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Propaedeutic effect when you already know several languages?

I have read with interest about different studies that show that learning Esperanto can help in learning other languages (for example on Wikipedia). For obvious reasons, many of these deal with children learning their first (and in the experimental conditions, second) foreign languages.

However, in real life Esperanto probably tends to be studied by people who already know several languages, as these are the most likely people to come across the language and have the motivation to study it.

I assume there aren't any controlled studies about this, but could any seasoned Esperantists out there give an idea as to whether they have experienced any effect of learning Esperanto on their other language learning? (Of course, learning any language helps with related languages and might even help with an unrelated language if they share some common concept that is new to that particular learner.) But is Esperanto special somehow, even if you already know several languages from at least a couple of language families?

July 10, 2015



My native language is Spanish, I've studied English since I was 11 (I'm 17 now), but when I was 15 I wasn't able to write or say anything in English correctly. But that year I started to learn Esperanto (my Enlgish teacher had told me about it and then I found it again and loved the idea) and now not only my Enlgish has improved A LOT, but I realised how Spanish worked, I started to write without forgetting an accent, I discovered a lot of things that didn't seem obvious before about my native language! That's the most interesting thing, I learnt linguistics without trying and that will help me with any language I learn.


I've had a similar experience but in the other direction. I've been studying Spanish(on and very much off at the beginning) since I was in the 4th grade, so it's been about 11 or 12 years and it has always suffered to some degree. But after having started Esperanto and really sticking with it, it's like a switch was flipped.


For what it's worth, your English is excellent. I wouldn't have guessed you were a native Hispanic.


Thanks to Esperanto ;)


Benny Lewis has an excellent post about this: http://www.fluentin3months.com/2-weeks-of-esperanto/

Someone once said that we teach the recorder not to produce a nation of recorder players but to instruct students on the foundations of musical instruments in order to better play the piano or cello or piccolo. I think Esperanto's strength lies in how it forces you to learn how language operates---you're constantly thinking about direct objects and modifiers, and everything is done according to patterns. This regularity makes the real focus of language---communicating---a much simpler endeavor.

If you already speak a foreign language (or several), you can still benefit from this regularity. How? Because Esperanto's grammar makes explicit the rules of language that other tongues might leave muddled---for example, when learning French pronouns you must know the difference between direct and indirect objects. The accusative in Esperanto teaches you this. In Chinese, words are molecules formed with the atoms of radicals and base characters. 电脑 = diàn nǎo = electronic(电) brain(脑) = computer. While it requires some creativity, Chinese is only the next step up from Esperanto, where birdokanto = birdsong and akvobirdo = water bird = waterfowl. Even if you already speak Chinese, learning Esperanto will strengthen this ability.


Tim Morley, A.K.A. MrMorley3, made that comment about teaching the recorder (although he may not have been the first) in his TEDx talk - Learn Esperanto first: Tim Morley at TEDxGranta.


I have not really studied Esperanto all that much, but I have had a similar experience with other languages. I speak Swedish fluently, and I am currently learning French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Irish (as well as Dutch, Turkish, Italian, and Ukrainian less seriously). After getting pretty good at French and German, I found it much easier to pick up new languages. Instead of learning all the new grammar concepts and what they mean, I just had to learn how to form them in this new language. I could just say, okay, so this is how you do past perfect in Portuguese, or this is the subjunctive in Spanish. Of course, there were some nuances here and there, but French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch, and Italian all seem to have pretty similar grammars, in my opinion. I had a bit more trouble with Turkish, Ukrainian, and Irish because there were new grammar concepts that I didn't even understand in English! I feel like between French, German, and Swedish, I had a good representation of what most of the European languages are like (although I am completely missing out on the eastern European languages). I can think to myself, wow, so Italian has prepositional conjunctions like Portuguese, or French plurals kind of look like Spanish plurals. Sorry for my long response, but I definitely agree that different languages help you learn others.


My native language is Spanish.
I speak English quite well
I know some Italian and German
Also a little French, and have a very basic knowledge of Hebrew

I always find words in Esperanto that "look like" words from those languages, all the time, and it makes Esperanto even easier to learn.

I see it like an ordered mixture of a bunch of languages ;D

(Esperanto is amazing and very easy, though)


It would be nice if you said “ordered mixture” because people who don't know Esperanto tend to understand mixture as a chaos, or something like that, in this context. Believe me.


There I edited my comment ;)

Thanks for the suggestion


Interestingly, I tend to use word 'Album' for 'mixture' while describing Esperanto. "It's like an album of words from a bunch of languages."


Well, actually I can't help much with your specific question. Of course, as you already said, it helps. May be the special point is that it helps a lot to understand the structure of a language.

But anyway, because any language helps to learn other languages (more or less), the big propedeutic value of Esperanto, if it's the first foreign language learned, is that Esperanto help in a remarkable shorter time. In 6 months with an average of two hour learning every day you are speaking a language that you can use, if you want to, and you got a big help to learn any European language.


I'm a monoglot. I was learning French on Duo, and having trouble understanding a lot of it, and then I started doing a bit of Esperanto on lernu each day. When I went back to French, I found I understood concepts I didn't understand before. Things just clicked, and I was suddenly breezing through lessons.

The only problem is, I love Esperanto so much that since it's come to Duo I've put French completely on hold! I'm determined to master Esperanto as my first foreign language. French can wait! :)


Later you can attend Esperanto meetings in France. :-D

[deactivated user]

    Speaking of which, do you know about the 100th Esperanto world congress in Lille in a couple of days? (http://uea.org/kongresoj) Will you attend? Because I definitely will :)


    Esperanto helped me narrow down some hard stuff and got me comfortable with words being in a strange order (becuase of accusative case) so now I am better in Latin

    Learn Esperanto in just 5 minutes a day. For free.