How To Learn Esperanto?

September 29, 2007

Welcome.

Here I describe the way I used to learn Esperanto. If you, for example, just got interested in Esperanto, or you have wanted to learn it for a long time, you can just follow this process and this should give you great results. Here is what I did and what you can do too:

  1. Go to ikurso.net and download Kurso de Esperanto. When you download it, the course is available in a bunch of languages and there is a good chance your native language will be included. The course teaches you Esperanto from absolute scratch and it uses music, stories and audio to enhance the learning experience. It has just 12 basic lessons which teach you the very basics of Esperanto. When you get the course, you should make a commitment to follow along for those 12 days and not once do more or less than one lesson a day. Sometimes it might get tough, you might get a bit depressed, but it really works and you’ll be able to use and understand basic Esperanto. Worked for me.
  2. Get the book 13 Oktobro 1582 in Esperanto, print it and read it. This book is free and you can download it just by clicking the link. The book has only about 37 pages and it’s written in beginner Esperanto by Luiz Portella. It consists of several easy-to-follow and interesting stories. If you don’t have a printer, you can read the book on the computer screen but that is not as comfortable. When reading the book, you might still find it a bit difficult in the beginning but still read it and just use the dictionary. Soon you’ll begin understanding. Me, personally, I have skipped this step since I did not know about the book and moved to step 3 but you can profit from it.
  3. This is another important step. Go to chats and talk in Esperanto. Get an IRC client. If you don’t have one, just go download mIRC and then connect to irc.freenode.net and join the room called Esperanto or sometimes the room called Komencantoj (that means beginners in Esperanto). Another few options are to use the Gxangalo Esperanto chatroom or the chat-room in Babilejo.org. At first, you may not be able to understand much but just follow along and try to speak. Soon you’ll get a lot. In fact, I did this step simultaneously with the first few steps and it worked like a charm. Later, though, IRC can become a little bit time-consuming so you may not want to spend too much time there especially when the room is not active.
  4. Go to lernu.net and register. You can then use lernu! to find new friends who speak Esperanto (you might do this in the beginning of your learning too), read books like Gerda Malaperis and use the lernu! word-lists to learn almost all the words needed for fluent Esperanto speaking. The last two are exactly what you should be doing. The book is interesting and even though the word-lists are a bit boring by themselves, you you should still go through them until you can get familiar with most words. I have done this after having had a bit of practice when my Esperanto was good enough (after about a month of learning). If you do the same, you should be at least an (Upper)-Intermediate speaker by the time you finish all this.

I did just that. I was quite eager to learn Esperanto back then, also, people differ, so I can’t promise the same results to you in the same time-frame. I’m just saying that this worked for me and so this works. It took me a month to learn the basic Esperanto so that I could understand basic talks, etc. and it took me another month to become more proficient. So, after 2-3 months I was able to talk in Esperanto without many problems. I even went to The International Congress in Esperanto and I was very surprised because I could attend seminars and understand virtually everything (and it was Esperanto actually spoken and not written!). That was only a year after I had started learning Esperanto and I hadn’t even learnt much more than for just those 2-3 firsts months.

Another thing I wanted to note, is that especially through the first step, i.e. when taking La Kurso de Esperanto, I used a lot of learning by rote and quite a few cheat-sheets. I would print Esperanto words on paper and go out with these little sheets. I would think about words and look at those sheets when I couldn’t remember some word. That was a bit unusual for me but I wanted to make sure I was really learning the basic words. And as I later saw, it worked really well.

However, even though I did all that, I was often discouraged. For example, even now I remember taking the 8th lesson of Esperanto in that course (they had gotten quite difficult by then) and getting furious about how hard Esperanto was. I thought I couldn’t really say or understand more than “Mi estas komencanto.” (“I am a beginner.”). Hell, I even remember googling for “Esperanto estas malfacila” or its English equivalent for “Esperanto is difficult” and searching for people who thought the same. From time to time, I kept feeling I was not learning much or that my Esperanto was still very bad. However, as I later found out, that is pretty normal. If you are following through, you will eventually learn Esperanto. I guess my main point here is – do not get discouraged!

Finally, is it worth it? Well, for me, it was. I have met quite a few really cool people who speak Esperanto and learned cool things from them. Things, that made a difference. Also, now I have the chance to use Esperanto to travel the world (there is a hospitality service organization “Pasporto de Servo” which you have probably heard of already). I can go to congresses to meet new people. I can just chat in Esperanto. I can participate in the meetings. I can also use Esperanto as a secret language to make notes for myself, etc. and others can’t read it (that only sounds a bit lame). Esperanto made me understand at least the basics of quite a bunch of other languages too. Most of all, I feel like I have contributed to this great idea of a world-language. Well, if it doesn’t become the world-language, I’ll at least be able to say “Well, I did my part”.

So, to conclude everything, learning Esperanto, just as any other thing that is worth doing, takes some time and persistence. It’s really easy, however, and does not take nearly as much practice as the other natural languages. In the end, if you don’t give in, you’ll learn it no matter what. If you are reading this, you do speak English, which is a lot more difficult, so Esperanto will be easy for you. I have used the process described above to learn Esperanto and so can you. Just go for it!

November 5, 2009 Update: I have made a very short introductory course of Esperanto on my site about languages. You might be interested.

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