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3rd gen native Esperanto speaker: Nicole! Posted by on Jun 18, 2013 in Interview, Native speakers

Some people don’t believe that native Esperanto speakers exist. Would you then believe that I’ve found a third generation native Esperanto speaker?! Nicole Klünder’s great-grandfather learned Esperanto, taught it natively to his kids, who taught it natively to his kids, who taught it natively to Nicole… awesome! It seems that it’s now becoming a tradition in this blog to interview another native Esperanto speaker every year. Last year, I interviewed an Esperanto DJ: DJ Leo Sakaguchi. The year before was second generation native speaker Rolf Fantom. Anyway, without further ado, let’s see what Nicole has to say! (She answered my questions in Esperanto, so you will find my translation in italics under his answers.)


Nicole – 3rd gen native Esperanto speaker

How did you come to be a third generation native Esperanto speaker?

Mi naskiĝis tielmaniere. Miaj gepatroj instruis ĝin denaske al mi, kaj mia patro estis ankaŭ denaska. Parte certe ankaŭ estis kialo ke miaj gepatroj renkontiĝis per Esperanto, ekzemple mia patrino estis Polino.

I was born that way. My parents taught me it growing up, and my father was also a native speaker. This was certainly also partly since my parents met through Esperanto, for example my mother was Polish.

Nicole's great-grandfather

How did your great-grandfather first learn Esperanto and why? When was that?

Laŭ mia scio, li lernis la lingvon en 1908 por pli bone scii kaj klarigi kial ĝi malbonas. Evidentiĝis, ke ĝi fakte plaĉegis al li.

As far as I know, he learned the language in 1908 to better know and explain why it’s bad. Later, he realized that he actually really liked it.

How has speaking Esperanto with your family from birth had an effect on you? Have you felt it more as a hindrance or something that improved your understanding of languages in general or something else entirely?

Nu, kompreneble mankas al mi komparo al ne-denaske-esperanta vivo. Tamen ĝi absolute ne ĝenis, kaj ofte estis agrabla kiel „sekreta“ lingvo. Malfacilas priskribi tion, sed ĝi estis parto de la familio kaj ielmaniere sentis „agrable“.

Well, I can’t compare that to what my life would’ve been like as a non-native Esperanto speaker, of course. However, it wasn’t annoying at all, and often it was nice to have a “secret” language. It’s difficult to describe, but it was part of the family and somehow always felt “nice.”

I often hear of native speakers not joining the worldwide community. What convinced you to become active in the movement?

Certe ne estis idealismo. Kiel multaj denaskaj Esperantistoj, mi ne kaptis la idealismon pri Esperanto kiel internacia lingvo. Estas normala afero por mi. Mi estas aktivulo ĉar mi alkutimiĝis al la renkontiĝoj, havas amikojn tie kiujn mi ŝatas revidi, kaj simple ŝatas organizi aferojn. Mi havas emon envolviĝi en renkontiĝoj, tiel ne nur estas pri Esperanto.

It’s certainly not idealism. Like many native Esperanto speakers, I didn’t catch the idealism about Esperanto as an international language. It’s a normal thing for me. I’m active, because I got used to the meetings, I have friends there who I’d like to see again, and just like to organize stuff. I like to get involved in organizing events, so it’s not just about Esperanto.

How do you use Esperanto in your daily life?

Momente nur malofte, ĉar mi intertempe loĝas sole. Kompreneble mi havas amikojn, kun kiuj mi nur povas mesaĝi esperantlingve kaj ankaŭ faras tion. Tamen en mia ĉiutaga vivo Esperanto ne aperas, krom pro mia ofta preparado por projektoj por venontaj Esperanto-renkontiĝoj.

At the moment just rarely, because I live alone now. Of course, I have friends I can only write in Esperanto and so I do that. However, in my everyday life, Esperanto doesn’t make an appearance, except due to my frequent project preparations for upcoming Esperanto meetings.

Do you think you’ll continue the tradition and raise your kids in Esperanto? Why or why not?

Por mi tio ne estas tradicio. Mi ne fiere festas la Klünder-klanon se mi parolas Esperanton. 😉 Tamen estas tre verŝajne, ke mi faros tion – simple ĉar estas „normala“ por mi kaj malfacilos eviti ke miaj infanoj lernas Esperanton.

For me, that’s not a tradition. I don’t proudly celebrate the Klünder clan if I speak Esperanto. 😉 However, it’s very likely that I’ll do that – just because it’s “normal” for me and it will be difficult to keep my kids from learning Esperanto.

Multan dankon for your answers! If you have any questions for Nicole, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Ĝisdatigo: La patro de Nicole, Helmut Klünder, ĵus skribis por informi min, ke fakte estis la avo de Nicole, kaj ne ŝia praavo, kiu lernis Esperanton por argumenti pli efektive kontraŭ ĝi. Espereble baldaŭ, ni lernos pli pri kiel tio evoluis…

Update: Nicole’s father, Helmut Klünder, just wrote to inform me that it was Nicole’s grandfather, not great-grandfather who learned Esperanto to argue more effectively against it. Hopefully soon, we will learn more how this unfolded…

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About the Author: Chuck Smith

I was born in the US, but Esperanto has led me all over the world. I started teaching myself Esperanto on a whim in 2001, not knowing how it would change my life. The timing couldn’t have been better; around that same time I discovered Wikipedia in it’s very early stages and launched the Esperanto version. When I decided to backpack through Europe, I found Esperanto speakers to host me. These connections led me to the Esperanto Youth Organization in Rotterdam, where I worked for a year, using Esperanto as my primary language. Though in recent years I’ve moved on to other endeavors like iOS development, I remain deeply engrained in the Esperanto community, and love keeping you informed of the latest news. The best thing that came from learning Esperanto has been the opportunity to connect with fellow speakers around the globe, so feel free to join in the conversation with a comment! I am now the founder and CTO of the social app Amikumu.


  1. Fargok:

    I’d like to know if he acquired another language at home or if he did it from the societal environnement and what language was that.

  2. homopersono:

    Very nice interview, Iwant to know is Esperanto really that worth it, I mean did you think it have all the words you need to express your self freely at your home with your family?!

  3. Nils Martin Klünder:

    @Fargok: I also learned German at home, but I can’t speak Polish.

    @homopersono: Yes!

  4. Scott Starkey:

    Dankon pro la placxa intervjuo, Nils kaj Chuck!

  5. isaiah:

    I’d like to hear a podcast where you interview him. I’m curious about how a native speaker sounds compared to someone who just learned it well.

    • Chuck Smith:

      @isaiah Hi Isaiah, while I could interview him and record it, talking to Nils is just like talking to anyone else at an Esperanto event. I’ve spoken with quite a few native speakers and their accents aren’t any different than anyone else’s: some have strong national accents and others have practically no accent. Also, the language level of different native speakers can vary significantly. Some speak very well, while others never bothered studying the language, so they still make quite a lot of mistakes. It really depends on how well their parents speak it as well as how much time they’ve spent studying the language themselves.

  6. Jonathan Cooper:

    Interesa rakonto, sed ĉu Nils estas vere ‘denaska’ parolanto de Esperanto? Alivorte, ĉu ĝi estas lia unua lingvo, aŭ ĉu liaj gepatroj instruis ĝin al li apude de la nacia lingvo? Krome, ĉu la avo de Nils ankaŭ parolis al li en Esperanto?
    An interesting story, but is Nils really a ‘native’ Esperanto speaker? In other words, was it his first language, or did his parents teach it to him alongside the national language? Also, did Nils’ grandfather talk to him in Esperanto, too?

  7. Nils Martin Klünder:

    @Jonathan Cooper: Sal’!

    Mi ne bone komprenas vian demandon. Ĝi estis mia unua lingvo, samtempe kun la Germana. Jes – tio eblas. Mia avo tro frue mortis por havi eblecon paroli kun mi en iu-ajn lingvo.

    I don’t really understand your question. It is my first language, at the same time with German. Jes – that’s possible. Mi grandfather died too early to talk to me in any language.

  8. dmych:

    Dankegon pro la intervjuo, Chuck kaj Nils. Tre interesa! 🙂

  9. Jonathan Cooper:

    Saluton Nils,
    Mi pensis ke bebo lernas plejparte unu lingvon, kaj eble alian lingvon kiel ‘dua’, sed ŝajne oni povas lerni du samtempe! Mi ne sciis tion. Dankon.
    I thought that a baby learned mainly one language, and maybe another language as a ‘second’, but it seems that one can learn two simultaneously! I didn’t know that. Thanks.

  10. carlos alberto figueredo:

    bona nokiton

  11. carlos alberto figueredo:

    Goodnight loĝas en Brazilo kaj ne sciis blog.Estou en nur lerni Esperanto.E ‘m vere ĝuas.

  12. Robert Budzul:

    as an aside… was there a tradition at some stage to have a post-card made from a picture of oneself reading an Esperanto newspaper? Perhaps at a booth at an UK? I have one sent by someone in Spain, also early years of Esperanto… similar pose, probably same newspaper…

  13. Nagy Csaba:

    Sinjoro Cooper vi eraras laŭ mi. Mi pensas ke vi ne en Centra-Eŭropo vivas, ĉar ĉi tie vi vivus, konus ke la beboj kune multajn lingvojn samtempe ellerneblas. Kun sia avo li parolas germane (ekzemple), kun sio patrino hungare, kun la najbaro rumane – kiel en Hungara-Transilvanio (Erdély) aŭ en Hungarujo. Kaj se sia patro volas, kun sia patro li parolus esperante. Tiuj estas jam kvar lingoj. Kaj ankaŭ ĝi vivas tie ĉi la serba, la rusena, la slovaka, la krovata, la greka kaj la jida lingvo kune sur unu tero, en unu lando. La historio certe, sendube estas kredebla.

  14. Ĝan Ŭesli Starling:

    I spoke only Esperanto to my own son, Skajler, until he was six years old. His mom spoke only English to him. It was as if he thought I had only an incredibly thick accent. In public the conversation between himself and me was bi-lingual. I’d speak Esperanto to him, he’d answer in English (completely in accord with the topic at hand).
    Sadly, I gave it up when he got into first grade, where it was apparent he had very great difficulty reading and the private school teachers blamed it on me. Under the weight of pressure from every direction I gave it up…to absolutely ZERO effect. turns out his issue was something very like dyslexia (not exactly, but near enough) from which he suffers yet to this day…and has since lost his bilingual facility. I miss it very greatly as it was terrific fun speaking Esperanto (a much favored hobby without political overtones) to my only child. I am greatly disappointed at the lost opportunity now.

  15. Ivo:

    Jonathan, kreski denaske plurlingva estas tute normala en multaj partoj de Euxropo, kiel Csaba jam diris. Kaj ecx ne nur centra Euxropo. Mi mem kreskis tri-lingva kaj tio cxiam sentis tute normala. Dependante de la situacio mi preferas elekti unu el la tri denaskaj lingvoj aux unu el du poste lernitaj lingvoj (inter tiu Esperanto), en cxiuj mi sen ajna problemo kaj hezito povas esprimi min. Du aliaj bezonas pli da penon. Salti de lingvo al lingvo estas multe pli facile se vi kreskis plurlingva, rekta tradukado iom malpli facilas kompare al homoj kiuj kreskis unulingva kaj poste lernis aliajn lingvojn.
    Jonathan, in many parts of Europe it’s absolutely normal to have multiple mothertongues (although it can be a mothertongue, a fathertongue and a grandfathers tongue), as Csaba rightly remarked, and not only in Central-Europe. I grew up trilingual and it always felt completely normal. Depending on the situation I choose freely between any of those three or two of my later learned languages (among them Esperanto). In none of them I feel any hesitations expressing myself. Two other languages require more effort. Switching between languages is very easy if you grow up multilingual, direct translations are more difficult compared to those who grow up monolingual.

  16. Suso Moinhos:

    Saluton. Mia nevo kaj la gepatroj loghadis kun mi dum la plejparto de la unuaj jaroj de lia infaneco. Li unue parolis la galegan (portugalan de Galegio) char tiu estas la lingvo en kiu la gepatroj parolis al li. Samtempe kun tio, pro la kontakto kun kelkaj aliaj infanoj kaj pro la televido, li lernis la hispanan, kiun li surprize regule ekparolis kiam li transiris de la infanvartejo al la lernejo.
    Mi proponis al mia fratino kaj bofrato jam de la unua jaro paroli al la knabeto en esperanto, kaj ili plene akceptis. Esperanton mi parolas de 1986 kaj ghi estas tre normala afero en nia familio. Hodiaue mia nevo estas 4-jara kaj mi plu parolas kun li en esperanto, ech kvankam nun ni loghas en malsamaj urboj. Li plu komprenas, kvankam nur respondas en esperanto lau sia placho; verdire tio shajnas ludo por li. Li havas librojn en esperanto (ekz-e tiujn eldonitajn en Chinio) kaj -tio estas plej grave- li posedas vastan bildon pri la homaro, komprenas ke ekzistas multaj popoloj kun malsamaj moroj kaj kutimoj kaj ke Zamenhof estis sinjoro kun barbo kiu inventis esperanton por ke homoj estu amikoj kaj ne luktu kontrau aliaj.
    Lasta afero: mia fratino decidis sciigi la instruistinojn pri tio, ke la infano scipovas esperanton char mi chiam alparolas lin chi-lingve, por ke la ili ne surprizighu se li iam elbushigas strangajhon dum la lecionoj. La reago de la instruistinoj ne povis esti pli bona, kaj ili instigis kaj kuraghigis al plua tenado de tiu sinteno, char tio nur richigas la etulon.

  17. Rafael Despradel:

    Belega intervjuo!!! =)

  18. Sam Green:

    When I went thru photos at the Museum in Vienna, I did notice that it seemed to be a kind of trope way back to take photos of groups often holding up the newspaper. I didn’t see so many postcards as much as just regular photos. It seemed to be a “thing” that people did – probably just a visual cue to include in the photo that evoked Esperanto. Similar to holding the flag.

  19. Gerd Jacques:

    Dankon Nils kaj Chuck!

    Flandra ĵurnalisto legis la intervjuon kaj el tio rezultis intervjuo en la flandra radio.
    Antaŭ du monatoj estis intervjuo en la flandra televido kun Karlijn plej parte en Esperanto kun subtitoloj en la nederlanda.

  20. Elmer Escoto:

    Hello all.
    A person can have two (or three) native languages.

    My sister is Honduran. My brother-in-law is chinese. They lived in Yucatán (México).

    My nephews, their kids, natively speak Spanish and Cantonese. They also speak the Yucatán Mayan language.

    That’s becaus my brother-in-law talked to them in cantonese, my sister in spanish, and many of their friends in yucatec.

    If you asked them what their “native” language is, they would mention at least two, just like Nils.

  21. Trevor Steele:

    When our son David was, my wife and I agreed to a consistent policy: I would speak only Esperanto to him, and she only English. It worked splendidly, and David grew up totally bilingual, easily able to distinguish “Daddy’s language” from “Mummy’s language”. In fact, his Esperanto was better than his English till he went to school (because Esperanto gave him much more freedom to make up his own words).
    Despite years of mental disturbance (schizophrenia) in his teens and despite having no other contact with Esperanto, David still to this day instantly speaks Esperanto when I ring him.

  22. Donald Kronos:

    @Ĝan Ŭesli Starling — It’s sad that your son’s teacher lacked the education to understand the error in their superstitious nonsense. It’s unfortunately not uncommon for people to make the mistake of thinking that learning one language stunts a child’s learning in another language. As for your child choosing to respond to your Esperanto in English, it’s most likely that he learned to do that o that other people would not have to ask what he had said, although that’s something I can’t be sure about since I wasn’t there. He obviously must have known you understood English, and must have recognized he was not responding in the same language as you were speaking. If hes still alive, it’s not to late to ask him to try learning to respond to you in Esperanto as much as he can, regardless of what language you speak to him, in order to gain back his lost skills…. and then some. 🙂