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The romance languges

hi yeah so i know the romance languages are all related but i want to know how much 1 person of a romance languages can understand of the other romance languages k by

June 5, 2017



Given: Romance languages: French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.

  • French versus Italian: close
  • French versus Spanish: not so close
  • French versus Portuguese: not so close
  • French versus Romanian: not so close

  • Italian versus French: close

  • Italian versus Spanish: close
  • Italian versus Portuguese: not so close
  • Italian versus Romanian: not so close

  • Portuguese versus French: not so close

  • Portuguese versus Italian: not so close
  • Portuguese versus Spanish: very close
  • Portuguese versus Romanian: not so close

  • Romanian versus French: not so close

  • Romanian versus Italian: not so close
  • Romanian versus Portuguese: not so close
  • Romanian versus Spanish: not so close

  • Spanish versus French: not so close

  • Spanish versus Italian: close
  • Spanish versus Portuguese: very close
  • Spanish versus Romanian: not so close


ok its interesting how it can go out 1 ear but not the other


E.g. typically (most of) the words (vocabulary) are (very) different if 2 languages are not so close.

But e.g. between Spanish and Italian there are quite a few similar grammatical constructs and or vocabulary. So considered close to each other.

E.g. words (vocabulary) in Spanish and Portuguese are equal very often, so very close to each other.


Depends on the languages. There's a lot of mutual intelligibility between Portuguese and Galician, for instance, but not so much between Italian and Romanian.


And then there's Sardinian.


yeah i herd that Sardinian is the closest language to latin


Italian and Romanian do have some degree of intelligibility, but mostly in one direction: Romanians understand Italian much better than the other way around.

[deactivated user]

    It depends of the native language.I can tell it form my point of view (i'm italian):

    Romanian: despite i have never studied it, i had the chance to listen several times romanian and.... it is probably the most language far from italian, i cannot understand ANYTHING.

    French: probably is behind romanian, despite France and Italy are near geographically, we cannot say the same for the language. I mean, if we see a text we can guess a lot of things (but probably because of english; nowadays we start soon to learn english) however, if a french start to talk....nope, it is hard to follow because pronunciation is totally far from ours ( like their nasal sounds, which for us don't exist).We can guess something but not always.As i said before english could have modified my point of view of"recognize french", if it wouldn't for that, probably is even worse.Let's say at the end that we understand more the writing than the listening.

    Portuguese: it depends which version of portuguese in my opinion. From my point of view, we can guess more portuguese from Portugal (the sounds are "almost" the same) but not much brazilian portuguese (because sounds may change in some words). But i'm sure of one thing, protuguese is surely one of the most language close to italian.

    Spanish: the first language we can understand "easily".If they talk slowly, we can understand what they say (the same for them xD) but i have to say that italian is a language that stay in the middle of french and spanish, we have words from both parts and maybe sometimes we cannot understand, at least not at the first attempt (for example the verb to eat in italian is mangiare, in french is manger but in spanish is comer).

    Now i try to say the same thing but from a spanish speaker point of view, because spanish and italian phonetic is almost the same.Maybe i'm wrong, but this is my impression.

    Romanian: it's still far from the list.

    French: the same thing i wrote before: words are similar but pronunciation makes the thing hard.

    Italian: i would have said this before i have started to study portuguese but now i can confirm that italian is not the closest but portuguese.They can guess most of the things but rarely not.

    Portuguese: i would say before portuguese from Brazil, many words are written in the same way, but pronunciation is different but maybe they can guess with some attempts... I give you an example (since you are doing italian, keep in mind for a moment the italian pronunciation ok?) book -> SP libro -> BZ PT livro (but the last letter is a U) it is only a stupid example, but many words in brazilian portuguese have this rule, making the thing a bit hard.While portuguese from Portugal i surely the "closest" to be understood. When i've started to study brazilian portguese, i was really impressed, only looking at the text, it is easy to guess the meaning of sentences because portugese has a lot in common with spanish.


    That's interesting. A Romanian coworker told me that Romanians can understand Italian much better than the other way round. Italian is very easy for Romanians but Romanian is hard for Italians. He lived in Italy for a while.

    [deactivated user]

      I find interesting the thing they can understand us but not the contrary. When i heard it for the first time i thought "oh gosh is it romanian? It reminds me polish or russian" .I don't know... it has something "slavic" in it. Even watching the written part, i can't recognize anything...but i wonder now how much they can recognize in other romance languages, for example spanish. After all spanish is really close to italian.


      yeah i looked at Romanian and i think its because of all of that Slavic influnce


      Regarding French and Italian, the similarities don't have anything to do with english, rather it's our common roots that means that we share a lot of vocabulary (as we do to a lesser extent with the rest of the romance languages).

      See for instance french "année" with italian "anno" and english "year". Clearly we can't really blame english for that one. In fact the reason we have many cognates with english is because of the heavy influence of french and latin on the english vocabulary, not the other way around.

      But you're right about pronunciation, that's the crux of the issue. Being french I can guess the meaning of italian texts most of the time, but I'd have a very hard time understanding somebody speaking italian to me. The blame for that lies mostly on the french side though, our pronunciation is a bit bonkers compared to other romance languages. Italian is a lot more phonetic in comparison. I've heard some people say "french is what happen when you try to teach Celts to speak latin". It's a bit of an oversimplification but there's some truth to it.

      I think this video does a pretty good job of highlighting the similarities and differences between italian and french: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrlycViTavE

      [deactivated user]

        What i wanted to say before, is the similarities for the terms, not the language in general. Nowadays we start soon to learn english, and this helps alot to recognize faster the many words that french has (and don't tell me that english words are not similar to french and viceversa xD) and surely italian helps a lot to increase more the learning of the language. I'm not saying that english is a shortcut to french but is a sort of lifesaver (but only for the writing).Maybe for me is normal to think that english helps, because i have learnt english before than french, probably i would have said another things if had happened the countrary.


        Portuguese speakers can understand Spanish and Italian speakers very well, Italian speakers can understand Portuguese and Spanish too, although not perfectly but French and Romanian aren't that close to the others because of other influences they received


        Studying Italian let me understand Spanish a bit, but not Portuguese.

        Studying Spanish as well still hasn't helped at all with understanding Portuguese.


        Portuguese phonology is a lot more complex than Spanish even though the written forms are often very close. There are many more sounds in Portuguese. To me it sounds a bit like a mix of Spanish and French (European Portuguese does at least).

        I'm french and last year I've traveled through Spain and Portugal, not knowing any Spanish or Portuguese. In Spain when people talked to me I could often catch some words here and there to get a general meaning of what the person was talking about. In Portugal I wouldn't understand a single word of what the locals were saying.


        Well they all are a bit different in their way, but it's pretty easy to get the syntax and most vocabulary words. I'm a French native and learnt Spanish at school, it was pretty easy to learn Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and Occitan from there, I can't really tell about Romanian as I've never tried to study it.

        Edit : If you haven't studied at all foreign languages and you're a French speaker, you'll get words in other romance languages but grammatical words are often different so it'll be hard to really get most sentences, bu I think it might me possible if you're a native speaker of Portuguese, Spanish or Italian as they're closer to each other.


        Personally, I know at least five different Romance languages, and I can say that the more of them one learns, the easier learning another one becomes. This is regardless of how related they are to each other.

        The key is the patterns of the languages. The way in which my brain assesses cognates and where the patterns between the language are similar and where they differ, determines how rapidly or how slowly I will be able to make sense of these patterns and use them to acquire each language respectively.

        Also, I hope to one day discover a comprehensive source of Latin grammar, so that I could FINALLY get into learning it!

        [deactivated user]

          "tu parli e io arrivo xD" here is a latin grammar if you want (if you loved the polish tone i gave you time ago, then this is perfect):


          Actually there is even a latin course from assimil (i really love this series) but there is only in french, german and italian. If you are interested you can try with the italian one, i found a pdf time ago here:

          http://forum.tntvillage.scambioetico.org/index.php?showtopic=413279 (scroll down the page until you see this yellow rectangle, click on the name of the file and the file will be downloaded.You will need utorrent to open and download it).


          Thank you so much! Very helpful resource material indeed.


          Il n'y a pas de quoi! :)


          I'm Romanian and except French, I never studied the other Romance languages.

          Italian is really easy to understand, I went to Italy without speaking the language and I had no problem understanding what they were saying. My Italian is quite good now, after living there for 8 months (again, never studied it, I just learned by living there. Now I want to study it here on Duolingo)

          Spanish and Portuguese are easy as well, but there are some moments when I could not understand completely.

          French is the most difficult one for me and I studied it for 7 years in school/highschool. I didn't really pay attention to it so my level is very low. I would say it's the most difficult language for a Romanian speaker.

          I know Romanian is considered the most difficult Romance language due to our other influences. While I can understand other Romance language speakers, they can never understand me if I spoke Romanian to them


          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o140Ni6yiM Have a look at this comparance of some Romance languages.


          Adding Catalan: Spanish speakers usually don't understand spoken Catalan. The grammar looks more like French. Many words are more like Italian. (Although Catalan is older than Spanish and Italian.) The prosody and pronunciation are different to Spanish.

          Adding Mirandese: It sounds quite comprehensible for European Portuguese speakers.

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