When Cassie Spelbring, 14, went to a banquet at a Chinese restaurant, she was pleasantly surprised to see several students from her school there. That's because Cassie is a komencanto, a person who studies and speaks Esperanto, and this banquet was a gathering of Esperanto speakers.
Cassie, who lives in Aurora, Ill., was delighted to see so many people shared her interest in the international language.
"I got to meet people from lots of places, and some people I found out went to my school (and) already spoke Esperanto fluently," she said. "I just thought it was really amazing."
Esperanto, which means "one who hopes," was first published in 1887 by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof of Poland under the pseudonym Dr. Esperanto.
It does not belong to one particular country or ethnicity and contains elements of various languages.
The goal of Esperanto is to reduce the number of languages a person needs to learn to communicate effectively with people all over the world.
Esperanto also claims to be one of the easiest languages to learn, with far fewer grammar rules and exceptions.
Approximately 2 million people worldwide speak Esperanto, but that number is growing as more students like Cassie learn it in the hope that, someday, youths everywhere can communicate without difficulty.
Y-Press recently talked with Cassie and two other teens who study Esperanto -- Jake McDowell, 18, of Bennington, Neb., and Jonathan Moylan, 14, of Waratah, Australia, near Newcastle -- about their use of Esperanto and the future of global communication.
Jonathan: One day my father, who learned Esperanto when he was my age, said, "Would you like to learn Esperanto?" and he showed me the "Teach Yourself Esperanto" book.
Well, after about a month, with the help of a good dictionary, I could speak Esperanto more or less fluently.
Jake: A few of my friends were into it, and then it just kept getting brought up somehow. So one day I was searching the Internet just to see more about it, and I found that there was a free course. It's cool stuff.
Cassie: My dad actually found a book that he had received a while ago, and he started to read it and he got interested.
And after a few months of seeing him do it over and over, I just figured it's something that me and him could do and have in common.
Comparison to English
Jonathan: English is much harder to learn than Esperanto, and Esperanto sounds a lot better.
Jake: I've taken some Spanish and some German -- two years of each. Esperanto just seems more expressive, and it's easier to write.
There's less confusion whenever you're trying to express something simply.
Cassie: I like Esperanto better because there's a lot fewer rules, and there's a lot fewer things that you can do wrong. You can't really butcher that language that much, at least not to my knowledge.
Cassie: I try to talk with my dad at least a few times a week, if not more. But we're both kind of busy.
Jonathan: I speak Esperanto every week or more over the Internet to people in the Australian Esperanto Association, in the South Wales Esperanto Association.
I have set up an Esperanto association in Newcastle. It's got only six members, and only three of the members actually speak Esperanto at the moment.
Jake: Mostly (I speak Esperanto with) people that I know online who are Japanese. A few friends at school. Not a whole lot of people really. I've gotten a lot more into writing and poetry since I've learned about Esperanto.
Cassie: It puts people on equal footing. It gave me the ability to go to Brazil.
Jake: I've met a few friends and stuff through my tutor and online class. I've been able to learn from them about several things, not just Esperanto, but writing and poetry and stuff like that.
Jonathan: It's the easiest international language to learn. It also helps me learn English grammar, because it's related to the grammar of European languages.
Jonathan: I've been corresponding with a lot of people over the Internet, and I can see people who ordinarily wouldn't communicate because of their language barrier speaking Esperanto over the Internet.
Jake: With English, it's like there's so many dialects and things that really divide people. It divides like Europe and the USA, the two different dialects.
But Esperanto doesn't have any of that, and so all the people that will learn it will not argue about, "Hey, this word means that" or whatever, or have some conflict as to the meaning of something.
Cassie: I can see a lot of countries growing closer because they'll be able to have communication between the regular people, not just the politicians.
Like if I were talking to someone from Afghanistan, I'd know what they were going through, having to deal with us and us being there and looking down on them. I just think that'd be better for the world.
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Jennifer Maberto, 14.
REPORTER: Milan Patel, 12.