It seems it is very difficult to count the people able to speak to some degree some artificial language (or maybe any language in general), for instance is Esperanto usage surging, stable, declining?

I wonder if there is any other way (active use in mailing list, etc) of deducing if the communities learning these languages are increasing or decreasing.

  • Probably not. To start with, languages are spoken, not written. So email or any other written use won't tell you anything, even if you could measure it, which you can't. – jlawler Feb 24 '12 at 3:37
  • 5
    @jlawler I believe you just disproved your point by successfully communicating with me in written language. – hippietrail Feb 24 '12 at 6:11
  • @hippietrail I just said that languages (including artificial languages) are oral, not written. I didn't say they didn't exist, nor that one couldn't communicate with them. Though you may have demonstrated that by misconstruing what I wrote. Written versions of language are modern technology, like agriculture and cars; they're not real languages and affect only a minority of humans. – jlawler Feb 24 '12 at 15:12
  • I disagree. Languages are systems of symbolic communication and are generally primarily spoken or signed. Many languages also have writing systems which enable their native mode to be encoded into writing. At least one old constructed language, visible speech I believe, has only a written form though. The OP obviously meant communicate when he said "speak" just as you surely meant both spoken and signed when you said "spoken". I don't think nitpicking this term uncovers any problem with the question at all. Whether it's off-topic is a separate issue. – hippietrail Feb 24 '12 at 15:44
  • 2
    Can I suggest a change in the headline question? As it stands I initially interpreted it as 'studying' in the sense of "carrying out linguistic study of constructed languages", but on reading the body of the question I see it's about numbers of "people learning to speak constructed languages". – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 12 '12 at 1:05

As you point out yourself it is extremely difficult to measure the number of people studying constructed languages and especially difficult to measure the degree of language proficiency. Among all constructed languages only Esperanto has an examination system that is aligned to CEFR and certified as a UniCert course (CEFR is abbreviated in Esperanto as KER). However, there is a very small amount of people who pass these examinations, because professional language proficiency and certification thereof is not a goal for most Esperanto-speakers.

Traditionally in Esperanto they use the number of people who are members of UEA, the Universal Esperanto Association, the main organisation for Esperanto speakers. Here is the graph of UEA members over the last 100 years (taken from here):

UEA members

Green bars show individual members, the red bars stay for associated members (meaning if an organisation joins UEA and pays membership fee all members of this organisation are associated members). As you can see from this graph, the number of UEA members seems to have retracted in recent years.

Another metric is the number of people who participate in Universala Kongreso -- the annual world conference of Esperanto-speakers. I don't have a diagram for this statistic, but you can see the numbers here. The fluctuations here are much bigger and there is no clear trend -- either increasing or decreasing -- seen there.

On the other side, membership in UEA and participation in congresses targets mostly established Esperanto speakers. Therefore another statistic was compiled taking into account the number of participants in popular Esperanto meetings in Germany:

Participants in Esperanto-meetings for young people

Here you can see that the number of participants seems to increase over recent years.

In conclusion, it is indeed difficult to estimate the current trend in numbers of people learning Esperanto.

  • amazing answer. – jordi Feb 27 '12 at 3:46
  • UEA membership is very costly, even for the richer countries, and its benefits are relative. One would need to count internet occurrences, but that is misleading too in the positive direction. – Joop Eggen Dec 26 '12 at 17:50

You should look at the number of books published per year, and the rate of how fast Wikipedia pages in Esperanto are being created, too.

There were one or two really nice Wiki pages in Esperanto that had charts of a ton of this kind of data (and compared to the growth rate of English), but I lost the links, sorry.

It's https://eo.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistiko_de_Esperantujo

It also talked about the historical number of webpages and words in Esperanto on the internet, the amount of Esperanto on facebook, and the number of registered accounts on CouchSurfing that listed Esperanto, and the number of registered accounts on Lernu.net.

From what I remember, the general trend was that every year it fluctuates but there's very slowly growing more and more, the average number of books published per year that are over 48 pages numbers at 120, and the only data in which the use of Esperanto seems to be going DOWN is in the number of people being members in Esperanto clubs and associations. (Nowadays, at least in the USA and many places in Europe, people in general aren't joining as many clubs as they used to overall no matter what it's for - also nowadays books can really easily be self-published online, so of course the book numbers can't reflect the real numbers either.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.