What writing system(s) does this language use? edit

The languages Esperanto and Ido were invented in Europe just over a hundred years ago and their creators used the alphabet they knew best, the Latin alphabet. Ido uses the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, just as in English, plus these three digraphs: the "ch" (Chin) and "sh" (Shin) and "qu" (Quinn) which sound just like they do in English.


digraph — A digraph is a pair of characters to write one distinct sound (Like the "Ch" is "Chin" in English.).

Esperanto and Ido are very similar. One of the differences is that Esperanto uses little signs (called "diacritics") above some letters to change the sound of the letter. For example, for the "sh" sound Ido uses "sh" but Esperanto uses "s" with a little sign above it. Further down the page there is a table that shows the letters used in Ido and how they sound.

In English a letter can sound different in different words. Think of the "a" in these English words: "fat", fate, and father. In Esperanto, if you hear a word you can tell by the sound of it what letters to use to spell it. It is almost the same in Ido, except there is more than one way of writing the sound of "k".

There are no silent letters in the spelling of words in Esperanto and Ido. This is a very good thing for people learning to spell. In English, for example, we have to remember to spell the word "aisle" with a silent "e" at the end and a silent "s" in the middle.

Here is the table of the letters used in Ido. The letters on a green background are the digraphs used in Ido. The letters on a yellow background are the letters that sound different in Ido from the way they sound in English: these letters are "c", "j" and "u". (The letter "u" in Ido has an "oo" sound but in English we use the letter "u" for a "ee-oo" sound. Think of the English word "music", for example.)

Letter: a b c ch d e f g h i j k l m n
Sounds like: a in father b in back ts in cats ch in chicken
Ĉ in Esperanto
d in deep e in egg or bet f in farm g in go h in hand i in machine mirage
Ĵ in Esperanto
k in kilt l in lamb m in mitten n in Nile
Letter: o p q qu r s sh t u v w x y z
Sounds like: o in or p in pin Same as "k"; Rarely used except in "qu" qu in quick r in rule
but roll your tongue!
s in sand sh in shy
Ŝ in Esperanto
t in take oo in moon v in value w in weep
Ŭ in Esperanto
x in except or exist y in yes z in zebra

How many people speak this language? edit

Nobody knows for sure how many people speak Ido. Perhaps only a little more than a hundred or so people can speak Ido, but maybe there are as many as a thousand or so throughout the world who know at least some Ido.

Of those who can speak Ido probably all learned it as adults. Some parents who have learned Esperanto have spoken Esperanto to their children from when they very young so there are native speakers of Esperanto, but we don't know if this has happened with Ido.

A speaker of Ido is called an Idist and a speaker of Esperanto is called an Esperantist.

Where is this language spoken? edit

The flag of Ido (La flago di Ido)

Ido is mainly spoken in Europe, but it is likely that some people from around the world have learned Ido. Both Ido and Esperanto are languages people learn as an extra language and there's nowhere that either Ido or Esperanto is spoken by most of people there.

What is the history of this language? edit

In Europe for many hundreds of years Latin was the language used by kings and their clerks to write to kings in other countries. All scholars knew Latin and wrote their books in Latin, knowing they would be understood by well-educated people in all parts of Europe. Latin was not the first language these people learned as children. They learned Latin as an extra language and were able to use it to talk with and write to people whose native language was different from theirs. Latin was what is called an "international language".

Not everyone knew Latin, of course, and some people would have had to find another way of making themselves understood. That was important to those who travelled by land and sea to buy and sell. Traders have always got by by learning a few words from each others' languages and putting the words together without bothering about being correct. This is called speaking a "pidgin" language. (The word "pidgin" may come from Chinese people trying to say the English word "business".)

In time people used Latin less. When kings' ministers visited foregn courts they spoke French instead of Latin. French had become the new international language -- but only for some people. Scholars wrote their books in their own native language and books would have to be translated into other languages.

As well-off people began to travel more and read more a few people, thinking how good it would be to have an international language again, had the idea of constructing (that is, putting together) a new language. (Nowadays we call a language like Esperanto or Ido that someone has made up a "constructed" language or an "artificial" language, because it has not grown up in a natural way as English has.)

A few attempts were made to construct a new language but hardly anyone took any notice. Then Father Schleyer, a German priest, created a language he called Volapük. Suddenly things changed. A few thousand people studied it, but it was hard to learn and Father Schleyer objected to anyone making changes to the language. Then, a few years later, a Polish-Jewish eye doctor, Dr Zamenhof, brought out his own artificial language, Esperanto. It was easier to learn and so became much more popular than Volapük. Some Esperantists suggested changes to Esperanto. Dr Zamenhof, unlike Father Schleyer, was willing to make changes but when, in 1894, he asked the people who had learned Esperanto to vote on his list of suggested changes most of them rejected the suggestions. They probably felt that having gone to the trouble of learning Esperanto they didn't want to listen to a lot of fuss about changes to it and then to have to unlearn what they'd already learned and learn what was new.

Meanwhile several other people had been busy creating new languages of their own. It was like a craze! Of course, what people really needed to do was choose one. Louis Couturat, a French mathematician, thought about who should decide. He knew that France had an academy to lay down rules as to how the language of the country should be spoken and written and other countries had similar academies of their own, and he knew that people from these academies worked together in Vienna. Mr Couturat thought they would be the ideal people to choose from among the new languages. Mr Couturat and others formed a group and went to Vienna and asked them but they refused to get involved. There was nothing for it but for the members of Mr Couturat's group to decide it amongst themselves. The group met in Paris and talked and in the end they decided that none of the constructed languages was good enough but Esperanto almost was and should be improved.

Dr Zamenhof did not think trying to improve Esperanto was a good idea. He probably remembered how people had made it clear earlier that they preferred to go on speaking Esperanto the way they had learned it. A few people, however, were very keen to do what they could to improve Esperanto. Mr Couturat was one of them. For the next few years they worked hard on making changes to Esperanto. They called their new version of Esperanto "Ido". "Ido" means "child" in Esperanto, and they thought of their new language as the child of Esperanto.

So what changes did they make? One problem facing someone who is inventing a language and plans to use the Latin alphabet is that some letters are used differently in different languages such as French, English, German, Spanish, etc. The letter "j" in the German language sounds like English "y" and that's how Dr Zamenhof used it in Esperanto - but people whose native language is English, French or Spanish may find remembering that the letter "j" sounds as "y" difficult. The Idists decided to change that. They brought in the English "y" and decided to use the letter "j" in the English way - but of course German-speakers may find that difficult! Constructing a new language is full of pitfalls and remember the creator wants it to be as easy as possible for as many people as possible to learn.

Another change the Idists made was to remove the little signs above some letters. Look again at the table at the top of the page. Many Esperantists dislike these little signs and find them awkward, especially on a computer.

Quite a few of the changes were among those that had been suggested by Dr Ludwig Zamenhof back in 1894 when he was suggesting changes to create what he was going to call "Reformed Esperanto". For that reason Ido is sometimes called "Reformed Esperanto".

The Idists increased how many words people had to learn. In Esperanto, if you put "mal-" at the front of a word you change its meaning to the opposite. For example, "bona" means "good" and "malbona" means "bad". Another example is based on the Latin word "dexter" meaning "right" (from which we get "dexterous" in English). In Esperanto, "dekstra" means "right" and "maldekstra" means "left". The Idists felt that though this method means people have fewer words to learn it makes understanding people speaking in Esperanto harder. They decided to have more words; for example, the Ido word for "left" is "sinistra" (from the Latin again).

The Idists changed some Esperanto words or parts of words to what they thought sounded prettier, or to what they hoped would be easier for most learners, or, sensibly, to what would sound distinct. If you were giving directions to someone they might not hear the "mal" part of "maldekstra" and turn right when you were telling them to turn left!

Both Esperanto and Ido are good languages in many ways but, sad to say, there was bad feeling between some Esperantists and some Idists. The people who worked on Ido made up just a small group. They formed an academy and were keen to get the language just right. Most people just went on using the original Esperanto. After a few years Ido was ready but failed to become popular for three reasons:

  • Louis Couturat died. He was a pacifist (that is, he believed strongly in preventing wars) but was killed in northern France in 1914, at the very start of the First World War, when his automobile crashed with an automobile carrying the plans to call Frenchmen up to fight at the start of the First World War! He had been a keen Idist.
  • During the First World War and for a couple of years afterwards people were finding life so difficult that there wasn't much opportunity for the creators of Ido to try to get people to learn it.
  • Not everyone who worked on creating Ido was satisfied with Ido. Once you start changing a constructed language where do you stop? There were groups that went on discussing making yet more changes. The greatest setback to Ido was when Professor Otto Jespersen, a Danish language expert who had been one of the creators of Ido, set about inventing a language his own which he called Novial.

After the First World War people wanted to make sure there would never be another such war and thought an international language might help. Ido had not had a chance to become well-known and Esperanto became the language many people learned.

There is still bitterness between some Idists and some Esperantists. Idists claim Ido is "the world language" because the meeting in Paris said the international language should be Esperanto after being reformed. Nevertheless, very many more people speak Esperanto than speak Ido. The only good thing is that if an Esperantist and an Idist talk together each can understand most of what the other is saying.

Who are some famous authors or poets in this language? edit

There are not many well-known writers in Ido, but stories such as The Little Prince have been translated into Ido.

What are some basic words in this language that I can learn? edit

Basic Greetings:
  • Hola! — "Hello!"
  • Bona matino. — "Good morning."
  • Bona vespero. — "Good evening."
  • Bona nokto. — "Good night."
  • Til rivido. — "Goodbye."

Simple Words:

  • Yes! — "Yes!"
  • No! — "No!"
  • Hundo — "Dog"
  • Kato — "Cat"
  • Domo — "House"


  • Danko! — "Thank you!"
  • Me regretas. — "I'm sorry."
  • Zero — "Zero"
  • Un — "One"
  • Du — "Two"
  • Tri — "Three"
  • Quar — "Four"
  • Kin — "Five"
  • Sis — "Six"
  • Sep — "Seven"
  • Ok — "Eight"
  • Non — "Nine"
  • Dek — "Ten"
  • Cento — "Hundred"
  • Mil — "Thousand"
  • Miliono — "Million"
  • Pi — "Pi (3.14)"

What is a simple song/poem/story that I can learn in this language? edit

You might like to know what the Lord's Prayer looks like in Ido. If you are a Christian who prays this prayer in church you will be especially interested. Here it is:

Patro nia qua estas en la cielo, tua nomo santigesez, tua regno advenez, tua volo facesez, quale en la cielo, tale anke sur la tero. Donez a ni cadie l'omnadiala pano, e pardonez a ni nia ofensi, quale anke ni pardonas a nia ofensanti, e ne duktez ni aden la tento, ma liberigez ni del malajo. Amen.

If you search for Ido on Wikipedia you will find a page telling you all about Ido and at the bottom of the page you will find this prayer and you can actually hear a recording of someone saying it.

References edit

Wikibooks has a texbook where you can find more about this language: