The Esperanto FAQ

What is Esperanto?

How easy or difficult is Esperanto to learn?
First of all, no language is easy to learn. Commitment, time and patience are key ingredients for learning any language. But, and this is a big but, Esperanto is significantly easier to learn than many other languages, especially if you are used to Romanic languages. After a few months of regular study, you will be able to read and understand texts that are beyond the basic level. For people who first have to learn the Latin characters, learning Esperanto is, naturally, more difficult than for those, who already use Latin characters in their native language. Many Esperanto word roots are derived from European languages, and therefore people who speak these languages will recognize certain similarities. Language knowledge can therefore be transferred easily between Esperanto and other related languages.

What makes Esperanto now easier to learn?

There are several characteristics that make Esperanto easier to learn than other languages

  • Highly regularized grammar. There are no exceptions to grammatical rules. Grammatical rules are not (as the case with so-called natural languages) formulated based on language use of a community. Rather, Esperanto grammar is fixed a-priori, from the beginning.
  • Phonetic pronunciation. Every letter has one specific sound, one which does not change depending on its context. This is very different to English, where words are sometimes written the same but pronounced differently. Examples: “The metal lead is an element.” and “I am going to lead the group.”. In both cased the word “lead” is pronounced differently, even though it is written the same. This does not exist in Esperanto.
  • Identifiable word function: All nouns end in -o, all adjectives in -a and all adverbs in -e. You just have to look at the word ending to figure out what role the word plays in the sentence.

If Esperanto has such a low number of grammatical rules, is it then not a “primitive” language?
The number of rules says nothing about the complexity of sentences that can be formed. The game chess also has a low number of rules and the board game Go has even fewer rules. No one would claim that these games are therefore primitive. As a matter of fact, a low number of rules has significant advantages as this allows you to formulate highly complex sentences, without being inhibited by arbitrary grammatical rules and exceptions.

Should I invest my time in learning a more common language?
Learn Esperanto first (give it 3-4 months of intensive study) and then learn the language of your choice. It will significantly help you, reduce overall study time, and scientific studies support this. The reason is, that many (new) language learners are not aware of the grammatical concepts, even of their own mother tongue. Are you able to find the subject, predicate and direct object of this sentence? Even many native English speakers might have problems finding these (unless they studied languages). Now, Esperanto forces you to know these concepts and it makes easy for learners to identify them, because of the consistent word endings. Even of the word roots are quite different, grammatical concepts can be transferred among languages, even if way that the different languages implement these concepts might be different.

How is learning Esperanto similar or different to other languages?
Because of the regularized grammar, it is possible to learn Esperanto using a “rational” approach. If you want to know if a sentence in written correctly or not, then you can essentially “reason it out”. In many national languages the grammar is so irregular and there are so many exceptions to the rules, that a rational approach will only have limited value. For some languages you have to visit the country for several months in order to even get a grasp of what the language is about.

What is the best way to learn Esperanto?
How can Esperanto be used, once I know it?
You can:
Read novels | read poetry | translate works | go to local meetings | travel (Pasporta Servo) | start a blog | attend national and international congresses | publish a dictionary with specific words | do social networking (Facebook, Twitter etc) | give Esperanto lessons | listen to Esperanto music (online) | listen to Podcasts | write your autobiography in Esperanto | write poetry | research the history of the language | invent new words | read news |

But I can do these things also with other languages!
Yes of course. Esperanto is a normal living language. And you can do with it all the things that you can do with other languages. Only much sooner.

What value is there in knowing Esperanto?
Does Esperanto have a culture?
Why are there so many Esperanto associations?

I do not like X in Esperanto. Why don’t they change it?