Memory Forum

How to Learn Esperanto

by Josh Cohen on January 11, 2013

Over the past few days I’ve started learning more Esperanto again. Every day, I read some Esperanto, watch some videos, and/or listen to podcasts. Now that my phone has updated to Anki 2, I will get back to memorizing more vocabulary.

I’d like to see where another month gets me with the language. I can read Esperanto, but still need work on listening comprehension, speaking, and writing.

If you’ve been thinking about learning Esperanto but just haven’t gotten around to yet, consider studying with me for the next four weeks. We could create a small chatroom and discuss our progress — all in Esperanto, of course. :)

Why Learn Esperanto?

La Verda Stelo

Esperanto

Many studies have shown that learning Esperanto increases the speed at which you can learn additional languages. If you want to learn a language like French or German, studying a bit of Esperanto first can help.

Esperanto is very easy to learn. Some people learn it in a few months, or even just a few weeks.

According to Wikipedia, there are between 10,000 and 2 million Esperanto speakers scattered around the world. This means that wherever you travel, it is likely that there are Esperanto speakers nearby. They can be found through resources like the Pasporta Servo, Lernu, Twitter, Facebook groups, and Google Plus communities.

There are also many Esperanto courses and events around the world. I took a week-long intensive Esperanto course in Slovakia, and I plan to go to other Esperanto events in the future.

How to Learn Esperanto

I recommend trying some of the things below.

Learn the 16 Rules of Grammar

One of the first things that I did was to read through the 16 rules of Esperanto grammar. Esperanto is perfectly regular, so just reading these rules will provide the basics.

Here’s an example of how simple the grammar is:

  • All nouns end with -o
  • All adjectives end with -a
  • All adverbs end with -e
  • All verbs infinitives end with -i

You might start with a root word or two and then use prefixes and suffixes to change the meaning. Here are some examples of how the above suffixes change the root word “rapid-“:

  • Rapida — rapid (adjective)
  • Rapide — rapidly (adverb)
  • Rapidi — to hurry (verb)
  • Rapido — speed (noun)

Check out the 16 rules of Esperanto grammar for a complete overview.

Setup Your Computer to Type in Esperanto

Esperanto has a few letters that aren’t found in English like: ĉ, ĵ, ŭ, ŝ, ĥ,and ĝ. There are ways to type these letters in Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s useful to set that up in the beginning so that you can start typing Esperanto words right away. If you don’t have a keyboard that can type in Esperanto, you also can use the “x” system where an x is placed after a letter to indicate that it has the circumflex accent. These are equivalent ways to write the same letters:

  • gx = ĝ
  • jx = ĵ
  • cx = ĉ
  • sx = ŝ
  • hx = ĥ
  • ux = ŭ

It is okay to write Esperanto with either of these styles:

  • Mi ŝatas ĝin.
  • Mi sxatas gxin.

You can also set websites like Google, Facebook, and Reddit to display in Esperanto. If you want some websites to automatically display in Esperanto, you can change your Firefox settings to tell websites that it is your preferred language:

Firefox and Esperanto

Firefox and Esperanto

Memorize Vocabulary

A lot of Esperanto’s vocabulary comes from German, English, and Romance languages like French, Spanish, and Latin. If you speak English plus a little Spanish, French, Italian, or German, much of Esperanto’s vocabulary will already be familiar.

I recommend using Anki flashcards for vocabulary memorization. You can download free Esperanto flashcards here.

Learn the Prefixes and Suffixes

Esperanto words are built with prefixes and suffixes that are attached to root words. For example, the suffix -ej- takes a root word and makes it into a place. If the root word for “learn” is lern-, and -o indicates a noun, then the word for school is lern-ej-o — place of learning.

Read more about it here and download an Anki flashcard deck.

The Table of Correlatives

I think that it is useful to memorize the entire table of correlatives. I just printed the one at the bottom of this page, and quickly memorized it in a memory palace. Even now, when I hear words like kie, tiom, and ĉiam, I am sometimes transported back into my memory palace to verify the definitions.

Check Out Lernu.net and Online Resources

Lernu.net is full of resources for learning Esperanto. Our wiki also has a page of Esperanto resources. Also be sure to check out Esperantofre.com.

Daily Reading

One useful source of reading that I’ve discovered is Wikipedia in Esperanto.  There are over 100,000 articles there. If you have a smartphone, you can use Pocket to send webpages to your phone for offline reading.

Free Esperanto Program

I haven’t used it much, but there is a free program for learning Esperanto.

Video and Audio

I’ve been listening to Esperanto podcasts. I use Beyond Pod for Android phones. Also check out this list of podcast clients for other computers. You can subscribe to the podcasts, and download them for off-line listening.

There are also many Esperanto videos on YouTube. Videos like this and this are good, because you can pause the video to read the subtitles. There are also some TED talks available in Esperanto.

Dictionaries and Translators

Google Translate now can translate Esperanto. Traduku is another translating tool. Lernu.net has an online dictionary.

Esperanto Events

There are Esperanto events all over the world:

Next Steps

If you would like to join me in studying Esperanto over the next four weeks, leave a comment below and I’ll send you an email. I will setup an online chat room for practicing Esperanto. All levels are welcome. I already have a start with the language, but I think that it’s simple enough that complete beginners will quickly catch up. :)

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