Just 2 weeks learning Esperanto can get you months ahead in your target language
Extremely interesting post by Benny the Irish polyglot:
Whenever I meet new people and try to help them with their language learning missions, when they hear that I have already learned to speak a few languages and ask me to list them, the one that always gets their attention the most is Esperanto.
Most people have never even heard of it, but occasionally they say that they thought it was dead and that maybe I learned it as an alternative to Klingon or Na’vi just for the hell of it, since “nobody actually speaks it”.
Well, today I am going to make a suggestion that I included as one of many other language hacks in the Language Hacking Guide, and it has nothing to do with saving the world, or peace and love between all races with a universal language. I don’t learn Esperanto to aim for a better worldsome day – to me it has very practical uses right now to me and to many learners.
Even if it had no speakers, it would still be very useful
In fact, let’s pretend that nobody actually speaks Esperanto.
In this hypothetical universe, there is just material online to learn it and one guy on Skype in Yemen who is willing to chat to you in it. Even in this situation, I still say that if you aren’t speaking your target language yet (Spanish, Japanese, Russian or whatever it may be), then devoting two weeks to Esperanto can get you months ahead in that language.
If you already speak several languages then this particular language hack will be lost on you, but for those of you still behind the “barrier” of actually conversing, this may be just what the doctor ordered!
One big criticism I have for many traditional learning systems is the obsession with studying(a.k.a. input if you like thinking of humans as the same as robots) because they see a language as nothing more than pure information and totally ignore the social aspect of it. You need to get over the barrier of feeling embarrassed, and simply not used to a foreign language. This is the strangest part of learning any language.
“Skip” the hardest first foreign language bit
Why should you learn Esperanto? Because it’s easy.
I don’t actually like using the word “hard” with languages – I think it’s counterproductive to randomly assign negativity, which will do absolutely nothing to actually help you learn a language. But anyway, if you are curious (I do get asked this a lit) the “hardest” language I ever learned and ever will learn was… Spanish. Yep – no matter what language you suggest in the world, Spanish will always have been the hardest one for me.
Not because of the subjunctive, or tables of conjugations or any of the other things that pessimists drool over when they get ready to compile a list of reasons to discourage people. It’s because it was the first foreign language that I ever tried to speak. It doesn’t matter about the grammar and vocabulary so much when you just are not used to any foreign language coming out of your mouth. This barrier is a tough nut to crack and extra work of needing to worry about conjugations, cases, word genders etc. are generally going to add to this pressure.
The reason I’m suggesting Esperanto for 2 weeks is because it is very easy (no word genders, no conjugation, perfectly phonetic, no random rule exceptions, easy consistent vocabulary). If you are truly devoted and have a lot less to randomly whine about, then in just a couple of weeks you can focus entirely on communication with way less study. You will recognise thousands of wordsalready since most of the vocabulary is based on European languages like French, but there is some English in there too! For example, Yes is pronounced exactly the same (spelled as “jes”).
If you are fully devoted for two weeks, and in the second week do genuinely try to speak it in a chatroom or on Skype, you will be forced to use what you have learned, but you won’t have to think too hard to do it. If you are dedicated enough (and use some hacks to make sure you are speaking quicker) you could do this in a very short time. You will get over this speaking barrier and be communicating in a foreign language! You would need more than 2 weeks to speak fluently, but you can indeed speak it and get by in this time.
And then something amazing happens – that target language, the one you really want to speak (for moving to France, trying to rediscover your Chinese roots etc.) suddenly becomes yoursecond foreign language! You already “speak” one, so you have gained this confidence that seemed so unobtainable before, and now you will have that extra edge where you actually want it. . . .
Continue reading. Lots more.
UPDATE: See also this Wikipedia article.