Esperanto is relatively easy to learn, but it is not easy to learn. Relatively easy, because it is easier than any natural language, as it has fewer exceptions and streamlined grammar. Today, a year into my study, I’ve accomplished far more than I did in four years of high-school Spanish. Not easy to learn, because, like a natural language, Esperanto has tens of thousands of words to learn.
Esperanto lessons on Duolingo proved even more addictive than I anticipated. I thought I might do it for the month or two I expected it would take me to work through the course. Instead, I typically spend 15 minutes on lessons each day before breakfast (reviewing the prior day’s mistakes, then taking a lesson or two) and after dinner. How consistent am I? My average for the 52 weeks was 33 minutes a day. Sometimes when I’m traveling, I get a lot more lessons in, and sometimes I skip an evening session.
It took me 75 hours to work through all the lessons in Duolingo: over 4,000 words learned, and 7,500 phrases reviewed. But, after completing it once, you’re then encouraged to take all the lessons again as a refresher, and they do introduce some new vocabulary in these subsequent repeats. The second pass through all the lessons only introduced 250 new words and took me about 50 hours of work. The third pass only introduced 120 new words but took 64 hours.
My main supplement to Duolingo has been reading Esperantists on Twitter and looking up words I don’t know online. Even with Esperanto’s preference for building words from compounds, the language still has lots of roots to memorize and revels in a plethora of synonyms. As an example, note this question on Twitter asking Esperantists which OS they use, using three synonyms for “operating system”:
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”cs” dir=”ltr”>Kiun operaciumon aŭ mastrumsistemon aŭ mastrumilon uzas vi ĉe via komputilo?</p>— verdapensaro.one (@ekbruliganto) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ekbruliganto/status/1426907381414432772?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>August 15, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
A year in, I’m surprised at how small the Esperanto community is, as well as how large it is. Small because Twitter has perhaps a thousand users who tweet only in Esperanto (I use a distinct account for this), and I couldn’t find a single Twitter user to discuss role-playing games with. Large because there are more books written in Esperanto than I’ll ever be able to read and enough songs that Bluvaganto updates a Top 50 playlist a few times a year.
A year in and I’m still enjoying learning Esperanto, contradictions and all. Here’s to Year 2.
Illustration credit: Copyright 2022 by Pixray. Permission granted for non-commercial use.