Is Esperanto four times easier to learn?
If you're an average American who does not speak any foreign language fluently, you can learn Esperanto much more easily than you could learn any other foreign language. Of course, if you already speak, say, Italian, learning Spanish would be pretty easy. But for most of us, learning any foreign language ― except Esperanto ― would be a long and painful job.
Here's why you'll likely find Esperanto at least four times easier:
Esperanto is phonetic
In Esperanto, every letter has just one sound; every sound has just one letter representing it. The emphasis is always on the next-to-last syllable. So once you learn the alphabet, you can pronounce anything you read, and you can spell anything you hear. And you can learn the whole system in a few minutes. Compare that with the hour or so a week you spent for half a dozen years in grade school, learning to spell English (without a guarantee that you will get every new word you meet right). And that was your own language!
Esperanto has a simplified grammar
Compared to most languages, Esperanto's grammar is extremely simplified ― stripped down to the bare necessities. For example, verbs have only six endings, and these do not change regardless of person or number ― that is, the ending doesn't change depending on whether "I", "you", "they", or "we" do the action. And the endings never change. Every verb uses only those six endings! Compare this to French, for instance.
Esperanto simplifies building your vocabulary
Esperanto gives you prefixes and suffixes that you can use to multiply your vocabulary and cut down on the number of words you have to learn.
For example, the prefix mal- means "opposite of." So if you know the word for "good" (bona), you know how to make the word "bad" (malbona). Tall (alta) and short (malalta), big (granda) and small (malgranda), possible (ebla) and impossible (malebla), happy (feliĉa) and unhappy (malfeliĉa).
Another example: the suffix -eg- means "very big, very much so." So a big house might be a granda domo, but a mansion would be domego. And now from "rain" (pluvo) you can make "downpour" (pluvego), from "good" (bona) you can make "excellent" (bonega), from "happy" (feliĉa) you can make "overjoyed" (feliĉega). And Esperanto doesn't shortchange smallness, either; in that direction the suffix -et- plays the same role as -eg- for bigness, but we will let you come up with some "small" words of your own as examples.
Esperanto lets you invent your own vocabulary
You can combine words, prefixes, and suffixes as you speak to make new words. In English, you can't just stick "un-" in front of the word "recommend" (unrecommend? disrecommend?). In Esperanto, if the opposite of a word ― a noun, a verb, an adjective ― makes sense, go ahead! Malrekomendi is perfectly good Esperanto. You want to really, really malrecommend something? Malrekomendegi! Every Esperanto speaker will get your point.
Esperanto has a recognizable vocabulary
You may have recognized several of the Esperanto words above, or seen related words in English (bona -> bonus, alta -> altitude, feliĉa -> felicitous). About 70% of Esperanto vocabulary is directly or indirectly derived from Latin roots, many of which also appear in English. Another major chunk is from Germanic roots (hundo, hound or dog). So you'll understand a good part of the words with little trouble.
First, a friend's story. She studied Spanish, then Esperanto. She claimed she learned as much Esperanto in six weeks as Spanish in six months.
Now my own story. I studied Latin for four years in high school; I was pretty good but never reached the point where I could actually speak it. With Esperanto, I've been able to learn it so well that I don't even have to translate when I speak or listen. When I speak it, the words just come out (and usually correctly!); when I listen to or read Esperanto, it's obvious what the words and the grammar mean without having to analyze each word. I was surprised when I realized I had reached that level of fluency, but that's what you can do.
So. Four times easier? Many people think so. Many people even say it's more than four times easier! Try it and see for yourself.
Let's take a quick look at verbs in French. Each verb has one of 45 endings, depending on person and number (that is, the ending is different for "I do, you do, he does, we do, you plural do, they do" something); and also depending on the tense ("I did, I am doing, I will do," and so on) and the mood (indicative, imperative, or subjunctive).
Of course, not all 45 endings are different. For example, in the present tense, "I do" and "he does" have the same ending, but the other four cases use four other endings.
But wait ― there's more! Not all verbs use the same set of 45 endings. Verbs generally fall into one of four conjugations, and each conjugation has somewhat different endings.
But wait ― there's still more! At least 200 verbs don't even follow those rules exactly. These irregular verbs have their own specific individual rules. You can't correctly speak French without either learning them or finding some way not to use those verbs. And, since (as in English) they are generally the most commonly used verbs in the languages, this last option is not an easy one.
Here's one conjugation. We've left out some accent marks over vowels.
|Aimer, to love:|
Esperanto verbs are pretty simple:
|Ami, to love:|
Mi amas (I love), vi amas (you love), li amas (he loves), ni amas (we
love), ili amas (they love), la kato amas (the cat loves), ĉiu amas
(everyone loves). Simple?
To be perfectly clear, Esperanto also has six more endings
(technically, they are participle endings; they let you create
|amota||going to be loved|
|amonta||going to love|
That's it. Verb endings are perfectly regular. There's no more to
learn. Go out and start practicing.