an international language

This is the text of a brochure distributed by the The International Language (Ido) Society of Great Britain. The text was uploaded to CompuServe by Ed. Robertson, and made into a web page by Rick Harrison in May of 1996.


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 has a similar number, and spends vast amounts of money on translation and interpreting. Although English and French predominate in the EC, 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 only French.

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, apart from slight 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 - out 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.



The idea of an international language is simply to enable people who have no other language in common to understand one another. Ido (pronounced 'ee-doh') was developed by linguists and scientists over a number of years. It is the most practical language to be invented, and its usability has been demonstrated many times, both in writing and in speech. Books in and about Ido have been published in many countries, but as yet few people know about it. So the purpose here is to show how practical it is. As with many of the best inventions, simplicity is the key. Since Ido is very much easier than any national language, much less time and effort is needed if two people both learn Ido than if either learns the other's mother tongue. Ido is the solution waiting to be discovered. It cuts through the language barriers which hinder international understanding.

Let's look now at some of Ido's features and discover a few of the 'secrets' of its amazing simplicity.


The vocabulary of Ido is based on that of the major European languages - English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish - and therefore often indirectly on Latin.

Sometimes the words for a concept are very similar in most of these languages, so it is not difficult to choose a common form. In other cases the choice is not so obvious, but generally the form chosen is based on as many languages as possible.

Here are some examples of words in Ido compared with the equivalents in other languages where similar. In these examples Russian words have been written using Latin letters. Often the word in Ido is not similar to the most common equivalent in English but related to another English word which can be used as an aid to memory. (These 'reminder' words are also given in the lists below.)

banko - E:bank, F:banque, G:Bank, I:banca, R:bank, S:banco
bona - E:good (but remember 'bonus'), F:bon, I:buono, S:bueno
donar - E:to give (but remember 'donor'), F:donner, I:dare, donare, S:dar
filtrar - E:to filter, F:filtrer, G:filtrieren, I:filtrare, R:filtr, S:filtrar
gardeno - E:garden, F:jardin, G:Garten, I:giardino, S:jardin
kavalo - E:horse (but remember 'cavalry'), F:cheval, I:cavallo, S:cavalo
maro - E:sea (but remember 'marine'), F:mer, G:Meer, I:mare, S:mar
naciono - E:nation, F:nation, G:Nation, I:nazione, R:nacia, S:nacion
studiar - E:to study, F: etudier, G:studieren, I:studiare, S:estudiar
yuna - E:young, F:jeune, G:jung, R:yuniy.


Ido uses the 26 letters of the 'Latin' alphabet, without any of the accented letters which vary from language to language. So it can be typed, printed or used with computers in most countries without any difficulty. Many letters are pronounced as in English. Note the following, however: c is always pronounced as ts (as in bits), never as k or s. The letter s is always sharp as in song and bus, never dull as in rose. The letter g is always hard as in get and brag, never soft as in page. The letter j is pronounced as in French and like the s in pleasure. The letter r should be slightly trilled and never silent. As a pair of letters, ch is pronounced as in church and sh as in shine.

The vowels a, e, i, o, u are pronounced much as in Spanish and Italian and as in the words fAther, Eight, machIne, tOtal, rUle. Now practise saying the following words: pasas (pahsahs), paco (pahtsoh), generaciono (gheneratsiohnoh), jetar (jairtahrr), libro (leebroh), dum (doom). The accent or stress falls on the last syllable but one for all words except infinitives which are stressed on the last syllable. For example: generaciOno, mUri, universAla, telefOno, Exter, mUlte; but klozAr (to close), pensAr (to think), dankAr (to thank). When a word ends in a vowel preceded by i or u, the two vowels at the end of the word count as one syllable. So, for example, we say rAdio (not radIo), famIlio, mAnuo.


Ido helps the reader or listener to understand the function of a word. This is done by using endings which often signal the word type. For example, a noun (a word for something) ends with the letter -o in the sigular, as in kavalo (horse), sukro (sugar), kozo (thing), puero (child). There is no equivalent to English 'a' or 'an' as it is not needed. The equivalent of 'the' is la: so la kavalo means 'the horse'. The plural of a noun ends with the letter -i in place of -o. It is easy to see the meaning of kavali (horses), kozi (things) and pueri (children).

Here are some nouns:
amiko - friend (amicable)
animalo - animal
aquo - water (aquatic)
batelo - boat
butiko - shop (boutique)
chambro - room, chamber
dio - day (diary)
domo - house (domestic)
dorso - back (dorsal)
floro - flower (florist)
foresto - forest
frukto - fruit (fructify)
hundo - dog (hound)
kapo - head (capital)
kavalo - horse (cavalry)
kozo - thing
libro - book (library)
ligno - wood (ligneous)
linguo - language (linguist)
maro - sea (mariner)
matino - morning (matins)
matro - mother (maternal)
mondo - world (mundane)
muro - wall (mural)
pano - bread (pantry)
patro - father (paternal)
peco - piece
pedo - foot (pedal)
persono - person
pomo - apple
pordo - door (portal)
puero - child (puerile)
rivero - river
stulo - chair
sukro - sugar (sucrose)
tablo - table
tempo - time (temporary)
urbo - town (urban)
vespero - evening (vespers)
vorto - word

Adjectives (words which describe things) end with the letter -a, as in rapida (fast), plena (full), bela (beautiful) and facila (easy). Advanced users may, particularly in verse, omit (elide) the final letter -a but normally it is retained as a useful indicator.

Here are some adjectives:
alta - high (altitude)
bela - beautiful (belle)
bona - good (bonus)
dolca - sweet (dulcet)
dormanta - sleeping (dormant)
facila - easy (facilitate)
felica - happy (felicity)
granda - big, large
interesanta - interesting
kelka - some
klara - clear (clarity)
kolda - cold
kurta - short (curtail)
mikra - small (microscope)
multa - much, many (multiply)
lenta - slow
nova - new (novelty)
omna - all, every (omnipotent)
plena - full (plenty)
plura - several (plural)
poka - few
rapida - fast, quick, rapid
saja - wise (sage)
simpla - simple
varma - warm
utila - useful (utility)
vera - true (veritable)
yuna - young


An adjective can be placed before or after the noun it qualifies or refers to. For example, "fast horses" can be rapida kavali or kavali rapida; "universal language" is universala linguo or linguo universala. Take some words from the lists and put together some simple combinations. See how easy it is: la lenta kavalo; granda flori; libro interesanta; la mikra reda pomi; linguo facila.


Verbs (words which mostly describe actions) are particularly easy compared with most languages. The infinitive is indicated by the ending -ar as in vidar (to see), pensar (to think). The present tense is indicated by the ending -as. For example, vidas (see or sees); pensas (think or thinks); klozas (close or closes); la hundo dormas (the dog sleeps).

Here are some verbs:
amar - like (amity)
apertar - open (aperture)
bezonar - need
dankar - thank
dicar - say (diction)
divinar - guess (divination)
dormar - sleep (dormant)
drinkar - drink
esar - be
finar - end, finish
havar - have
interesar - interest
jetar - throw (jettison)
juntar - join (juncture)
kantar - sing (cantata)
kaptar - catch, capture
klamar - shout (clamour)
klozar - shut, close
komencar - begin, commence
komprar - buy
komprenar - understand, comprehend
kredar - believe (credible)
kurar - run (current)
lektar - read (lecture)
ludar - play
montrar - show
parolar - talk (parley)
pendar - hang (pendant)
pensar - think (pensive)
portar - carry (portable)
povar - be able
pozar - put, pose, place
prenar - take
pulsar - push (pulsate)
questionar - ask, question
savar - know [a fact]
serchar - seek, search
sidar - sit
skribar - write (scribe)
tenar - hold (tenacious)
tirar - pull
trovar - find (treasure trove)
venar - come (intervene)
vendar - sell (vendor)
vidar - see (visible)
vivar - live (revive)
volar - wish, want


Now we have enough building blocks to make slightly more ambitious phrases. For example, sukro esas dolca (sugar is sweet), la puero questionas la matro (the child questions the mother), la pomi esas granda (the apples are large), kavalo esas animalo (a horse is an animal), kavali esas animali (horses are animals), la mikra hundo kuras en la foresto (the little dog runs in the forest).

Make up some more phrases for yourself in the same way. In contrast to many languages, in Ido the adjective does not vary to "agree" with the noun, and the verb does not vary according to the subject, so you can hardly go wrong.


Adjectives can be changed into adverbs by replacing that final letter -a with the letter -e, as in rapide (rapidly), facile (easily), klare (clearly) and bele (beautifully). Now add some adverbs to adjectives or verbs: vere facila (truly easy), parolar felice (to speak happily), la hundi serchas rapide (the dogs search quickly).

There are also some adverbs which are not made from adjectives. For example, hike (here), tre (very), anke (also). Conjunctions are words used for joining ideas. For example, e (and), o (or), ma (but). Some of these and other types of words, such as prepositions, are given in the next list. These words do not end with any particular letter.

Some words of other types:
a - to
anke - also
ante - before
apud - beside
ca - this
de - from
di - of
du - two
dum - during
e - and
en - in
exter - outside
hike - here
hodie - today
ibe - there
inter - between
ja - already
kam - than
ke - that [conj.]
kun - with [together]
la - the
ma - but
min - less
ne [placed before the verb] - not
no - no [as an answer]
nun - now
nur - only
o - or
per - with [by means of]
plu [with an adjective or adverb] - more
por - for
pos - after
pri - concerning, about
pro - because of
proxim - near
qua - which
quale - how
quo - what
se - if
sen - without
sub - under
sur - on
ta - that [not this]
til - until
tre - very
tro - too
tri - three
ube - where
un - one
yes - yes


Personal pronouns are words like "you" and "they". In Ido they do not change in the way some of them do in English, so me means either "I" or "me", and ni means either "we" or "us". As a result there are fewer words to learn. A particularly useful pronoun is lu which can be used whenever we don't want to, or can't, be more exact, as it often avoids the need to say "il o el" (he or she).

me - I, me; vu - you (one person); ilu - he, him; elu - she, her; olu - it; lu - he, she, it; ni - we, us; vi - you (several people); li - they, them.

To form the possessive pronoun, add the letter -a: mea - my; vua - your; ilua - his; elua - her; olua - its; nia - our; and so on.

Now we have enough material to write some even better sentences: Ni vidas bela batelo sur la maro; vua hundo esas tre granda; li kuras rapide a la rivero; vi povas komprar pano en la urbo; me komprenas nun, e me trovas ke Ido esas vere simpla.


Using the words listed, you can already put together very many short phrases and sentences. Make a start with pronouns and verbs, varying each in turn: me skribas, elu skribas; ni venas, li venas. Then take some adjectives and nouns, again varying each in turn: granda domo, granda pomi, granda hundo; bela domi, bela animalo, bela kozi.

Go on to make longer phrases: mea amiko venas a nia domo; la tablo e la stuli esas en la chambro; la maro esas varma nun; olu ne esas kolda; la mondo bezonas facila linguo; du personi sidas sur la muro; ni savas ke ligno esas tre utila. Playing with words like this is an excellent way of building confidence and fluency, and in Ido it is exceptionally easy, as you can readily discover for yourself.


What about saying something like "they came" instead of "they come"? For the past tense, the ending to use is -is. So li venis means "they came", and li dankis means "they thanked". For the future tense the ending is -os. So li venos means "they will come", and li skribos means "they will write". As there are no irregular verbs, you can already understand the following: elu vidis bela flori en la gardeno; vu trovos kelka pano sur la tablo.


You now have a good idea of how Ido works and how easy it is. It was originally based largely on Esperanto (an earlier invention), but with many improvements. The result is a simple yet effective language which is easy to pronounce and sounds somewhat like Italian. You can easily build on your knowledge and could soon be able to understand much more. A useful knowledge of Ido can be acquired in a small fraction of the time needed for any national language. Through Ido you can correspond with people in other countries, and read books and magazines written in this international language. Ido is the key that opens the door to a wider 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. To make contact with the network of people who use Ido, write to one of the representatives who include the following.

Mr David Weston: 24 Nunn Street, Leek, Staffs. ST13 8EA, England, UK.

Ido Book Service: 44 Woodville Road, Cathays, Cardiff CF2 4EB, Wales, UK.

Mr Donald Humphries, Box 121-L, GPO, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia.

Mr Jacques Bol, 80 chaussee des Gaulois, 1300 Wavre, Belgium.

Mr Kevin Ford, 192 Tu-Pelo Avenue, Winnipeg R2K 35B, Canada.

Mr Alfred Neussner, Thueringer Str. 3, 37284 Waldkappel, Germany.

Mr Jose Garcia, c/o Ingeniero Joaquin Benlloch 71-13a, Valencia 26, Spain.

Mr R.C. Peries, 4 Sri Vijaya Road, Colombo 6, Sri Lanka.

Mr Axel Rylander, Olshammarsgatan 58, 124 48 Bandhagen, Suedia, Sweden.

Mrs Cl. Kreis-Schneeberger, 57 avenue de Champel, 1206 Geneve, Switzerland.

Mr Richard Earnhart, 405 Fry, Denton, TX 76201, USA.

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