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. :)

Share and Enjoy

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    { 8 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Francois January 15, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Saluton,
    Mi volas lerni esperanton. Mi lernis antau kaj mi memoras malgrande.

    2 Josh Cohen January 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Saluton,
    Se vi volas lerni esperanton, ni povus praktiki kune. Mi nune studas ĉirkaŭ du horoj por tago. Mi volas trovi homojn por praktiki konversacion (eble per tujmesaĝilo)…

    3 James January 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Saluton! I have just started with this language and do not really know a lot(hardly any really), but I would love to have somebody to practice with.

    4 Josh Cohen January 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    If you’re interested in practicing, maybe we could get a few people together on webcam to practice. Even if we have trouble speaking, we’ll probably learn something. Maybe we could all chip in for a tutor to join us once or twice per week.

    If anyone is interested in that idea, leave a comment below, and I will send you an email.

    5 carelesscupid February 13, 2013 at 10:47 am

    The Correlative Table.

    There are 10 vertical headings on the left. Divide this into 2 parts of 5 and 5.

    1. For the first 5 vertical headings we use the mnemonic phrase = An INDIVIDUAL THING is KIND, in PLACE and in MOTION

    This gives us the suffixes reading across, from each of the first five headings.

    If “you” are an individual, then “u” are an individual. (“-u” = Suffix). Any correlative you see that ends in -u, reminds you of “you”, so that in your mind you’re referring to an individual, a specific person, whether it’s him, or someone, or no one.

    Thing = The Thing from the Fantastic Four holds up a giant O (all things have the “–o” suffix, whether is “that” thing, or “everything” or “nothing”).

    Kind = He’s a kind Thing. It’s the only one here that doesn’t have an image or letter or cue of any kind, therefore easy to recall that A (-a suffix) stands Alone.

    The Thing stands in PlacE, which ends in the letter “e” (all place suffixes end in “-e”).

    The Thing is also kind when he’s in MotioN, which ends in “n” (all motion suffixes = “-n”).

    2. For the second group of 5 vertical headings we use the mnemonic phrase = TIME is an AMOUNT, and for this REASON and in this MANNER, it’s your POSSESSION

    Time = always in the morning (a.m.) = “-am” = suffix.

    Amount = the “m” and “o” in “amount” remind me of the “m” and “o” in the suffix “-om”.

    Manner = Usually done as a “deduction”, seeing as how it’s the only one left without a visual cue. People who get confused between “-el” and “-al” have a cue for “-al”, so the one without a cue must be “-el”.

    Reason = I see Grandpa Al Lewis waving his cigar at me, giving me reasons. You can choose any “Al”. (Al Gore, Al Bundy, Al Pacino.)

    Possession = most possessives in English end in “s”, and so does the suffix for possession.

    3. For reading the prefixes, starting with the column headings reading across:

    Mnemonic phrase = A Kwestion POINTS to an Indefinite Universal Negative.

    Make the word “question” start with the “kw” (same sound) and you see that all question prefixes begin with “k-”.

    The crossbar of the “T” is like a weather vane = it’s really a huge arrow, it points. “t-“ prefixes are pointers.

    The last 3 headings (as words) can be identical to the table, and their first letters function as indicators of their respective prefixes.

    6 TheeAverageJo March 25, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Hello!
    I’m interested in learning Esperanto, as I think it will help me with learning other languages. I haven’t been able to find a lot of music or literature in Esperanto. When I was learning Spanish, those things really helped me find affinity with the language. If you could suggest some things that would be great! I would love to chat as well, but I am a super beginner.

    -Jo

    7 Josh Cohen March 25, 2013 at 10:00 am

    @carelesscupid:
    I have a similar method that I wrote about in the wiki. I’ll link to your comment from the wiki so that other people can find it. :)

    @Jo:
    Here are some places to find reading in Esperanto:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/languages/eo
    http://minus.com/m03zj8hRT9iJF
    http://facila.org/
    http://eo.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikipedio:%C4%88efpa%C4%9Do

    Esperanto music:
    http://blog.joshnotes.com/esperanto-music-from-around-the-world/
    http://en.lernu.net/biblioteko/muziko/index.php

    I got sidetracked with work and haven’t started the Esperanto chats yet. I’ll send a newsletter out when that begins. You can subscribe to the newsletter here:
    http://eepurl.com/fZGHv

    8 snehaja October 22, 2013 at 1:52 am

    i want to learn esperanto.I finished a cource in livemocha.com
    What shall i do next?

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