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My problem with the Esperanto "S" and "C"

Every letter in Esperanto has it's own unique sound: enter "S" and "C". The "S" makes a simple "s" sound, and the "C" makes a "ts" sound. I can make these two distinct sounds by themselves, but in ANY other situation, the "C" turns into an "S". How do I get rid of this problem?

Furthermore, there are words like "scias" and "scienco". The "Sc" is described as sounding like the "st-s" in "best seat". With my accent, that phrase is pronounced "beseat", so this doesn't help.

Thank you in advance for any advice.

September 19, 2015



I would suggest using Forvo to help out with sound combinations that you're unsure of.



How about word-final, like "posts" or "lists"?


Either "Pos" or "Pos-s"


Esperanto sounds like quite ts but is not ts. T in dental occlusive, it is the result of the shock of the tip of the tongue hitting and cutting air flow against the roots of upper teeth. S is dental fricative, it is the result of the tip of the tongue rubbing and letting air pass at the very same place, namely at the root of the upper teeth. C is the result of the front FLAT part of the tongue (not the tip) hitting not at the root of the upper teeth fut against the front palate, somewhat above the gums of the upper teeth. I sounds half-way between s and t for an unaccustomed ear, as the flat part of the tongue both hits and lets some air pass and hiss, but it is not half-way, it is above both. Hebrew and Arabic also have that sound, and you must forget that Z was Jewish : even though it is confused with t and s in English and French ears, people accustomed to Eastern languages hear more clearly that distinction, whereas on the other hand Arabic people hear b and p as only one sound : not all languages classify sounds in the same pigeonholes, some hear only one sound where other hear two or three distinct ones. Ŝ is done with the tip of the tongue rubbing and hissing the front palate above the upper gums (where c hits with the front flat part), and ĉ is done with the tip of the tongue (not the front flat part) hitting that same region.


C is always a 'ts' sound in Esperanto. If you're familiar with Cyrillic, it's just like Cyrillic 'Ц' which was used to write Esperanto early on. Scias for example would be written сциас in cyrillic. In Hebrew the character 'צ' (tsade) represents the same sound.


Silly question, perhaps, but are you hearing the vocals in the course? You can play and replay them, trying to mimic the sound of a sentence containing a tricky word. I really think practice, especially "guided" practice, where you are hearing a correct model, is the only way to get over this kind of problem.

I went through a phase about 3/4 of the way through the tree where I pretended like I had been contracted to supply vocals for the missing sentences. So I would practice each "missing" sentence over and over until I could say it at speed without stumbling or missing a sound. It made for fun motivation to practice my pronunciation.

And yes, the "sc" in Esperanto does sound strange. I like to think it makes the language more unique! ;-)

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