Leyzer Leyvi Zamenhov lived in the late 19th century in the Russian town of Białystok, in what is now part of Poland.
Zamenhov was part of the Yiddish speaking majority, living side by side with Poles, Belarusians, Russians, Germans, Lipka Tatars and others. Relations between these groups was anything but harmonious, and Zamenhov became frustrated with the many quarrels that sprang up among the groups.
As the son of a German language teacher, Zamenhof was fluent in many languages, including Russian, German, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Yiddish and English. He was reasonably proficient in Italian, Spanish and Lithuanian, as well. Zamenhof came to believe that poor relations between Białystok’s many minorities stemmed from the lack of a common language, so he set out to create an “auxiliary language” – an international second language that would help people of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds communicate with one another.
Writing under the pseudonym “Doktoro Esperanto”, Zamenhov published the “Unua Libro” describing his new language on July 26, 1887.
His goal was to create an easily learned, politically neutral language transcending nationality, fostering peace and international understanding between people with different regional and/or national languages.
The Esperanto alphabet includes 28 letters. There are 23 consonants, 5 cardinal vowels, and 2 semivowels which combine with vowels to form 6 diphthongs. Esperanto words are derived by stringing together prefixes, roots, and suffixes. The process is regular, so that people can create new words as they speak and still be understood.
The original core vocabulary included 900 such roots, which are combined in a regular manner so that they might be better used by international speakers.
For example, the adjective “BONA” means “GOOD”. The suffix “UL” indicates a person having a given trait, and “O” designates the ending of a noun. Therefore, the Esperanto word “BONULO” translates as “A good person”. The title of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 movie “The Godfather”, translates as “La Baptopatro”. “Esperanto” itself translates as “one who hopes”.
Some useful English words and phrases along with their Esperanto translation and the International Phonetic Alphabet transcriptions, include:
○ Do you speak Esperanto? Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton? [ˈtʃu vi pa.ˈro.las ˌes.pe.ˈran.ton]
○ Thank you. Dankon [ˈdan.kon]
○ You’re welcome. Ne dankinde [ˌne.dan.ˈkin.de]
○ One beer, please. Unu bieron, mi petas [ˈu.nu bi.ˈe.ron, mi ˈpe.tas]
○ Where is the toilet? Kie estas la necesejo? [ˈki.e ˈes.tas ˈla ˌne.tse.ˈse.jo]
As of July 2016, Google Translate supports 103 languages and serves over 200 million people daily. Esperanto became number 64 on February 22, 2012.