Speaking Esperanto like a native

The comedian Spike Milligan is credited with the sentence “I speak Esperanto like a native”. It's a witty sentence, as no Esperantoland exists, but the funniest aspect is that it could be true.

One of the pieces of information that draws most attention when we inform about the international language (for instance, in this recent interview I gave in a Spanish radio some weeks ago) is the existence of native speakers of Esperanto. Well, yes, there are.

The denaskuloj, as they are called, can be of two types.

The purest case, so to say, is the one that takes place when each of the parents has a different mother tongue, and their common language is Esperanto. This is not an exceptional case: the couple may have met in an Esperantist encounter, or generally in that circle, which has finally led to the formation of a household in which the children use Esperanto as their basic means of communication.

Of course, they will soon learn the language of the surrounding environment, and probably this will eventually become their first language (I suspect that people's first language is not their mother tongue, even though this is the usual name, but their friends' one). It may even happen that in adulthood, the youngster won't participate in Esperantist circles, but in any case it is still possible to talk about a native Esperantophone. I know several cases, and I even know of some cases in which a third or fourth generation has been reached.

The other case is the one when just one parent speaks to the child in Esperanto. In this circumstance, a perfect bilingualism may be acquired, very similar to that attained in mixed couples in any society. I also know several cases of this kind (here's a link to a photo of a friend of mine with his Esperanto-speaking daughter), and the child ends up speaking the language well, even though they may still give it up when the pressure is weaker.

Among this latter category, you can find examples of some well-known people, such as the financier George Soros, the Nobel laureate Daniel Bovet or the most internationally known female chess players, sisters Zsuzsa, Zofia and Judit Polgár.

In order for the boys and girls to be able to have contact with other young Esperanto speakers, meetings of Esperantist families are regularly organized, as well as special activities for children in the Esperanto Congresses, the best known of which is the Infana Kongreseto, a part of the World Esperanto Congress, held every year.

And, well, to be convinced of how a baby can understand Esperanto, the best way is to watch it live. It is not just charming: it may well serve as a first lesson of Esperanto: