Fergus In London

The musings of a man with a keyboard and an internet connection.

Kial mi lernas Esperanton, kaj kiel?

2018-11-29 4 min read Fergus

I’ve never learnt any languages (not those ones!) other than English, and this has often felt a bit embarrassing. I’ve definitely flirted with various languages - I did a Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) course when I was a teenager, I tried to learn Swedish when I was spending time working outside Malmö, I tinkered with German on Duolingo before, and at one point I even learnt the Cyrillic alphabet in preperation of giving Russian a go…

So what happened all those times? Be it through a lack of discipline, a lack of time, or simply boredom, these forays in to different languages never really went anywhere. Until now.

Enter Esperanto

Esperanto is a constructed language, meaning that it’s been defined by someone(s) as opposed to naturally evolving through time. Originally devised by the rather fascinating L. L. Zamenhof, it’s since entered a bit of a renaissance in the internet age.

Why Esperanto?

The benefits of Esperanto include it’s simplicity, with the rather bold claim that you can even gain an understanding in only 12 lessons! There’s also arguments that Esperanto has some propaedeutic values - i.e can help future didactic efforts - providing further language learning efforts with a boost.

This is where my interest was piqued; simply put, I’m not very good with languages - including English if I’m entirely honest! Whilst I can write, and I can certainly talk, I would struggle to truly explain the rules behind why I write a certain way, or why I talk a certain way. Understanding the terminology and construction of a secondary language is a surefire way to enhance the understanding of your primary one.

With a greater understanding of your mother-tongue - and linguistics in general - it obviously becomes easier to reason with new concepts and languages. Perhaps my earlier endeavours with the likes of Swedish or Russian would’ve benefited with a firmer foundation?

How?

One of the things about Esperanto is that - despite it’s miniscule size in comparison to other languages - there’s quite a lot of resources available for those who want to learn.

1. Duolingo

Duolingo likely needs no introduction; with a combination of 300,000,000 users and over 80 languages, it’s simplistic UI and gamification has proven to be a major success. With Duolingo you can simply download the app and be learning a new language within minutes, and by making the process fun, it’s quite easy to stick with.

That’s not to say Duolingo is perfect though. One of my biggest gripes is that it encourages an “app-first” experience - that’s to say that there is no encouragement to visit the website. Unfortunately, this means that most users will never see the brilliant notes that accompany lessons! If you want to grasp grammar and understand the why behind a lesson, then you need to checkout the notes online. (The website is responsive, so there’s still no need to leave your smartphone either.)

I initially completed the first 16 “skills” in Duolingo before I felt the need to go elsewhere for a firmer grasp of the grammar and structure of the language.

2. Esperanto in 12 Days

The Esperanto in 12 Days course provides a set of structured lessons that aim to cover the most important aspects of the language, covering both vocabulary and grammatical rules. It’s named “… in 12 days” because it’s a syllabus of 12 lessons.

Whilst I think you could cover the lesson content within 12 days, I’m not sure how feasible it is to learn the 500 word vocabulary during that time. Over 40 words per day for nearly 2 weeks seems like quite an unrealistic expectation.

The vocabulary issue can be mitigated by using this course in conjunction with Duolingo; allow Duolingo to instill the vocabulary and re-inforce some of the grammatical elements (i.e sentence formation).

3. /r/Esperanto (and other social media.)

There’s a subreddit for everything, and Esperanto is no exception! The Esperanto subreddit is a helpful community that posts largely in - surprise surprise - Esperanto. That’s not to say that questions in English are ignored, unanswered, or forbidden though.

Whilst there are undoubtedly other Esperanto communities on various forms of social media like Facebook, Reddit is one of the only forms of social media that I personally use. I also understand that there’s quite a few Esperantistoj Youtubers, and even a few Twitch streamers!