Writing, life, politics

Learning Esperanto Part III: Bits and Pieces

Okay, in no particular order…

* * * * *

I’ve created a separate Twitter account for me to talk Esperanto and follow people who are talking Esperanto. It’s @jonnonekso. (Although that’s something of a provisional user name).

I think that’s pronounced something like “Yon-no Neck-so”, with short “o”s. The two names end in letter o’s because, of course, all Esperanto nouns end in an “o”, and names are nouns.

* * * * *

I have joined the Esperanto Association of Great Britain. In April, they’re holding a congress at Eastbourne, which is pretty near Brighton. So that gives me a target – get good enough at the language by then that it will be worth me going.

* * * * *

I’ve been learning various words using the iPhone Esperanto app from uTalk. They do apps for all languages, with the basic idea that they’re for travellers, who aren’t fussed about grammar, but just want to know how to say (in broken language) basic things like: “Two beer, three wine, one coffee”, “Taxi!” and “Where is my luggage?”

(Broken, not pluralised, I think that’s: “Du biero, tri vino, uno kafo”, “taksio”, and “kie estas la baga?o”).

So I’m going through that each night on the train with the idea that it will familiarise me with the basic way things are pronounced and give me an initial stock of fundamental words.

I’m simultaneously reading through a couple of books (on iPad via Kindle) to get an idea of how the language works (like I said, the iPhone app bypasses all grammar). The best of these books is The Esperanto Teacher, by Helen Fryer.

* * * * *

The word for black is rather unfortunate. Yes, I know it’s all from a Latin root, but one does worry what might be the result of someone overhearing you using the word nigra – especially in the context of something, or someone, who is, in fact, black.

* * * * *

Old books often aren’t very good. The other book I have is Esperanto Self-Taught with Phonetic Pronunciation by William W. Mann, which was written in 1907. (I’m therefore assuming that Mr Mann is dead, and thus unlikely to be affected by any criticism I might offer.

Now I was, and still am, quite keen to use this book because of one very cool thing. It’s available as a podcast from LibriVox, thanks to Esperantist Nicholas James Bridgewater. I downloaded it from iTunes, so I can sit on the train reading the book on my iPad while hearing Nicholas reading it aloud on my iPhone.

It’s just a shame that the book is a bit strange. Maybe it’s intended more as a reference guide (although it does say that it is a practical guide for a student to learn the language) but after a quick run through the letters of the Esperanto alphabet and how to pronounce them, it then launches into section 1: The World & its Elements. This starts with Air (aero) and then leads into words like:

  • dew
  • eclipse
  • hail
  • moonlight
  • thaw
  • creek
  • flood (deluge)

…and then its on through metals, animals, and so on. So much for getting off the plane and ordering yourself a beer. There is, apparently, a section on grammar later on, but you’re supposed to memorise (literally) tens of thousands of words first.

Oh well.


  1. Talli Roland

    Can I just ask: why Esperanto? You may have covered this in earlier posts but I’m too lazy to look! 🙂

  2. BerginoDale

    When you have covered the basics, I recommend the intermediate course “Gerda malaperis”. I belive you can have it on your iPhone and iPad: http://en.lernu.net/kursoj/gerda_malaperis/elsxutu.php

  3. ShestakovAleksandr19

    ?????? ? ???????? ?????????????????? ? ?????

  4. Mithridates

    The word for black: the Chinese word for that (??) is even worse. Technically it’s pronounced nàge, but it’s usually said nìge, and very often in repeated succession as it’s one of those words you say when you’re trying to think of the exact phrasing you’re looking for, like the English word like or you know or a number of other such words.

    Also, Spanish also uses negro/negra for black as well, so luckily it’s not just Esperanto (and Ido) using a word that sounds offensive and that nobody else uses; in this case it’s just something present in a number of languages and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

    Other languages have the same thing too: make sure you pronounce poutine properly when ordering it in Quebec. You don’t want have it sound like poutain. ^^

  5. metin2 yang

    very cool post

  6. Bobbie Schafer

    Did you know that William Shatner did an entire movie in Esperanto? 1965, shortly before starting Star Trek, he starred in Incubus. I think you can still get it from Netflix; if not, I’m sure YouTube has clips of it. 🙂 Happy speaking!

    • Jonny Nexus

      I had vaguely once heard that, I think, but had since forgotten, so thanks. I’ll look them up. It will be interesting to try listening to them once I’m a bit more proficient. (Although I’m curious as to how accurate the pronunciation is).

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