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.
- Cambridge Language Test mini mock paper & answers Many Cambridge colleges require applicants for Modern Languages to sit... Read more >
- April’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Law: answer like a pro Law is a notoriously competitive subject; this, along with the... Read more >
- Access and Financial Support at Oxbridge As two of the world’s top universities, both Oxford and... Read more >
- Download a Biology Personal Statement “Assisting with the post mortem of a dairy cow during... Read more >
- The Great Collection of Past Oxbridge Interview Questions The great thing about an Oxbridge interview is that it... Read more >
- Cambridge Language Test overview If you’re applying for Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge,... Read more >
- The OA School’s Magazine: Issue 1 Last year, Oxbridge Applications launched its first ever Schools’ Magazine,... Read more >
- LNAT overview If you’re applying for Law at Oxford you will need to sit... Read more >
- Experimental Psychology & Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) Reading List If you are interested in Psychology, Oxford offers the Psychology... Read more >
- The Architecture of an Education: what are colleges all about? Explaining the difference between Oxford and Cambridge colleges and the... Read more >
- Outside reading: the key to a good application When it comes to writing your personal statement and preparing... Read more >
- Music Reading List Applying for Music at Cambridge or Oxford requires a range... Read more >
- BMAT mini mock paper & answers With over 90% of applicants now preparing for the admissions... Read more >
- University Admissions Tests: How Would You Reply? Here we have a few questions and answers to sample... Read more >
- UKCAT mini mock paper & answers If you are applying for Medicine or Dentistry, many of... Read more >
- Maths Puzzle: a game of chess We asked one of our top Maths Oxbridge tutors for... Read more >
- Physical, Mathematical & Chemical Sciences Reading Lists If you’re applying for Physics, Natural Sciences (P), Maths, Computer... Read more >
- Personal Statement Action Plan: Section 2 of 2 You’ve done your reading. You’ve made your brainstorm. You’ve possibly... Read more >
- Stats report: our annual survey Every year, we survey hundreds of applicants who applied the... Read more >
- Modern Languages and Linguistics Reading Lists Applying for languages? It’s always difficult to narrow down what... Read more >
- Cambridge college snapshots Despite having a smaller number of colleges than Oxford, each of... Read more >
- Law Reading List Cambridge Law and Oxford Law reading lists and recommended reading. Read more >
- Biological Sciences & Medicine: answer like a pro What kind of questions can you expect in an Oxford... Read more >