Alphabet and pronunciation
Each letter of the Esperanto alphabet has just one sound (or phoneme); there are no silent letters. Words are always pronounced exactly as they are spelled, and vice-versa.
The vowels in Esperanto are a, e, i, o and u, pronounced much like the sounds in the American English words pa, bet, machine, glory, rude. A handy mnemonic for remembering is the phrase: Are there three or two? The Esperanto vowels are so-called “pure” vowels, or monophthongs. In English we often use diphthongs—vowels that “glide” together multiple sounds in a single syllable. Try pronouncing the word play very slowly, and listen closely to the sound of the a. For most speakers, the vowel begins with the sound of e in bet and then changes to the sound of i in machine. Be careful not to do this with Esperanto vowels. Esperanto does have diphthongs (see below), but they are always explicitly marked.
Most consonants in Esperanto have the same sounds as their counterparts in American English: b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, v, z The other consonants: c sounds like the ts sound in hats. Examples: facila, palaco, celo ĉ sounds like the ch in chess. ĉu, eĉ, maĉo g sounds like the g in good. ge, legas, pagi ĝ sounds like the g in gem. ĝis, manĝas ĥ is a sound we don’t have in English, except in loan words. It’s the guttural ch in Scottish loch and Yiddish chutzpah. Very few Esperanto words use it. eĥo, ĥoro j sounds like y in yes. jes, juna, sinjoro ĵ sounds like s in pleasure. ĵeti, ĵaluza, aĵo r is slightly “tapped” or rolled, as in Scottish. patro, por, tri ŝ sounds like sh in shell. ŝelo, ŝi, freŝa ŭ sounds like u in persuade or w in we. ŭato
The “sc” consonant grouping
Americans tend to have a lot of trouble with this pair, even though the sound “sts” does occur in English. A common phrase in Esperanto is Mi ne scias (=“I don’t know”). To pronounce ne scias properly, try saying the following English phrase: The birds in the nests see...