Toki Pona: 12 Reasons Why to Learn

1. Might be good for improving your mood.  Personally, I think it would improve your mood by stimulating your brain cells to grow & be active.  On the other hand, some people suspect that a language designed to be cute, good and happy might make you cute, good and happy.

2. You have a chance of finishing.  The language uses lots of tricks to keep the vocabulary burden down.  Likewise, grammar is restricted to a few regular and predictable constructs.  Learning a natural language, or even Esperanto will require a much more significant investment of time.  Toki pona is about a month of work to read and write at a basic level.

3.You probably will be able to pronounce it.  The sounds in toki pona also exist in most other languages.  There are fewer sounds, so even if you consistently use the wrong consonant or vowel, you probably will still be understood.

4. Toki Pona is the hottest constructed language since Klingon.  See reasons 2 & 3 if you think Klingon might be better.  And if you think French, Spanish or Tamil are hotter languages, also review #2 and #3 again.

5. (For English Speakers) People would rather speak English to you when you travel anyhow. At least in West Europe.  I keep trying to use my broken French, Spanish, Russian when I have the chance and mostly people would rather hear me speak English.  I can hardly blame them, I’m often unintelligible in English, let alone Russian.  In toki pona, everyone is a bit hard to follow, so I’m on even footing.

6. It makes an excellent code language. Natural languages are some of the hardest codes to crack.  Toki pona with its words that change depending on context gives you plausible deniability, i.e. maybe you are speaking in code, maybe you are meaning what you words say on the surface.  [*sadly, I'm not expert enough to generate a good example, that would take more than a month]

7. You’ll be able to say you are bilingual.  It’s a good resume filler.

8. You could teach it to your children and they would be bilingual.  It will either make them smarter and if not that, then it will be a good resume filler for them.

9. It is probably machine parse-able.  Handy if you are a computer scientist. 

10. It’s (possibly) a window into the early days of human language.   In the beginning there was a word.  Or two.  Or at least so I imagine. Somehow, people made themselves understood with a smaller vocabulary.

11. It’s good for brainstorming. Translation into toki pona or even writing toki pona requires constantly thinking of alternative way to express things.

12. It’s a drug free way to see the world in a different light. Reading toki pona induces a sense of creativity, since the constant ambiguity forces you to consider bizarre, whimsical or potentially profound new connections between seemingly unrelated things.


I don’t think any language is a good auxiliary language except the most widespread spoken language of the moment.  It’s not economically rational to pick any other language to be the auxiliary language. 

4 thoughts on “Toki Pona: 12 Reasons Why to Learn

  1. It’s indeed probably not economically rational for native English speaking countries like the US and Britain to support a different auxiliary language, since they receive huge economic benefits as well as great convenience from English being a dominant auxiliary language.

    But it would certainly be economically rational for the rest of the world (the majority who don’t speak English natively) to collectively start using Esperanto (or some other similar language that doesn’t cost so much money and time to master as English and other national languages).

    Of course no one wants to be the first early adopter, and so they more and more firmly commit themselves to spending years and lots of money studying English…

  2. The decision to learn a language is based on the benefits (how many people will you be able to communicate with, the joy of learning something new) and the costs (how many hours spent studying, loss of national pride in studying the language of a rival country, etc.). The most popular language of the moment (be it Latin, French, English) will get you the most return on investment. Furthermore, the cost of convincing everyone to use an auxilliary language other than the most popular language of the moment, is staggering, and generally not a decision I can make anyhow. Economics killed Esperanto as an auxilliary language. That doesn’t mean that it may be rational for some other reason. Don’t get me wrong, I like Esperanto, it is the most successful constructed language of all time, it just isn’t successful for its inventor’s intended purpose. Toki Pona is quite different in that it was invented to improve one’s mood, an entirely different angle.

  3. Esperanto is also economically rational as a language teaching tool.

    The first non-native language one learns is almost always the most difficult, because one is learning not only the idiosyncrasies of the language itself but also learning how to learn a foreign language. If the first non-native language one learns is Esperanto, that difficulty is immensely reduced.

    Multiple studies have been done, with impressive results. For example, students who took one year of Esperanto and three years of French were actually better at French than their peers who had studied French for all four years.

    The situation in the US is pretty dismal though. To most “USonians”, foreign language instruction is just a difficult subject that they can forget about once they’ve got their diplomas.

  4. Yeah it may be cheap for me to learn Esperanto, but me mounting the campaign to teach everyone else to learn Esperanto will bankrupt me. What good is an auxillary language if no one else speaks it? Who wants to be the first to learn the auxillary language? Not me, not unless it has some earth shaking benefits. Now if I don’t give a hoot about communicating with foreigners, a constructed language might still be interesting for other reasons. As for the theory that esperanto + french < time to learn french alone, I’ve heard the same story about Latin & I’m unconvinced. I think the languages studied to date is a red herring and a more likely determinant is hours of conversational practice determines how fast you learn a language. The US situation is so dismal because we are in the position of already speaking the lingua franca of the moment. If the Chinese could convince as many people to speak Chinese as now speak English and as *widespread* as english is spoken, we’d see a dramatic uptick in the quality and quantity of Chinese being studied in the US.