A question has already been asked on teaching a child a foreign language if you aren't a native speaker, but the answers are mixed - the 'right' answer says languages can be taught by a non-native speaker, but the answer with the most votes says you should only speak in your native language with kids.

My wife and I only speak English at the moment. We're going to learn Esperanto and have made a commitment to only speak Esperanto with each other once we're fluent. After speaking in Esperanto for a few months, we're going to learn Spanish and when we're fluent, we will start alternating between Spanish and Esperanto every other day. Once we have kids, were planning to alternate between Spanish, Esperanto, and English every 3 days.

Does this sound like a good plan from a scientific perspective (I am less interested in personal opinions, unless they're supported with experience)? Are there any academic studies on this topic? Any objective research on techniques to raise multilingual kids?

From what I've read, there are many advantages of being bilingual / multilingual (here, here, and here) and I want to give my kids these advantages.

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    If you work hard at it (and find more Esperanto and Spanish speakers to talk to), you can learn those languages. As for the kids, it's generally better for one parent to speak one language and the other parent to speak the other one, both exclusively, at least in front of the kid; it helps the kid distinguish languages, in context, which is important. Since neither of you is fluent in either yet, and since Esperanto isn't a natural language, this probly would place a burden on the Esperantist parent. And on the Spanish-speaking one, too, of course.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 20:46
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    If you want your children to be bilingual, move to a bilingual society!
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 22:50
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    @fdb - I'm open to criticisms (and found your comment funny), but from what I've researched, learning Esperanto can help kids read / write earlier and makes it easier for them to learn other languages: youtube.com/watch?v=8gSAkUOElsg Esperanto might also help my kids with math because they won't have to deal with illogical numbers like 'thirteen'. Malcom Gladwell wrote about how logical number systems give Asian students an edge in math: gladwell.com/outliers/rice-paddies-and-math-tests Plus it would give my family a secret language.
    – Powers
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 11:57
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    @Powers: Don't expect Esperanto to be a "logical" language, despite some of the impassioned hype. If you want to see the true scariness of actual logical languages, look instead to Lojban. Commented May 25, 2014 at 5:49
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    Thank you, Powers, for responding to my comment. For some reason the latter has disappeared. By the way, I hate censorship.
    – fdb
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


There's many parents who have learnt Esperanto specifically to teach it to their kids so that their kids are raised bilingual, actually. I'm not sure how much info you can find in English on it, but there are YouTube videos and websites for this among other things (also, I'm not sure if such sites are entirely in Esperanto or not, but most likely they don't have English...). I specifically remember a Dane who was asking in English on Youtube, what people thought about teaching Esperanto to his kid (and then he did end up making his kid a native Esperanto speaker), but there should be more out there and it would be fairly easy to just contact them and ask if they know about studies. There's even conventions or sections of conventions intended for parents with Esperanto-speaking children, so in the worst-case scenario you can just visit one of those and ask people there (as they themselves might have even been involved in research projects). You can also try writing to any English-speaking Esperanto club to see if they know of any research or are willing to translate any to English.

There should certainly be some kind of research, as in general a lot of the Esperanto research focuses on kids (ex. how fast do kids learn it, how much does it help them with subsequent foreign languages), but likely it's only small studies. There's a few YouTube videos of kids who are native speakers talking, where it is assumable that their parents aren't native speakers (I'm thinking of one compilation video in particular, of kids of various ages and from various countries). The only study on native speakers I can think of has been where this one guy interviewed them and noted down what kinds of mistakes they make and how they use the grammar; a summary is readable on Wikipedia. Lastly you can pretty easily find older native speakers on the internet and simply ask them about how they were raised, how their skills were, if they know of any research etc (that is, if you learn Esperanto you can ask them).

About only speaking your native language with your kids... It's pretty easy/fast to become so good at Esperanto that it FEELS like your native language, and it's certainly possible to reach native-level fluency in foreign languages in general, so honestly I don't think it's a problem. Either way I wouldn't quite worry about it, as there are plenty of parents who speak languages other than their native ones to their kids.

About the logical-ness as commented in one of these comments here, it's been mentioned quite a lot that Esperanto is better for teaching/learning logic than languages such as Latin and English are — this mostly translates to that people think it's a good language for science, math, and computer programming (as in, it's good for testing ex. programs which parse language information). Again I'm not sure how many studies have been on it or that are described in English, if you go to the "open library" website there are a few books that you can read for free that describe various studies and general information. Though the books on there are older, the info is still valid since the language has hardly changed since then (the structure is the same, there's just more words now). I think most of the research is actually published and relatively difficult to get a hold of, as it would need to be purchased or ordered.

Sorry I can't help more. It seems like most studies of Esperanto tend to come from Esperanto users themselves, and they don't have enough money to do many studies. There are even fewer studies on native speakers, probably in part because most people who don't know about Esperanto assume that there are no natives. Although (and I'm not actually joking here), if you want to become famous in Esperanto-land all you have to do is make some studies or reports of your own on native-speaking children. You could start doing this before you have your child and see what your research suggests!

  • A relatively detailed answer with lots of different ideas - but can you provide links to all of these things one can find on the Internet / YouTube / Wikipedia? Even in Esperanto or other langauges.
    – Tom
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 21:41

Hope this Australia article would help in your case.

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    Can you please elaborate on the contents of the article? If the internet disappeared now, except SE, this answer wouldn't be really exhaustive by itself. Referring is fine, and also basing your answer on your sources is fine, but please elaborate more, thank you.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 10:25
  • @Alenanno: I think you are straining at gnats while we swallow camels here. None of our answers are exhaustive. Many are mistaken and plenty are misunderstood. The collapse of the internet except for SE is not a contingency worth planning for, in my opinion. Clarity is.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 16:40
  • @jlawler: While the whole Internet except for SE collapsing is indeed not a contingency to be considered when shaping our SE discussions, a single site disappearing is definitely possible. A good SE answer that cites an article from another site should be detailed enough as to be able to stand on its own.
    – Tom
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 21:45

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