Esperanto/Quick and dirty guide
(Work in progress)
This guide will teach you the basics of Esperanto (including all grammar and a basic vocabulary) in two hours. You will have to practice and learn more vocabulary if you want to become really fluent in Esperanto, but if you can memorize everything taught here, you will already have a better knowledge of Esperanto than of any language you studied for 2 years at an average American high school.
|English||a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u, v, z|
|English, removed||q, w, x, y|
|Esperanto-specific||ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ, ŭ (written cx, gx, hx, etc.)|
All letters exist as capital letters, too, of course! If the letters didn't display correctly just now, you may wish to download some free Esperanto fonts from here.
Why the need for extra letters?
L. L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, wanted to have a 1:1 letter-to-sound correspondence, which would give learners the ability to correctly pronounce every new word they see written and to correctly write down every new word they hear, without ambiguity. (In English, spelling is very ambiguous. Only context can tell whether /tu/ should be spelled "two", "to" or "too", for example.) You'll find that this lack of ambiguity makes the learning much easier.
Since the Esperanto-specific letters can be a hassle to input if you don't want to use their Unicode values, Esperantists have found ways to replace them so that they can be typed using a normal keyboard without special software, or typed on a type-writer. There are several ways of replacing them, the most common one being the "x method", which consists of putting an x after the letter: cx gx hx jx sx ux.
(This looks weird at first, but it is unambiguous because Esperanto doesn't otherwise use the letter x. Some Esperantists prefer putting h after the letter (as Zamenhof recommended (except for ŭ, spelled simply "u")), which looks more natural but may be ambiguous because the letter h is already in use. In this course, however, we'll use the real Esperanto letters.)
A sound is worth a thousand words. Consult this page for audio samples, paying particular attention to the vowels and the Esperanto-specific letters.
The stress in Esperanto is always on penultimate (second-to-last) syllable of a word, for example it's "esperanto"(Esperanto), "saluton"(Hello), "radio"(radio), "amiko"(friend), "ami"(to love), "respondo"(response) etc.
Every word in Esperanto follows this pattern, so the site from above also works well to practice listening for stress.
Studying pronunciation can be quite dry. Hence, I suggest not to learn such things by heart but instead study interesting examples. For example, listen to Esperanto songs. You can find quite a few legal mp3s of Esperanto music (sorted by style) at
http://panorama.ovh.org/unikode/muziko.htm [dead link] and through the links on that site. The lyrics of the songs, if available, will be found under a link called "teksto". You may also want to tune in to one of the internet radio stations in Esperanto suggested at  or watch Esperanto television at
http://www.internacia.tv [dead link].
The present tense
In Esperanto, when you want to talk about something that happens now or regularly, you always use the ending -as for verbs (action words). There are no exceptions. Knowing this, you could already start to introduce yourself:
"Saluton! Mi estas Judith kaj mi loĝas en Kanado."
- estas: From the verb esti, to be.
- loĝas: From the verb loĝi, to live or reside.
The translation: Hello! I am Judith and I live in Canada.
You probably understood that "mi" (sounding like the English word "me") means "I". The other words like this are:
|Person||Singular (I, you, it)||Plural (we, you, they)|
|1st (I, we)||mi||ni|
|2nd (you, y'all)||vi||vi (again)|
|3rd (he, she, they)||li (he), ŝi (she), ĝi (it)||ili|
Knowing these, you can already talk about others as well:
"Ŝi estas Sarah kaj li estas Mark. Ili venas el Britio kaj loĝas en Usono. Ili laboras kune."
(She is Sarah and he is Mark. They come from Britain and live in America (USA). They work together.)
Asking and answering questions
Sometimes you don't have anybody who could tell you who somebody is. Then you need to ask the people yourself.
"Saluton! Kiu vi estas? El kie vi venas? Kie vi loĝas? Kiu ŝi estas?"
(Hello! Who are you? From where do you come? Where do you live? Who is she?)
Note that in Esperanto you don't put an equivalent of the pesky word "do" in these questions with question words, nor does "estas"(am, are, is,...) change in any way.
If you'd just like confirmation of a fact you already know, use the question word "ĉu"(whether).
"Ĉu vi laboras kune? Ĉu vi aŭskultas?"(Do you work together? Are you listening?) - again note there is no grammatical difference between things that happen regularly or that are happening right now.
In order to answer "Ĉu" questions, you will need the words "jes"(yes) and "ne"(no). You may also wish to be able to make a full answer sentence like "Mi ne loĝas en Kanadio"(I don't live in Canada). This sentence works just like the sentence "Mi loĝas en Kanadio", which you learned before, except that the tiny word "ne"(not) is put in front of the verb. This is much easier than in English, because "ne" is used no matter whether the word used in the English sentence is "isn't", "aren't", "don't", "doesn't", "didn't", "won't", "couldn't" or anything else.
Describing people and things
In order to describe people, you need more than just verbs (though verbs can get you very far in Esperanto). You need nouns, for instance. Nouns in Esperanto always have the ending -o so that you can recognise them easily. To make vocabulary even easier to learn, you can easily make a noun out of a verb, or vice versa, e. g. "laboro"(work), "amo"(love), "respondi"(to respond).
"Μark estas usonano. Sarah estas studentino. Tiu estas viro. Li laboras kiel instruisto."(Mark is an American. Sarah is a (female) student. That is a man. He works as a teacher.)
Note that Esperanto does not have an equivalent for "a" or "an", it is just omitted. The word for "the" is "la" - always! It does not change as in Spanish, Italian or French.
In order to make good descriptions, you will also need adjectives. Adjectives in Esperanto end in -a.
"Ĉu mi estas dika? - Ne, vi estas tre bela virino." (Am I fat? - No, you are a very beautiful woman.)
"Tiu filmo estas interesa kaj bona." (That film is interesting and good.)
You can add -a to any word in order to convert it to an adjective. For example: "virina"(female), "fina"(final, from "fino" meaning end), "brila"(shining, from "brilas" meaning shines).
This is particularly helpful for personal pronouns (words like I, you, he, she, ...): if you add -a to "mi"(I) for example, you get "mia"(my), which in grammar terms is called the possessive pronoun (= pronoun used to show possession). So all possessive pronouns are incredibly easy to make and memorise in Esperanto: mia (my), via (your), lia (his), ŝia (her), nia (our), via (your), ilia (their).
"Mike estas mia frato. Nia patro nomiĝas Frank kaj lia edzino, nia patrino, nomiĝas Helen." (Mike is my brother. Our father is-called Frank and his wife, our mother, is-called Helen.)
More interesting sentences
Now is the time to introduce more interesting sentences. For example:
"Mi amas lin."(I love him.)
Did you notice something strange? Suddenly, the word "li" (he) got an -n at the end. This -n ending marks that "li" is the one who is loved, not I. In English, this is reflected by saying "I love him" rather than "I love he". This change in words allows you to re-arrange words as you like, for example you could say "Lin mi amas"(Him I love) or even "Lin amas mi" in Esperanto without changing the meaning of the sentence. If however you add the -n to the word "mi"(I) instead, the sentence means "He loves me" - also no matter whether the word order is "Li amas min" or "Min amas li" or any way you want to arrange the words. Esperanto word order is incredibly flexible.
In English, there is no rule explaining why "he" becomes "him" but "I" becomes "me" and "we" becomes "us" and so on. Students have to learn each word by heart. In Esperanto, it's much easier: you just add -n to the end of the word. This works not just for pronouns but also nouns and even adjectives! Example: "Mi amas mian amikon."(I love my (boy)friend). Side note: if you want to make sure that people understand you are more than just friends, you can say "koramiko" instead of "amiko". The added "kor-" is the stem of "koro"(heart).
Linguists refer to words with this -n ending as words "in the Accusative case", because if you say "I accuse him", you also use the Accusative case for "him". The Accusative case has a bad reputation of being hard to learn in German, Russian and other languages where you have several dozens of endings and changes to memorise; quite apart from the fact that these languages also have other cases that require yet more changes. Esperanto however knows only the Accusative case and even that case is dead easy because you only have to add -n to any word.
Now, how about if you don't love somebody but hate him? Most languages would now make you learn another verb and maybe some exceptions to go with it, but in Esperanto you just need to know that if you add mal- to any word, it becomes its opposite. Try it out:
"Mi malamas lin. Li estas mia malamiko. Li estas malinteresa, malbela, malbona homo."(I hate him. He is my enemy. He is an uninteresting, ugly, evil person.)
The Accusative could also be used to inform people about the languages they could use to talk to you:
"Mia denaska lingvo estas la angla. Mi lernas Esperanton. Mi ankaŭ parolas la francan." (My native language is the English [language]. I learn Esperanto. I also speak the French [language].)
Note that "Esperanton" and "francan"(from the adjective "franca" meaning French) acquired the -n ending because they are the objects of the sentences. "angla"(English) did not get this ending because it is used in an equating sentence: the subject, "my native language" is the same as "English", whereas in the following sentence "I" is not the same as "Esperanto" or "French".
Since Esperanto is a language without exceptions, you have to apply the -n in questions, too: "Ĉu vi parolas la hispanan? Kiun lingvon vi parolas?"(Do you speak the Spanish [language]? Which language do you speak?)
Talking about things you can do
In Esperanto, "Ĉu vi parolas la hispanan?" is ambiguous, it could mean "Do you speak Spanish?" or "Are you speaking Spanish?". If you don't want to rely on context to make it clear and you want to know whether the person is able to speak the language of your choice, you have to phrase it "Ĉu vi povas paroli la hispanan?"(Can you speak Spanish?). The added "povas" means "can, be able to". It requires a slight change though: since the "speak" part is no longer about the present, it has reverted to the infinitive, the basic form of a verb, the one that you will also find in dictionaries. When several verbs work together, only the most important one of them, the highest-level one, may have the -as ending. This is reflected in English as well: compare "Li rakontas historion"(He is telling a story) to "Li povas rakonti historion"(He can tell a story). "is telling" is just the form for the present, whereas "tell" is more general. In a dictionary, you'd look for "tell" instead of "telling", too.
So if you want to look up an Esperanto verb or combine it with another verb like "povas", you first have to take off the -as and then add -i instead.
Here are more examples using combined verbs:
"Mi devas foriri nun."(I must leave now.)
"Mi volas scii pli pri vi. Ĉu vi volas iri al la festo kun mi? Ĉu vi rajtas iri?"(I want to know more about you. Do you want to go to the party with me? Are you allowed to go?)
This is also immensely helpful when talking about your hobbies. Of course you can make sentences like "Mi ŝatas piedpilkon."(I like soccer.), but sentences like "Mi ŝatas aŭskulti muzikon, rigardi la televidilon, skribi retpoŝton kaj ludi basketbalon."(I like listening to music, watching television, writing e-mail and playing basketball.) are so much more powerful.
- nul zero
- unu one
- du two
- tri three
- kvar four
- kvin five
- ses six
- sep seven
- ok eight
- naŭ nine
The Esperanto word for '10' is dek. You can combine dek with other numbers...
- dek unu (11)
- dek naŭ (19)
To create numbers up to ninety, put the number before dek.
- dudek (20)
- tridek (30)
- okdek (80)
- naŭdek (90)
Now you can count up to 99...
- dudek kvar (24)
- okdek unu (81)
- naŭdek naŭ (99)
You can now make sentences with numbers:
- Mi havas du krajonojn. (I have two pencils.)
- Ĉu vi havas unu krajonon? (Do you have one pencil?)
Some other useful numbers are
- cent hundred
- mil thousand
- miliono million
Not only that, but now you can form ordinal numbers, by adding 'a'.
- unua (first)
- dua (second)
- kvina (fifth)
- naŭa (ninth)
- La unua homo. (The first person)
- La naŭa ĉevalo. (the ninth horse)