Esperanto Language Blog

Is your hobby a waste of time? Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

How many times have you heard this?

Me: I’m going to learn Esperanto.
Friend: Why are you going to waste your time with that?

If you’ve ever considered learning Esperanto, the above dialog will play out over and over in your life like a broken record. Let’s try another:

Me: I’m going to learn how to play Shogi (Japanese Chess).
Friend: Wow, that sounds cool, have fun!

Shogi game in progress

Shogi game in progress

I’ve learned Esperanto and I’ve learned how to play Shogi to an intermediate level. Although I have to admit I’m quite rusty these days; I remember the rules, but I’ve forgotten the castles (opening defense formations). But, I digress. What I’d like to point out is how much I’ve “done” Esperanto and Shogi. I’ve met many interesting people by speaking Esperanto and by playing Shogi.

The experiences are, though, very different. I once had the chance to meet the American Shogi Champion. While dropping by the Shogi Championships one day in NYC (when I lived there), I had the random chance to play a game against a master while the rest of the room was playing tournament matches. However, I’d have to say that [outside of Japan] it’s easier to find Esperanto speakers than Shogi players.

Chillin' at the Esperanto Go Club in Tokyo

Chillin’ at the Esperanto Go Club in Tokyo

Even when the Tokyo Esperanto club invited me to Japan, I never got around to playing Shogi when I was there, but I did enjoy teaching Go to some Japanese people in Esperanto in a club owned by an Esperanto speaker there. How random! But such experiences abound when you mix foreign languages and hobbies. When someone moves to a new city and wants to make friends, I always recommend they seek out local groups for their hobbies. This way they already feel more comfortable due to their common interest. Plus, speaking is bound to come easier due to extensive knowledge of the hobby.

Now I want you to think back to the original dialogs above telling others about your hobbies. I bring this up, because we all know that all hobbies do not have the same level of prestige. Let me list a few and think of what you associate with them: stamp collecting, fashion, surfing, filmmaking, skydiving, watching football, playing poker, yachting, learning languages, knitting. Did you notice that different hobbies get different reactions from other people? Why is this?

I would say that you should enjoy your hobbies despite what others say about them. If you enjoy collecting stamps, but others say it’s not cool, so what? You’re a man who likes to knit? Cool! You want to watch football even though your intellectual friends say it’s lame? Fine, why not? Enjoy what you want and let life lead you on the most interesting adventures. You can never forge your own path if you’re just doing what everyone else says is popular and cool. Enjoy life… in whichever language you want!

Note for Esperanto Shogi players: You might also find it amusing that there are two books about Shogi in Esperanto: Invito al Japana Ŝako (beginner) and Japana Ŝako (intermediate). Some players even recommend these over English or Japanese books, because the Esperanto books give a great overview, unlike English or Japanese books, which tend to focus on specific topics and are thus more limited, yet deeper in scope.

Picture: Shogi (CC BY SA 3.0 Oliver Orschiedt)

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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. Mi:

    Great article, Chuck 😉

    My hobby is even stranger:

    Me: Tomorrow I’ll start learning Greek
    Friend: What?
    Me: And next week I’ll learn to read Korean
    Friend: Alright…
    Me: Oh, and I’ve finally mastered the Russian basics!
    Friend: Fine, waste your time learning languages
    Me: I almost forgot, the Esperanto course is almost ready!! Whoooohoooo
    Friend: See you…

    I don’t care, I love languages 😀

  2. Christa:


    Ooh, you sound just like me! I love languages, but the only one I’ve achieved fluency in is Esperanto, and it’s still my favorite, despite EVERYBODY telling me what a waste of time it is :-D. Right now I’m studying Russian and Spanish, and using all my strength of willpower to NOT start learning Korean, much as I want to, because if I keep jumping from one to another, I won’t get very far in any of them, and I want to be conversational in Russian and Spanish. All my family and friends think I’m off my rocker, but they thought that anyway, so I don’t care. My only lament is that there is not enough time in my life to learn all the languages in the world :-(. I really wish I could; every one of them is so beautiful and fascinating…

  3. john:

    I want to learn Esperanto, but I really like Lingua Franca Nova (“elefen”) which was partly inspired by Esperanto, and which is even slightly easier, it seems.

  4. Nudpiedo:

    I foudn the closing very great (when you comment about Invito al Japana Ŝako, which I didn’t expect). I am wishing to progress more with my Esperanto level in order to read some of the Esperanto literature!

  5. Virgilio:

    Mi dankas vin per la teksto. Mi lernas Esperanton kaj mi ĉiam aŭskultas miajn amikojn diri ke studi Esperanto estas malŝparo de tempo. Mi vere ŝatas studi novajn lingvojn kaj konas aliajn kulturojn, do mi ne gravas tion ili diras pri Esperanton haha! Pardonu min pri la skribo, mi ankoraŭ estas komencanto.

    Ĝis 🙂

  6. m.:

    Weird hobbies? I have a ton of weird hobbies. Knitting, Chess, learning languages: Esperanto, Hebrew,French, Swedish , and maybe Spanish,ASL, and Irish. I’m also learning how to play the low d Irish tin whistle and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. lol I also grow milk and water kefir as well as make yogurts etc. If you aren’t learning weird things then you aren’t growing. 🙂 I also solve sudoku puzzles and play mahjong.