Esperanto After One Week: Am I Now Fluent?

One week ago, after taking a brief look at Esperanto, I made the comment that it looks so easy that I could see how it's possible to be fluent in one week, which led to my one-week Esperanto challenge. Now, one week later, how did it turn out? Am I fluent?

I have not been able to find anyone to talk to, so the truth is, I don't know! I have a high comprehension rate when I watch YouTube videos, and I've spent a lot of time chatting in Esperanto without need for a translator or dictionary, but since I haven't had to actually speak and respond, in real time, I just can't say that I'm fluent.

I feel pretty good about it

Over the course of one week, I've learned all of the grammar, all verb tenses, all of the necessary words, and a lot of vocabulary. I've learned how to pronounce the language and how to understand what I hear. I've learned to accurately transcribe what others say. And according to this page, I have learned enough vocabulary to understand more than 80% of what I will hear and read in the language. That's not bad for one week!

I don't claim to be perfect grammatically. I continue to forget the occasional accusative ending, or to use incorrectly learned words, but grammatical perfection isn't a component of my definition of fluency — especially for a one-week challenge. The goal is to be capable of conversing freely, without a dictionary, and without slowing down a conversation. And I honestly believe that if I'm not there already, I'm at least close.

Once again, though, we can't know that until I have a one-on-one conversation with someone... and that brings me to the real problem with Esperanto — when, where, and how will I ever use it?

What good is Esperanto?

This question, it seems, is capable of stirring up a passionate answer from even the kindest Esperantist. But any question capable of provoking such an emotional response generally reveals more about the person responding...

As I've said above, I've spent a lot of time chatting in Esperanto and a lot of time watching Esperanto videos on YouTube, and I've noticed a theme: The biggest topic of discussion and conversation in Esperanto is... well... Esperanto. People aren't talking about the news, or about their day in Esperanto, they're talking about the Esperanto movement. In that respect, it's sort of a meta-language — only used for describing itself.

Yes, I did find the occasional story of two people with different mother-tongues, who came together through Esperanto, and whose offspring speak it as a native language. Sure, such people exist. But I would argue that they are smaller in number than people who survive using only sign language, and that's not a particularly useful "language" to learn either.

The guy on the corner selling you a newspaper probably isn't an Esperantist. The waitress at the cafè isn't going to take your order in Esperanto. You'll likely never buy a train ticket or book a hotel room in Esperanto. And I'm not likely to hear it used in a movie, or in a popular song on the radio. Yet these are all things that can be done right now in any other language.

But there are people who speak it

In spite of the fact that it's not going to do me a lot of good, I can't feel bad about learning a language in one week. Think about that for a second. Say it out loud. Learning a language in one week.

No matter how old you are, you can look back on a week that you've wasted doing something un-productive: a video game marathon, or wasting away at camp, or just sitting around the house watching tv. It is estimated that over 2 million people speak Esperanto, and one week of effort has given me the confidence that I can talk to them.

And while the odds of using Esperanto on the street are incredibly low, there are plenty of organizations and events all over the world where people get together to speak Esperanto. In fact, there's an Esperanto society right here in my home city. The ability to walk into a group of people knowing they all speak Esperanto would be significant, and it would give me a chance to communicate with people whose language I don't speak.

My own greatest benefit

While I've learned a lot about Esperanto this week, I've also learned a lot about languages and language learning in general. More than anything else, I think this week has helped me to define what my learning strategy really is all about. It has helped me to take what I would normally do over the course of one year, and compress it into one week, I believe that will help me to shape the course of this web site in the future.

I'm going to spend some time looking back at my week and summarizing what I have done, and put together a post that explains what my method is really all about. But first, it's back to Italian!


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Author: Yearlyglot
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  • Ĉu vi iom restis ĉe Tvitero? Tie ni babilas pri multaj diversaj temoj, ne nur pri Esperanto. Kaj mi diru al vi, ke post multaj jaroj da studo, mi ne nomas min "flua" en Esperanto, kvankam aliaj opinias ke mi estas. —
    Have you been hanging out on Twitter? There, we chat about all sorts of things, not just about Esperanto. To say that Esperanto is "only used for describing itself" says more about your limited exposure so far, than about the language itself. There's a much larger Esperanto culture that it seems you have yet to discover. Also, let me just say that after many years of study, I don't consider myself "fluent" in Esperanto, although others (on Twitter) seem to think so. In any case, congrats on your accomplishments in Esperanto so far! But, the world and human beings are complex, so any language that can adequately communicate that complexity will necessarily also be complex. So, Esperanto is relatively easy in terms of grammar, but there are a LOT of words to learn, and many subtleties of style to master, and so on, if you want to consider yourself truly fluent. For example, try reading Goethe in Esperanto verse; I sitll find that challenging.

  • Mi ne kredas ke cxi tio estas ebla. Unu semajno estas tre mallonga tempo por iu ajn lingvo. Mi mem studas longe Esperanton kaj mi ne povas diri ke mi estas flua. La problemo estas ke mi ne havas neniu al kiu mi povus parli, cxar en Grekio la Esperantistoj estas tre malmultaj...Do , vi faris bonan kaj gravan progreson kaj cxi tio estas la pli granda deveno.
    Gratuloj!

  • Ĉu vi ne havas Skajpon?. Multaj esperantistoj uzas ĝin.

  • Jes , certe ..Sed kiam mi penis paroli tra Skajpon mi ne povis paroli....Viva parolado estas unika....

  • While I will readily admit to having seen a lot of Esperanto on Twitter, you must concede that we're talking about Twitter here... a medium where the entire conversation consists of 140 characters or less. Hardly the kind of place where a language thrives, much less an environment that required fluency.
    I think the detail that you and the commenters below are getting lost on is "fluency". If you've studied *ANY* language for several years and don't consider yourself fluent, you're either fooling yourself about the definition of the term "fluent", or else you're fooling yourself about the definition of the word "study".
    Would you say a five-year-old is fluent in English? He doesn't know what words like "cosmology", or "intermediate", or "xenophobe" mean, but he can keep up his end of a conversation. In fact, he can't even spell very well, and probably gets the grammar wrong from time to time. But I guarantee you that kid is fluent.
    Discounting language skill because of a lack of vocabulary is perfectionism. I know many adults with small vocabularies and bad grammar and spelling.
    Fluency is nothing more than joining a conversation without slowing it down, and being able to ask for help in the language you're speaking, rather than requiring translation. That's it! Nothing mystical.

  • Mi ne kredas je "ebla" kaj "malebla". Kion oni vere volas, tion povas. Neniam diris mi, ke mi estus spertulo. Mi nur esperis flue paroli. Kaj kion signifas flueco? Flueco nur signifas, ke oni parolas sen malrapidiganti la konversation.

  • Gratulojn Randy! Eble ni ne scias ĉu vi jam vere povas paroli flue, sed ni certe scias ke vi dum unu semajno lernis multe pli ol aliaj lernas dum monatoj. Mi esperas ke vi de tempo al tempo legos ion en esperanto, por ke ne perdi tion, kion vi gajnis dum ĉi tiu semajno.
    Mi deziras al vi sukceson pri la itala :-)

  • Your definition of fluency is something new for me, but I should agree with that. Fluency is not the mastery of a language after all :)

  • I don't know if you use IRC (obviously, you should, since IRC is the best tool of real time online communication ever invented) but there's an Esperanto chat-room on irc.freenode.net just join ##esperanto and here you go.

  • Dear friend: I enjoyed reading about your quick Esperanto experience. Becoming fluent in a new language is what always takes the longest. It took me a couple of years to become somewhat fluent in English, and just a couple of months in Esperanto. I did it mostly by reading out loud for at least 15 minutes each day. Habit formation is the key. I can tell you that I have learned more about linguistics by studying and using E-o than any other language i have studied. Good luck. Nice article.
    Luis Jorge Santos-Morales

  • Congratulations! Not everyday I meet somebody that learned a language in one week ... but ... you aren't the first person I met, that learned Esperanto in one week.
    I would like to keep a dialog with you about the use of Esperanto. Please look (not read), just look at this my page:
    https://esperantofre.com/edu/kino01a.htm
    About getting fluency in a given time: Desire to learn and hard work help a lot ... but there are other factors, like a failing ear, previous known languages, previous learning accomplishments (any subject). I estimate that most of my students can finish the basic Esperanto course in less than 20 hours. I also knew a man that after five years of going to class, was unable to say a single sentence in Esperanto.
    I also know people that after many years have still not getting fluency, and others, mainly younger people, that after a couple of months can speak very fluently. I also met children speaking Esperanto as naturally as the other languages that they could speak.
    Gratulas kaj bondeziras vin,
    Enrique
    el Fremont, California, USA

  • I don't like the "click here" then "click there" goose chase. I make my contact info easy enough for anyone to find. If you (or anyone) wants to stay in contact with me, I'm available:
    - Twitter: @yearlyglot
    - Email: yearlyglot@gmail.com
    - Skype: yearlyglot
    - MSN: yearlyglot
    - AIM: yearlyglot
    - Yahoo: yearlyglot
    Um... I think that about covers it. :)

  • Saluton! :-) Hi!
    You can talk to me, if you want!
    Vi povas paroli kun mi, se vi volas!I'm from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    Mi estas el Rio de Janeiro, BraziloI talk in Esperanto with dozens of people everyday, and not always about Esperanto. :-)
    Mi parolas en Esperanto kun dekoj da personoj cxiutage, kaj ne cxiam pri Esperanto.
    :-)For example, I wrote a book and every single day I commented about it with a friend of mine from Denmark in Esperanto.Ekzemple, mi verkis libron kaj cxiutage mi komentis pri gxi kun amiko mia el Danio, en Esperanto.But I understand what you mean: that people who speak esperanto only talk in esperanto when talking about esperanto. That's not true, but it usually happens.Think, however, that it's kind of like the feminist movement. First you need to talk about it a lot. And, once it's implemented, then you can LIVE it.So it will be (I hope) with Esperanto. We're still in the phase of talking about it, because it still hasn't become a widespread language. But once it does... then we'll talk about everything with anyone in the world! :-DMeanwhile, you can always travel around the world and stay for free on the homes of esperanto-speakers who will show you their country better than any tourist guide ever will :-D(I speak english only because I lived for four years in the USA)

  • Gratuloj, mi estis lernintan Esperanton por c'irkau' du al tri semajnoj. Evidente, vi estas pli bonan lingviston ol mi. Mi ankorau' lernas pri Esperanta gramero. Mi havas la sam-problemon, kun kiun mi povas paroli? Vi rajtas. G'i s'ajnas ke Esperanton estas uzi por skribi au' paroli pri Esperanton mem. 

  • Gratuloj!!!
    Uma semana? Tempo record! 
    Fiz os estudos básicos há 5 anos e este ano tento retomar, pois o Esperanto foi uma grande paixão em minha vida da qual não quero deixar adormecer. 
    Kisojn kaj gxis!!!

  • ما تقوله تفاهة و لا يستحق حتى الرد عليه

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