Useful Notes: Esperanto, the Universal Language
En la mondon venis nova sento,
tra la mondo iras forta voko;
per flugiloj de facila vento
nun de loko flugu ĝi al loko.
Ne al glavo sangon soifanta
ĝi la homan tiras familion:
al la mond' eterne militanta
ĝi promesas sanktan harmonion
Sub la sankta signo de l' espero
kolektiĝas pacaj batalantoj,
kaj rapide kreskas la afero
per laboro de la esperantoj.
Forte staras muroj de miljaroj
inter la popoloj dividitaj;
sed dissaltos la obstinaj baroj,
per la sankta amo disbatitaj.
Sur neŭtrala lingva fundamento,
komprenante unu la alian,
la popoloj faros en konsento
unu grandan rondon familian.
Nia diligenta kolegaro
en laboro paca ne laciĝos,
ĝis la bela sonĝo de l' homaro
por eterna ben' efektiviĝos.
Esperanto is a language constructed by L. L. Zamenhof in 1887 to help foster communication between countries. It was designed to be an easy-to-learn international language. The vast majority of the vocabulary is based on Latinate roots; whether this makes it appreciably more difficult for non-Europeans to learn is a topic of much discussion among fluent Esperantists, many of whom have non-European mother tongues. Sadly, it has yet to achieve the full extent of Zamenhof's ambitions, thus spawning occasional mockery in modern medianote
. Even then, it's still a thriving language within its own media, and there are a few people around the world who have grown up with Esperanto as a first language.note
Some stories set in The Future
use Esperanto as if it had become the main language. It's also occasionally used As Long as It Sounds Foreign
Esperanto hase the advantage of being more regular than naturally-evolved languages. It has only 16 grammatical rules
at base (though it also has other folds and wrinkles
at higher levels), and it never deviates from those rules; also, each letter is pronounced one way and one way only. By contrast, English (unlike most national languages) is full of all kinds of weird spelling and grammar rules that make it much harder to learn than it should be. In addition, Esperanto words are much more easily creatable, using prefixes and suffixes around the root word to handily morph words in any way necessary, thus making sentences more concise and language more literal. (Opinions vary on the subject of how colorful language equivalents have solidly found their way into the language, morphable like any other word.) Written Esperanto presents a bit of a problem in the digital age, since 6 letters of the Esperanto alphabet — ĉ ĝ ĥ ĵ ŝ and ŭ — don't appear in the standard ASCII/ANSI character set; many authors choose to simply write the letter without the hat on it and put an x afterward, like so: cx, gx, hx, jx, sx, ux.note
However, with the widespread adoption of Unicode in digital environments today, this difficulty is much reduced; Esperanto diacriticals are included in that character set.
Some informative sites about Esperanto (in English) are at Wikipedia
, and Esperanto.net
Despite its status as the best known artificial language, not everybody agrees
with all parts of it, (as you can read here
) and thus it has spawned other languages that have tried to correct perceived flaws. These projects are collectively known as Esperantidoj
; they include Ido
, and Novial
. For one reason or other, these languages have been even less successful than Esperanto.
A few TV Tropes
pages are available in Esperanto translations. To see the index, go here
For those who want to learn it, there is a free E-mail course
, a virtually identical postal course
(U.S. only, free except for postage costs), and Lernu.net
. More options here
Incidentally, "Esperanto" is of course itself an Esperanto word (or name, to be precise; it comes from Zamenhof's pen name, Doktoro Esperanto, and translates literally, ‘one who hopes’), hence is pronounced "ess-pear-AHN-toe", not "ess-per-rant-o".
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Anime and Manga
- In RahXephon the TERRA organization's name is an acronym for "Tereno Empireo Rapidmova Reakcii Armeo", which is supposed to be Esperanto for "Earth Empire Rapid Response Army". Except "Tereno" means "terrain", "Empireo" is nonsense, as is "Rapidmova" and "Reakcii" means "to react". (They got "Armeo" right, though.) In proper Esperanto, the name should be "Rapid-responda Armeo de la Tera Imperio"...which, unfortunately, kills the acronym.
- Not to mention that in the first episode, Ayato and Mamoru greet each other with "Ĝis!" which is supposed to be used as a goodbye. Further amusement can be had from the fact that the dubbing team didn't seem to understand this and translated it as "Cheese!"
- ARIA has the scene in Origination when Alice performs a canzone, of which the first couple of verses are in Esperanto.
- In the Night on the Galactic Railroad anime, the signs are in Esperanto and Japanese. Esperanto appears also in various places throughout the film. This was most likely because Kenji Miyazawa, the writer of the original novel, was interested in the language.
- In Sakasama no Patema, the song played during the end credits is in Esperanto, sung by the French singer Estelle Micheau.
- 25th century DC Comics character Booster Gold speaks Esperanto as his first language.
- In Grant Morrison's Seaguy, the universal language is Esperanto, but it's only revealed that everyone has been talking the language in the third, final, book of the first limited series. This is probably done to throw the reader off and make them see Seaguy's world as even more bizarre. It's mentioned again in the second book of the second limited series.
- The science fiction comic book 10 Jarojn Poste is written almost entirely in Esperanto.
- The Gold Key Star Trek: The Original Series comics of The Seventies for some reason explained away the "English" on new planets as the natives speaking Esperanto, rather than the Universal Translator from the TV show.
- The Great Dictator: While the Ger...Tomanians spoke As Long as It Sounds Foreign Gratuitous German, the population of the Ghetto had all their signs written in Esperanto.
- This is oddly fitting, since the language was invented by a Polish Jew.
- Esperanto is the second language of the unnamed city in the Blade movies. Incubus can be seen playing on a television at one point.
- The company Esperanto Filmoj is credited as producer of several films involving director Alfonso Cuaron, including Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Gravity.
- The anime movie Night on the Galactic Railroad uses Esperanto on all signs and inter-titles.
- The Street Fighter movie has the fictional country of Shadaloo that speaks Esperanto.
- Two movies from The Sixties were filmed with dialogue entirely in Esperanto:
- The 1965 horror film Incubus starred William Shatner and was produced by most of the first season Outer Limits production team; it was filmed entirely in (poorly written and pronounced) Esperanto to sound more exotic.
- The other film was the French-made thriller Angoroj.
- In Murnau's The Last Laugh, all the signs are in Esperanto.
- Though all of the main characters of Gattaca speak English, the announcements on the Gattaca Corporation's public address system are all in Esperanto. The Esperanto Society of North America is thanked in the credits. Which could mean that the characters are actually speaking Esperanto.
- Gerda Malaperis ("Gerda Disappeared") is a film completely filmed in the language.
- In Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat books, all the characters are understood to be speaking Esperanto. Esperanto is the universal second language in his Deathworld series. Harrison is a notable Esperanto buff himself, so it's quite understandable.
- Although in The Stainless Steel Rat for President he subverts this in having the inhabitants of a Spanish-speaking planet being completely unable to understand what Jim DiGriz is saying to his wife in Esperanto. And that despite so much of the Esperanto vocabulary coming from Latin, the root of Romance languages like Spanish.
- The Riverworld books, in which the language is deliberately spread by a post-resurrection religion so that they can proselytize more easily.
- Damon Knight's story "You're Another" had a dictator in the far future speaking with an Esperanto accent, with occasional words and phrases in Esperanto.
- In Isabel Allende's novel The House of the Spirits, the character Clara frequently mentions her belief that Esperanto is the ideal language and ought to be taught in schools.
- The Mortal Engines series of four features a language called "Airsperanto," supposedly the language of those who fare the skies. It doesn't get too much prominence in the series, though.
- In The Yiddish Policemens Union by Michael Chabon, our hero lives in the Hotel Zamenhof. "When the hotel was built 50 years ago, all of its directional signs, labels, notices, and warnings were printed on brass plates in Esperanto."
- Polar Star (the sequel to Gorky Park). An American sailor who learns Esperanto as a hobby mentions a meeting his group organised between two famous practitioners of the language. "It took us five minutes to realise they couldn't understand what each other was saying. One's asking for the wine, the other's telling her the time."
- The Shadow novel Malmordo has the title villain's name coming from bad Esperanto, and his international gang speaks the language. The Shadow, of course, is fluent in Esperanto (and Romani, the other non-English language important in the story.)
- Isaac Asimov wrote a short story, "Homo Sol", about humanity being inducted into a galactic federation. The welcome message from their diplomats is delivered in Esperanto.
- In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler claims that when The All-Powerful Jewish Conspiracy Of Doom takes over, a universal language will be instituted, and (jokingly) suggests it will be Esperanto.
- In Scott Meyer's Off to Be the Wizard, all spells used by the "wizards" are activated with phrases in a bastardized version of Esperanto. Basically, they know the words but not the grammar, substituting English grammar instead. When asked by Martin why they don't use Latin, like most stories about magic, Phillip explains that a good number of locals (in 12th century England) understand at least some Latin. The most commonly-used spell is "flugi" ("fly"), which does exactly what you'd expect.
Live Action TV
- Red Dwarf is a bilingual mining ship; signs are written in English and Esperanto (for instance, each floor is labeled with "Level" and "Nivelo"). Rimmer is occasionally seen working on his Esperanto. This was eventually dropped when Grant Naylor decided it was just silly. (The novel adaptation has everything in English, French and three dialects of Chinese).
- Rimmer also refers to Esperanto speakers as a distinct group, the "Esperantinos". (Esperantino in Esperanto actually means "a woman who
hopes is hoping." The proper term in Esperanto would be Esperantisto.)
- Also plural isn't marked by an 's' but by a 'j'. So it would be the "Esperantistoj".
- You get the impression the dual-language thing is more political than practical— as everybody in-universe speaks English all the time, and it's a plot-point that Rimmer doesn't even know esperanto. (Lister seems ok at it, though.)
- Lister apparently learned it accidentally, being forced to ear Rimmer practicing.
- The catch all response to both of the above is Rimmer is an idiot because he can't even learn such an easy language; more so in the first and second series where the Esperanto signage appeared (it wasn't a feature of the set in later seasons).
- In point of fact, in one episode it's suggested that Rimmer has only mastered one Esperanto sentence: "Estas rano en mia bideto." ("There's a frog in my bidet.")
- On Frasier the gang meets a sleazy lounge singer who hits on Roz. She doesn't speak Spanish, but he is sure that she is "schooled in the international language." Frasier is unimpressed, quipping "Yes, Roz. Say something amusing in Esperanto!"
- A flashack episode of The Drew Carey Show revealed that Lewis took Esperanto in high school, assuming it would actually be useful in the future.
- Referred to in QI in the "Future" episode, where Stephen Fry says, as an example phrase: "Mia kusenventurilo estas plena de angiloj." (My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels)
- The credits to Elvis Costello's Blood and Chocolate album are in Esperanto, although some of the words are misspelled (it's "gitaro", not "guitaro").
- Legendary free jazz/underground rock label ESP-Disk, best known for signing The Fugs, was originally intended to specialize in Esperanto music; its first release was a collection of folk songs in the language titled Ni Kantu En Esperanto (Let's Sing in Esperanto).
- From the They Might Be Giants song Alienation's for the Rich: "And the TV's in Esperanto/You know that that's a bitch".
- The opening track in Maaya Sakamoto's album Kazeyomi, "Vento" ("Wind"), is in Esperanto.
- SYR3: Invito Al Ĉielo (Invitation to the Sky or Invitation to Heaven) by Sonic Youth has all its song titles, credits, and even the full title of the EP written in Esperanto.
- "Memoro de la Ŝtono" ("Memory of the Stone") from Final Fantasy XI is sung in Esperanto.
- The scenes before and after one mission in We Love Katamari have the King of All Cosmos working on his Esperanto.
- Only in the localization, as the original Japanese version had him practicing his English.
- In the Telltale Sam & Max: Freelance Police games, an Esperanto bookstore is one of the businesses on their home block. Like most enterprises by the corner of Straight and narrow, it's closed.
- The ingame Morrowind book N'Gasta! Kvata! Kvakis! is in Esperanto. (click the above link for a translation).
- In Wandering Hamster, the bubble-mage James is a member of the Esperanto League of Flanat (ELF). Bob the Hamster completely misunderstands both the acronym and the conversations that James has with the local guildmaster (he assumes that the two are talking mean about him). It's hilarious for the player, not so much for Bob.
- Touhou. As shown in Marisa B's Good Ending in Embodiment Of Scarlet Devil, some of Patchouli's books are written in Esperanto.
- Blazing Dragons contains a throwaway gag by the caretaker for the Cave of Dillema where he offers to teach Flicker Esperanto.
- In Cwynhild's Loom, Esperanto is the official language of Mars and is found on signs throughout the comic as well as on any type of computer output.
- The name of Homestuck's Kankri Vantas is derived from the plural form of the Esperanto word for "crayfish," in keeping with the crustacean theme of his descendant/ancestor, Karkat.
- The Jetsons took a long trip across the solar system to see a circus. There, the owner of a trained-flea act sold them his fleas [?]. George Jetson picked the fleas up and heard them making some noises. He knew they were trying to talk to him, but he couldn't understand what they were saying. George turned to his son, Elroy, and said, "You're the one taking Esperanto lessons? You talk to them!" Elroy was able to translate for the fleas!
- The ghost Wulf in Danny Phantom talks in broken Esperanto, and only Tucker can understand it at first. Danny and later Sam take Esperanto lessons.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation astonishingly has a joke about Esperanto, which is found in the quotes page.
- Mocked by an alien in The Tick: "Actually, Tick, I've taught myself to speak all your Earth languages. Except Esperanto. *chuckles* You could see that one was going nowhere."
- In the Batman-Superman: Apocalypse animated movie, the Kryptonian that Superman and the newly-arrived Supergirl speak to each other is Esperanto.
- Baha'is were rather fond of Esperanto because they believe that a universal auxiliary (i.e. not replacement) language is necessary to facilitate world peace. This changed after they figured that it was too Euro-centric. Nowadays, they're more fond of Lojban, a derivative of Loglan.
- And then there is Oomoto, in which Esperanto's creator is considered to be a god.
- The "Agressor Army" — a fictional enemy army which served in US Army war games between the late 1940s and the 1970s — was expected to speak Esperanto.
- Critiqued by J. R. R. Tolkien in his academic study on Con Lang, "A Secret Vice." Tolkien thought the language was well-constructed, but that it failed to take into account how real languages evolve alongside mythology, as Tolkien's Legendarium demonstrates. He considered the absence of any Esperanto myths or legends to be a deficiency, and possibly one reason it didn't catch on as much as it could have.