Esperanto is a language different from most in that it was carefully planned to be as easy-as-possible to learn. It was introduced with the hope that it would be studied worldwide, and become a common second language for everyone.
WHAT MAKES IT SO EASY?
1. The grammar is simple, with no exceptions. The entire set of Esperanto grammar rules can be mastered in a single hour. There is one simple rule for making plurals. A student of English has to learn a list of rules, exceptions to the rules and a number of words that don’t follow any of the rules. (See note below – Making Plurals in English.) Every Esperanto verb follows the same simple pattern; there are no irregular verbs requiring additional learning. English verb patterns are also simple, but there are hundreds of irregular verbs, meaning hundreds of more words to learn.
2. The spelling is completely phonetic, and the syllabic stress in consistent. Once you have learned the rules, if you see a word correctly spelled, you know how to pronounce it. No additional learning is required. After learning the basic rules for pronouncing most letters, a student of English is still faced with hundreds if not thousands of complexities. (e.g. There are eight different ways of pronouncing “ough”, none phonetic; there are thirteen different ways of spelling the long “o” sound; “yesterday” is stressed on the first syllable; “today” is stressed on the last syllable; “tomorrow” is stressed on the middle syllable; etc.)
3. Vocabulary learning has been greatly reduced. Thousands of words are required to be fluent in any language, including Esperanto. In most languages that means learning thousands of vocabulary items. But in Esperanto, through the extensive use of compound words, prefixes, suffixes and grammatical endings, thousands of words are formed from only hundreds of vocabulary items. Studies have discovered that ninety five percent of spoken Esperanto can be understood after mastering less than 500 vocabulary items. (To better understand this visit the page “Word-building in Esperanto”.)
ENGLISH IS ALREADY BEING USED FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION, WHY ESPERANTO?
1. English is a much harder language to learn. Hundreds of millions of people after studying English for years are still not able to use the language they have spent so many hours learning. Esperanto fluency can be achieved in weeks not years.
2. Esperanto is far less ambiguous. There are often multiple possible interpretations of English sentences. None of the following sentences would be ambiguous in Esperanto.
- John saw Peter kissing his wife. (Whose wife is being kissed?)
- The scientists needs more accurate information. (Does they need more information or more accuracy?)
- We do not agree with the amendments to the article proposed by the delegation from India. (Did the delegation from India propose the amendments or the article?)
- Slow men working. (Are the men slow? No this road sign tell drivers to slow down and be careful not to hit the men.)
3. Esperanto is a neutral language intended for all humanity and not connected with any one political power. English is politically associated with the United States and the former British Empire.
4. Esperanto, as an international language, is more fair. English is the native language of about five percent of the world’s population. Using English as an international language means that if people who do not speak English want to communicate internationally, they have to commit a considerable amount of time, effort and resources to learn the language of the privileged five percent. If they want to bridge the language barrier between themselves and native speakers of English, they have to build the entire bridge themselves – native speakers of English don’t need to put in any time, effort or resources. Using Esperanto internationally bridges language barriers with a much smaller bridge that is built with much less effort. There is no privileged five percent. The bridge is built from both sides which meet in the middle.
ARE THERE OTHER ADVANTAGES TO ESPERANTO?
A huge amount of resources is currently being spent on translations and interpretation which would be freed up for better uses if Esperanto were a common second language for everyone. As an example, since 1998, all documents of the World Health Organization meeting defined criteria have been made available in all six of its official languages. Despite the effort, half of the world’s population do not understand any of the six official languages. Translations cost millions of dollars every year. With Esperanto as a common second language those millions would be available for health-related projects.
When someone who speaks a major language has a good idea, it can be quickly communicated and adopted where it proves useful. How many good ideas never reach the broader world community because the person with the idea does not speak a major language? How often is a scientist chosen to attend international conferences because his or her language skills are superior to a colleague whose is a more proficient scientist?
People often learn a second language because they are interested in the culture of the language they learn. But most people who learn English are not motivated by an interest in the culture of the English speaking world. They are motivated by a desire to communicate internationally. An unintended side effect is their access to English culture. While there have been many foreign works translated into English, English literature has largely been written by native speakers of English and represents the culture of the English speaking world. Using English as an international language with the resulting disproportionate exposure to its culture can be viewed as threatening to other cultures. Esperanto speaking authors from around the world contribute an abundance of original work to Esperanto literature which represents the international culture of the Esperanto speaking world. Esperanto literature is without question the most internationally representative literature of any language on the planet.
Many literary works originally written in other languages have been translated into English. Accurately translating from one language into another is not an easy task. Competent, trained, professional translators who have mastered both the original language and English, can produce translations of very high quality. However most works translated into English have not been translated by trained professionals and the quality of the translations are often less than ideal. Translations into Esperanto are usually done by people translating from their native language who often understand nuances and subtleties that might be missed by someone translating from a foreign language. The word building possibilities of Esperanto and clear but flexible sentence structure make it much easier to translate with high fidelity to the original.
Learning Esperanto is a demonstration of respect. Although much easier than other languages, learning Esperanto still requires an effort. Making that effort proves a willingness to reach out to meet others as equals. This respect for other people and other cultures provides a good grounding for the international cooperation required to address the many global challenges facing our world.
Read the Prague Manifesto for additional arguments in favour of Esperanto.
Check our page Internet Resources for links to other websites.
Making Plurals in Esperanto
- In their basic form, all Esperanto nouns end in the letter “o”.
- All plurals are formed by adding the letter “j” after the “o”. (The “oj” ending is pronounced like the “oy” in the English word “boy”)
- That’s it. In seconds you have learned to make plurals in Esperanto. there is nothing else to learn.
Making plurals in English
Major rules (for “regular” plurals ending in “s” or “es”)
- For most nouns – add an “s”.
- For nouns ending in ch, o, s, sh, x, or z – add “es”.
- For nouns ending in “f” or “fe” – change the ending to “ves”.
- For nouns ending in a “y” – change the “y” to “i” and add “es”.
Exceptions to the major rules:
- Some nouns don’t change at all. (deer, deer)
- Some nouns ending in “o” don’t need the “e”. (volcanos and volcanoes are both correct)
- For some nouns ending in “o” it is a mistake to add the “e”. (piano, pianos – not pianoes).
- Sometimes a final “s” or “z” is doubled before adding “es”. (gas, gasses)
- Some nouns ending in “f” don’t need to be changed. (hoofs and hooves are both correct)
- For some nouns ending in “f”, it is a mistake to change the ending. (chief, chiefs – not chieves)
- For nouns ending in a vowel plus “y”, just add “s”. (monkey, monkeys)
- Exception to the above rule for exceptions: Nouns ending in “quy” follow the regular rule. (soliloquy, soliloquies)
Minor rules for making plurals in English
- Nouns ending in “is” often change to “es” in the plural. (analysis, analyses)
- Nouns ending in “on” or “um” often change to “a” in the plural. (criterion, criteria; millennium, millennia)
- Nouns with a “oo” in the singular often change to a “ee” in the plural. (foot, feet)
- Nouns ending in “ouse” often change to “ice” in the plural. (mouse, mice)
- Nouns ending in “us” often change to “i” in the plural. (cactus, cacti)
There are still more less-important minor rules [e.g. Words of Italian origin, notably technical terms in music and art, often retain the Italian plural (cello, celli; castrato, castrati)]. Learning all these rules and exceptions is not enough. There are a number of important words whose plurals are different words that needs to be learned separately (child, children; person, people; …). Instead of mastering plurals in seconds, students of English often make mistakes after years of study.