Many Romance languages: risk of confusion

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Heredianista

Senior Member
English - USA

~Italian (as spoken by a Spanish-speaker)~

Dear jester,

Here's another funny story, which I just posted in a different thread, but it really belongs here.

When I first moved to Rome from Madrid, I knew very little Italian. Often I could insert Spanish words when I didn't know the Italian ones, and be understood. But that didn't always work.

Once, when I was in the University of Rome, a gentleman approached me and asked me where the History Department was.

I said, "Non lo so; lo sento."

I meant, "No lo sé; lo siento." (I don't know; I'm sorry.)

But what I'd actually said was, "I don't know; I hear it..."

I realized immediately what I had said, but I had no idea how to correct myself. I was just paralyzed. (A horrible experience of impotence!)

So, I just stood there, looking into his eyes, as his face clearly registered the fact that I was clearly a crazy person. Nuts! Someone who "hears" places...

~Genève

Re:

Hello!

First off: I know that confusion of words and grammar often occurs between Romance languages. This is a well-known fact and quite common among learners.

The question is especially directed rather at people who know, let's say, at least three Romance languages (I don't). By "know" I mean that they are at, at least, an intermediate level in learning those three Romance languages.

My question is: How do you handle/avoid confusion between the languages. This question leads to my real question: Is it (or How is it) possible to learn maybe 4, 5, 6 or even more Romance languages?

Personally, I would love to do so (in good time) but I'm a bit concerned about the possible risk of confusion and maybe finally messing up all of these languages.

What do you think about this? How did you manage to learn so many Romance languages without losing track of the differences in grammar and vocabulary?

One of my theories is that one has to learn one language until a certain level and then begin the next one. So, maybe (I actually have no idea about this stuff) there would be different "blocks" in your brain whicht don't intervene with each other so easily if they have been created one after the other.

I hope you understand this obscure theory and I hope that many people can share their experiences (although I know that it is quite much to know 3 or more Romance languages and that there are probably not so many people in this forum who do have the quality for which I'm asking in this interview).
 
  • Heredianista

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Hello!

    First off: I know that confusion of words and grammar often occurs between Romance languages. This is a well-known fact and quite common among learners.

    The question is especially directed rather at people who know, let's say, at least three Romance languages (I don't). By "know" I mean that they are at, at least, an intermediate level in learning those three Romance languages.

    My question is: How do you handle/avoid confusion between the languages. This question leads to my real question: Is it (or How is it) possible to learn maybe 4, 5, 6 or even more Romance languages?

    Personally, I would love to do so (in good time) but I'm a bit concerned about the possible risk of confusion and maybe finally messing up all of these languages.

    What do you think about this? How did you manage to learn so many Romance languages without losing track of the differences in grammar and vocabulary?

    One of my theories is that one has to learn one language until a certain level and then begin the next one. So, maybe (I actually have no idea about this stuff) there would be different "blocks" in your brain whicht don't intervene with each other so easily if they have been created one after the other.

    I hope you understand this obscure theory and I hope that many people can share their experiences (although I know that it is quite much to know 3 or more Romance languages and that there are probably not so many people in this forum who do have the quality for which I'm asking in this interview).
    One thing I have to throw out, here, is that I was horrified, when I started learning Italian (and then Portuguese), that masculinity and femininity are not consistent across Romance languages! I felt absolutely betrayed. I had bought into the idea that things simply WERE masculine, or feminine, period.

    "WHAT DO YOU MEAN, LA BANCA?????" I wanted to scream.

    This — this invocation of doubt, for me, about the masculinity or femininity of a particular noun in a given language, really upset me.

    I ended up making mistakes in Spanish that only a 1st-semester student would make — after decades of fervent, extremely advanced study!

    It just did not seem fair.

    ~ ~ ~

    My last contribution for the moment is the following.

    I had the same doubts and concerns as you express here. So, as a fluent Spanish speaker, my approach to learning new Romance languages was this:

    I moved to Spain to study Italian.

    Then, I moved to Italy to study Portuguese.

    Then I went to live in Brazil for a while, and returned to living in Italy.

    My thought was that this would force me to switch back and forth between one language and another on a daily basis, and get used to doing that.

    In many ways it was extremely helpful.

    For example, by studying Italian in Spain (with a classroom full of only Spaniards), I was formally taught the pitfalls that Spanish-speakers commonly experience in Italian.

    If I had studied Italian in the US, I never would have been made aware of those things.

    Not only that, but in our class 'breaks' I would stand in the hall with my classmates speaking Spanish, then return to Italian class. Then I'd leave Italian class and be in a Spanish-speaking world again. It forced my brain to learn how to do this.

    Same in Italy, with Portuguese. I was formally introduced to the specific and tricky ways in which Portuguese differs from Italian. Or rather, the mistakes that Italian-speakers commonly make in Portuguese.

    And again, I switched back and forth, from one instant to another, between the two languages, over and over and over. I also had a huge community of Brazlian friends in Rome, so I was doing that with them, as well. And I was singing Brazilian music (and continued to do so for about 10 years).

    (Of course there were drawbacks. One day, our Portuguese teacher in Rome (who usually only spoke Portuguese and did not translate anything) translated a vast number of unusual foods and spices from Italian into Portuguese. Since I didn't know most of those words in Italian yet, it didn't do me any good!)

    Finally, I returned to Boston, and became a Spanish and Portuguese Interpreter in Criminal Courts for several years, where I had to switch back and forth between Spanish and Portuguese every day, sometimes several times in one day. That was enormously helpful. And I was able to do that.

    But it was a relatively narrow realm, linguistically. Lots of repetition of the same things, over and over.

    Also I was young and brilliant, then. ;)

    I guess I am just really out of practice in all of my languages at this point, and so I have decided to focus on recovering as much of my Spanish as I can, first.

    But I can definitely tell you – despite the decades I devoted entirely to Spanish, Portuguese and Italian eroded my mastery of Spanish tremendously and permanently.

    Mistakes I never in a million years would ever have made in Spanish, before, are now inevitable for me. And so embarrassing. I want to exclaim, "I knew that once! I really did!" whenever it happens. ;)

    It is a great question you have asked, and well worth asking before you set out to add to your linguistic tool sets.

    My guess is that people who are raised from birth to speak multiple languages end up being able to sustain the ability to retain full fluency in each language and keep each language separate from the others, far more easily than those of us who start later. (Assuming that they continue to speak all their languages regularly.)

    I met a three-year-old boy in Barcelona whose mother was German. He was taking Spanish verbs and conjugating them with German verb-endings. Makes total sense. But I'm sure he worked through that in time, and became fully bilingual, as a native speaker, in both languages (provided he kept up with his German).

    Anyone out there considering this question: Do think carefully about what you really want. Which is more important to you: speaking more than one foreign language, or absolutely mastering one foreign language?

    I made a conscious choice to let my Italian completely go, as much as I am able, so that I have a chance at being coherent in Spanish and Portuguese.

    And now I may choose (as much as it pains me!!!) to let my Portuguese go, in order to regain more of my former breadth and depth and confidence in in my knowledge of Spanish.

    ~genève
     
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    Horazio

    Senior Member
    italian / spanish (bilingual)
    Bilingual spanish/italian checking in:

    Confusion is frequent when handling similar languages, maybe complete mastery of more than two (close) languages is impossible unless one works 24/7 in the comparative lingustics field or something and is constantly tracking down differences and making comparisons....

    But for the average joe, it would be a hell of a lot more impossibler ;-)
    My two cents.
     

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    Don't take my works as criticism, but that sounds pessimistic for the average Catalan (supposedly already bilingual catalan/castilian) learning another Romance language... Still, they do. I would be interested in hearing from them...
     

    lux_

    Senior Member
    But some confusions doesn´t mean you´re not fluent or that you can´t get fluent or reach a good or very level.

    Some confusions can even be meaningless in the whole structure of sentences one is building or in a everyday back and forth.
    Just as an example, If you say "mundo" or "mondo" in both an Italian or Spanish informal conversation, that doesn´t take anything away from what you´re trying to communicate.

    The example above from Heredianista about "lo siento" is just one of the very few cases that a confusion carry a totally different meaning. Actually, I´m sure that if you go around Italy and ask to everyone what "lo siento" means, you will get at least a 50% of correct answers.
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    The greatest risk of confusion is
    1. mixing gendres (o sal vs la sal vs il sale; a cor vs el color; il colore)
    2. pronunciation of e's and o's: standard Portuguese has close vowel in morto, tempo, and gelo; but open in neve; standard Italian has open vowel in morto, tempo, gelo, but close in neve. :)
    3. o vs u (mondo ~ mundo); (curto ~ corto), (lungo ~ longo); and ue vs u (a Brazilian president Collor once said La buemba instead of La bomba when he was in Argentina :))
    4. different accentuation (a polícia vs la policía/polizia; o cérebro vs el cerebro; la/a retina vs la rètina).
    5. false friends :)
     
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    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    If you say "mundo" or "mondo" in both an Italian or Spanish informal conversation, that doesn´t take anything away from what you´re trying to communicate.
    Of course it does.
    Once upon a time, an Italian person asked me my zodiac sign. And I said capricornio :( (Portuguese influence). But, I felt really bad when the person corrected me, and said: it's not capricornio but capricorno. :(

    1. I didn't commit that error because my Italian learning skills were sloppy, but
    2. because of the interference.


    So, while mondo is understood in Spanish and Portuguese, and mundo is understood in Italian; you will likely be corrected by the native speaker and will feel like utter junk like I did in the capricorno case 8 years ago. :mad:
     

    Eroi Del Mare

    Banned
    Italiano
    When i learned Swedish Danish and Norwegian i had the same problems,i was unable to distinguish the three languages,bruge or bruke? ,is it Danish or Norwegian?,slowly i solved the problem,after i begun with German,same problems....allsmäktig or allmächtig? is it German or Swedish?,slowly i solved the problem.I think that confusion is frequent when handling similar languages.
    However,strangely, i have today another problem,i have the tendency to introduce on (my) English words and grammatical rules of the others germanic languages that on English there are not.

    This situation remember me ,an episode of some years ago,it seems that Christina, Queen of Sweden (famous for her capacity to learn languages) when she known the Bernini, she spoke with Bernini mixing italian and french (i m not sure if these was the two languages),maybe because she was still learning italian (??),at some point Bernini stopped her saying:"Who all speaks ,nothing speaks".
     

    Angelo di fuoco

    Senior Member
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    But what does "communicating" mean :confused:?
    Confusions and false cognates can hinder communication. Even between very close languages and cultures having as much in common as Spanish and Portuguese (or Latin American Spanish and Brasilian... oh, whatever :)).

    At least in my experience with three Romance languages, the more you practise a language, the less confusions you will have in that language. Yet like plants, languages need watering... and learning a new language should not drive your attention away from the other one(s) you already speak.
    I learned three Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish) whilst in school (Italian on my own, and largely through listening to opera), studied them for some time all together and rarely confused them (only little things like como/come, and some Gallicisms in my Italian grammar) even if I had e. g. first French then Spanish and then Italian class one after another.

    From time to time I listen to music, watch films and read books in both French and Italian, but I've let active practice, i. e. speaking, go a little bit (writing is OK because I know the grammar very well and can cross-check in dictionaries in the internet and on the bookshelf) and have some problems to recover fluency when I sporadically meet French or Italians - although I suspect this would be better if I had more practice in all Romance languages.

    I started Portuguese and am quite confident when reading contemporary Portuguese, even it the author is as difficult as Saramago, although I haven't had much conversation and listening practice and haven't yet understood some trickier points as the use of the gerund (with and without "em") and the position of the clitic pronouns around the infinitive. Even so, I managed somehow to go through the Portuguese period without bigger interferences.

    Now, I'm studying Spanish and recently (two months ago) have begun Catalan. I'm getting a little bit crazy: although all three languages that I learned previously help me a great deal in terms of vocabulary, I must say Spanish is getting me in trouble because I confuse endings in written Catalan. I just can't get into my brain that female -a gives -es in plural. This is the more confusing because in standard, i. e., Eastern Catalan, spoken e. g. in Barcelona, where my Catalan teacher is from, not accented "e" and "a" are pronounced in a way that makes them very difficult to distinguish one from another. I'm also having a hard time making clear which consonants are not pronounced in which position in words like
    - prendre (first "r" mute in the infinitive, but pronounced in all the other forms)
    - aquest ("s" mute), but in the female form "aquesta" the "s" is pronounced
    - "t" in final position after "n" and probably some other cases like "molt" (I don't have a dictionary yet and can't be very sure of my listening skills in such fine points because reading influences hearing sometimes)
    - is the second "l" in "malaltia" pronounced or mute?

    And, finally, is there any chance of my getting it right a day or am I bound to make those confusions eternally? I am planning to spend my semester abroad in a Catalan-speaking area...
     
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    McBabe

    Senior Member
    English- British
    I think it's hard not to confuse certain romance languages, but others are fine. For example, I speak French, Portuguese, Italian and a bit of Spanish, and I never confuse French and Italian or French and Portuguese. My Portuguese is stronger than my Italian, so if I switch from speaking Italian to Portuguese I can cope, but the other way round can be a nightmare! Especially with common words that exist in both...

    Eg: So voglio una merenda= (in my brain!) I just want a snack. = (in real life) I know, I want a snack. Not the worst mistake in the world but still not great.

    The same goes with ha!

    Ha' molta gente qui = (in my brain) There are many people here. = (in real life) It has many people here. Although interestingly enough 'there is/are' in Portuguese could also be 'tem' (it has).

    I often Italicise Portuguese words to make them Italian and it often works- just watch for gender (eg: aranha is not ragna but ragnO- horrible things!)

    I think it depends what kind of learner you are. I've not masssively had problems doing all 3 at the same time, but then maybe if I'd just concentrated on one at a time I'd be better in all of them by now? Who knows, it shall be an experiment!

    There are some than I think can't mix though, like Spanish and Portuguese. It depends of course what you want to use them for, but I am a translator/interpreter, and I knew I'd have to choose between Spanish and Portuguese because they are too similar to speak both to an extremely high level...for most people anyway! :D If I were you I'd choose Portuguese ;)
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    There are dialectal differences, CHANCE is used both in Portuguese and Argentinian Spanish, but it's not in Peninuslar Spanish (I've been corrected by a Spaniard when I used chance...he corrected me saying: ¡posibilidad!).
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    No. Not really, for me, at least. I've studied every Romance Language except Romanian. In one way or another they all help me as a whole, reading, gaining vocabulary,sharpening grammar, understanding, seeing links. Perhaps not pronunciation, of course, as they all have their own feel. French is most certainly pronounced 200% differently from Spanish. But that aspect can be surmounted. There are also those words that are different, or slightly different, more or less old fashioned in one language or another, but if I make a point in studying I don't really confuse them. The advantages far outweigh the inconveniences. It helps 80% or 90% of the time. I have a feel of what can be transposed from one language to another and it works 80-90%. I actually have started seeing Romance Languages as broad dialects of one another. I'll say to people fenouil and hinojo are the same exact word, and they look at me like I'm from outer space, and I'll say... Yes, it's so clear. More than one RL, sharpens awareness in the other. Achieving and then keeping at your 100% in all RL is tough maybe impossible, but I must say I've never striven to be taken for an Italian , Catalan or Portuguese national. Read, write, speak, interact, talk, listen, translate at 90%+ is a good general goal for me.
    I have tried to tackle Latin several times but I have always failed. It should be the missing link for me to really excel in all of them. The mother from which all the "dialects" sprung. Yet, it doesn't jump out at me, so to speak. I know of it now, but I still don't know it. It's at 2%.
    Romance languages keep me from learning other languages too. I've tried German, Dutch and Russian, but they've never taken off. Maybe on a good day I can understand directions to the train station and order a meal in a German restaurant, but it stops there.
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Angelo del Fuoco said:
    Now, I'm studying Spanish and recently (two months ago) have begun Catalan. I'm getting a little bit crazy: although all three languages that I learned previously help me a great deal in terms of vocabulary, I must say Spanish is getting me in trouble because I confuse endings in written Catalan. I just can't get into my brain that female -a gives -es in plural. This is the more confusing because in standard, i. e., Eastern Catalan, spoken e. g. in Barcelona, where my Catalan teacher is from, not accented "e" and "a" are pronounced in a way that makes them very difficult to distinguish one from another. I'm also having a hard time making clear which consonants are not pronounced in which position in words like
    - prendre (first "r" mute in the infinitive, but pronounced in all the other forms)
    - aquest ("s" mute), but in the female form "aquesta" the "s" is pronounced
    - "t" in final position after "n" and probably some other cases like "molt" (I don't have a dictionary yet and can't be very sure of my listening skills in such fine points because reading influences hearing sometimes)
    - is the second "l" in "malaltia" pronounced or mute?
    This is why the -a singular, -es plural didn't mess with me. Strong unstressed /a/ was weakened to a schwa in French and then became written as "e". Unstressed "e" is thus etymologically "a" and é, è, ê, ai are etymologically "e". This schwa eventually became so weak in northern France it dropped. La porte / Les portes. In Catalan, some similar process weakened the /a/ too but they kept the -a for the end of the word (don't know why but it doesn't matter) and -e before another consonant m,s,n etc. It's thus a spelling rule but the same thing. All the other strange spelling rules in Catalan derive from that "platja-platges", "blanc, blanca, blanques". Orally it's all the same Spanish a, Catalan a, es, and French e, es. For the other cases, it's possible to pronounce them and you'll find someone doing it. Otherwise, three consonants in a row drop the middle one, final t out of 2 consonants drop if you choose, for s of aquest (I think of Spanish e'te chico and it seems logical and coherent). Malalt, alt, dalt drops t which is a favorite to drop in final position whenever possible (but not everyone does it) and it reappears before a vowel in liaison Malaltia. Another one is when French has a nasal vowel the n disappears in Catalan "vin, vi... Catalan, català". Or when you cut off a Spanish -o and the consonant goes voiceless but reappears in the feminine "lobo vivo - llop viu, lloba viva, llobes vives" Many of these silent- non-silent rules don't really matter as Catalan has many dialects and people are really laid back on pronunciations and others still think it should be pronounced the way it's written. All rules will be broken by someone. I can't explain "prendre" but you just have to know it has to do with the infinitive and effects "aprendre etc".
    This is how my mind works in RL but I know it's imperfect not very dogmatic. I can't prove any real link but it works for me.´

    @ Angelo. Just realized this thread is really old so you certainly know all this by now. I'll leave it for posterity though :)
     
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    Angelo di fuoco

    Senior Member
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Have been wanting to reply for some time, but didn't get the chance to do it...

    Yes, my Catalan is now definitely better than it was last year, I've even been reading Catalan literature in the original language, but thank you nonetheless.
    First: "ai" in French in most of the cases derives from "a" or another vowel via diphthongisation (as in "vaincre", "plaindre", "declinaison" or "millionnaire") or, more rarely, from the disappearing of the consonant between a & i (I had an example in my mind which I can't come up with right now, but perhaps you can find one). There are particular cases like the verbs connaître or paraître where we have a change of vowels combined with disappeared consonants, but anyway the diphtongisation of "a" is the most frequent way to get "ai" in French.
    On the topic of the mute consonants: it was one of the first things I asked when I came into the advanced class last autumn, being the only student and thus able to establish my own pace and, to some degree, the way to handle some topics.
    There are some rules that say that "t" isn't pronounced in final position after "l" & "n", and I have heard some cases when it's not pronounced after "r" (although this isn't standard in none dialect, as for all I know). The "s" in "aquest" is an exception stemming perhaps from the difficult pronunciation of the plural "aquests", the first "r" in "prendre" most probably due to the "r" of the infinitive ending. The orthographical change of the plural vowel "a" -> "e" is one which bothered me for quite a long time, but it was due to the fact that I approached the "bridge language" Catalan from the Spanish side, not from the French side, and, by the way, neither of them has this vowel difference between singular and plural, it's either -a, as or -e, -es in either language. I know that unstressed and stressed "e" in French (almost always) derives from Latin a, but in Catalan this is a matter of correspondence between spelling and speaking: Eastern Catalan doesn't make the difference in pronunciation between unstressed a & e and if we have this spelling rule for singular and plural numbers now we have to thank Pompeu Fabra and the Western dialects for it. The arbitrarity of this rule is shown by some family names that retain the old spelling it's Corominas, not Coromines, and it does not only affect the plural forms, but also unstressed vowels in other positions: when I first heard the verb "escoltar" i didn't know whether to spell the first vowel it like in Italian (ascoltare) or Spanish and French (escuchar, écouter). As I have fount out, this distinction between "a" and "e" in unstressed syllables is also a major source for orthographical errors for native speakers of Eastern Catalan dialects.
     

    uchi.m

    Banned
    Brazil, Portuguese
    I'm impressed by the fact there are so many people fluent in a dozen Romance languages around here... I still struggle with the differences between my dialect of Brazilian Portuguese and other ones, even though being Brazil a single country... no wonder European Portuguese, or, say, Azorean!
     

    Giulia2213

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Okay, besides French, I have learnt English, Italian and Modern Greek.

    I know that this topic is more geared towards Romance languages, but confusions happen to me with Italian and Modern Greek.
    Despite both have very different grammar, I sometimes confuse Italian and Modern Greek because they have quite a common vocabulary.
    The funniest is when I start my sentence in Italian and I finish it in Modern Greek. Thankfully, not many people realize the problem.
    It happens when I am very tired and not under my beloved ADHD medication.

    Strangely, it does not happen between French and Italian. I think it has a lot of to do with the phonological structure.
    Greek and Italian phonological structure are much more similar than French and Italian phonological structure of words, so it explains also why I can mix up Greek and Italian languages easier than French and Italian.
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    I agree with merquiades, better to have a little confusion but learning the languages, than studying a non-Romance language, with all the difficulties, different vocabulary and grammar.
    To me, except English of course, non-Romance languages have never attract me very much, I just think it would be too laborious for me, as I'm studying something else (not languages) as a major at the university. But right now at the university I'm also taking a course of Japanese. :)

    I studied French for 3 years at middle school (scuola media), I was quite good, then in high school I forgot most of it since I didn't practice it much.
    Then I learnt Spanish by myself playing at the online game Gunbound Latino, and looking at some grammar on the Internet, and chatting with some Spanish friends.
    Then I started learning Portuguese. I was practising the language with Brazilians, at first I spoke Portuñol, i.e. Portuguese with a lot of Spanish words.
    Sometimes even Portunholiano, i.e Portuguese + Spanish + Italiano. For example, once I said "Você coloca o perro no cortile?".

    Then my Portuguese improved, and my Spanish got worse. Now it's the other way around, when I speak Spanish I would put a lot of Portuguese words. Once I said to a Spanish friend: "volto pra casa" without thinking, and she didn't understand me, and also said "depois" instead of "despues".

    But even now that my Portuguese had improved, occasionaly I still mix it up with Spanish words such as mentras, sonrisa, pero, mala (em vez de má), nadie (em vez de ninguém).
    Or I mix Italian words, thought they are not due to confusion, but to ignorance of the Portuguese words, assuming that it was the same (false friends).
     

    Ingrained

    Member
    Spanish - Buenos Aires
    Hi, jester. I tell you my linguistic background and then I reply to you. I'm from Argentina so my mother tongue is Spanish. I am an English teacher and I'm studying to become an Italian teacher. I have studied Portuguese, German and Russian but for a short while. I have also studied French.

    I have studied English, Italian and German at the same time.

    I think that you should study one of them first and when you have acquired an intermediate level you might start with another. It might be difficult if you study all of them at the same time.

    The problem is that, even native speakers of Romance languages that have studied for a short while another Romance language start inventing words when they want to speak that language. Many people in Argentina say that they speak Italian or Portuguese but they do not really know the language.

    You might confuse the languages at first but once you have studied for a while the new language, you will spot the differences. I don't think your theory is obscure. I think it's accurate.

    Why do you want to learn all the Romance languages?

    I hope this answer is useful.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    At least in my experience with three Romance languages, the more you practise a language, the less confusions you will have in that language. Yet like plants, languages need watering... and learning a new language should not drive your attention away from the other one(s) you already speak.
    I agree. Through French I can read a Catalan text and get a good idea of what's going on; if I actively studied it, I'm sure I would grasp it quite quickly. Italian is harder, but I could probably grasp the overall picture without necessarily understanding the specifics, ditto for Spanish.

    Romanian is a total mystery however, I cannot make head nor tail of it, either in its written or spoken format.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Romanian is a total mystery however, I cannot make head nor tail of it, either in its written or spoken format.
    I haven't studied Romanian but I did investigate it once. When you take notice of very different structures like varying word order, attaching articles after the noun and making phonetic changes... like if in French you said garçol and fila instead of le garçon and la fille.... and apply routine sound changes from Latin like /k/ becomes /p/ , /d/ to /z/ and o, u dipthongize to become /oa/ it doesn't seem quite so impossible anymore. zi bunâ, noapte bunâ... good day, good night
     

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    I do understand some Romanian, though I need to concentrate. My slight advantage is that I can also make the Slavic part of the Romanian vocabulary out. But some parts will remain totally obscure to me unless (until? not now... no time left) I decide to study Romanian formally. Italian and Catalan would be easier for me: I have been more exposed to the former, but I suppose that with both Castilian and French, I would grasp Catalan quickly.

    Strangely, one of my relatives who is an interpreter (Spanish-French) cannot understand a single Romanian word. "Todo o nada". Go figure.
     
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    Angelo di fuoco

    Senior Member
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Je trouve curieux que, lorsque je me mis à étudier le catalan, j'ai trouvé utile non seulement la connaissance de l'espagnol et du français, mais aussi de l'italien.
    En Roumain, je trouve plus simple la part slave (je ne connais pas l'évolution phonologique, mais cela peut tromper, puisqu'il y a beaucoup de faux amis. Évidemment, la langue écrite est plus simple que la langue parlée.
     

    Vanda

    Moderesa de Beagá
    Português/ Brasil
    Quoting Ingrained:
    The problem is that, even native speakers of Romance languages that have studied for a short while another Romance language start inventing words when they want to speak that language. Many people in Argentina say that they speak Italian or Portuguese but they do not really know the language.
    Como você pode falar uma coisa assim? Acredito que os argentinos fazem como os brasileiros: falam um portuñol perfeito! :p
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    zi bunâ bună ziua, noapte bună... good day, good night
    And don't forget 'bună dimineaţa' for the early morning!
    Too bad. I've been to Romania for 20 days for the EU Leonardo project, took a Romanian course, and have nearly forgotten everything.
    Romanian is slightly easier for Italian speakers than other Romance languages speakers, I guess. It's easier for Italians to understand la revedere (very similar sounding to arrivederci) for example.
    Also, in a speech we were able to grasp the general meaning! We were surprised! And sometimes we don't understand them, but they understand Italian. So I think it's sort of one way intelligibility.
    It's surprising that a lot of people there also speak a little Italian. Maybe because Italy is their favorite emigration destination. Many people we met have actually lived in Italy for some years.
     

    ampurdan

    Senior Member
    Català & español (Spain)
    After all, Romanian and Italian belong to the same subdivision of the Romance languages, making plural by changing the vowel, rather than adding an "s".
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Other examples.
    Romanian: strada; Italian: strada; French: rue; Spanish: calle; Portuguese: rua.
    Romanian: noi, voi; Italian: noi, voi; French: nous, vous; Spanish: nosotros, vosotros; Portuguese: nós, vós/vocês.
     

    Angelo di fuoco

    Senior Member
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    As for all I know, when the Romanians took to getting rid of slavisms and the Cyrillic script, they looked for model in both the French and the Italian language (and spelling).
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    I'm impressed by the fact there are so many people fluent in a dozen Romance languages around here... I still struggle with the differences between my dialect of Brazilian Portuguese and other ones, even though being Brazil a single country... no wonder European Portuguese, or, say, Azorean!
    It is probably easier to find written documentation on various languages than various dialects within one language and country. But it is also a matter of routine: Once you have learned the first couple of languages, you'd (hopefully) have developed certain methods of learning and also gained a lot of knowledge about structures in a language.
     

    ACQM

    Senior Member
    Spain - Spanish
    I agree. Through French I can read a Catalan text and get a good idea of what's going on; if I actively studied it, I'm sure I would grasp it quite quickly. Italian is harder, but I could probably grasp the overall picture without necessarily understanding the specifics, ditto for Spanish.

    Romanian is a total mystery however, I cannot make head nor tail of it, either in its written or spoken format.
    My mother tongue is Spanish and I am a native in Catalan, too. I used to study French for some time at school, now I can manage in a conversation, I can understand most of it if the speaker is talking to me (movies or TV are much more difficult), it feels obvious. When I have to talk in French it gets easier if I translate it or think it from Catalan, not from Spanish. Spanish makes it easier with Portuguese and Italian, even I've never studied any of those.
     

    Guajara-Mirim

    Senior Member
    Français
    I have learned Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Catalan and Romanian, and indeed, it can be confusing sometimes (although Romanian and French are harder to confuse, in my opinion). I myself, although I am a native Portuguese speaker, many times confuse it with Spanish, the language that is the closest to it in this group. I would say that I'm fluent in all those languages, and confusion still sometimes occurs, but not that often, though.

    After a certain time, you basically expect certain endings in a given Romance language's word even if you have never seen the word, but based on previous lexical experiences you've had. The endings also help you to keep them apart: Portuguese -dade, Spanish -dad, Italian -tà, French -té, Catalan -tat, Romanian -tate.

    I would suggest doing as has been pointed out before. Only when you're really comfortable with one Romance language should you embark on the next one, otherwise chances are there will be a big mess in your head. This, by the way, happened to me when I was learning Swedish after Danish, I couldn't keep them apart anymore. But since I prefer Swedish, I decided to study it a little bit more and go back to Danish when I was able to better distinguish them.

    I, for example, sometimes have to think how to say nomad. I have to stop and think that it's nômade in Portuguese (although nômada also exists, but less used in my neck of the woods), nómada in Spanish (nómade also exists, but less common) and nomade in Italian. :confused: This especially happens to words that I don't use every day.


    It can also take the infinitive in Portuguese (espero ver-te amanhã) and Spanish (espero verte mañana). You must be referring to something else.


    I just gave you a counterexample above. ;)
    Acho o que você disse muito interessante Jazyk.
     
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    frog1gsu

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am a native English speaker and know French, Spanish and Italian. My problem is primarily mixing up Spanish with Italian - I found these two languages impossible to keep apart - one simply pushes the other out of the brain. This could be because I have not taken either language to a totally fluent level, or because I haven't practiced them simultaneously. I found that going to Spain and talking, and then to Italy and talking, all - and I mean all - my Spanish was forgotten - until I got back to Spain again and it all came back to the detriment of my Italian. I never mixed up French with either two, and guess it's something one could practice.

    As for learning the two languages, I would definitely recommend concentrating on one at a time until you are reasonably proficient.
     

    frog1gsu

    Senior Member
    British English
    Me parece que por los ingleses los dos idomas se resemblen mucho - porque la intonacion y la pronunciacion son bastante similares. Pero no les gustaba a los italianos cuando les hablaba en espanol - eso es verdad! Sino es increible como olvide el espanol, que aprendia desde hace 6 anos cuando me fui por primera vez en italia. No me recordaba por ejemplo de la palabra espanola para "chair" o "table" - y tampoco puedo acordarme de ellas ahora!
    Sin embargo, me parecia en aquel tiempo que la gramatica italiana se resemblo mas a la gramatica francesa y eso me ayudo mucho. Si conoces el espanol y el frances, puedes aprender el italiano facilmente, segun me. Cual lengua sera la mas bonita - eso no puedo decir. Salud!
     

    frog1gsu

    Senior Member
    British English
    Si, pero cuando lo dices no puedo recordarme de estas palabras en italiano - no es en broma! Tabella y ? Estaba en una peluqueria y me confondo capello con pelo. El espanol que me cortaba el pelo me ha coregido. No se como puedas (?) decir que estos idiomas no son muy parecidos en el vocabulario tanto como en la pronunciacion. Las culturas claro pueden ser muy distintas, pero por mi, como ingles, los dos idiomas son muy parecidos. Duro seis anos para aprender el espanol y tres meses para aprender el italiano. Claro que depiende de tu perspectiva..
     

    Guajara-Mirim

    Senior Member
    Français
    Si, pero cuando lo dices no puedo recordarme de estas palabras en italiano - no es en broma! Tabella y ? Estaba en una peluqueria y me confondo capello con pelo. El espanol que me cortaba el pelo me ha coregido. No se como puedas (?) decir que estos idiomas no son muy parecidos en el vocabulario tanto como en la pronunciacion. Las culturas claro pueden ser muy distintas, pero por mi, como ingles, los dos idiomas son muy parecidos. Duro seis anos para aprender el espanol y tres meses para aprender el italiano. Claro que depiende de tu perspectiva..
    En realidad, no podemos decir que el italiano y el castellano son dos idiomas parecidos. Claro que hay muchas palabras que se parecen pero esto es debido a la influencia latina que ambos idiomas tuvieron. A diferencia, el castellano y el portugués son dos idiomas parecidos, es decir, que ambas lenguas tienen palabras (con los verbos) que se parecen pues, son intelegibles. No creo que es el caso con el italiano. La unica cosa que cambia entre portugués y castellano es la fonología y algunos falsos cognatos.
     

    frog1gsu

    Senior Member
    British English
    Es seguramente correcto lo que dice Usted. Lo que quiero decir es que por los ingleses nativos hay menos diferencias entre el italiano y el castellano que, por ejemplo, entre el aleman y el castellano, o el frances y el espanol. Yo por mi caso no confundia el frances con el espanol pero el italiano y el castellano si. Tiene que ver con la pronunciacion y sobre todo con la intonacion que a nuestros nos parecen bastante parecidas. Por un italiano, por ejemplo, eso no seria el caso.
    Ademas, me gustaria saber si el ingles se parece al aleman por un espanol nativo? Como suena el ingles en comparicion con el aleman?
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    A friend of mine lived a lot of years in Italy and could speak basic Italian. Then she moved to Brasil.
    When she came back to Italy, she forgot Italian at all. She would speak Portuguese to everybody, like "quero uma água tónica por favor", "espera", etc.
     

    Guajara-Mirim

    Senior Member
    Français
    Es seguramente correcto lo que dice Usted. Lo que quiero decir es que por los ingleses nativos hay menos diferencias entre el italiano y el castellano que, por ejemplo, entre el aleman y el castellano, o el frances y el espanol. Yo por mi caso no confundia el frances con el espanol pero el italiano y el castellano si. Tiene que ver con la pronunciacion y sobre todo con la intonacion que a nuestros nos parecen bastante parecidas. Por un italiano, por ejemplo, eso no seria el caso.
    Ademas, me gustaria saber si el ingles se parece al aleman por un espanol nativo? Como suena el ingles en comparicion con el aleman?
    Puedes tutearme. :) Si quieres saber, nosotros franceses, entiendemos bien lo que dicen los hispanohablantes (no nos cuesta mucho de saber lo que dicen debe ser debido a la fonología tal vez), solamente hemos de aprender a hacer la diferencia entre la "jota" y la "r" y las diéresis que cambian la pronunciacion. Creo que tomar una lengua de origen Germanica mucha dificultad de comprension por un hispanohablante. Yo sé que algunas veces me gusta hacer comparaciones entre las palabras Anglosajonas, ejemplo: water (inglés), wasser (aleman), good morning, guten morgen...
     

    frog1gsu

    Senior Member
    British English
    Me puso 10 anos para aprender el aleman y pienso que hay diferencias muy importantes entre el aleman y el ingles. Muchisimas palabras no son parecidas. Diria que tenia mas dificultad para aprender el aleman que el frances - pero ya aprendia el frances a la escuela cuando era nino. Sin embargo creo que el aleman es mas dificial para un ingles que el frances - o sea me gusta mas el frances y por eso me parecia menos dificil. Una pregunta que me interesa: el ingles es un idoma dificil o facil? Si conoces el aleman, me puedes decir cual de los dos es el mas dificil.
     

    Guajara-Mirim

    Senior Member
    Français
    Me puso 10 anos para aprender el aleman y pienso que hay diferencias muy importantes entre el aleman y el ingles. Muchisimas palabras no son parecidas. Diria que tenia mas dificultad para aprender el aleman que el frances - pero ya aprendia el frances a la escuela cuando era nino. Sin embargo creo que el aleman es mas dificial para un ingles que el frances - o sea me gusta mas el frances y por eso me parecia menos dificil. Una pregunta que me interesa: el ingles es un idoma dificil o facil? Si conoces el aleman, me puedes decir cual de los dos es el mas dificil.
    Me ha gustado lo que has escrito frog. Para mí que hablo una lengua de origen latina, en mi caso el francés, aunque no sea la unica que hablo desde mi niñez (el portugués la hablaba con mis abuelos y mi padre), puedo decirte que tengo mucho más dificultad de hablar el alemán, solamente porque ésta difiere mucho del francés. A diferencia, las otras lenguas como el castellano, el português, el gallego puedo hablarlas sin vacilar porque se acercan más de mi madre lengua por sus origenes. Ahora, el inglés me suena más bonito que el alemán al oír aunque tengo algunas dificultades a pronunciarlo (conozco bien las formas para expresarse de manera natural). Cuando yo veo la gente de mi clase, se diría que les parece imposible de expresarse en inglés usando las buenas estructuras utilizadas en el habla (no veo por qué). Te ríes si me ves hablar inglés. :D
     
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    Guajara-Mirim

    Senior Member
    Français
    I have learned Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Catalan and Romanian, and indeed, it can be confusing sometimes (although Romanian and French are harder to confuse, in my opinion). I myself, although I am a native Portuguese speaker, many times confuse it with Spanish, the language that is the closest to it in this group. I would say that I'm fluent in all those languages, and confusion still sometimes occurs, but not that often, though.

    After a certain time, you basically expect certain endings in a given Romance language's word even if you have never seen the word, but based on previous lexical experiences you've had. The endings also help you to keep them apart: Portuguese -dade, Spanish -dad, Italian -tà, French -té, Catalan -tat, Romanian -tate.

    I would suggest doing as has been pointed out before. Only when you're really comfortable with one Romance language should you embark on the next one, otherwise chances are there will be a big mess in your head. This, by the way, happened to me when I was learning Swedish after Danish, I couldn't keep them apart anymore. But since I prefer Swedish, I decided to study it a little bit more and go back to Danish when I was able to better distinguish them.

    I, for example, sometimes have to think how to say nomad. I have to stop and think that it's nômade in Portuguese (although nômada also exists, but less used in my neck of the woods), nómada in Spanish (nómade also exists, but less common) and nomade in Italian. :confused: This especially happens to words that I don't use every day.


    It can also take the infinitive in Portuguese (espero ver-te amanhã) and Spanish (espero verte mañana). You must be referring to something else.


    I just gave you a counterexample above. ;)
    Esqueci-me de lhe perguntar algo: você se confunde quando fala português juntando palavras castelhanas? :D
     

    Guajara-Mirim

    Senior Member
    Français
    No es sorprendente que entiende español si es lusitanohablante.
    Nacido francés, he estado hablando castellano sin aprenderlo, sin tener educación formal. Puedo entenderlo pero no enteramente. @Frog1gsu, me olvidé de decirte algo que puede interesarte, hasta palabras inglesas entraron en la lengua castellana, ejemplo: vosotros Anglosajones tenéis una expresión como high-born en castellano es jaibón (traducido así por los hispanos, stuck-up si quieres).
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    From an Italian point of view I'd say that Romanian is the most different language.
    The majority of the prepositions and conjunctions are different (perchè/pourquoi/porque and pentru că, sopra/sur/sobre and pe, and so on), the enclitic definite arcticle, the oblique case (in this case the feminine singular nouns have the same ending of the plural form), the vocative case, most words derive from slavic languages.
    I'm a native Italian speaker and I studied English and French (the latter only in school for pupils aged 11 - 14) and I'd say that French is the closest language for grammar (to be and to have as auxiliary verbs, particles en/ne and y/ci, past participle agrees in similar cases with subject or pronominal direct object) and vocabulary (mangiare/manger vs comer, parlare/parler from Latin parabolare vs hablar/falar from Latin fabulare, volere/vouloir vs querer ecc..) but this similarities are overcame by a very different phonology.
    Later I studied by myself Spanish and Portuguese. I can say that, phonologically speaking, Spanish is the closest language (followed by Brazilian Portuguese, French and European Portuguese). In fact, I can undestand pretty well TVE, followed by France24 (maybe because I studied it at school) but when I watch RTP I can't get almost nothing. I can't undestrand Romanian television too.
    In written language French is the closest, followed by Spanish or Portuguese and (at last) Romanian.
     
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    ampurdan

    Senior Member
    Català & español (Spain)
    Catalan is in grammar ("en" and "hi", in some cases past participle agrees with subject or pronominal direct object, to be as auxiliary in old regional language) and basic vocabulary (menjar, parlar) quite as close as French to Italian and I think it's phonologically very similar to some Italian dialects with vowel reduction. In my limited experience, Italians find spoken Spanish easier to understand than spoken Catalan, maybe because they are not used to this last feature.
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    My Italian friend from Bologna has told me that during his journey in Spain he had no communication problems with Spaniards, but he could not understand the spoken Catalan. (I suppose, he can't eighter understand the spoken Portuguese). He can understand the spoken French, to a certain degree. Another example: once we have been watching together a Mexican tv (something like the CNN, but in Spanish, I don't remember it's name), and sometimes he really understood better the news in Spanish than myself (he speaks only Italian, the "Bulgnais" dialect and a bit French, that he learnt at the elementary school, while I do speak Spanish [to a certain degree] ...)
     
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