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Mutual intelligibility between Slavic languages

Chat in foreign languages or discuss language-learning.

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Location: North Carolina

Post by mehendicant » April 17th, 2012, 1:29 am

Russian is my fourth or fifth language and one of my first non-native languages (the other is German). Once a Polish man came into the church and the Poles who usually attended weren't there, so someone asked me to interpret. I understood about half the words he said, and I felt he understood half of what I said too.

Ukrainian has some vowel shifts which can make it hard for speakers of any other Slavic language to understand. As my second and third languages are French and Spanish, I can intuitively figure out shifts like that, given a few days of listening to the language; but not everyone can do this. Slovak is probably better as an intermediate Slavic language. Slovak, Polish, and Czech all have predictable stress, whereas other Slavic languages do not; two Russian examples are "волна", which means "wool" or "wave" depending on the stress, and "узнаете" (you recognize), which is future or present depending on the stress.

Bulgarian looks most like Russian, having no letter that isn't used in Russian, but grammatically it is the most different from Russian. Bulgarian has complicated the verbs and simplified the nouns, while Russian simplified the verbs and lost only the vocative and the dual of nouns.

As to Germanic languages, it seems to me easier for a German to understand mainland Scandinavian than for an English to understand German. Lots of words came into English from Norman French but didn't spread to the other Germanic languages.

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