Thursday, 6 August 2015

Esperanto 1: Duolingo

I've been learning Esperanto. I'm doing this not because I have too much free time, but because I'm a big language nerd but don't feel like I have time to practice languages as much as you need to to get good, so Esperanto allows for quick progress and no need to actually speak it.

I'm also interested in it because I'm interested in invented languages generally: given that they can have any rules their inventors choose, why do they have the rules they have? So I'm keeping one eye open for the grammar quirks as I learn it.

You'll notice I've put a numeral in the title of this post; that's normally a death knell for a series of blog posts but I will attempt to follow it up with more.

I'm using Duolingo to learn it, as the much awaited option to do so became available a while ago. I find Duolingo pretty good. It's not perfect, but it's easy to use and does the trick well enough, and is free on all my various devices. I'm supplementing it, though, when I feel that it doesn't give me enough information. It likes to drip-feed grammar, but I like having the full paradigm so I can see the patterns more clearly. And sometimes something it teaches me raises a question: it told me, for instance, that the -in- suffix marks a noun as feminine, and bebo means 'baby', but it didn't tell me if bebo has a feminine form or is used for any kind of baby (cultures differ over whether a baby can be an 'it' or not). I looked it up and in this case, bebino does also exist.

So, for now, just my first impressions: I like it, I suppose, as an intellectual exercise, but I'm not loving it. Maybe because I'm not actually using it? Or maybe I haven't got into it yet - so far it seems more like a cobbled-together mishmash of Italian and English than its own language, which I'm certain is not the case.

1 comment:

  1. Stick at it, Laura. I hope Esperanto does not remain a mere aademic exercise for you.

    With your linguistic background, you may appreciate a traditional textbook, and there are plenty I could recommend. There are a few Esperanto books on eBay at present, by the way.

    Esperanto is far from a mishmash,but has its own internal 'logic'. As I see it, the distinction between natural and artificial language is more apparent than real. My own experience after many decades of using Esperanto is that a planned language can be "internalised" as well as any mother tongue. Esperanto may not be perfect, but I've used it successfully in Africa, South America and Europe, and it does the job, serving as a unique common language on my travels in, for example, Armenia and Bulgaria.