Esperanto, literally “one who hopes”, was first proposed by Ludwik L Zamenhof in 1887, and was intended to be the second language of the entire world. Built from only 16 basic rules, Esperanto was made deliberately easy to learn.
Word soon spread, and the language became popular among Parisian intellectuals who saw in it a reflection of their own modernist ideals of improving society through rationality. From the beginning, Esperanto was not merely a linguistic experiment but reflected a greater idealism; the official flag was designed to include the colours of hope and peace, and Zamenhof argued that if everyone in the world shared a common language, “education, ideals, convictions, aims, would be the same too, and all nations would be united in a common brotherhood”. His vision spread throughout Europe, and he himself was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 14 times. After WW1, Esperanto was even proposed as the official language of the League of Nations.
But WW2 dealt a crushing blow to the thriving language, with both Hitler and Stalin outlawing it. Since then, it may seem that Zamenhof’s project has been a failure—only about 2 million people currently speak the language. But more people than ever are now trying to learn it, aided by modern technology. Today’s speakers can connect across the globe via the internet, practising the language every day. In fact, Esperanto has a surprising internet presence with around 240,000 Wikipedia articles written in the language, almost as many as Turkish and Korean. When the language-learning app Duolingo was released, Esperanto speakers pushed for the language to be included and convinced the creators that there was sufficient demand; since the release of the first Duolingo Esperanto course in 2014, the language has continued to thrive and gain new advocates.
Applicants for Linguistics or PPL would do well to familiarise themselves with the history and structure of Esperanto, as the most notable example of an artificial language, and to consider what makes a language effective and easy to learn. Students wishing to study History or Politics may wish to think about the links between the Esperanto project and pre-war idealism, and why the dictators of the Second World War felt it necessary to punish its speakers.
- Information on choosing a course at Oxford or Cambridge “Perhaps it is because Oxbridge encourages more ‘traditional’ A Level... Read more >
- June’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Download a Philosophy Personal Statement “Philosophy of the mind is my particular interest, especially the... Read more >
- Maths Puzzle: a game of chess We asked one of our top Maths Oxbridge tutors for... Read more >
- Application Calendar Making an application to Oxford or Cambridge can seem like... Read more >
- Law Reading List Cambridge Law and Oxford Law reading lists and recommended reading. Read more >
- Experimental Psychology & Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) Reading List If you are interested in Psychology, Oxford offers the Psychology... Read more >
- The Differences Between Similar Courses At Oxford and Cambridge For some applicants, deciding between applying to Oxford or Cambridge... Read more >
- Oxford and Cambridge Access Schemes Oxford and Cambridge aim to offer places to the best... Read more >
- Personal statement: our tips in the Independent Here are 3 quick tips every hopeful should consider before... Read more >
- The Most Competitive Subjects At Oxbridge (And How To Choose Wisely) Oxford and Cambridge are two of the best universities in the... Read more >
- April’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- What’s the Most Important Part of Your Application? An application to Oxford or Cambridge involves various different elements,... Read more >
- TSA overview A huge range of subjects at both Oxford and Cambridge... Read more >
- Law: answer like a pro Law is a notoriously competitive subject; this, along with the... Read more >
- Geography and Earth Sciences Reading Lists Whether you’re looking at Geography, Earth Sciences (Geology), or Land... Read more >
- Funding Your Oxbridge Degree Many people are under the impression that it is more... Read more >
- International Application Calendar Keeping on top of the various deadlines and decisions when... Read more >
- 20 Real-Life Oxford and Cambridge Interview Questions The Oxford and Cambridge interviews are notorious for having academically... Read more >
- Download an Economics Personal Statement “I have a keen interest in current affairs but have... Read more >
- UCAT mini mock paper & answers If you are applying for Medicine or Dentistry, many of... Read more >
- Physical, Mathematical & Chemical Sciences Reading Lists If you’re applying for Physics, Natural Sciences (P), Maths, Computer... Read more >
- Economics & Logic Puzzle: ticket touts We asked top Economics blogger Resham Kotecha to challenge us... Read more >
- UCAS: A How To Guide The process of applying to university through UCAS can seem... Read more >