When teaching new students the Esperanto language, one of our first tasks is dealing with the alphabet. And since some of the Esperanto characters do not appear on standard keyboards, being able to type in Esperanto requires a little training. Here are the key ideas I have introduced to my students about this subject in the first week.
The Esperanto alphabet has 28 characters. The letters q,w,x, and y do not exist in the language, but Esperanto does have a number of unique characters with diacritics (special marks placed above or below a letter): ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ, and ǔ. Letters are never silent, each character has exactly one sound, and spelling is completely phonetic. If you can say it correctly, you will also spell it correctly, and vice-verse. The vowels are a,e,i,o, and u. There is always one vowel per syllable and the accent of a word is always on the next-to-last syllable. When speaking of the letters, vowels are said as their own sound and consonants are said as their sound with an -o appended.
Here is a list of word read in alphabetical order by the author of our textbook:
Typing Esperanto Characters
This is the simplest method of typing the special Esperanto characters. Simply append an x to the letter without its diacritic, so ĉ becomes cx, ŝ becomes cx, ŭ becomes ux, etc. This was necessary in the early days of the Internet when most non-western European languages could not be encoded into text, and is still a solution when using default keyboard setups, etc. Words generally sort correctly alphabetically with the x-method with the diacritic characters following its non-diacritic cousin. The h-method is another alternative for typing Esperanto’s special characters and is similar to the way that English uses ch, sh, etc for a single sound. Both methods are fully understood by all who know Esperanto.
However, it is preferable to type standard Esperanto characters when possible. When proposals have been put before study and advisory groups of Esperantists, changing the alphabet to use strictly the Latin letters have been rejected. So here are the ways I advise students to type the special Esperanto characters.
Tajpi for Windows
The free utility program Tajpi can be downloaded for installation here: http://zz9pza.ath.cx/tajpi/en/Index.html.
After installation, click on the American flag for English help and configuration labels. For suffixes, you should enter only X. All other defaults work fine.
When running, when one wants to type an Esperanto special characters, one simply types the letter without the diacritic followed by the x. Then cx is replaced ĉ, jx is replace by ĵ, hx by ĥ, etc. To remove the diacritic, simple type another x. This normally only is needed when writing about the x-system, or with a few, mostly French originating words like auxiliary. I have also encountered the need to type the extra x in math for logx. But these issues are so easily resolved that I keep Tajpi running all the time on my Windows computers.
We encountered two problems with Windows users in the first week:
1. If students used the default configuration which allows for x,c, and ^ to activate the special characters, ch became ĉ, sh became ŝ, etc. Since these are common combinations in English, students needed to disable the extension when typing English. Configuring it for the x-method only solved the problem.
2. Students trying to dowload Tajpi from the Crome browser got an error as the Tajpi installer is an .exe executable file and Crome wants to avoid anything that could be a virus. Downloading from a different browser resolved this problem.
Typing Esperanto on Macintosh
The most straight-forward way of typing the special characters on a Macintosh is to enable the US Extended Keyboard in System Preferences and type a set of key combinations for the diacritic characters. To enable the US Extended Keyboard, open the Systems Preference application, select the Keyboard program, and after clicking the Input Sources button, select U.S. Extended.
When the US Extended Keyboard is in use, the circumflex letters can be typed by proceeding the non-diacritic letter with an option-6 keystroke. So ĉ is typed as option-6 c, Ĝ as option-g shift-G, etc. The diacritic above the ŭ characters is a breve. To type ŭ enter option-b u, and for Ŭ, option-b shift-u.
To learn more
The above was sufficient for the immediate needs of my students. One can learn more about the Esperanto writing system here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto_orthography