The international language Ido - a general description

It would be very useful if we could talk with people in other countries, or correspond with them, as we can with people in our own country. However, the language barrier often makes this difficult if not impossible.

The answer to this problem given by many people is: let them (that is, everyone else) learn English! Certainly English is the most widely spoken language in the world, but it requires a lot of time and some skill to learn it at all well, and it is far from universally spoken. Moreover, because it is the language of certain countries, it is not a neutral language. For those who speak English, "let them learn English" may be an attractive answer, but the French, for example, see things differently.

Therefore the UN has five official languages, and UNESCO has eight. The European Community/Union has a similar number, and spends vast amounts of money on translation and interpreting. Although English and French predominate in the EC/EU, the Germans are now asking for German to be used more.

Using just one national language would give enormous political and cultural advantages to the country or countries for which the chosen language is the native tongue. Consequently this solution is often unacceptable to the others, although the Universal Postal Union still uses French as its official language.

The answer to this situation is to use a neutral invented language like Esperanto or Ido. Such a language would not replace natural languages (that would be vandalism) but be used as a bridge between people who otherwise could not communicate. In this way we can meet each other half way, with little or no advantage for any one group.

The chosen language should not be too artificial. The vocabulary should be based on existing languages (some of which already have many words in common, despite differences in spelling and pronunciation). The grammar should be as simple as possible, without all the exceptions and idiomatic uses which plague the learner of national languages.

This idea inspired among others Father Schleyer, the inventor of Volapuk, and Dr L. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, whose language remains the best known of its type over a century since it was first launched. After some years of trying it (and some earlier and later inventions) in practice, various improvements were suggested.

For example, Zamenhof required adjectives in Esperanto to agree in number and case with the nouns they qualify, so an adjective has four possible endings. There is no real need for this complication, as English and Hungarian - with their invariable adjectives - show, and as Zamenhof later agreed. However, for various reasons no changes were made to the rules of Esperanto.

It was on the basis of improvements such as this that a group of scientists and linguists developed Ido. The committee included the Danish linguist Professor Otto Jespersen and the French mathematician and philosopher Professor Louis Couturat. They took the best from Esperanto and from another invention, Idiom Neutral, added further improvements, and developed a language which is almost certainly the easiest in the world, yet at the same time one of the most precise.

Another improvement was one which again Zamenhof had pointed out would be very logical and convenient. In Esperanto words for people and animals (words such as 'actor' or 'lion') tend to be for the male, with the word for the female being derived by using a suffix (often '-ess' in English). The alternative Zamenhof later preferred, but unfortunately did not implement, is to make such words neutral (like 'cousin' and 'pilot' in English), and to derive both male and female forms by use of appropriate suffixes.

Ido also has a useful pronoun, as does Finnish, which means either he or she, and can therefore be used whenever it is irrelevant or unnecessary to be more specific. Some people wish we had such a pronoun in English so as to avoid saying 'he or she' or writing 'he/she' or 's/he'!

In Ido, therefore, but not in Esperanto, these and other improvements were adopted, and the result is preferred by nearly everyone who has studied equally these two semi-artificial international languages or dialects which otherwise share much in common - including the inspiration of Schleyer and in particular of Zamenhof.

It is to the credit of the Esperanto movement that, through its undoubted fervour, it has done so much to make the idea of a neutral international language relatively well known. However, although Esperanto is widely known about, and is a relatively easy language, its special accented letters and unnecessary complications have put off many who are attracted by the idea it represents. Ido carries forward where Esperanto left off.

Those who have experienced Ido know how good it is being able to concentrate on what you want to say and not having to think, at the same time, about how you have to say it.

So much for the theory, but how does it work in practice? International gatherings of people who speak Ido have taken place in a number of countries and have demonstrated that the idea really works in practice.

There are many publications in or about Ido, including vocabularies and grammar books for speakers of a variety of languages from Swedish to Japanese. There is even a surprising amount of poetry in Ido, including a wonderful 'heroical-comical' story in verse (Andreas Juste's La Serchado). There is a new world waiting to be discovered by anyone who makes the small effort required to understand this remarkable language.

Using the language is a hobby in itself of course, as well as a way of contributing to better understanding in the world.


Details of books in and about Ido are available from the Ido Book Service. The voluntary movement for this language is, of course, itself international, and books about Ido are also available in a variety of national languages. In addition to national societies there is an international organisation, the Union for the International Language (Ido), which publishes a periodical called "Progreso".

For some basic information about the grammar and vocabulary of Ido, the following link will take you to HOW IDO WORKS

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