6 weeks to conversational fluency in Esperanto | My language mission and my log | Forum

6 weeks to conversational fluency in Esperanto | My language mission and my log | Forum

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6 weeks to conversational fluency in Esperanto
February 2, 2012
20:37
bri thought
Tokyo, Japan

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I've already posted about the 6 week challenge (6WC), in which language learners track their time spent with a new language for 6 weeks. The challenge provides motivation not only because of the deadline, but also through competition: a twitter bot keeps track of each competitior's time spent and ranks them accordingly. Only activities which require 100% focus on the language (e.g. speaking, reading) count for 100% of the time spent; other activities such as listening to the radio in the background or watching a movie with subtitles counts for half-time, quarter-time, or whatever reduced time the competitor feels is appropriate. Also, activities for any language can be logged and tracked by the bot, but only those for the target language (in my case, Esperanto) will count toward the ranking, and thus bring honor and glory wink

 

I've participated in this challenge once in the past with Spanish, and was amazed by how it constantly motivated me to be in contact with Spanish (almost to the point of obsession), and of course, very satisfied with the results. At the end of 6 weeks I reached what I would rate a B1 (low intermediate) level of Spanish and I made a YouTube video to document how much progress I had made. The 6WC really helped me adopt the feeling of urgency that a "language mission" should have, so I'm happy to be participating again with Esperanto. 

 

There are many reasons I chose Esperanto:

1) Curiosity as a linguist. What would a "logical" language look like? How successful was Esperanto in its goal of being as easy to learn as possible, without losing the richness of expression of a more complex natural language?

2) Because I've always felt that if it takes so little to learn, there's no excuse not to learn it. This is hard to explain, but every time I see Esperanto typed out on a forum, or an Esperanto translation linked on a webpage, a little voice inside my head says, "What a shame, a whole language that only takes a few weeks to learn, and you haven't bothered to get around to it yet! What kind of opportunities might you be missing out on because of that?" People may say it's a useless language, but I think that if the cost in time and effort is low, and it can only bring opportunities and friendships and knowledge, then why not? 

3) I used to believe Esperanto was mainly spoken by Western polyglots who already share some languages in common with me, but I was convinced by an Esperantist that this is not the case; many speakers do not speak any other language besides Esperanto and their native tongue, and are from remote countries whose language I might never get a chance to learn. For example, she said there was a major Esperanto movement in the former Soviet Union. This means that Esperanto has a higher chance than I thought of enabling me to communicate with people who don't share any other common languages with me. Even if Esperanto helps me make friends with only one person from Azerbaijan with whom I wouldn't have been able to communicate otherwise, then the 6 weeks I put into it will have been worth it.

4) The most important reason for me is that Esperantists seem to be such a passionate and friendly community. Their shared enthusiasm and their relatively small numbers means that if you meet a fellow Esperanto speaker, you have instantly made a friend. I hope that learning Esperanto will give me access to this network of supportive people, and a reason to get close to new people I meet who share this hobby. And to top it all off, Esperantists have access to a program called Pasporto Servo, which I understand is similar to CouchSurfing in that it allows you to stay at the homes of families from all over the world, in exchange for speaking Esperanto. This is one example of the bonds I hope to make through this language.

 

The challenge has already started, and I need to devote as much time as possible to keeping up my rank, so I don't intend to write a lot of monster posts like this. yell  I'll update later with what resources I've been using and my impressions of Esperanto so far. Ĝis baldaŭ!

Speaks:  English Japanese  Studying:  German Spanish Chinese Next up:  Persian
Current Mission: 3 Months to Fluent (B1) Mandarin
February 3, 2012
01:52
Randybvain
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You may write monster posters in Esperantolaugh

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The Minstrel's Glade

February 3, 2012
07:22
Benny
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Great project! You can easily get beyond B1 in Esperanto in 6 weeks, especially with your background!

Can't wait to see the results :)

Speaks: English Spanish Italian Portuguese German Irish French Esperanto Mandarin (Taiwan) Nederlands American Sign Language
February 4, 2012
11:56
bri thought
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Benny, thanks for the encouragement! There are a few of us participating with Esperanto, so Sprachprofi is going to create a test to help us roughly determine our CEFR level after 6 weeks. I'm expecting to reach at least a B2.

 

Randybvain, that's a great idea. I don't know about "monster posts" just yet, but I'm going to look for a good online dictionary tonight and start tweeting in Esperanto each day.

 

So far I've had a lot of fun. The biggest challenge so far has been trying not to mix it up with Spanish: I've read somewhere that about 70% percent of the vocabulary is Latin-derived, and the sounds, endings, and cadence are all reminiscent of Spanish, so my brain is actually trying to over-complicate things by introducing endings and gender agreements that I don't need! On the other hand, I can see how starting out with Esperanto first would have definitely made Spanish easier, because it would have introduced me to only some of the foreign elements of Spanish instead of all of them at once - sort of like an intermediate stepping stone between the languages. It also would have made German easier because there is some vocabulary in common (Tag/tago, morgaŭ/morgen, wollen/voli), as well as some other concepts (the -n ending on the accusative may take some getting used to for English speakers, but is a very gentle introduction to the concept of cases). Also, there is the fact that learning any language will help with future languages, even in unexpected cases like a concept from German crossing over into Japanese. An example that I've seen of this in Esperanto is the word "Ĉu" used to turn a statement into a yes-or-no question; I don't think this is used in European languages, but it's used other languages like Chinese. So I'm convinced more than before that Esperanto would be a good introductory language for any aspiring polyglot, even despite its European bias.

 

The resources I've been using so far are this free online course (the lessons can be found here), which is grammar-based and assigns a tutor to correct translation exercises (this is much more interesting than it sounds! The grammar of Esperanto is easy), and the "Mi estas komencanto" course at lernu.net, which focuses on useful phrases that a beginner might need at an Esperanto convention. I'm about halfway through each course at this point, and am putting useful phrases into Anki. In a few days I should be finished, and then I'll seek out ways to use my speaking and reading skills in the "real world"! If any experienced Esperantists are reading this, could you recommend a website where I can chat (text or voice) with other speakers, easy materials for me to read, etc.? What do you usually do to keep up your Esperanto outside of conventions?

 

By the way, speaking of conventions, I researched the possibilities in Japan expecting to only find something in Tokyo and mayyyybe Osaka if I was lucky, so imagine my surprise and delight when I found meetups in cities all throughout the country, including my nearest town which is quite in the middle of nowhere! They are having a regular meeting on the 18th, but the information online said they were using a textbook and giving a course, so I emailed the facilitator to ask what exactly they do and whether there would be opportunities for conversation. I think I'll probably go even if it is a boring academic-type class, but I would still like to know ahead of time what kind of people are there, what kind of vibe to expect, etc.

 

Anyway, back to studying! 

Speaks:  English Japanese  Studying:  German Spanish Chinese Next up:  Persian
Current Mission: 3 Months to Fluent (B1) Mandarin
February 4, 2012
14:02
Randybvain
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An example that I've seen of this in Esperanto is the word "Ĉu" used to turn a statement into a yes-or-no question; I don't think this is used in European languages, but it's used other languages like Chinese.

It's taken from Polish. We use czy in this way:

Znasz Esperanto. - statement

Czy znasz Esperanto? - y/n question

Native: Polski | Fluent: English Cymraeg  Français | Elementary and beginner: LATĪNVM Русский
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The Minstrel's Glade

February 4, 2012
16:06
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I was thinking of "ĉu" as "do" in English. That might be my personal mnemonic, anyway.

Vi ŝatas Esperanton.
Ĉu vi ŝatas Esperanton?

You like Esperanto.
Do you like Esperanto?

 

I'm also doing the 6WC with Esperanto, aiming for B2. I'm going through Ana Pana at lernu + Kurso ( http://www.kurso.com.br/index.php?en ). It seems good enough. I'm currently using Lernu's dictionary for what I need, it's quite good. Let us know if you find a better one (:

 

Looking forward to see your progress. Hope we both reach our goals!

Speaking: Português Portuguese  English English Learning: Italiano Italian Soon: Español Spanish  Esperanto Esperanto  Français French Dreaming: 官话 Mandarin  Deutsch German  Cymraeg Welsh  日本語 Japanese  فارسی Persian
February 6, 2012
00:32
bri thought
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Randybvain - So that's where it's from! Interesting. I like how Esperanto seems to take bits and pieces from different European languages. (I actually think some more non-Romance and -Germanic language influence would have been better for Esperanto as a neutral international language, though.)

 

Paulista - Thanks for the course link and the dictionary recommendation. You're right, the lernu! dictionary is easier to use than the other ones I had found on Google. And the course looks really intriguing; have you tried the "MP3 songs – learn while you sing!" feature?

 

By the way, both lernu.net and the course Paulista linked are translated into lots of different languages. I've been taking the lernu! course in German and practicing two languages at the same time!

 

Today I've had an exciting breakthrough. After only 8 hours of Esperanto study I tried to read a Vikipedio article, and understood every word of it! cool It was on a familiar topic (my hometown of "Los-Anĝeleso"), and I got many of the words from the context, but let's just say this was not quite the result I was expecting!  I think I might be ready for some normal reading materials, even though I haven't yet finished my 10-lesson beginner courses…

 

One thing that surprised me about the article was that despite its ease of reading, the grammar used was rather subtle and sophisticated. For example, I came across "pro la tieaj", meaning roughly "due to ____ that occur there", and "tiamaj", roughly "existing at that time". These are constructions that might be found in the Wikipedia article for English or any other natural language, whereas I had kind of been expecting something simple and less eloquent - and it's even more surprising that I understood them immediately! The use of affixes makes the meaning very clear, where English might use idioms that just have to be memorized as-is. I can see how this affix system would give a lot of expressive freedom to writers and poets, and create words that are difficult to express in English.

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February 6, 2012
09:27
Kevinpost
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I'm very excited to follow your progress Brianna! This sounds like an awesome plan. All of the reasons you've given to learn Esperanto are exactly the same reasons I'm going to give it a go after I achieve a B2-C1 level in Turkish. 

Thanks for introducing us to the 6 week challenge by the way, it seems like a great motivator. 

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February 6, 2012
14:58
bri thought
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Thanks, Kevin! I'll look forward to speaking with you in Esperanto, then laugh

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February 7, 2012
02:28
Riano

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Jen ekzercajxo por vi! Mi esperas ke ne estas tro malfacila:

 

Saluton! Mi ankaux studadas Esperanton, dum unu jaro kaj kvar monatoj. Mi taksas min ebla havi konversaciojn en Esperanto, sed baldaux (aux eventuale) mi volas paroli flue la lingvon. Eble mi komencos misio-fadenon cxi tie. Kaj eble ni povus babili iufoje! Cxiukaze, bonsxancon! Mi pensas ke mi dauxros legi vian mision. (:

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February 7, 2012
10:48
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yes, 'cxu' is taken from Polish as the creator of Esperanto, Zamenhof, was polish :). a word to make a statement into yes-no question exists in lithuanian as well, so it's an european concept :)

 

The biggest challenge so far has been trying not to mix it up with Spanish: I've read somewhere that about 70% percent of the vocabulary is Latin-derived ... It also would have made German easier because there is some vocabulary in common

I learned esperanto before, now I want to learn spanish and german, so yes, Esp. makes a lot of words from these languages understandable/easier to remember

 

I've been taking the lernu! course in German and practicing two languages at the same time!

I also learned Norwegian and German with english (not my native polish) courses, it's fun ;)

 

The use of affixes makes the meaning very clear, where English might use idioms that just have to be memorized as-is.

I was so used to using esp. that I was very surprised not to find one word for 'sidigi' in english (=make someone sit, because 'sid-'=to sit, '-ig-' = make someone do something, '-i' = ending for infinitive). it was like a black hole in my head, I opened my mouth and there was no such a word, I thought 'what the hell!' ;)

 

sukceson en via misio! mi observos vian progreson cxi-tie :)

Native: Polish Speaks: English and Esperanto (both B2) Loves, speaks a little and wants More: Norwegian Would like: Spanish (music and is clear to understand) New! - learning because of some 'human motivation' ;) : German
February 7, 2012
16:37
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jasminetea said:

Have you tried the "MP3 songs – learn while you sing!" feature?

 

Nope, is that in 'Kurso'? I've listened to a few songs, though.

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February 9, 2012
03:18
bri thought
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Riano said:

Jen ekzercajxo por vi! Mi esperas ke ne estas tro malfacila:

 

Saluton! Mi ankaux studadas Esperanton, dum unu jaro kaj kvar monatoj. Mi taksas min ebla havi konversaciojn en Esperanto, sed baldaux (aux eventuale) mi volas paroli flue la lingvon. Eble mi komencos misio-fadenon cxi tie. Kaj eble ni povus babili iufoje! Cxiukaze, bonsxancon! Mi pensas ke mi dauxros legi vian mision. (:

Mi komprenis! Dankon por legi kaj por la kuraĝigo. Mi ankaŭ volus babili en Esporanti kun vi!

 

Goshka said:

I was so used to using esp. that I was very surprised not to find one word for 'sidigi' in english (=make someone sit, because 'sid-'=to sit, '-ig-' = make someone do something, '-i' = ending for infinitive). it was like a black hole in my head, I opened my mouth and there was no such a word, I thought 'what the hell!' ;)

 

In English I think we can use the word "seat (someone)" in this way, but I totally know what you mean. I've already come across a lot of words that intuitively made sense, but that I would have no clue how to say in English!

 

Paulista said:

Nope, is that in 'Kurso'? I've listened to a few songs, though.

 

Yes, it was listed as a feature on the front page of the link you gave me. Since posting that question, I've been through the first 4 lessons of "Kurso", and there was one song (I think in the first lesson) from an Argentenian band, something to do with "you and I are like oil and water", which was pretty entertaining! Where have you been finding Esperanto songs?

Speaks:  English Japanese  Studying:  German Spanish Chinese Next up:  Persian
Current Mission: 3 Months to Fluent (B1) Mandarin
February 9, 2012
20:34
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I found a great youtube channel, with lots of songs in Esperanto:

http://www.youtube.com/user/eobo49821

 

I really enjoy 'La Perdita Generacio'.

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February 10, 2012
05:18
bri thought
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Thanks, Paulista! I've subscribed to the channel.

Speaks:  English Japanese  Studying:  German Spanish Chinese Next up:  Persian
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February 10, 2012
05:47
Martín Raúl Villalba
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Here is another good YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/MANEKENOoficiala?feature=g-all-u

February 12, 2012
02:05
bri thought
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Thanks for the links, guys! Keep them coming wink

 

For a few days I went all-out with Esperanto and brought my 6WC rank from 20 all the way up to 10! I've totaled 21 hours of study so far, and I'm sure I could have a conversation in Esperanto. (To tell the [Beware! This is SPAM posted by a third party], I'm a little burnt out after this marathon. Hopefully I can muster up the energy to defend my rank!) 

 

Esperanto continues to impress me with its richness of expression. I'm now fully convinced that anything I can express in English, I can also do in Esperanto, and more.

 

There is another thing I had underestimated about the language, which is that despite its structural simplicity, it takes some time and effort to learn like any other language (though just not to the same degree). There are times when I have to think, "We would word it this way in English, but what's the convention in Esperanto? Would I sound weird if I translated this idiom word-for-word?" I had assumed that all I would have to do is memorize a word list and a few simple grammar rules and I'd be good to go, which is kind of true to an extent, but reaching a nuanced command of the language will take time, exposure, and practice.

 

The good news, though, is that there is no real pressure to reach such a level. When I'm writing (and hopefully soon, talking) with Esperantists, I don't have to feel any embarassment about my pronunciation, shame that my way of wording things might be awkward, or fear that I'm wasting their time and wearing their patience thin, because they are also not native speakers and I know that they have no authority over the right or wrong way to say things.  They are learners just like I am. I don't have to feel guilty for "using" them for practice, because they are probably happy to practice right along with me. Besides, using what you know in new, creative ways seems to be a valued skill in Esperanto, where in other languages it would be a "mistake". (This may be due to the way the language was created, with relatively few roots and many affixes, which means that constantly coining new words is almost required for expressing oneself.) All these factors together create a feeling of freedom to make mistakes.

 

I think this would be another good reason for someone who may be intimidated by foreign languages to take on Esperanto first. With other languages I'm slightly terrified to speak, but speaking in Esperanto is fun! It also helps you develop an important language-learning skill, which is circumlocation. In Esperanto, the word for "slow" is "non-fast". The word for "store" is "sell place". The word for "knife" is "cutter". This gets you used to the idea that you don't need to have a treasure trove of vocabulary in a foreign language; if you're creative enough, you can change the wording and communicate with something simpler. This is a skill I really try to cultivate in my English students, many of whom panic and freeze up if they don't know a particular word, completely forgetting about all the similar words they could use instead.

 

If any Esperanto speakers see me online, send me a chat message! I'd love to try out my skills before the Esperanto meet on the 18th!

Speaks:  English Japanese  Studying:  German Spanish Chinese Next up:  Persian
Current Mission: 3 Months to Fluent (B1) Mandarin
February 13, 2012
07:24
bri thought
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Less than 2 weeks into the challenge, and I think I have already hit the dreaded "intermediate plateau". I can get by in the language, and from here on out it's just a matter of using what I've learned and increasing my vocabulary.  I'm not sure where to find people to speak Esperanto with online, so any tips would be appreciated. Until I can find a conversation partner I'll be working on my speaking skill indirectly by listening, writing, and SRS'ing new vocab. It's kind of frustrating because this is exactly the habit I want to break myself out of in my other languages, and Esperanto is the one I actually feel confident enough to converse in from the beginning! The Esperanto meet is this Saturday (5 days from now), but I already feel bored "preparing" for that, going through lernu! courses, etc., so I'll have to put more effort into finding someone to speak with (or at least chat online with) soon.

 

I've written reviews for all the courses I've tried so far in the "Esperanto" thread, so check it out!

Speaks:  English Japanese  Studying:  German Spanish Chinese Next up:  Persian
Current Mission: 3 Months to Fluent (B1) Mandarin
February 13, 2012
19:58
Randybvain
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Native: Polski | Fluent: English Cymraeg  Français | Elementary and beginner: LATĪNVM Русский
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The Minstrel's Glade

February 14, 2012
02:31
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Are you speaking already? I'm having a hard time with the prepositions, they just won't stick, and I'm a litte afraid of trying to actually chat with someone. Kurso just got a lot harder after lesson 8, but it's quite good past the very-beginner parts.

 

Sometimes it's just hard to say if you can actually 'invent' words or just use the most common word. They use litkovrilo - the "tool for covering beds" - for blanket but okulvitroj for glasses, not okulilo or vidilo.

 

Esperanto is actually quite fun to learn. The 6WC is a GREAT motivator (You're 1 hour in front of me now, I must study harder!), and besides some difficulties, I think we can reach our goals. Good luck on the meeting! (:

 

Randybvain: Are there many Esperantists on SharedTalk? It was very good when I was trying to find partners for my Spanish.

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