https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3

Russian and Polish mutual intelligibility

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I thought this video was interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGND_gBN2HU

As a non-native Russian speaker, I could understand almost nothing the Polish guy said (what I did recognize was as often as not from Ukrainian cognates, from my Duolingo exposure to that language). I wonder what native Russian speakers and other learners will think.

(The video isn't exactly the ideal test set-up; they both have a little bit of background that's helping facilitate their conversation.)

11 months ago

23 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/LICA98
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well I'm a native Russian speaker and before I started learning Polish here I could understand maybe 30% of Polish (many words because I knew Ukrainian also, so someone Russian who doesn't know any Ukrainian probably would understand even less)

still I think that Polish is much closer to Russian than Czech or Serbian for example

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LiKenun
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See if you can make sense of any of these Cyrillicized examples (excluding Russian since—you know—you’re a Russian speaker):

  • CS: было нэбыло, кдыси да̄вно жила облуда бэзэ ймэ̄на.
  • RU: Однажды, давным давно жил был монстр, у которого не было имени.
  • PL: давно тэму, жыл бэзименны потвур.

The sentence comes from a fictional Czech book written by a fictional author within a Japanese comic I read a while ago. The first line in the book reads (in English) “Once upon a time, there lived a monster without a name.” I had been looking for versions of it in different languages. Thankfully, there were enthusiastic translators on the internet who translated the entire contents of the book into different languages since I’m not equipped to translate. They exercise a bit of artistic license with the word use so the examples I gave above are not 1-to-1 comparable in terms of sentence structure. Some vocabulary also differs such as for monster: облуда in Czech; монстр in Russian; and потвур in Polish.

The sources are below:

As for the Cyrillicization for Polish and Czech, I developed them as a hobby. The Polish one is based on this tool here with additional adjustments. The Czech one I developed from scratch without any input. Take those “transliterations” with a grain of salt.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Peter594672
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Transliteration is not the biggest issue. It's easy to match Czech "dávno" with Polish "dawno" and Russian "давно".

The real challenge starts with words that differ in more than just alphabet:

  • obluda (CZ) is based on блуд, a root that exists in Russian and means stray - be it literal (like in заблудиться - to lose one's way and get lost) or figurative but also involving losing one's way in ideas (and being mistaken through that) or in socially appropriate behavior, resulting in random sexual ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ (блудница is a polite name for a woman showing nymphomaniac behavior), which theoretically may result in weird offspring, a chimera, that can be called облуда - a word that could have existed in Russian, but it does not. And figuring it out requires quite some creative imagination.

  • potwor (PL) is based on твор, a root that also exists in Russian and means creating - like in творец - creator or творение - creation. So, it is easy to recognize that потвор should mean creature, and etymologically the closest thing to that would be тварь. However, while every monster is a тварь, not every тварь is a monster; after all Bible puts it that we're all God's creatures (твари божьи) on the grounds that we've all been created (сотворены).

Anyway, the word for monster that's seen in Russian tales is чудище - that root means something like unbelievable, odd, weird. And although чудище is always creepy and scary (at least at first, like in the "Beauty and the Beast"), the same root is also seen in чудо - miracle, so it is not inherently evil, just horribly, terrifyingly astounding.

And while "чудище" is translated as "behemoth"[*] into Czech and "bestia" into Polish, I wonder if the Russian word rings any bell at all for fellow Slavs :)

[*] btw бегемот means hippopotamus in Russian, nothing more. And this returns us to the initial point: transliteration only brings us half-way, and that half is the easiest anyway. So it is not the biggest issue.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Peter594672
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what I did recognize was as often as not from Ukrainian cognates

True. This is exactly how it works: every third word in language A is a distorted ancient root from Old Slavonic, which is an obsolete 5th synonym for the thing in language B, and yet it is vaguely recognizable.

Overall it's more about guessing than really understanding. But there are just barely enough hints to guess right most of the time, which in the end makes it possible to communicate.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KonradStrz5
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I'm a native Polish speaker, and over the summer I tried learning Turkish and Russian at the same time. I found Turkish to be the easier of the two. The similarities between Polish and Russian are exaggerated. On the other hand, I'm currently doing Ukrainian and I find it very similar to Polish.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/msgur
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I am Russian, live in Russia, have never learned Ukrainian and I can understand 80-90% of Ukrainian speech. But I don't understand Polish at all. I think it is a very difficult language due to its many shchzsh sounds. the closest to Russian is Bulgarian (I can understand almost all of Bulgarian text), then Ukrainian and Belarusian.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rembocoder
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I guess the Bulgarian is so close to Russian among all the Slavic family due to the impact of Old Church Slavonic on our language, which was based namely on Bulgarian.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sf0018
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I've seen some Russian texts about Bulgaria which occasionally quote Bulgarian text and don't bother translating it, assuming that the Russian-speaking reader will have no difficulty reading it. I've even heard some old former Soviet citizens say that they don't consider Bulgaria to be a foreign country at all.

In my own experience as a non-native Russian speaker, Bulgarian is definitely the next-easiest Slavic language for me to read, which is interesting given how different Bulgarian is grammatically. I can maybe recognize 60-70% of the words immediately and figure out another 10-15% by context. For comparison, I can only recognize about half of the words in a Ukrainian/Belarusian text, enough to get the general gist but nothing more.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/david_cieszyn
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"I've even heard some old former Soviet citizens say that they don't consider Bulgaria to be a foreign country at all. " The same with Poland: Курица не птица, Польша не заграница

and Pushkin once wrote: Славянские ль ручьи сольются в русском море? in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_the_Slanderers_of_Russia

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MR_Nathan

A wy ruscy seplenicie jak Boga koham!

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rembocoder
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Wow, great video, I also was interested in that question. I For myself I don't know any other slavic language except Russian, but I understand more or less what Polish people are talking about when they speak slowly or in the written form. I was talking to Croatian guys in Skype for some time, I could also understand them pretty well. The optimistic forecast for Croatian is like 40%, for Polish it's 30%, but if they speak fast, it's very hard to follow the thought, so I understand almost nothing.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AlexeyGolo4

I'm native Russian speaker and I understand Polish like 90% . But I speak Czech as well . Speaking two Slavic languages makes me understand almost all Slavic languages -Polish, Slovak, Chorvatian , Serbian and etc except of Slovenian .

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WillowsofXihu
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http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/e/languages/similarities/russian/index.html

According to this website, Bulgarian and Ukranian have the highest similarity to Russian vocabulary-wise at 90%, while Polish is a bit lower at 60%. Of course, there could be some discrepancies, depending on where they are getting their information from.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Ukranian and Belarusian are more or less understandable, Bulgarian is relatively understandable in its written form (try Bulgarian Wikipedia). Other Slavic languages are not understandable at all.

Specifically about Polish, it is its crazy phonetics and Latin spelling. Applicable to Czech too.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LiKenun
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I wonder how intelligible Polish would be to a Russian if it were written in Cyrillic. At one point in time, I developed a Latin-to-Cyrillic tool based on this to see what the results would look like:

  • znać → знать
  • znam → знам
  • znamy → знамы
  • znasz → знаш
  • znacie → знате
  • zna → зна
  • znają → знаѭ
  • gazeta → газэта
  • gazety → газэты
  • gazet → газэт
  • gazecie → газэте
  • gazetom → газэтом
  • gazetę → газэтѧ
  • gazetą → газэтѫ
  • gazetami → газэтами
  • gazetach → газэтах
  • gazeto → газэто
  • mądry → мѫдры
  • mądre → мѫдрэ
  • mądra → мѫдра
  • mądrzy → мѫдъри
  • błyszczeć → блыщэть
  • błyszczę → блыщѧ
  • błyszczymy → блыщымы
  • błyszczysz → блыщыш
  • błyszczycie → блыщыте
  • błyszczy → блыщы
  • błyszczą → блыщѫ
  • radość → радость
  • radości → радости
  • radością → радостѭ
  • radościami → радостями
  • mały → малы
  • małe → малэ
  • mała → мала
  • mali → мали
  • małe → малэ

I’m not informed enough on Slavic to make an opinion, but the Cyrillicized version is a lot more regular with spelling. How does it look to a Russian reader? I don’t know Russian.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Peter594672
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mosfet07 is right about the long obsolete characters, but other than that the gist of these words seems to be quite clear.

znać → знать
znam → знам
znamy → знамы
znasz → знаш
znacie → знате
zna → зна
znają → знаѭ

All (the root is marked) are relevant to knowledge, knowing, fame (as the thing of being known and recognizable), nobility (again as recognition) and such. Basically, it's about knowing and known.

gazeta → газэта
gazety → газэты
gazet → газэт
gazecie → газэте
gazetom → газэтом
gazetę → газэтѧ
gazetą → газэтѫ
gazetami → газэтами
gazetach → газэтах
gazeto → газэто

Newspapers and all about them (газет)

mądry → мѫдры
mądre → мѫдрэ
mądra → мѫдра
mądrzy → мѫдъри

That's probably about wisdom (мудр).

błyszczeć → блыщэть
błyszczę → блыщѧ
błyszczymy → блыщымы
błyszczysz → блыщыш
błyszczycie → блыщыте
błyszczy → блыщы
błyszczą → блыщѫ

Looks like either about close proximity (ближ) or shining (блещ). Neither is a 100% match, but without a context I'd guess that.

radość → радость
radości → радости
radością → радостѭ
radościami → радостями

рад Happiness and joy.

mały → малы
małe → малэ
mała → мала
mali → мали
małe → малэ

мал - Small or little


How many did I guess?

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LiKenun
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All and

shining (блещ)

:)

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

ѭ ѧ ѫ: these haven't been used for centuries.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LiKenun
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Definitely. Many phomemes across Slavic languages do not have 1-to-1 correspondents in other Slavic languages. I think the Polish nasal vowels are unique to Polish.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/VladaFu
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But they do have correspondence to Old Church Slavonic nasals and that's why the transcription chose the Old Cyrillic characters for them. (The correspondence might not be exactly etymological!)

They yuses are obsolete (the iotated ones more so), but people who ever saw some (non-glagolitic) Old Church Slavonic or later Church Slavonic have probably seen them. This obsolete alphabet is also used for transliteration of Glagolitic documents because few people can read Glagolitic http://titus.uni-frankfurt.de/texte/etcs/slav/aksl/zograph/zogra.htm

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Peter594672
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Believe me, for a typical Russian these characters are hardly any better than Glagolitic.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/VladaFu
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The biggest risk is that a Russian might read ѧ as я and not as a nasal.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Peter594672
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Or just go blank and skip this buggy bunch of strokes because it doesn't ring any bell at all :)

11 months ago
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