I’m into my fourth week of Esperanto and I thought I’d write some reflections on the process, the struggles and successes.
My main method of learning Esperanto is the site lernu.net and its “Bildoj kaj demandoj” (Pictures and Questions) course. In addition, I’ve gotten some help from Esperanto speakers, and I’ve been listening to Esperanto music from Muzaiko, as well as the Esperanto-USA podcast.
I don’t study Esperanto every day, but I do lessons about three or four times a week, at least. The amount of time I spent depends on how quickly I feel I’m absorbing the lessons. If I’m understanding the lesson well, I do more, and if I’m having trouble, I go slower.
For me one of the more illuminating experiences has been in seeing how my own mind handles the new material. Esperanto is quite easy, but occasionally I find myself having difficultly with the material. Lernu has been an incredible resource for that. Using Lernu, I’m able to set my own pace, learn as much as I can, and then put the computer away. When I’m ready to take on the next lesson, it’s there for me.
In addition, after each section, the software gives small quizzes. Each quiz question covers material in the previous lesson. If you struggle with a question, the software offers you the opportunity to see various ways the question can be answered.
In order to get the feel of the spoken language, I listen to Esperanto music and spoken Esperanto in the podcasts. In order to get the “mouth feel”, I try to speak every section out as I go along in the lessons. Lernu provides audio for every question/answer pair, which makes it easy to repeat as I go along.
I’ve worked my way through about two thirds of the basic language course.
In just four weeks of learning Esperanto, I can pick up on about 20% of the Esperanto USA podcast. It’s not enough to get the gist of the conversation, but it’s enough to pick up meaning here and there. In terms of reading, I’m at about the same level. I can figure more from context and the use of a dictionary, but it’s very slow.
On the positive side, I feel that I’ve been able to learn at a very steady pace and I feel comfortable learning more, which is good because there’s a lot more to learn.
In addition to just learning Esperanto, I’ve learned a lot about how I learn languages, which was a big part of this experiment.
Spelling is a major issue for me, even in English, and Esperanto hasn’t been an exception. Even though Espernato is entirely phonetic, I often make simple mistakes, spelling “ĉi” as “ĉe”, or “li” as “le”, or transposing two letters.
Vocabulary has been a mixed bag. Many of the words in Esperanto share a root either with English or Latin, making them easy to remember. Some words have no equivalent, and those words require work to memorize. A technique that I’ve found very helpful is to use either a mnemonic device to help me memorize a word until the word can “stand on its own”. For example the word for “when” is “Kiam”, and I remembered that by knowing the root “ki”– followed by “am”, which reminds me of “AM/PM”. I was struggling with “kvar”, the number four, and so I visualized the band Gwar and imagined that there are four members. The fact that there are actually five members of Gwar is unimportant, since it’s the connection that I’m trying to build. For the word “mateno” (morning), I associated it with the English word “maternity”, which I associate with birth, visualizing the day being born. And lastly, I remember the word “pilko” (ball) by thinking of Karl Pilkington.
The Lernu site has tests, and a majority of the questions that I’ve gotten wrong have been spelling errors, followed by forgetting the correct tense of a word, followed by forgetting a word altogether. This mirrors my experience in English, where even today, I misspell words or forget a word in the middle of a sentence occasionally.
Conclusion After Four Weeks
I’ve been really happy with this experiment, both in learning Esperanto, and learning about my own learning process. I think the Esperanto is going at a speed I can expect based on the time I put into it, and as I go, I’m learning an enormous amount about myself in language acquisition.