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Learn Esperanto or not

 Language Learning Forum : Esperanto Post Reply
25 messages over 4 pages: 1 2 3 4  Next >>
United States
Joined 2793 days ago

7 posts - 8 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Esperanto, German

 Message 1 of 25
12 December 2014 at 6:38am | IP Logged 
Can you help me decide if Esperanto is worth it? I am a native English speaker and have a B1 level in Spanish. I plan on improving my Spanish over the next few months. After this I plan to learn German.

I am wondering whether it is better to learn Esperanto before German, learn both at the same time or just not learn Esperanto. I've heard the boost that Esperanto gives language learners is diminished if they've already learned other languages. But I also feel my level isn't high enough in Spanish to have had this effect weakened.

I had no real opinion on this language until I found out it can be used to communicate almost anywhere. This was attractive to me because it could be possible to make friends in places with less commonly spoken languages. And so, provide a reason to learn less commonly spoken languages. (If you want to try out Bulgaria or somewhere and want to see if you like the place, there could be Esperanto speakers who will show you the country. If you don't like it then your Esperanto time investment is still worth it because there are other places, but if you learn Bulgarian and find out you don't like the place then you may feel your language and the time you spent with it to be a disappointment.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 3333 days ago

689 posts - 1119 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Esperanto
Studies: Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian

 Message 2 of 25
12 December 2014 at 11:32am | IP Logged 
Whether or not Esperanto is worth learning is controversial topic, with strong views on both sides of the argument. I will be as neutral as I can, although as a disclaimer I should say that I started learning Esperanto about 10 years ago, I am heavily involved in running the main organisation for Esperanto speakers in the UK and I am engaged to another Esperanto speaker.

If someone has already learned a foreign language to fluency, I think it is unlikely that they will get a significant propaedeutic benefit from learning Esperanto. I say this as someone who learned Esperanto as my second foreign language (with German being my first foreign language) and didn't notice any particular benefit. I think this is because in learning German, I had already taught myself a lot both about grammar and about how to learn a language. I do, however, believe that if I had learned Esperanto as my first foreign language I would have felt an enormous benefit. When I started learning German I didn't know anything about grammar (eg. I didn't even know what the words 'noun' and 'verb' meant) and I think it would have been a lot less painful to learn about these concepts for the first time in the context of Esperanto than it was in the context of German.

The value of Esperanto stems from the fact that it is much simpler/more regular than national languages. There are no irregular verbs, and you could probably learn to conjugate all verbs in all tenses within ten minutes. The system of word-building via suffixes and affixes means that you can express a surprisingly wide range of concepts with a relatively small base vocabulary, which is great for beginners because they are able to start communicating and expressing themselves in a meaningful way almost from the start. I think this experience of being able to communicate freely in another language is extremely valuable, especially for native English speakers.

When Esperanto is taught purely for this propaedeutic benefit we liken it to teaching children to play the recorder. You are not aiming to create a nation of recorder-players; you want to teach them about music and about how to play an instrument so that they can hopefully move on to bigger and better things.

For someone who has already started learning another foreign language but who has not yet reached fluency, there may be some benefit but I would imagine it's not enough to justify learning Esperanto unless the person has some other interest in the language or its culture.

There are, of course, other reasons to learn Esperanto if it is something you are interested in. There are associations of Esperanto speakers in the majority of countries and initiatives such as Pasporta Servo or the network of the World Esperanto Association make it possible to find Esperanto speakers who live in the country you want to visit. Most speakers of Esperanto are very enthusiastic about meeting other speakers, so locals will normally be keen to meet up with you, show you around their town and (if they are members of Pasporta Servo) provide you with free/cheap lodging.

There are also hundreds of events for Esperanto speakers organised around the world each year, ranging from party-type events for young people to educational courses, academic seminars and tourism weeks. There is an online calendar at (Esperanto only) which attempts to keep track of them, but there are so many that it's a difficult task. If there are specific countries that you are interested in then the best solution is often to contact the national association in that country and just ask what events they have. Even if they don't have one, they will often organise an impromptu gathering in your honour. As an example, I was travelling in Spain this year for reasons completely unrelated to Esperanto. Another Esperanto speaker noticed my holiday photos appearing on Facebook and notified some Spanish Esperantists. They then got in touch with me and proposed we meet up, which resulted in the best evening of my entire time in Spain when I got taken out to a tapas bar far off the tourist trail and frequented only be locals. I also got a tour of the headquarters of the Spanish Esperanto Association, a handful of free magazines and a copy of Don Quixote as a bilingual Spanish/Esperanto text :)

It is definitely true that Esperanto events can provide an opportunity to travel to a country where you would otherwise not think of taking a vacation, or which you might not be brave enough to visit on your own. I attended an event in Kiev, for example, in 2011 and I don't think I would have been brave enough to go there without speaking Russian/Ukrainian were it not for Esperanto. I told the organisers of the event the time my train was arriving in advance and on the day someone was standing outside the platform holding a sign saying 'Esperanto'. They guided me across Kiev on various metros, paid my fare because I didn't have any Ukrainian money yet, and put me safely on the marshrutka which I needed to get to the ultimate venue. The time I spent in Ukraine was one of the most memorable weeks of my life, and I definitely would not have had that experience without Esperanto.

Ultimately only you can and should make the decision about which language you want to learn next. If you are interested in Esperanto then I would suggest committing to it for a short period of time - perhaps for a 6 week challenge - and see how much progress you make. I think six weeks is about enough time to decide whether Esperanto is for you or whether it is a complete waste of time. And if you decide it was a complete waste of time; well, at least you only wasted six weeks and now you know for sure :)

I don't want to come across as doing a hard sell for Esperanto as obviously I do have a certain amount of bias. But if you do decide to learn and want more guidance, let me know and I will do my best to help.
12 persons have voted this message useful

United States
Joined 3240 days ago

5 posts - 5 votes
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Esperanto, Russian, Mandarin, German

 Message 3 of 25
12 December 2014 at 6:14pm | IP Logged 
I feel like a side of this a lot of people neglect to mention is that so little time is
spent learning it relative to other languages, that you can learn it fairly quickly and
get a benefit much quicker. It can also help to meet language partners or have a possible
benefit in the future if you decide to travel.
1 person has voted this message useful

Joined 2504 days ago

84 posts - 122 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Esperanto, French

 Message 4 of 25
13 December 2014 at 3:30pm | IP Logged 
I definitely recommend that you learn a bit of Esperanto. I had only learnt Spanish for a few months (on Duolingo) before trying out Esperanto, and it really helped me with my Spanish. It allows one to better understand how language works. I only learnt Esperanto for a month (this was a few months ago now), but in that short time I already felt as if I knew almost all the aspects of the language. Sure, my vocabulary was small (but a lot bigger than what it would have been in any other language after having only studied it for a month) but my understand of how the language worked (the grammar) was almost all there. I simply love the logical nature of Esperanto; there is a certain beauty and perfection in this logic, I feel. And I didn't even do maths or science at high school! (I just finished high school, by the way)

There is so much to be gained from learning this language, and so many reasons to learn it. If any of these reasons catch you, then why not give it a go? In only a few months you should be at a fairly confident level at Esperanto, and after only a month you should have a decent 'grasp' of the language. Let us know here whether you choose to try out Esperanto or not :)
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3759 days ago

3277 posts - 6779 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 Message 5 of 25
13 December 2014 at 4:33pm | IP Logged 
I tried to learn Esperanto and quit because I believe you should learn Esperanto if
you really want to learn Esperanto and not just take it as a step to something else.
Esperanto, despite being a mix of romance+germanic+a bit of slavic looked mostly
romance to me and therefore I didn't find it that interesting and it interfered with
my Spanish. But it is a language with awesome community.

Pros and cons I found:

+It is very regular and you can surely learn all the basics you need much faster than
in another language.

-once you want to continue with native material, you are very limited. There are some
translations and a few books originally in Esperanto, there are some music bands
singing in it but you are unlikely to find movies or tvseries at least dubbed into it.

+you can learn all the basics for free! is an awesome starting point and
there are even more resources available for free as Esperanto is a language people
dedicate themselves to out of pure interest and passion, not for business.

+there is the awesome community, international events and you can find some Esperanto
speakers quite anywhere in the world and have at least one starting common point to
base a possible friendship on.

-it is not widely spoken. Yes, if the world was run more logically, many people would
learn Esperanto instead of English as it is much easier. But it is not and therefore
you have much beter chance your by chance chosen native anywhere in the world will
speak English than Esperanto.

So, if you are interested in Esperanto, surely give it a go. I am sure you won't
regret it. But if you consider it just as a stepping stone, especially to something
not romance, I don't think you need it, especially as you have already learnt a lot
about learning a language on your first guinea pig-Spanish.
2 persons have voted this message useful

United States
Joined 2793 days ago

7 posts - 8 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Esperanto, German

 Message 6 of 25
14 December 2014 at 9:36am | IP Logged 
Thanks everyone for the responses. I am probably going to study this. After reading more about the community I am more drawn to Esperanto now. Also I really enjoy the way it sounds. I'll see where I can get in a month and decide whether to continue on.
2 persons have voted this message useful

United Kingdom
Joined 2812 days ago

3 posts - 7 votes
Speaks: English*

 Message 7 of 25
10 February 2015 at 2:05am | IP Logged 
I know I'm rather late to the conversation, but I'd add that the achievement of being able to understand
relatively quickly is a huge confidence booster. Esperanto is not by any means my first foreign language I
studied French and a little German formally in school, and informally a very small amount of Spanish.

I then went on to study languages at university, with a year of French and Russian (with some informal Koine
Greek), then one year of just Russian, one year in Russia, then one year in which I studied mostly Russian
with a little Croatian formally, a fun evening class in Japanese, and a very low key BSL course.

Since leaving uni, I have dipped by toe into several languages. Arabic (somewhat unsuccessfully!) and
Hebrew (marginally more success), and recently rekindling my scanty knowledge of German and starting
Dutch on Duolingo.

I should say that the only ones out of these that I'd be prepared to have more than quite a simple
conversation in (besides my native tongue, English) are French and Russian, and I'd hate my grammar in
either (but especially in French!) to be examined too closely ;) but I am really a long way from someone
learning their first foreign language!

All this said, I'm still finding that learning Esperanto is hugely encouraging, and also interesting. I've never
used a language that is agglutinative before, and it is fun to see a word and realise that, although I've never
come across it before, I know what it means. I even managed to do it the other way round once - I'm not sure
how, but Memrise managed to spit an English concept at me that I had never come across in Esperanto.
However, I did know the relevant verb/root, and I knew a suffix I thought applied, and the proper grammar
coded word ending, made a guess, and was right!

I just clicked on a link to Radio Verda, and got a couple of sentences into the little "sorry, no new stuff here"
paragraph before it dawned on me that I was understanding the written language with a surprising degree of
fluency. I've been learning for about three weeks!

At this stage in French, age 12, I was still pretty much stuck in 1-10 and je m'appelle. German, aged 13, I
think went a little faster, because we were the top set and our teacher was big on immersion: we had to pick it
up fast to have a clue what was going on ;) however, I'm fairly sure that the differences between German and
English spelling were still opaque to me, and I had not progressed much beyond my name is, I am 13, I live
in. Russian aged 19, and bearing in mind this was a university course where we were expected to learn fast. I
was I think somewhat getting to grips with Cyrillic, hadn't yet grasped the concept of cases at all, and was still
confused. A lot.

In none of these languages would I have had a hope of going to a random website and been able to
understand most of a note written for people who actually spoke the language after 3 weeks. That is truly an
enormous confidence booster. It has even encouraged me to attempt writing in Russian and even Croatian
on a couple of forums, languages I haven't used on a regular basis in years. Being reminded that I can do the
language thing, and actually communicating in some small way IN the language with my Esperanto tutors has
been just... well, it's been great, frankly. It really makes me wish I'd actually got stuck in and learned it a
couple of years ago when I first had my interest piqued, but better late than never. Being able to use a new
language, genuinely communicate in it, is a real buzz that's hard to replicate, and it really gives me a great
impetus to continue Esperanto and to go back to languages I'd almost given up as either "I'll never get my
head round it" or "I've lost my fluency and I'll never get it back." Even if I never used Esperanto again in my
life, it would be worth it just for that.

Edited by flootzavut on 13 February 2015 at 9:49pm

5 persons have voted this message useful

Super Polyglot
Joined 5453 days ago

9078 posts - 16472 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 Message 8 of 25
10 February 2015 at 11:21am | IP Logged 
I know there are some groups in Denmark where people speak Esperanto, but I haven't joined them - maybe because I haven't got a clue to what they are speaking about except Esperanto, and I'm not social enough to join social clubs just to get company. We had a World conference in Copenhagen a few years ago, and I timed my learning process so that I could understand most of what people there spoke about - and at least they had a program, so I knew what I could expect. But I had problems speaking for the simple reason that I hadn't ever spoken the language before I stood at the check-in counter. One year later I went to a conference in Galway in Ireland, both to get some materials for Irish and to use my Esperanto, which now was good enough to carry me through the whole congress without using other languages (except one or two sentences in Danish to another Danish participant). This year there is a world congress in Lille in France, but they have placed it in the worst possible week in the whole year apart from Christmas, namely at the end of July where most of my collegues also want to be put their holidays.

Why is it that those congresses are so important? Well, simply because there isn't a Esperantistan where you can get submerged the way you can with other languages, like Spanish, Italian, German or English. And no TV channels on my TV set. I have to sit in front of a computer to hear the language, and then I mostly hear short clips about the language itself - except at Radio Verda, but one source can't save the world. I have bought and read the Hobbiton and La Mastron de l' Ringoj long ago, and I know that there are a number of other literary works (mostly translations) out there in la ĝangalo, but it takes something like the genius of Tolkien to drag me away from my usual non-fictional fare, and apart from the Vikipedio it is hard to find suitable stuff about science in Esperanto.

So last year in Berlin I needed a day or so (incl. one long conversation in the gufujejo) to revive my rusty Esperanto. This year I know that skills in Esperanto may be in demand so I'll try not to fall in the same trap again, but it is an uphill struggle to find uses for Esperanto, and it is all to likely that other projects will take precedence over reading one more report about organisatorial matters and all the good things that would ensue if we all learnt Esperanto.

I should however mention that the same problem may arise with dialects/languages like Latin, Low German and Scots which don't have their own country with an army and a fleet, and to some extent also Romanian, which is spoken in no less than two countries, but isn't represented with a channel om my TV.

Edited by Iversen on 10 February 2015 at 11:35am

3 persons have voted this message useful

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