15 December 2023

Ludwik Zamenhof, a Polish ophthalmologist, was the creator of the world’s most popular universal language – Esperanto. On 15 December, his birthday, we celebrate World Esperanto Day. This is an excellent opportunity to remember the legacy of the famous ‘Dr Esperanto’.

Ludwik Zamenhof was a true polyglot. He was fluent in Polish, Russian, German, French, English, Latin and Greek . The passion for languages he owed to his father, a language teacher.  Growing up in the multi-ethnic environment of Bialystok, Ludwik Zamenhof often witnessed disputes and misunderstandings between the inhabitants. He described them in detail in his first book, “The Tower of Babel or the Bialystok Tragedy in Five Acts”, when he was only 10 years old. Even then, he believed that the way to ease conflicts was to introduce a common language for everyone. Later he came up with the idea of creating a tool for international understanding, a language that would be easy to learn and neutral, with simple grammar and a common vocabulary.

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At first, Zamenhof called the language La Internacia Lingvo, which means “The International Language” in Esperanto. Soon, people began calling it by the simpler name Esperanto, which means “one who hopes”. That name comes from Doktoro Esperanto (“Doctor who hopes”), which is what Zamenhof called himself in his first book about Esperanto.

At the age of 19, Ludwik  finished working on the first version of Esperanto called “Lingvo Universala” (1878).  Unfortunately, that one was destroyed by his father, who had no faith in the success of his son’s initiative. Subsequent versions were also rejected by tsarist censors.

The breakthrough came in 1887, when Zamenhof, with the help of Alexander Silbernik, distributed copies of his textbook entitled. “International Language. Preface and Complete Manual’. The book came to the attention of the famous publicist and polyglot, Antoni Grabowski, who decided to support Zamenhof in spreading the idea of Esperanto. This started the phenomenon of a new, universal way of communication.

Esperanto draws heavily from the Romance and Germanic languages. It sounds gentle, and thanks to the fact that we find principles from English, French, German and Spanish in it, it is not difficult to learn. It also has large literature of over 25,000 books, including both original works and translations.

Today, with an estimated number of 2 million users, Esperanto is also the biggest international auxiliary language in the world. However, Esperanto has not become an official language anywhere, it is spoken mainly by enthusiasts, writers, but also by families whose members are of different origins. A person who speaks or supports Esperanto is often called an “Esperantist”.

For those who are interested in Esperanto and want to try to learn it, we suggest to use this website

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