This was originally published on my Medium account, but I wanted to move it over here for consistency:

I’ve been a big fan of Duolingo since its launch in 2011. I’ve used it to flesh out the Spanish I learned growing up, then tried out a little Irish, Italian, Swedish, and Hebrew. While my in-laws were in town this year we were goofing around with Italian and Lynn Swayze replied to one of my tweets. Who can resist the call of the nerd buddy? Not this guy.

Enter: Esperanto

Having had experience with other languages I was prepared to deal with genders, verb conjugation, various ways to pronounce letters, and other miscellaneous challenges.

The time it takes to learn Esperanto is between 5 and 15% of what it takes to learn German, English, or Italian.

Pronunciation

You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that in Esperanto a) every letter has exactly one sound, b) a few letters aren’t even used, and c) there are no exceptions. There were a few new ones though, but even those have one and only one pronunciation: ĝ, ĉ, ĵ, ĥ, and ŭ.

Verb Conjugation

Nope, don’t need to do any of that. I am, you are, he/she/it is — all ‘estas’. I like, you like, he/she/it likes — all ‘ŝatas’. I have, you have, he/she/it has  — all ‘havas’. If I don’t have to look at another conjugation table, that’ll make me a happy camper.

Orwell actually got the idea for Newspeak from the Esperanto language.

Vocabulary

Did you ever read 1984 by George Orwell? It used phrases like “double plus ungood” rather than bother with extra words “very bad”. Orwell actually got the idea for Newspeak from the Esperanto language. Esperanto has a relatively small core vocabulary that is augmented with prefixes and suffixes. As long as it makes sense, go for it. For example, good is “bona” and bad is “malbona”. Big is “granda” and small is “malgranda”. You can’t beat that for efficiency.

Esperanto for Spanish Speakers

This is an upcoming course from Duolingo that I’m especially excited about. There are an estimated 427 million Spanish speakers in the world. Could you imagine if we could meet them in the middle with Esperanto? How many more people could you communicate with? It’s amazing.

And Saving the Best for Last

The time it takes to learn Esperanto is between 5 and 15% of what it takes to learn German, English, or Italian. There was a study done at the University of Paderborn where they determined how many hours it took native French speakers to come up to speed with various languages. The result? 2000 hours for German, 1500 hours for English, 1000 hours for Italian, and 150 hours for Esperanto. (ref: Lindsay Dow’s “9 Reasons to Learn Esperanto” video).

I think we have a clear winner, here.