6 Easy Rules to Speak Fluent Esperanto

6 Easy Rules to Speak Fluent Esperanto

 

The world of fictional – or constructed – languages today is dominated by mystical tongues woven into science fiction films and books. Dothraki from Game of Thrones, Klingon from Star Trek, and Elven from Lord of the Rings are some of the first constructs languages that come to mind. But one constructed language, or conlang, stands out far above all the rest. And that’s Esperanto.

 

Created by Polish ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof and published in the book Unua Libro in 1887, Esperanto is an international auxiliary language devised to fulfill three main goals laid out in Unua Libro:

 

  1. To render the study of the language so easy as to make its acquisition mere play to the learner

  2. To enable the learner to make direct use of his knowledge with persons of any nationality, whether the language be universally accepted or not; in other words, the language is to be directly a means of international communication.

  3. To find some means of overcoming the natural indifference of mankind, and disposing them, in the quickest manner possible, and en masse, to learn and use the proposed language as a living one, and not only in last extremities, and with the key at hand.

 

Why should I care about Esperanto?

 

Duolingo, the popular language-learning mobile app has an Esperanto feature. Wikipedia has more than 251,000 articles in Esperanto, meaning it is the 32nd most popular language on the site. Google Translate added an Esperanto feature in 2012. Ethnologue estimates that there are about 2 million Esperanto speakers, including anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 native Esperanto speakers – children who had the odd fortunes of being born to families that decided to teach Esperanto as a primary language.

 

Frankly, Esperanto isn’t going to replace any global lingua francas as the unified language for diplomacy, business, and culture across borders, but the sheer size of its following and the incredible simplicity of its grammar make Esperanto a unique language and an interesting lesson on how truly uncomplicated a language can be.

 

What makes Esperanto so easy you might ask? To start, it has only 16 grammar rules. Yes, the entire language can be summed up in 16 short steps. While describing the grammar of a typical language might take hundreds of pages or even volumes of books, The Sixteen Rules of Esperanto Grammar is only 11 pages long, and that’s including the table of contents and a brief introduction.

 

I won’t go over all 16 rules here, but let’s take a look at 6 rules of Esperanto that set it far apart from typical languages.

 

 

1.       Nouns

 

The Rule: All nouns end with an “-o”, and all plural nouns just slap a “-j” after. If you see a word that ends in “-o” or “-oj”, it’s a noun. No exceptions.

 

There are only two cases present in Esperanto, the nominative and the accusative. For those who aren’t familiar with these two cases, as the accusative only shows up in pronouns in English (I – me, she – her, who – whom, they – them), the accusative case indicates the recipient of an action with transitive verbs. For the accusative case, you just attach an “-n” to the end of the “-o” or “-oj” endings of nouns.

 

An example from Esperanto:

 

La hundopersekutisla katojnde la knabojal la domoper bojado
The dogchasedthe catof the boysto the houseby barking

 

 

 

2.       Adjectives

 

The Rule: All adjectives end with an “-a”. If you see a word that ends with an “-a”, it’s an adjective. No exceptions.

 

Like in English, adjectives come before the noun in Esperanto.

 

La brunahundopersekutasla nigrajnkatojn
The browndogis chasingthe blackcats.

 

 

3.       Pronouns

 

The Rule: There are three cases for pronouns: nominative, accusative, and genitive. Nominative is when the pronoun appears as the subject in the sentence. Accusative, as previously mentioned, is the direct object for a transitive action, and the genitive indicates possession.

 

MeMi
YouVi
HeLi
SheŜi
ItĜi
OneselfSi
WeNi
You (pl.)Vi
TheyIli

 

When pronouns take the accusative case, as for nouns, you add an “-n” to the end of the word.

When pronouns take the genitive case, as for adjectives, you add an “-a” to the end of the word.

 

No exceptions.

 

 

4.       Verbs

 

The Rule: Verb endings do not change based on person or whether the subject is singular or plural. No exceptions.

 

Present Tense-as
Past Tense-is
Future Tense-os
Conditional Mood-us
Imperative Mood-u
Infinitive Mood-i
Present Active-ant
Past Active-int
Future Active-ont
Present Passive-at
Past Passive-it
Future Passive-ot

 

The example that comes up in The Sixteen Rules of Esperanto Grammar is for the verb “am”, to love.

 

Mi amas vin          I love you

Mi amis vin           I loved you

Mi amos vin          I will love you            

 

 

5.       Adverbs

 

The Rule: Adverbs end with an “-e”. If you see a word that ends with “-e”, it’s an adverb. No exceptions.

La hundorapidekuris
The dogquicklyran

 

Adverbs come before the verb or adjective in Esperanto.

 

6.       Negation

 

The Rule: Whenever a sentence is to be formed in the negative, the word “ne” is inserted into the sentence.

 

Mine faristion
Ididn’t dothat

 

The “ne” comes to mean no, or not, and it comes before the part of speech being negated, which will almost always be the verb. However, if another negative word appears in the sentence, such as “never”, it becomes no longer necessary to use “ne”.

 

 

Is That All?

As with any language, it takes time and practice to truly become a fluent speaker. And although the language is quite grammatically simple, the rules we gave above are just the brief introduction (check out The Sixteen Rules of Esperanto Grammar for the other 10 rules).

 

While you might not need an Esperanto translator anytime soon, Ata Translation can handle any of your other translation needs in over 300 languages. We provide high quality translation, localization, and interpretation services all over the country using a vast network of freelance and fulltime language experts. Call now or send us an email to Get A Free Quote.

 

Extra Credit:

Check out this excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and see how much you’ve learned!

About the Author:

Daniel is based out of Chicago and works as a writer, editor, and translator.

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