally easy or hard for everyone, but that is not the case. Esperanto is very heavily based on Indo-European languages… And of those languages it is more like Spanish and Russian… I’m not sure what appeal it would ultimately have as a neutral international language.” Additionally, Dresher notes that should Esperanto become used worldwide, dialects and inconsistencies would develop as a result. “In short, if [Esperanto] is successful and becomes widely used, its own success will undermine its original purpose.”
Speakers of Esperanto undoubtedly feel differently. There are many organizations worldwide dedicated to the promotion of Esperanto: Canada’s is the Kanada Esperanto-Asocio. There are local clubs in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Victoria, Edmonton, and Calgary. There is also a Quebec Esperanto Society. Toronto is home to a weekly Esperanto discussion circle. In a notable intersection of Canadiana and Esperanto, a young William Shatner starred in the Esperanto film Inkubo (Incubus) before he became famous for Star Trek. Vivi longe kaj sukcesu (Live Long and Prosper)!