This course is intended for English speakers, to teach Esperanto. The intention is to divide the 1000 most used words in Esperanto into 20 lessons of 50 words each. After only 20 lessons, the learner will hopefully have an excellent foundation of Esperanto.

What is Esperanto?


Esperanto is a planned language, initiated by Ludwig L. Zamenhof, a polish eye doctor, in 1887. It was (and is) intended to be a bridging language between people of different cultures. Today it is used around the globe for fun, tourism and business.

Why Esperanto?


Because it has been planned, it doesn't suffer from the irregularities of many natural languages, making it much simpler to pick up. When Zamenhof created it, however, he wanted it to be a language that had potential for daily use as well as for literature and art.

One great feature of Esperanto is that every word is a root word, which can be combined with other root words. You can combine these basic roots of the first 1000 words to achieve a vocabulary much greater than 1000 words. That's what makes Esperanto such a powerful tool for communication.

Lesson 0


Before we begin, it's important to go over Esperanto pronunciation. Fortunately, Esperanto is a phonetic language, so every letter has one pronunciation. When you hear a word, you should have a good idea how it is spelled, and conversely if you see a word in print, you'll know how it's pronounced.

Also, fortunately for English speakers, most of the letters we see in Esperanto are pronounced exactly like they would in English. For example, if you see the letter D, L, P, S, Z -- they all sound like they do in English. In fact, most letters are pronounced exactly like they would be in English, with a few minor exceptions. So, we will concentrate on these.

  • A is pronounced like in "father"
  • C is pronounced "soft C" ("ts" sound) like in prince
  • E is always short as in bed
  • G always "hard G" as in frog
  • I is always the EE sound as in sheep or machine
  • J [this is a weird one!] makes a Y sound, as in yellow
  • O is always long, as in no
  • R - (optional, if you can do it) - make a soft "European" roll to the R. If you can't no big deal.
  • U always makes a 'oo' sound, like in spoon

Esperanto also adds a few letters to fill in some gaps:

  • Ĉ ĉ makes the ch sound as in chocolate.
  • Ĝ ĝ makes the soft-G sound in George.
  • Ĥ ĥ makes the pronounced H sound in Bach.
  • Ĵ ĵ makes the "zh" sound in vision.
  • Ŝ ŝ makes the sh sound in shoe.
  • Ŭ ŭ makes the w sound in saw.

A note on typing these cool new letters... You probably won't see any of these special "hat characters" on English-language keyboards. So, how can you type them? There are freeware programs out there that let you type certain key-combinations to display special characters. Aside from that, certain conventions have been adopted by Esperantists.

One popular method on the Internet for representing Esperanto characters is called the X-system: Basically, you type the character without the hat, and typing an x after it. Thus, you would type cx, but this would mean the character ĉ, and typing ux would mean the letter ŭ. This works well, because the X does not appear in Esperanto words. You must be aware - as a beginner - that these two characters really represent 1 letter.

In the Esperanto Wikipedia and Wikibooks, edit mode accepts the X-system, but displays the special hat characters. Some people don't like the X-system, however, and they may see other symbols instead of the X; sometimes you'll see the H-system, or other characters used.

Some letters from English aren't used in Esperanto:

  • W (replaced by Ŭ)
  • Q
  • X
  • Y (replaced by J)

Some vowels, when kombined with the J, make combinations:

  • AJ makes a long I sound, as in kite
  • OJ makes a sound like in toy
  • Others you don't see very often. The -aj and -oj are quite common.

Finally, a couple of rules about syllables in Esperanto:

  1. Every vowel (A-E-I-O-U) indicates a syllable. So, the word "ideo" is pronounced with three syllables.
  2. Put an emphasis or accent on the second-to-the-last syllable. So, ideo is pronounced, ee-DEH-oh.

That's it. Pronunciations are pretty simple for English speakers. When you're first starting out as an English-speaker trying Esperanto, take your best guess. You'll probably be right!

Let's jump into Lesson 1.