July 26, 1887: Unua Libro is first published. The English translation is First Book and its official title was Esperanto’s International Language. Its first publication was in Russian and it was written by Polish oculist, LL Zamenhof. He was born in 1859 to Polish-Lithuanian Jewish parents. He was bilingual raised to speak in both Yiddish and Russian (Polish was restricted and forbidden to be used in public by order of the Tsar). He went on to learn to speak German, French, and Hebrew. He also learned to speak Polish. In school he learned Latin, Greek, and Aramaic and in later life learned to speak English but by his own account, not fluently. He also picked up some Lithuanian and Italian. He grew up in a region with many dialects and watched as neighbors argued ineffectively, often causing much greater damage since they could not understand each other. He dreamed of having one common language available to all.
Using the pseudonym of Esperanto (which translates to “one who hopes”) he published his booklet with sixteen rules of grammar and 900 roots of vocabulary. Also included were translations of the Lord’s Prayer, some Bible verses, and other literature. He called the work “an international language” and like a national language, it was “common property”. In essence, he put the work in the public domain. He signed the work as “Doktoro Esperanto”. Those who learned the new language, called it Esperanto after the pen name used by Zamenhof. The language itself came to be known as Esperanto.
The work was first put into English by Julian Steinhaus and called Dr Esperanto’s International Tongue. Richard Geoghegan pointed out to Zamenhof the poor translations throughout the English version and the doctor purchased all remaining copies and paid Geoghegan to produce a new and improved translation. In 1905, Zamenhof brought out a new book with the sixteen grammar rules, a dictionary, and some exercises to help the novice become acclimated to the new language. In the original book, he called for a petition to be signed by 10 million people pledging to learn to speak Esperanto. He never received that many votes, but the idea was revived in 2014.
Today, it is used as an international auxiliary language. There are between 160,000 and 300,000 active or fluent users and at the turn of the millennium there were an estimated 2 million people who were able to use Esperanto to help communicate effectively. The language is available in 120 countries with the highest usage in Europe, East Asia, and South America. The most popular platform to learn the language is lernu! where 150,000 registered users were studying and between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors come each month. Esperanto Wikipedia has about 215,000 articles (32nd largest) and as a comparison, there are almost 5 million articles in English. In 2012, Google Translate added Esperanto as its 64th language.
A different language is a different vision of life. – Federico Fellini
Language comes into being, like consciousness, from the basic need, from the scantiest intercourse with other human. – Karl Marx
A man who does not know foreign language is ignorant of his own. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Language is an anonymous, collective and unconscious art; the result of the creativity of thousands of generations. – Edward Sapir
Also on this day: The Polite Bandit – In 1875, a strange, but polite, man committed his first robbery.
First Railway – In 1803, Surrey Iron Railway opened.
As the Worm Turns – In 1989, Robert Morris was indicted.
Feebs – In 1908, the FBI was formed.
And the Rains Came – In 2005, Mumbai flooded.