Esperanto culture refers to the shared cultural experience of the Esperantujo, or Esperanto-speaking community. Despite being a constructed language, Esperanto has a history dating back to the late 19th century, and shared cultural social mores have developed among its speakers. Some of these can be traced back to the initial ideas of the language's creator, Ludwig Zamenhof, including the theory that a global second language would foster international communication. Others have developed over time, as the language has allowed different national and linguistic cultures to blend together.
Esperanto culture also includes art, literature, and music, as well as international celebrations and cultural exchanges such as the Pasporta Servo.
Native Esperanto speakers are people who have acquired Esperanto as one of their native languages. As of 1996, there were 350 or so attested cases of families with native Esperanto speakers. Estimates from associations indicate that there are currently around 1,000 Esperanto-speaking families, involving perhaps 2,000 children. In all known cases, speakers are natively bilingual, or multilingual, raised in both Esperanto and either the local national language or the native language of their parents. In all but a handful of cases, it was the father who used Esperanto with the child. In the majority of such families, the parents had the same native language, though in many the parents had different native languages, and only Esperanto in common.
Esperanto speakers create a makeshift café (whether in a rented space or someone's home), using Esperanto coins or voucher-like items as well as real money to pay for food and drink. Live music, poetry reading, or literature reading are usual activities. This custom arose in 1995 in order to contrast with the more usual custom of after-convention partying at a bar.
Esperanto has had an influence on certain religious traditions (Oomoto, Bahá'í Faith, etc., see Esperanto and religion). While some Esperantists subscribe to these beliefs, they are not necessarily common, and are certainly not required nor encouraged by any Esperanto groups.
Books that are translated to Esperanto are not usually internationally famous books, because everyone can already read those in another language that they know. For example, Natsume Sōseki's "Kokoro" does not exist but several Japanese crime novels, and several Icelandic novels, that have never been translated to English (or any other language) have been translated to Esperanto. One reason for this is that people are actually translating their favourite stories instead of the famous stories, and another is that it's simply cheaper and easier to get the rights to translate a small-time book compared to a famous one.
The first Harry Potter book, for example, was translated and the translator enquired about how to purchase translating rights so the book could be published, but J.K. Rowling refused to allow it to be published in Esperanto (despite Harry Potter being one of the most-translated books in the whole world). In lieu of physical books, the translation now exists as a free download on the internet.
As Esperanto speakers were persecuted throughout WWII (Esperanto was banned in Germany and the Soviet Union), and even today might be mocked by journalists and the average person, oppression and acceptance have become strong themes in Esperanto writing and conversation.
There are over 25,000 Esperanto books (originals and translations) as well as over a hundred regularly distributed Esperanto magazines. This is despite that Esperanto has only existed for around 100 years. In comparison, the entire literature of Iceland (a country created in the 900s, and with a population of around 320,000 people) totals to fewer than 50,000 books.
Many speakers travel the world using the Pasporta Servo which is a free couchsurfing and homestay service combined, meaning that their trips are possible because they don't have to pay for lodging while at the same time they stay with people who speak a language they know fluently. Many people have commented that this is also a useful tool for actual immigrants, as Esperanto speakers are normally much friendlier and more willing to see the immigrant as a "human" compared to the normal natives of the country. For example, it's suggested that an English speaker in Japan should make friends with Esperanto speakers instead, because the Esperanto speakers won't "simply use the friendship as a way to get free English lessons".
Esperanto was originally a language that one had to learn entirely through books, and even today most people live apart from each other and converse through the internet, so writing and reading are a big part of Esperanto culture. Most people have created or translated some sort of written work whether fiction or nonfiction, published or available to read online for free.
Penpals have been popular since Esperanto's earliest days, as Esperanto was originally advertised as a language where you could "send a letter with a message, short list of grammar rules and a dictionary to a complete stranger, and they'll be able to look up the words and write a coherent reply back". Many people did indeed do this in order to recruit more Esperanto speakers.
At the time, in the early 1900s, there was no major world language that could be used "anywhere" and it was difficult to get accurate information about foreign countries. On top of that, things like stamp collecting were popular hobbies for children. In the modern day, most Esperanto speakers talk to each other through the internet — which is just the modern version of a penpal.
A magazine for the blind, Aŭroro, has been published since 1920 and in general, Esperanto hosts the largest Braille publications in the world — starting in the early 1900s Esperanto was taught in schools of the blind in Europe, and that is where the trend started.
Esperanto is the magazine used by the World Esperanto Association to inform its members about everything happening in the Esperanto community.
There are many more magazines created by individual Esperanto clubs from towns in places such as from Japan and China.
Many people wear their country's traditional clothing to Esperanto conventions, whether or not they would ever wear it in their own country. Swedish people, for example, who usually never wear their traditional clothing in their own country, may still wear traditional clothing for any meeting involving Esperanto speakers.
Every year, the World Congress of Esperanto (Esperanto: Universala Kongreso de Esperanto), which is held in different countries around the world according to year (though it mostly takes place in Europe). Each convention draws in an average of 1500–3000 attendees, and the best-attended conferences are those held in Central or Eastern Europe (generally meaning Poland, Hungary etc.), as Esperanto is an option for fulfilling mandatory foreign-language requirements in Hungarian schools, and the creator of Esperanto came from Poland (see statistics at World Congress of Esperanto).
Esperanto music is usually done in the traditional style of a person's country, but "international" music (American pop music, rap music etc.) also exists. Many famous songs are translated to Esperanto as well, for example "La vie en rose" and "En el frente de Gandesa" (the links are to the Esperanto versions of the songs on YouTube).
There are currently radio broadcasts from China Radio International, Melbourne Ethnic Community Radio, Radio Habana Cuba, Radio Audizioni Italiane (Rai), Radio Polonia, Radio F.R.E.I. and Radio Vatican. Many more people have personal podcasts and vlogs.
In 1964, Jacques-Louis Mahé produced the first full-length feature film in Esperanto, entitled Angoroj. This was followed in 1965 by the first American Esperanto-production: Incubus, starring William Shatner. Incubus is, however, seen as a common, joke way of first introducing a person to Esperanto as none of the actors even knew how to pronounce Esperanto in the first place, the dialogue is strange and bad due to the scriptwriter not getting a second opinion before the filming was done, and the plot is confusing in general.
Internacia Televido, an internet television channel, began broadcasting in November 2005. Australia is the hotspot of much of the organization behind Esperanto television.
In 2011, Academy Award-nominated director Sam Green (The Weather Underground), released a new documentary about Esperanto titled The Universal Language (La Universala Lingvo.) This 30-minute film traces the history of Esperanto. It's known for having extremely good camera quality and filming sense, as well as being a good "absolute introduction" to what Esperanto is, but is criticized for being too short.
Many more films, cartoons and documentaries that aren't Esperanto originals are simply subtitled in Esperanto and put up on YouTube. Some fan-dubs exist, especially of Disney songs and short scenes, and the quality mirrors that of what would come from any small country or a country "unused to technology" (such as Greenland, Kazakhstan, etc.).
As Esperanto speakers are from all over the world, and families whose children speak Esperanto natively usually have parents from two vastly different countries, recipes incorporating elements from different countries are naturally born. Traditional foods are also enjoyed in settings where a native wouldn't normally mix or eat them.
One cookbook is Internacie kuiri “Cooking Internationally” by Maria Becker-Meisberger, published by FEL (Flemish Esperanto League), Antwerp 1989, ISBN 90-71205-34-7. Another is Manĝoj el sanigaj plantoj “Meals from Healthy Vegetable Dishes” by Zlata Nanić, published by BIO-ZRNO, Zagreb 2002, ISBN 953-97664-5-1.
Some Esperanto periodicals, such as MONATO include recipes from time to time.
On December 15 (L. L. Zamenhof's birthday), Esperanto speakers around the world celebrate Zamenhof Day, sometimes called Book Day. It's a common goal to have a book written in Esperanto published on or by that day, as Zamenhof was a strong advocate of the idea that in order to spread Esperanto around the world, its speakers need to create a large body of literature.
The poem La Espero is the Esperanto anthem, and most Esperanto speakers know it by heart. It's often sung at conventions. Whether or not one enjoys the lyrics, the song is in general something that ties all Esperanto speakers together — as it's been around since Esperanto's early days, is known at least in tune to every Esperanto speaker, and is a general tradition.
- Corsetti, Renato (1996). A mother tongue spoken mainly by fathers. Language Problems and Language Planning 20: 3, 263-73
- Benjamin Bergen (2001), "Nativization processes in L1 Esperanto", Journal of Child Language 28:575–595 doi:10.1017/S0305000901004779
- Corsetti, Pinto, & Tolomeo (2004) "Regularizing the regular: The phenomenon of overregularization in Esperanto-speaking children", Language Problems and Language Planning, 28:261–282
- Jouko Lindstedt (January 2006). "Native Esperanto as a Test Case for Natural Language" (PDF). University of Helsinki – Department of Slavonic and Baltic Languages and Literatures.
- "Johnson: Simple, logical and doomed". 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- Federico Fellini. "A different language is a different vision of life". Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- Ronald J. Glossop (4 August 2005). "THE CULTURE OF ESPERANTO". Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- Esperanto Kaj Turismo
- Esperanto-USA's Esperanto Day page
- Jacques-Louis Mahé
- Generator for Esperanto typographical filler text
- esperanto-panorama.net: Radio in Esperanto
- Melbourne Ethnic Community Radio program with Esperanto entry
- Radio F.R.E.I. from Erfurt/Germany once a month
- Propono por la tago de Esperanto-libro kaj Zamenhof-festo
- Esperanto website from Spain
- Esperanto version of Le Monde diplomatique