Why learn Esperanto? This is a question many people have when they hear about Esperanto.
In this guide I’ll try and look into the personal, linguistic and social benefits that one might obtain simply by learning Esperanto, and I'll also provide resources and courses for how to learn Esperanto quickly.
Last updated: May 17, 2016
What is Esperanto?
Esperanto is an artificial or constructed language that was designed by Ludwig Zamenhof, back in 1887. He was living in a culturally diverse city and had a dream that a common language would help unite the people, who all had their own languages.
The language itself is designed to be easy and fast to learn, so that it can act as a bridge language between people with different native languages. Most people reckon that a solid month of Esperanto will get you way beyond minimum to conduct normal conversations and make new friends.
Today the language serves a similar function, as it carries with it a society of Esperantists who have open minds about foreign cultures and even languages, making it awesome if you are into learning other languages as well. I assume you are, since you are on a language learning blog.
Why learn Esperanto?
If you decide to learn Esperanto you'll be instantly welcomed in a vibrant community of millions of people from all over the world, who regularly meet at conventions, congresses and other meet-ups. You can also stay at other Esperantists around the world for free. At the end of the day, learning a completely new language, even if it's constructed, in a week or two is a lot of fun, and the benefits easily outweigh this small effort.
Learning Esperanto helps learning other languages
This is one of the main benefits that gets thrown around these days. How does it work exactly, how can Esperanto help you learn other languages? The answer is somewhat complicated and split into several parts but allow me to explain.
It boosts confidence. By learning a language in no time, and quickly using it to start speaking, you introduce your mind to the fact that it is in fact possible. This removes the mental block that some people might have about learning languages, the people who might say that it is too difficult to learn foreign languages.
Results from one of the studies
The value of learning Esperanto for learning other languages has been proven by several studies, one famous example saw students provided with one year of Esperanto followed by 3 years of French. The results were then compared against a control group who had had 4 years of French.
The conclusion: In summary, it was concluded that, among the less intelligent students, those who devoted a year to Esperanto succeeded better in French after four years, without additional study time for that language in the three years spent studying it.
Esperanto also introduces a bare minimum of grammar that changes words if they appear in the accusative. If you do not have experience with languages that have these word changes, then it can open your mind to how that works in a simple and easy way. It’s interesting that some Esperanto learners, still find the Accusative ending difficult, even though they speak far more complex languages.
A slight addition to this point is that learning a language, however simple, is also character building. You will grow as a person and if you design consistent habits, those habits will rub off on everything you do. You will be proud of yourself for having achieved something and by then on you will be unstoppable.
I think that grammar advantage is fairly limited though. So I wouldn’t learn Esperanto exclusively for that.
Join a vibrant network and make friends all over the world
The other major advantage for learning Esperanto is that you join a truly global phenomenon. At first I was highly skeptical of this concept, and I compared it a bit to the secret clubs at school. People who were arrogantly trying to place themselves over others by making their own little clubs.
This is luckily not the case with Esperanto. When I first went to the Polyglot gathering in June, I met a lot of Esperantists and they were all incredibly nice people. I asked around why anyone should learn the language, and they shared what I am sharing with you today.
After the conference, I knew I wanted to learn Esperanto. The people who I talked to were very friendly and I immediately understood that learning Esperanto is not just about the language, it’s also about having an open mind towards other cultures and languages. I spent some hours doing vocabulary-intense courses, but it was not until I actually joined an Esperanto course hosted by Judith Meyer and Chuck Smith, that I actually started using the language – and fast!
Within 2 days I was able to use Esperanto as the only means of communication. It wasn’t fantastic, particularly due to my limited studying, but it was an incredible experience. I shared more of my feelings of this trip back in my Esperanto trip reports a while back.
Today the primary global social initiatives of the Esperanto movement are the congress and the pasporta servo. However, there are events all over the world at any given time. Simply check this EVENT CALENDAR for upcoming Esperanto gatherings.
The Yearly Congress – A conference with thousands of people, who meet up to discuss the language, network, meet new friends and listen to interesting presentations. It has been held 99 times so far, with the 100th being in Lille, France next year. I’m aiming to attend, if my budget allows.
Update: Judith Meyer, an experienced Esperantist, added that the Congress is a bit formal, and advised new young esperantists to go for the yearly youth conference. Check out the details on their main website: http://tejo.org
Pasporta Servo – The true original couchsurfing. Way before there was CouchSurfing.com and other couchsurfing websites the Esperanto movement had already established their service. The premise was simple, you would live for free with other Esperanto speakers as long as all communication happened in Esperanto.
The website just received a redesign, so go check it out!
How to learn Esperanto
There are hundreds of ways once might learn Esperanto, so in this section I will list the recipe that I would suggest my friends if they wanted to pick up Esperanto. Remember that any practice you can do over Facebook, Skype or other channels will greatly aid you in your progress.
The recipe I will show you, is a very simple one and focuses on building a solid core vocabulary of about 900 words. This should get you very far in understanding and reading Esperanto. The speaking and listening part is something no course, website or video can really replace so here I simply encourage you to go out and find local esperanto groups or clubs.
Most countries will have an Esperanto organization, that hosts events, or beginner courses. Be sure to look those up, when you start.
Resources for learning Esperanto
I have decided to split the resources for how to learn Esperanto into four areas, that I think are most important. They are:
- Books and other resources for further study
You can use the tabs below to find the resources you require, this list will be updated.
Recommended order. You can start the 3 first courses at the same time.
- Speak Esperanto like a Native 1
- Ace correlatives like a native
- Ace affixes like a native
- Speak Esperanto like a Native 2
- Speak Esperanto like a Native 3
- Duolingo Esperanto – Highly organised and recommend. 300K+ learners!
- Lernu.net Courses – For beginner, intermediate and advanced.
- Pasporto Ala tuta mondo – A highly recommended video course, link is for first video, where you can find all the episodes.
- Kurso de Esperanto – A free course software, with 12 lessons.
- Esperanto in 12 days – Open source course following the Zagreb Method, focusing on the top 500 words sorted by frequency.
Places to practice Esperanto
- Event Calendar
- Lernu.net – Chatrooms and forums
- iTalki.com – Find a paid tutor or start a language exchange
- Facebook Groups
- Your local Esperanto organisation. You can check the Universal Organisation's website to find your national organisation.
Books and other resources for further study
- Edukado – A behemoth of a resource. You can literally find thousands of texts and resources to to learn here. Notice that a lot of it is user-generated and my not be mistake-free.
- Amazon – The world's largest book store.
The Actual Fluency Recipe to Esperanto proficiency
You can find these resources above.
- 5 Memrise Courses
- 8 Lernu Courses
- 15 Episodes of Pasporto Ala tuta mondo
That's all it takes to develop a proficiency in Esperanto, enough to speak to other Esperantists. Seriously. The time commitment to finish all of the above would be a month at a steady, not too-slow pace. Learning a language in a month, that's great!
Vocabulary and pronunciation will be extremely easy for you to learn, but make sure you spend time to learn adverbials, correlatives and pronouns throughly when you begin. For some reason I glossed over these categories, and it left me a little incapacitated when I was trying to speak later.
The correlatives of Esperanto are not difficult, but they are very similar, which means learning them will take a bit of extra effort. This is why my recipe includes a correlative Memrise course.
I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that you enjoyed this Esperanto guide. If you have resources to add to the above lists, do not hesitate to contact me.