Pronunciation and the Alphabet in Esperanto

General Information

It’s very easy to learn to read, write and pronounce Esperanto correctly, even if you still don’t understand that much. The secret lies in three simple rules:

  • The second last syllable of a word is stressed.
  • There is only one way to pronounce each letter.
  • For each sound there is, therefore, only one letter.

Info

Pronunciation isn’t as easy in other languages. Take a minute to think about words the end with -ough in English e.g. enough/cough/dough, they are all pronounced differently. What about the verb live and the adjective live spelt the same but pronounced differently and with two different meanings. English is full of little hurdles which make correct pronunciation very tricky. Luckily, we’re here to learn Esperanto – not English.

The Alphabet

Most of the letters in Esperanto have an English equivalent. Many letters are pronounced the same as or similarly to English. The vowels in Esperanto have a medium length and there are no long and short vowel sounds.

It might take some time get used to letters like ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, s, ŝ, ŭ because we don’t have them in English. There are, however, corresponding sounds in English, so pronouncing these letter shouldn’t be problematic. Use the notes below to help you.

LetterExampleEnglish equivalent
At the beginningIn the middle
a amikofriend katocat like aunt, father
b baloball robodress like ball, rabbit
c cirklocircle biciklobicycle like tsunami, hats
ĉ ĉerizocherry aĉetibuy like cherry, merchant
d dirisay odoroodour like danger, address
e elefantoelephant legiread like elephant, belt
f florofeather kafocoffee like feather, coffee
g glasoglass pagipay like guest, bargain
ĝ ĝardenogarden seĝochair like gentleman, apologetic
h hodiaŭtoday BahamojBahamas like happy, Bahamas
ĥ ĥimerochimera BaĥoName of the composer Bach like Bach, Loch Ness
i ideoidea vidisee like eat, see
j jaroyear fajrofire like year, boy
ĵ ĵetithrow glaciaĵoice-cream like measure, treasure
k kukocake helikosnail like kick, cake
l lampolamp salatosalad like lamp, salad
m muzikomusic kamelocamel like music, camel
n nazonose panobread like nose, hundred
o okuloeye fornooven like ocean, soda
p pomoapple hipopotamohippopatamus like parrot, speak
r ranofrog arbotree rolled r
s serpentosnake kolbasosausage like snake, sausage
ŝ ŝrankocupboard kuŝilie/lay like shoe, fish
t tomatotomato patrinomother like tomato, storm
u urbocity turotower like moon, noon
ŭ baldaŭ, Eŭroposoon , Europe like cow
v vintrowinter lingvolanguage like vacuum, advice
z zipozip rozorose like zip, rose

Pronunciation Tips for English Speakers

In English, we often combine vowels and consonants to create different sounds. This is not the case in Esperanto and it’s important to keep in mind that each consonant and each vowel is pronounced individually. Don’t forget that the word stress (or accent) always falls on the second last syllable.

WordNote
vangocheek like en-gage (not like sing)
kreicreate like re-invest (not like receive)
bierobeer like bi-ennale (not like friend)
aliaother like Mari-a (stressed on the second last syllable; not like facial)
kuirirun like flu-id (not like suit)
maizomaize like Dada-ism (not like tail)
nacionation like chari-ot (not like nation)