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Esperanto pronunciation, and keeping motivation

I have recently been delayed by Duolingo after installing NoScript for Firefox; this problem made the web-site entirely unavailable to me for some time. Happily I could resolve this, and meanwhile downloaded the Fundamento de Esperanto itself, for my studies.

My pronunciation in Esperanto peculiarly concerns me; I notice some idiosyncrasies or uncertainties, that I would like to answer.

• Vowel length has confused me. I have seen various sources insist that the letters E and O be pronounced either short /ɛ/ /ɔ/, or long /e/ /o/, or freely varied or depending upon stress or such. This inconsistency has troubled me; which is the proper pronunciation? • Rhoticism also concerns me. I natively follow the German convention: vocalising an R whilst retaining its distinct quality (not assimilating it, as British English). Thus 'lernas' becomes /'lɛɐn.as/. Certain varieties of American English have unfortunately leaned me ill to rhoticism, though many languages (not least Italian) suffer not because of it. Is non-rhotic pronunciation permissible? (I meanwhile convert, with better success, my usual uvular R into an alveolar for Esperanto.) • As an aside, I ask myself how to pronounce doubled vowels, as in 'scii'. Should a glottal stop be inserted between the sounds? Or should I stress the main syllable some other way than lengthening its vowel? Likewise, should a glottal stop before an initial vowel (as is German standard) be avoided in Esperanto?

My other concern involves keeping motivated. Esperanto itself has been fun and easy to teach myself thus far, and I trust it stay that way; however some sections of the Esperanto community appeal rather little to me. By this I mean the politics often bound with Esperanto (uniting the world's common people by language seems to me neither desirable nor practical), and some of Zamenhof's own writings and opinions strike me, with all respect due to a man of the genius to invent a tongue still so much used, as bizarre. I do not wish to start a political debate, but rather ask for some advice to look past this difference of thought, for the joy of language.

I thank anybody who can help me with these concerns.

February 15, 2017



The second to last syllable is always the one accentuated , so that's when a vowel will seem longer a little bit , motivation , you need to figure that one out but AMERICAN ESPERANTIST ON YOUTUBE has some great videos for beginners I recommend that if you need to brush up on the alphabet


American Esperantist is a great suggestion. I've been teaching Esperanto since 1998 and when I recently made my own YouTube course (see link below), I simply deferred to American Esperantists on a few points, and recommended that my viewers simply watch his presentation of the topic - especially when it came to the alphabet.



Long answer

Fundamento de Esperanto itself, for my studies.

I have mixed feelings about this. It certainly makes sense to consult the Fundamento, especially as you progress, but I would not recommend it as your first stop for learning material. You wouldn't suggest that someone start learning English by reading a book from 1905, would you?

Vowel length has confused me.

I don't do IPA (beer or symbols). Do you mean vowel quality or vowel duration? I demonstrate the proper vowel quality in lesson 1 of my video course. Here's a direct link to the relevant section.


I have seen various sources insist that the letters E and O be pronounced either short /ɛ/ /ɔ/, or long /e/ /o/, or freely varied or depending upon stress or such.

I believe I talked about this in the video as well. There is more variation in pronunciation of E than of O.

Found the link -- it's actually in my lesson 3.


Rhoticism also concerns me.

I'm not following what you're saying, but I pronounce "lernu" at the beginning of all 10 lessons.

my usual uvular R

The R in Esperanto is "lightly rolled." Uvular R is not considered model, but you can get away with it.

doubled vowels, as in 'scii'.

Pronounce them any way that makes it clear that there are two vowels. Many do indeed use a glottal stop, but don't exaggerate it or make this point a big deal.

Likewise, should a glottal stop before an initial vowel (as is German standard) be avoided in Esperanto?

My advice - listen to a lot of good speakers. Emelio Cid, Katalin Kovats spring to mind as good speakers with easy-to-find videos.

uniting the world's common people by language seems to me neither desirable nor practical

The "interna ideo" of Esperanto is this. On the basis of a neutral language, tear down walls that divide people so that we can see each other not as "others" but as "people." To me, this means that people learn Esperanto if they're interested in other cultures and interested in making friends. It would be wrong to assume much more than that about the kind of people who learn Esperanto. If you want to talk to Esperantists, then learning Esperanto is the right way to go - and that will keep you motivated.

for the joy of language.

Well, there's that. My "elevator speech" about Esperanto includes: "now 130 years later, it's the kind of thing people learn if they're interested in languages, interested in people, interested in travel, other cultures, that sort of thing."

It sounds like you've come to the right place.


Thank you; I have by chance found your 1998 free Esperanto course, and use it as well; it is immensely well-organised and -prepared. The Fundamento appeals to me as a resource for its official status; Esperanto is rather unique among languages in that it can so definitively have such.

By 'rhoticism', I mean the practise of pronouncing an R as a consonant, even when it occurs after a vowel, as in 'lernu', 'certa', 'kvar'. This is done in most American and Irish English, though not most other dialects.

I naturally vocalise the letter R [pronounce it as a unique vowel, an open schwa] in these cases, such that I read (for example) 'er' is as a diphthong /eɐ/; in the same way, I understand that J can be a consonant (like in 'jes') or a vowel (like in 'kaj'), depending upon its position. When an R occurs between syllables, like in 'Esperanto', I use the trilled R and read it as the first sound of the following syllable. Is such a non-rhotic pronunciation permissible, or considered sub-standard?

Respecting the uvular versus rolled R, I make this change relatively easily. However, should the Esperanto R be a trill proper (like Spanish carro) or a single tap (Spanish caro)? Or may it vary between the trill and tap?

I thank you, that you are so welcome and helpful to a newcomer to Esperanto; you are indeed correct, that it is a tongue for any who enjoy language.


The Free Esperanto Course (FEC - ten lesson e-mail course in English) was old when my wife and I took it in 1997.

"Official" is a tricky thing in Esperanto. Most of what is standard is not actually in any way "official."

By 'rhoticism', I mean the practise of pronouncing an R as a consonant, even when it occurs after a vowel, as in 'lernu', 'certa', 'kvar'. This is done in most American and Irish English, though not most other dialects.

As an American English speaker, I have my doubts about this. I pronounce "bird" as if it were spelled "brrd", but I pronounce "birdo" very differently. There's video of me saying both words. The Esperanto J is considered a semivowel. I would not say it's a vowel.

Is such a non-rhotic pronunciation permissible, or considered sub-standard?

I'm going to suggest not using terms like non-rhotic. I just looked it up and I'm not sure it means what you're saying it means - or maybe I'm just not understanding you.

As for the rest of your questions - I've provided links to my speaking and suggested other model speakers. It would be much easier for you to listen to those than try to explain the sounds here by text.


Stick with the long vowels for the most part; they should be pronounced as in Spanish or Italian, but leeway is given since Esperanto has speakers of so many native languages.

For R's, pretty much any rhotic sound is acceptable since you'll find that in the community based on people's different native languages, but I think the goal is the rolling R as in Spanish and Italian. (I think at one point Zamenhoff specifically pointed to Italian as a guide for pronunciation.)

The only thing the Esperanto community entirely agrees on is the joy of learning Esperanto, so you'll find people of any opinion there and people who are happy to look past disagreements on those kinds of things. I think most people would agree it's not practical, but I am curious why you think it's not desirable, but again, no need to dive into that if you don't want to, I was just curious.


Italian as a model appeals to me; I indeed came to Esperanto as something fun to fill my time whilst I was uncertain of whether to return to French or take up Italian when autumn classes come. A British record I found (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxQ0dQJRnIM) pronounces E rather similarly to the Received Pronunciation E, or the German Ä (intermediate between short and long), and the O is clearly long and pure. Meanwhile I can train myself to think of the R as related to its fellow liquid, L; it is not an evil letter.

That Italian is a model brings the question of aspiration. In German, we aspirate our voiceless stops (P, T, K) anywhere in a word. I can produce the English unaspirated forms as after an S, yet struggle to produce the unaspirated forms independently. Holding a piece of paper before me helps little, for I cannot tell how much breath/movement constitutes a 'weak H' against 'normal' exhalation in speech.


Short answer - I created a YouTube channel in large part to address many of these concerns.



Also Evildea has great videos , some are good for beginners for pronunciation and lots of random learning , and that SC combination


My video on the pronunciation of "scias" (see link) has turned out to be my most viewed video so far. (It hit 1000 views yesterday.) I've been contacted by several people, including other teachers on italki and from NASK saying that they use it with their students.


I hesitate to say anything bad about Evildea because he's so popular - and we're friends on FB, and he's given me some good feedback here and there, but while I will agree that he's good for "random learning", his pronunciation is really "just OK." He talks way too fast (in fact, that's become kind of a joke) and is inconsistent about how he pronounces certain vowels. I'm sure he'll say that he's "close enough" and perhaps he is - but if we're talking about model pronunciation, we should look elsewhere.

The first person to spring to mind in that regard is Zibi from Esperanto VBlogo.


You know , now I feel bad , I forgot to mention you !! How rude .... I watch your videos too , WATCH SALIVANTO TOO !!


"Esperanto Variety Show" <wink>


Serbo-Croatian is phonetic language and very easy for pronunciation. Good sample from the creator of the Zagreba metodo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPGiWFDe0ZI

Listen at 6:30 for R of this Croatian kids Alphabet...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPAVZByYaRI, but also for other letters other than ĥ and ŭ.

What's the little concern about "uniting the world's common people by language...neither desirable nor practical"? -- English language imperialism is trying the same. Which one is more practical/desirable?

The purpose of a neutral planned inter-cultural language is to make the communication fun and desirable. If that is not motivating you, I can try more. With 30 years of using English, I'm still frustrated with trying to understand some local slangs (no time to learn all 650K to 1M words), or fully express my multidimensional thinking. I see great potential for easy creativity/communication in Esperanto with affixes.

The science community has found desirable/practical to have universal simple Maths/Physics/Chemistry... symbolic languages. For that reason I alway use 2 instead of two, % instead of percent...

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