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I am looking to see if anyone can help me understand the difference between these similar sounds:

ĝ & ĵ (gx & jx)
c & s

I have been told the gx is like the j in jail or the g in gem & that the jx is like the s in fusion or the j in bonjour. However, when I actually hear speakers or listen to audio clips, they sound much more similar than that.

For the c and s, I'm totally confused. I had not even realized they were two different sounds until I read somewhere that the letters in Esperanto always sound the same and no two letters are to be used interchangeably.

If I could figure out what these (as well as some others that come up, but I can't remember now) sound like, then it would really help my study of the language. I have found it to be extremely enjoyable (And I used to specifically hate learning foreign languages through self-study) and would like to continue learning this.

I have tried some google searches for references/resources and the best I have thus far is the Wikipedia - Esperanto#Sound Values article. It doesn't help me because I have no experience with the IPA.

  • Why not find some minimal pairs involving these sounds and ask the Esperantists to pronounce each of them while listening for differences? – hippietrail Aug 15 '12 at 11:15
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    Since you do not seem to have seen the rules of pronunciation and just gather some pieces of information, have you also noticed the pronunciation of hx in esperanto ? If not, it's pronounced like ch in the Scottish 'Loch', like 'ch' in German 'nach, nacht, auch', and like j in Spanish 'juego, rojo, jota'. Just in case. – Stephane Rolland Aug 15 '12 at 11:22
  • @StephaneRolland ah, thank you! I haven't even encountered any words with hx in it -- Thus far, I've been simply listening to the sound clips that come with the word. That is helpful though, thank you :) – victoroux Aug 15 '12 at 13:14
  • @victoroux Mi nur legas esperanta textojn, sed neniam mi auxdis aux auxscultis esperanton. Kie vi trovis gxi ? I only read esperanto texts, but never did I hear or listen to Esperanto. Where did you find that ? – Stephane Rolland Aug 15 '12 at 13:40
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    @StephaneRolland My main learning tools thus far have been: en.lernu.net/kursoj/bkd/index.php and an iPhone app called Intense-EO. Other than that I heard some YouTube clips of esperanto songs, read some wiki books meant for esperanto, or just any other random esperanto google searches (Apparently William Shatner is in an Esperanto movie, but he pronounces things incorrectly according to the EO community) – victoroux Aug 15 '12 at 14:07
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As a speech/language therapist, I use the IPA when I’m doing my job. So I was able to use the Wikipedia article that you cited to answer your question about Esperanto orthography.

Pronounce “ĝ” like “j” as in “jump.”
Pronounce “ĵ” like “s” as in “treasure.”
Pronounce “c” like “ts” as in “bets.”
Pronounce “s” like “s” as in “sail.”

To this I can only add that anyone with an interest in speech, linguistics, and learning new languages should learn the IPA. Doing so will familiarize you, not only with a new means of transcribing speech, but with the properties of speech sounds.

  • @victoroux If this answers your question (definitely or mostly), you can tick the answer as accepted (check the √ sign). In case a new answer comes in, you can change the answer, if the other one is better. You choose. :) – Alenanno Aug 15 '12 at 8:48
  • @Alenanno gotcha! All checked :) – victoroux Aug 15 '12 at 13:15
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It's seldom accurate to say that any sound in one language is "just like" a sound in another language. Among other reasons, most languages are made up of multiple dialects, with significant pronunciation differences between them. The examples given comparing the Esperanto letter "ĥ" to the Spanish "J", as in 'juego, rojo, jota', is only true for a few of the Spanish dialects.

For Esperanto, almost all speakers learn in their spare time, and use the language as much as they want to, so it is natural that few people have really model pronunciation. Most speakers strive to pronounce as well as they can, while some don't really care. Without a lot of practice, it is likely that a person's primary language will influence the pronunciation when speaking another language. The model pronunciation for Esperanto has been codified, and careful speakers do strive to speak with an "International Accent". One goal is to speak sufficiently like the norm, that other Esperanto speakers can't guess your native language or home country.

Having said all that, the examples that you have listed for ĝ and ĵ are fine for getting started, as are the distinctions others have listed for "s" and "c" in Esperanto.

lernu! is one of the best learning resources for Esperanto, and it has many sound files available, ranging from the pronunciation of single letters to works of literature. You will find sound files in multiple locations, including within the lessons in the courses and in the library of texts, sound files, and movies.

  • I don't think there is any problem with how the information was relayed to me. As you've said some spanish dialects pronounce it that way, and I figured it out! :) Also the first 2 paragraphs should've/could've been a comment to my question or someone else's answer. Considering the 3rd paragraph is an answer you could've easily upvoted (see above) and the 4th again is not only again a comment but one I've already mentioned in my comments kinda renders this answer superfluous. – victoroux Aug 17 '12 at 13:14
  • Ah, please, my apologies. I didn't notice you couldn't yet comment because of the points-system. My deepest apologies! – victoroux Aug 17 '12 at 13:18
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    @Vere Nekoninda, about 'hx' sounding in esperanto and jota en español... I don't call castillan a dialect :-) In my comment I also compared it to 'ch' in german (which is not pronounced the same in all its dialect), and 'ch' in scottish. I was also tempted to compare it to 'h' in chinese, or 'ha' (kha) in arabic. Now I don't think there is very much doubts on the way to pronounce such a sound :-) – Stephane Rolland Aug 19 '12 at 8:46
  • @Stephane Considering that (Standard Castilian) Spanish ⟨j⟩, (Standard) German ⟨ch⟩, and (Standard) Mandarin ⟨h⟩ represent three different sounds, I’m tempted to disagree. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 1 '17 at 16:05

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