This video explains how single words in Swahili are constructed from many different parts: The Swahili Language

My conclusion was that it must be much easier to learn that when one can speak Esperanto well, especially advanced Esperanto, including the construction of more complicated terms.

Can you confirm this?

Edit: I guess there are probably no studies around, but has anyone learned Esperanto first and then Swahili? (Duolingo might be able to find out once the Swahili course is in beta).

  • Welcome to Language Learning Stack Exchange. Nice question! Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 16:46
  • More easily than what?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 16:10
  • 1
    @Flimzy the question obviously indicates "Can Esperanto speakers more easily learn Swahili, or other agglutinative languages, than non Esperanto speakers?" Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 15:48
  • @KyleBailey: 1) It could just as easily be interpreted as "Can Esperanto speakers more easily learn Swahili than non-agglutinative languages?" 2) either interpretation is very broad.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 15:51
  • As someone who has spoken Esperanto for more than 10 years now I find that I feel very at home with the concept of agglutination. I can't tell you specifically whether learning Swahili would be difficult for me, but I would be pleased to find out any language I want to study includes agglutination as it feels very natural to me.
    – Kat Ño
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 18:35

3 Answers 3


I can't confirm it because I don't speak Swahili, but it certainly would not be a detriment. Word-building is a very important aspect in Esperanto. We can use words like "bona" and add "eg" to create "bonega" so that the word for good becomes the word for great.

Esperanto would not only aid learners of Swahili in that sense, but also in the sense that it provides learners with practice in learning languages. Just like many elementary school students learn the recorder to gain a better understanding of music. Some learners use Esperanto to gain a better understanding of language learning.


More easily than who?

There are several advantages Esperanto brings for avid language learners:

  1. So-called propedeutic effect, meaning that after learning Esperanto as a first foreign language, the study of all many subsequent languages is boosted.

  2. Given the current situation in the world, one must have a very good self-motivation and diligence to learn Esperanto and this helps with other languages too.

  3. Once you know Esperanto, you realize that there are speakers of virtually any language among Esperantists, including those de svahila (how this language is called in Esperanto). And those are usually willing to teach you their language (or just answer some questions you might have) as soon as you mention Esperanto. This is by far the most useful language trait, that helped me a lot in my person language learning.

On the principles of word deriving in Esperanto

Just to answer your question from linguistic viewpoint, there are several ways for word deriving (vortfarado) in Esperanto:

  1. Derivation by affixation. Esperanto has a very rich affix system that allows very flexible and powerful derivation from known words or their roots. This is the most natural, common, easy-to-understand and easy-to-create way to construct words for novel or unknown entities in the language. For example for the word "offspring" in Esperanto they just put two suffixes: "child" + "group" (id + ar + o = idaro), or the word for "broadcast" is literally "in-all-directions" + "let (everybody) listen (you)" (dis-aud-ig-i).
  2. Agglutination of several word(root)s. If the first method does not give any plausible results or is too vague (for technical terms, for some domain languages etc), then agglutination of several words (usually only roots) can also be employed. There are some classical examples, like dorso-sako (=backpack, "back" + "bag"), vango-frapo (=slap, "cheek" + "knock") etc.
  3. Neologisms. When a word is borrowed from other languages and modified according to the principles of Esperanto-spelling. Usually a "traditional" alternative exists in Esperanto since the beginning, but the context might require a stylistically higher word, a technical term etc. Examples are liva (=left, traditional alternative maldekstra), streta (=narrow, mallargha), nelge (=recently, antau nelonge), mojose (=cool, -) etc.

So, every average-level Esperantists is capable of using all three methods for word derivation. This might help to some of them to better understand the principles of word derivation in Swahili. But German would make even a better favor here, for its "agglutinating" power is much higher than that of Esperanto.

  • - Would it be correct to add participles to this list? Dorso-sakanto (backpacker), dorso-sakante (backpacking), dorso-sakinte (having backpacked), dorso-sakinto (former backpacker) <-> dorso-sakado (backpack travel)
    – geh
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 11:43
  • - As a native german speaker, I wasn't even aware of this special power of german. Learning german as second or nth language might be a better preparation for learning Swahili than natively speaking it.
    – geh
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 11:47
  • - More easily than who? -> More easily than the same person without Esperanto.
    – geh
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 11:47
  • - Afterthoughts: gedorsosakantoj (backpackers of all genders), dorsosakantido (child of a backpacker), gedorsosakantido (child of two backpackers), gedorsosakantidoj (ambigous? Does ge- refer to parents or children?), dorsosakantiĝi (become a backpacker), dorsosakantujo (like Esperantujo), dorsosakantestro (boss / master backpacker)
    – geh
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 12:29
  • @wochenweise: Participles fall under the first category (affixation). As the meaning of "backpacking" is quite remote from "backpack" in English, in Esperanto I would derive it not directly, as you are doing, but using -um-: dorsosakumi, and retain this suffix in all your derivations. Ge is only required, if the main word refers to a specific gender (frato -> gefratoj), in case of dorsosakumanto the gender is not clear, hence ge- isn't required. Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 17:22

When I learned Swahili I found the fact that words are separated into classes and the number of classes that exist more difficult than the fact that it is an agglutinative language.

But if Alexander Galkin is right that might be due to the fact that German is my native language.

Sure, the two difficulties come together when you need to know which class adds what to the agglutinated word.

I do not remember much of my Swahili but one example: Back then we learned a word that means "to fell something". With it you could form a single word that expresses: "I fell it (now)(It is most likely some kind of tree because it belongs to the class of words mostly used for trees)". Now, where is the difficulty? Is it knowing how to agglutinate the word or is it to know which class uses which prefix or suffix?

Knowledge in Esperanto can help you with half the problem. But remembering all the classes, which class a word belongs to and which prefix it uses is something you just have to memorize.

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