How many Duolingo "learners" knew Esperanto before?
Something that I keep wondering about that may be hard to answer, but how many of the people learning Esperanto here, really had no real knowledge of Esperanto before. I assume there are people who take the course to practice or improve (I would guess only a very few actually fluent speakers would go through the course). An answer to this question would help perhaps to interpret the "# of learners" statistic. OK, perhaps to start: I knew "of" Esperanto, but I didn't know it before starting.
I tried Lernu a few years ago, and once went to a summer course in Sydney. It was actually me trying to learn Italian with my wife that got me onto Duolingo. The Esperanto course offered is a bonus for me. The issues I had learning Italian has made me want to get more fluent in Esperanto before I go back to Italian.
Shortly after I graduated high school in the mid to late 80's, I had first learned of Esperanto from an international pen pal. Took part of the free postal course some time between the late 80's to early 90's but sadly did not stick with it. Became reacquainted with Esperanto around June of 2015 when I heard mention of it on a NPR podcast. I did a google search and saw how many resources were available and BOOM, I was hooked.
I took a beginner's class on Esperanto in college, but that was over 10 years ago and, like someone else said, I only really knew the basics like part-of-speech markers. I played around with lernu, but I find the material there incredibly stuffy and never got anywhere with it. For all intents and purposes I had no real knowledge of the language before starting the Duolingo course.
I started learning Esperanto in January, a few months before the course came out. I always kind of wanted to learn a constructed language, and the announcement of this course was one of the things that got me motivated to finally start doing so.
I mostly started out by reading through grammar books (A Complete Grammar of Esperanto, Kostenloser Esperanto-Kurs), and reading/listening to the language on Wikipedia/YouTube. I also went through the Ana Pana course on lernu, but lernu's interface really annoys me so I don't use it anymore.
When I was like 14 (10 years ago) I spent a couple months learning it over the period of ~ 2 months. I progressed to the point where I was able to participate in chatrooms and forums. Since then, I've completely forgot it. So somewhere in between?
First, the fun part: Here is my totally, absolutely, completely unscientific and probably very wrong estimate, based on my 2+ months experience in the EO forums here on Duolingo:
Each group is exclusive of the others.
5% of users knew Esperanto quite well and are here to improve the EO beta and contribute their expertise. Some subset of these are the true experts, the rest are people who have used it at some point in their every-day lives.
10% of users did some basic work with Esperanto on Lernu or in a grammar and may be able to read basic texts but have never attained fluency or spoken it in person more than a few times. This is where I fall.
35% of users have heard of Esperanto and wanted to learn it but never put in much of an effort until they saw it on Duolingo.
50% of users knew absolutely nothing of substance about Esperanto except perhaps the figurative sense of Anything that is used as a single international medium in place of plural distinct national media. (Wiktionary) or an extremely vague notion that it was an invented language.
Again, the above is all utter nonsense and probably bears little relationship with reality, but it is my impression.
Somewhat more important, and related to this question is "How many people signed up for the course are actually using it?" Probably fewer than half are "active" users (using it every day or even every week). Duolingo at some point released numbers for % of active users for all languages but I don't know where you'd find them. And then it is going to be some subset of that, probably again less than half, that ever finishes the tree. Some smaller number still will attain the legendary level 25, of which yet still some smaller number of users are/will someday be truly fluent speakers (although you needn't achieve level 25 to do that: in fact in Esperanto it would probably be something of a waste of time).
Which of these groups qualify as "learners?" If I enroll in classes but never show up or even crack open a book, does that make me a "learner" just because my name is in some database? The button to completely remove yourself from a language here on Duolingo is nested deeply enough in the settings that I wouldn't be surprised if over 25% of the users of every language are just people who dabbled with it for no more than one or two lessons and then never removed their username from the roster for that language. I've extolled the virtues of Duolingo to enough people that quite a few of my real-life friends have signed up here. Not a single one remains active. Yet they all show up as enrolled in their respective languages.
Jes! I learned the basics on Lernu several years ago, but dropped it for a few years while vet school (bestokuiristolernantejo?) ate my life. Now I'm re-learning what I knew, and expanding my vocab a little to try and become properly proficient rather than having to make up new words all the time. I'd almost forgotten how much I adore Esperanto...
I have begin to learn it a few months ago ! With Lernu , one internet esperanto site. It is a very interesting site. I learn it because i find interesting what is behind this language and would like it grows more and more as world language, joining humans. It is easy, and carry a dream that is not commercial. That is for what i go on. Dream dream dream !!!
I'm excited to see how many people hadn't learned it before it got released on Duo, it seems the course is really helping people to break into it.
I had read through a really great sort of textbook on it called A Complete Grammar of Esperanto that actually teaches you all of the grammar very well, and then watched a video series called Pasporto al la tuta mondo on youtube, which actually brought me up to functional speed in a matter of months. The course is definitely helping me improve though.
I heard about it I think while watching a youtube video about Liberland. There was a brief discussion about what the official language should be if the creation of this new country becomes a success. People mentioned English, Czech and Esperanto. Others thought no language should be official, but rather, people should speak what ever language works for them as the situation dictates. Never-the-less it would be interesting to see it be successful. Mi esperas ke ĝi estos sukcesa. Mi ne kredas ke neniu lingvoj estu "oficialaj".