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02 October 2014

Using language to foster peace

In the late 19th century, a young Jewish physician named Ludwik Zamenhof became deeply troubled by fractions between people in his home city of Bialystok, Poland.

Zamenhof noted that Bialystok was populated by four distinct ethnic groups at the time: Russians, Poles, Germans and Jews. He attributed much of the unrest between these groups to their inability to understand each other. He felt language diversity was the greatest cause of separation between groups of people.

So what did this peace seeking idealist do? He constructed a new language. Zamenhof used his own linguistic talent to create a neutral communication tool that’s easy to learn, with an underlying goal of fostering peace and international understanding.

Zamenhof’s language, known as Esperanto, now has an estimated 2 million users in around 115 countries.

Find out more about Esperanto at


  1. It's a great ideal.However, I believe most linguists and anthropologists think Esperanto ultimately fails because it is an artificial language, not associated closely with a culture, and not spoken anywhere as a first language. So it’s an idea that’s good in theory, but not in practice.

  2. Compared with other constructed languages though, Esperanto is one of the more successful because it borrows so much from existing languages, so is relatively easy to learn.

    Another interesting constructed language, invented for exactly the same reason as Esperanto, is Blissymbols:

    This language uses only symbols and has no relation to any spoken language. Consequently, it hasn't been too successful as a global language.

    But decades after its invention it was picked up as a tool to help children with disabilities communicate, so it gained a life of its own. It's now known as Blissymbolics:

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