Esperanto Language Blog

The “Average” Esperanto speaker? Posted by on Sep 30, 2012 in Esperanto Culture

When the telephone was first invented, how useful was it? Well, no one else had one, so not much at all! Like the phone, as more people learn Esperanto, it becomes more useful. So naturally Esperanto speakers would like the language to become more mainstream.

From that, most people assume the best way to promote it would be in mainstream settings. I’ve always said that if Britney Spears sang a song in Esperanto, its popularity would skyrocket. While that feels like a pipe dream, it is funny to note that Kelly Clarkson even learned a few phrases, so that’s a start! About a decade ago, Freundeskreis (a German hiphop band) made an album titled Esperanto. You can see the video below. Also, TEAM’ sung in Esperanto and was the biggest rock back in Slovakia!

Barring lucky opportunities like the national talk show with Kelly Clarkson and a hiphop album, I think the approach of mainstream promotion is misguided, because it’s inefficient compared to more targeted strategies. But then the question is how can you target? Well, we’ve discussed this in Berlin and have agreed that members of our community tend to fall in at least one [but more likely two or three!] of the following categories: traveller, geek, language lover, vegetarian. It’s easier to reach people if they are already likely to learn the language by belonging to one of these groups.


If you’re a frequent traveller, knowing Esperanto can be an incredibly useful tool during your travels. Almost every major city has an Esperanto speaker who can be reached, who will often be happy to show you their city or even host you for the night with, for example, Pasporta Servo. On the other hand, not all Esperanto speakers like to travel. If you often go to international events, you may not think so, but there you will meet people who like to travel indeed! However, I still remember staying with Jim Medrano in New York City who told me that he likes Esperanto as a way to meet foreigners who visit him… a different way of “traveling” perhaps!


Often Esperanto brochures used to say unfortunate things like “Esperanto is a logical language like Mr. Spock.” A regular language attracts mathematicians and computer scientists, since it feels like solving a curious puzzle. In reality, no language can really be completely logical, and although Esperanto does have some irregularities, it is still much easier than any national language. This also tends to attract people who enjoy intellectual activities like playing board games or reading books.

Language Lover

This one almost seems to be so obvious, but I think it’s worth mentioning anyway. Many people who learn Esperanto just love languages! Polyglots usually have one of two reactions when thinking about Esperanto. They either see it as too simple and therefore not interesting to learn. Or they see it as an easy language, which would be quick to add to their linguistic arsenal. Think of Esperanto speakers you know. How many languages do they speak? Did they learn those other languages before or after Esperanto? In any case, it’s interesting to note that one thing all Esperanto speakers have in common is that they are all at least bilingual!


While this is the newest addition to the tendencies of Esperanto speakers, it took me a while to figure out why this group was so prominent. Well, they are a group of idealists who also practice what they believe. Typically vegetarians support animal rights, but also support their beliefs by no longer eating meat. Vegans even more so by not eating any animal products. They think about the way the world should be and adapt their lives to do their part to help move us all toward that ideal. They also face resistance from their friends for their lifestyle in the same way Esperanto speakers encounter disbelief for their choice of language, so they need a thick skin to receive this criticism and continue on despite that.

In which group(s) do you belong? No matter which group describes you, come back for my next part where I’ll talk about how to attract people from each of the above groups to Esperanto!

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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. Douglas Mosier:

    I agree, we must start targetting. I myself have started passing out quarter sheets about Esperanto in front of the building that houses our university (Iowa) modern language departments. However, I must take issue with your paragraph on vegetarians/vegans. Not all of us are animal rights fanatics or even believers. I for one think it’s a bunch of bull pucky. I became a vegetarian for health and environmental reasons. Just sayin’.

  2. Jessica Seminara:

    Interesting article, and thanks for sharing the video as well. I hadn’t seen it before.

    I think these categories are pragmatic stand-ins for underlying traits Esperantists seem to share that might be harder to see, such as idealism (in general), curiosity, and the desire to connect with others who share these ideas. The latter part may be because each of these groups is different in some ways from mainstream society.

    Other categories of people who seem to overlap with Esperantists (or at least, to which Esperantists seem to belong…perhaps not the same thing?) are UUs, artists/musicians, and environmentalists. These groups of people often also share these underlying traits, I believe.

    As for me, I’m a vegetarian, a UU, an environmentalist, and at least peripherally all of the other categories at one time or other in my life. 🙂 And Douglas, like you, I am a vegetarian for health and environmental reasons, primarily, though I do care about humane treatment of animals. I didn’t interpret Chuck’s wording to mean that the idealism and beliefs of vegetarians and vegans are solely about animal rights, though I guess it could be clarified. I think the bigger issue (sorry to the animals) is the longer-term destruction of our environment caused by CAFOs, for example.

  3. Nick Woods:

    Hey Douglas,

    If you became a vegetarian for environmental reasons, Chuck’s paragraph about vegetarianism should still apply to you – you’re an idealist who’s willing to practice what you preach! You just happen to have a different ideal than a majority of (though by no means all, or maybe even most) vegetarians. I became a vegetarian myself for much the same reasons (though animal rights do play some factor for me, and I was lucky in that I never really liked the taste of meat that much to begin with). In any case, vegetarians and vegans are definitely really, really prevalent en la movado, especially among events targeted towards younger people – two different ones I’ve been to had a majority of vegetarians.

  4. Koninda:

    I agree with Chuck and the comments. I’d like to illuminate another side of the question. Almost every group that gets together for some kind of cause or common interest would be more exciting, if they could communicate with like minded people in other countries. Whether its stamp collectors, wood collectors, bird watchers, quilt makers, motorcycle enthusiasts, or natural builders, almost every group in every country is isolated from interesting, like-minded enthusiasts in other countries. If Esperantists could help any group to connect with a similar group in another country, that would draw the members toward international communication via Esperanto. I think this approach also has merit.

  5. Elmer Escoto:

    I would really like to be a traveller. Not a vegetarian or vegan. I am a geek, and a language lover.

    The views expressed here are so down-to-earth that it is hard not to nod in amazement.

    An eye-opening post!