NB: Se aperas frazoj en Esperanto malsupre tio signifas ke la traduko ne estas (fin)farita en la elektita lingvo.
(Por vidi la tekstojn en alia lingvo, uzu la supran falmenuon.)
Lingvo: English (en)
2. Introducing the Esperanto language
This is a brief description of how Esperanto works. We don't have enough space here to describe the entire language, so we'll just look at the alphabet and the way words are formed. (For a detailed description of Esperanto grammar, as well as courses, exercises, and dictionaries, we recommend the multilingual website www.lernu.net.)
2.1. Alphabet and pronunciation
Esperanto has 28 letters, five of which are vowels:
a b c ĉ d e f g ĝ h ĥ i j ĵ k l m n o p r s ŝ t u ŭ v z
Helpfully enough, each letter has much the same sound regardless of the word it appears in, and the spelling of every word matches its pronunciation. This means that if you know how to pronounce a word, you also know how to spell it. All words are stressed on the second-to-last syllable, as in: hUndo, internacIa, flOro.
Esperanto's vocabulary is drawn from several language families: about 75% of the roots are from Romance, about 20% are from Germanic, and about 5% come from other groups. Zamenhof tried to choose roots that are well-known to speakers of the main European languages. Here are some examples:
sed (but), tamen (however), okulo (eye), akvo (water)
dimanĉo (Sunday), fermi (to close), ĉevalo (horse), butiko (shop, store)
ĉielo (sky), fari (to do), voĉo (voice)
from various Romance languages:
facila (easy), fero (iron), tra (through), verda (green)
baldaŭ (soon), bedaŭri (to regret), jaro (year), nur (only)
birdo (bird), suno (sun), ŝarko (shark), teamo (team)
from various Germanic languages:
bildo (picture), fremda (foreign), halti (to stop), ofta (frequent)
In Esperanto, a lot of words are more than just roots: they are compounds. For example, there's no root for the word "knife". Instead, the root tranĉ- (cut) is combined with the suffix -il- (denoting a tool) and the ending -o (indicating a noun) to produce tranĉilo "knife". Other examples with the -il- suffix are: tondilo (scissors), ŝraŭbilo (screwdriver), skribilo (writing implement), retumilo (web browser), ludilo (toy).
2.3. Word endings
An interesting aspect of Esperanto is that there are certain endings that apply equally well to any root. For example, if we take the root somer- and add -o – the ending for nouns – we get somero (summer). But if we add -a – the adjective ending – then the word becomes somera (summery, relating to summer). And if we add the adverb ending -e, we get somere (in the summer, at summertime). The ending -j marks the plural: someroj (summers).
En Italio estas varmaj someroj. (In Italy, summers are hot.)
Somere mi ŝatas bicikli. (In the summer I enjoy cycling.)
Kia bela somera robo. (What a lovely summer dress.)
-o for nouns
Nouns are names for people and things. A noun answers the question: "What is it?"
Examples: homo (a person), ideo (an idea), nomo (a name), domo (a house)
-a for adjectives
Adjectives describe nouns. An adjective answers the question: "What's it like?"
Examples: bela (beautiful), bona (good), longa (long), varma (hot), interesa (interesting)
-e for adverbs
Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or entire sentences.
Examples: bele (beautifully), longe (for a long time), bone (well), interese (interestingly)
(There are also a few very basic adverbs that don't end in -e.)
-j for plurals
Plural means there's more than one.
Examples: homoj (people), ideoj (ideas), grandaj domoj (large houses), varmaj someroj (hot summers)
-n for the object
The object of a sentence is the thing that's directly affected by the action.
For example, in the sentence Ŝi amas lin (She loves him), lin (him) is the object.
-i, -is, -as, -os, -us, -u for verbs
The endings used with verbs are:
-i for the infinitive
e.g. vidi (to see), kanti (to sing), ridi (to laugh)
-is for the past tense
e.g. vidis (saw), kantis (sang), ridis (laughed)
-as for the present tense
e.g. vidas (sees), kantas (sings), ridas (laughs)
-os for the future tense
e.g. vidos (will see), kantos (will sing), ridos (will laugh)
-us for the conditional
e.g. vidus (would see), kantus (would sing), ridus (would laugh)
-u for commands
e.g. vidu (see!), kantu (sing!), ridu (laugh!)
These endings are the same for all verbs – which means there are no irregular verbs in Esperanto. What a relief!
2.4. Word building
Any given Esperanto root will generate various words if you combine it with different prefixes, suffixes, and endings. As a result, you don't have to learn as much vocabulary as in other languages: prefixes and suffixes make it easy to create the words you need on the fly.
One approach is to juggle the endings:
intereso (an interest)
interesi (to interest someone)
You can also create many new words from a single root by adding various prefixes (at the start) and suffixes (at the end). There are 10 prefixes and 32 suffixes in Esperanto. Here are some examples:
mal- denotes an opposite:
bona – malbona (good – bad)
juna – maljuna (young – old)
fermi – malfermi (to close – to open)
-ej- denotes a place:
lerni – lernejo (to learn – a school)
loĝi – loĝejo (to reside – a home)
vendi – vendejo (to sell – a shop)
-in- denotes a female:
knabo – knabino (boy – girl)
frato – fratino (brother – sister)
viro – virino (man – woman)
-ul- denotes a person:
juna – junulo (young – a young person)
grava – gravulo (important – an important person)
stulta – stultulo (stupid – a fool)
"The system of affixes in Esperanto is one of Zamenhof's greatest inventions."
John Wells, professor of phonetics
In his book Lingvistikaj aspektoj de Esperanto (Linguistic Aspects of Esperanto), Professor Wells draws a thought-provoking comparison between Esperanto and English. He imagines two students – one studying English and the other studying Esperanto – who have to learn the word "eat", together with various other words whose meanings are related. Esperanto's prefixes and suffixes (which the student has already memorized) make it an easy enough task to learn these words in Esperanto. But for the student of English, it's rather more difficult... Take a look:
|In Esperanto||*** FORIGU ĈI TIUN KOLUMNON ***||In English|
|manĝi||to eat||to eat|
|manĝos||will eat||will eat|
|manĝo||a meal||a meal|
|manĝejo||dining hall/room||dining room|
|manĝujo||container for food||trough|
|manĝinda||worth eating||good to eat|
|manĝeti||to snack||to nibble|
|manĝegi||to feast||to feast|
|manĝaĉi||to eat badly||to guzzle|
|manĝema||interested in eating||hungry|
The Esperanto student doesn't take long at all to master the words listed above, because they're just the root manĝ- combined with various prefixes and suffixes and endings that the learner already knows. But the student of English has to work really hard to memorize the different words with their correct spellings and pronunciations. We could give similar examples for almost all the basic vocabulary that people need when they try to communicate with each other internationally. Perhaps you now have a clearer picture of why Esperanto is so much easier than a language like English for foreigners to learn.
2.5. Some Esperanto phrases
Bonan tagon! (Good morning!, Good afternoon!)
Kiel vi nomiĝas? (What's your name?)
Mia nomo estas ... (My name is ...)
Kiel vi fartas? (How are you?)
Mi fartas bone. (I'm fine.)
Kie vi loĝas? (Where do you live?)
Mi loĝas en ... (I live in ...)
Mi ĝojas renkonti vin. (I'm delighted to meet you.)
Ankaŭ mi! (Same here!)
If you'd like to listen to some spoken Esperanto, we recommend the website Radio Verda (www.radioverda.com) or the Esperanto broadcasts of Polish Radio (www.polskieradio.pl/eo).
Stano Marček's richly illustrated textbook Esperanto by direct method has been published in many languages. Find out about it at www.ikso.net/stano.marcek.