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Thread: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

  1. #21
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    See, as someone who grew up in Serbia and Croatia, I cannot understand a bloody word of Slovenian! Never could! However, I've spent some time in Macedonia and when I was younger I could speak the language just fine, and I still understand it to this day.

    Considering this is the case, Bulgarian is not quite a breeze to understand, but I can understand most of it. The only other two languages I can sort of understand are Russian and Ukrainian, otherwise I have major issues understanding Czech, Polish, Slovak and so forth, AND new Croatian! They've invented all these new words in the last 15 years and often I'll hear a word and think "now what the heck did they just say??"

  2. #22
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    Re: Questions about Serbo-Croatian

    I don't like how they divided languages into western and eastern Slavic languages. I understand a lot of Belarusian (when written in Latin). Even Ukrainian to a point, whereas with Russian, I don't understand that nearly as much. From my Polish perspective, the easiest languages from me to understand would be Slovak > Czech > Belarusian > Ukrainian > Russian, with Slovak being the easiest and Russian the hardest. The biggest gap is between Ukrainian and Russian. Slovak and Czech are relativey close for me, as are Belarusian and Ukrainian, but Russian is much farther behind Ukrainian than all of the others are in realtion to each other, if that makes any sense.
    Last edited by Jana337; 25th August 2007 at 12:35 PM. Reason: Thread consolidation.

  3. #23
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    After reading all these posts I have one observation.

    All those reports of mutual intelligibility between Slavic languages are hearsay. Oh, my Slovak friend could understand the Ukrainian movie without subtitles. But how does the poster know how much the friend really understood? Some Polish American goes travelling and makes contacts in Eastern Europe. Yes of course, without any other mutual language you will get a long way in any Slavic country if you have to. But it will be quite a primitive understanding. Especially if the Pole grew up in America which will mean his facility with Polish won't be as good so he won't know all the obsolete words which might be closer to whichever language he's trying to understand. Mutual intelligibility to me means really understanding, not just picking out a word here and there and guessing the rest.

    All the posters that actually do speak Slovenian, Serbian etc. all state that they can not understand other Slavic languages that well. I've had a go at Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian, Russian, Serbian, Polish and Bulgarian and certainly there are many similarities - the word for water is basically identical in just about all of them, but if you learn these languages properly you realise there are just so many differences that in general, anyone trying to understand one of the others without any prior coaching on the commonest words which are often the ones that diverge the most, will only get the gist of any conversation. It's not really understanding in the sense that any English speaker can understand any other English speaker no matter how strange the accent.

    Robert

  4. #24
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Budz, if you define mutual intelligibility as being either 100% or 0%, that`s true (and I`m afraid linguistics does see it that way).
    I think people here are trying to compare different languages in order to find out the possible LEVELS of mutual intelligibility. It certainly is quite a thrill to discover some bonds between different languages so obviously divided by space and time, as DaleC said.

    Regarding such experiences: Some time ago, I got into this Russian band and have discovered that I understand about 90% of their lyrics. I had been learning Russian for a year in the elementary school, though

  5. #25
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by Stormwoken
    Budz, if you define mutual intelligibility as being either 100% or 0%, that`s true (and I`m afraid linguistics does see it that way).
    I think people here are trying to compare different languages in order to find out the possible LEVELS of mutual intelligibility. It certainly is quite a thrill to discover some bonds between different languages so obviously divided by space and time, as DaleC said.

    Regarding such experiences: Some time ago, I got into this Russian band and have discovered that I understand about 90% of their lyrics. I had been learning Russian for a year in the elementary school, though
    I'm sorry Stormwoken, but I have to agree with Budz. Personally, I REALLY do not understand anything of any Slavic language but mu own and a little bit of Bulgarian/Macedonian. Only in Bulgarian/Macedonian I really can catch the meaning of the conversation or what the speaker wants to say. Not even Slovenian I can catch for head nor tail. All of you here, more or less have something to do with Slavistic, or maybe speak or hear regularly other Slavic language, so maybe that is why many of you get something (I reffer to people who are Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian native speakers. I wouldn't dare to judge for the others, since as I have already said, I have no idea on Slavic languages). The same thing happens to me, as i speak Spanish and live in Catalonia, so I am surrounded and "bombed" by Catalan every day, although I cannot speak it, I understand it 90%. But as i have never had contact (and I don't have) with any Slavic language, I really cannot catch not even a grasp of them.

  6. #26
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    I definitely agree that it all depends on the degree of exposure. I'm speaking from the point of view of a Slovene native speaker.. In the former Yugoslavia the official language of the “country matters” (politics, army etc.) was Serbo-Croatian, we could all watch Croatian TV in Slovenia etc. The fact is that this had a lot to do with practically every Slovene understanding and speaking Serbo-Croatian. This can also be observed today, as skye already said, when younger generations simply don't understand Croatian any more. They were not exposed to it. Also we're talking of a one way exposure – Serbians, for instance, didn't have nearly as much contact with Slovene as the other way around, so I perfectly understand that natasha2000, for example, who says she doesn't understand a word of Slovene.

    It's really hard to say, that Slavs can simply communicate with each other. Of course, they understand each other to a certain degree, but this degree would not be much higher than it is within, let's say, Germanic language group (English, German, Swedish & Co..). I'm Slav and I've been living in Poland for 7 months now and sometimes I still have problems understanding very short, basic phrases. I don't really understand why everyone is talking about short sentences. In my opinion it is easier to grasp the meaning of a longer text (written or spoken) where you at least have the context that helps you understand. Just like it's easier to understand a word in a sentence than an isolated word.

    On the other hand, I agree with DaleC that the speakers of the languages that are related (that goes for other languages as well, not just Slavic) always tend to emphasize the differences, not the similarities, while, on the other hand, a Slav that speaks fluently, let's say, Spanish will always look for similarities between this and other Romance languages. I guess it's all about protecting one's national identity.

  7. #27
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual

    Hi,
    If I could add my opinion about intelligibility Slavic languages by me, 100% Pole, I would like to give you two examples to prove how much my ability for understanding Slavic languages is chanched by various requirements, urgent necessity etc. Normally I don't know any other Slavic language.
    1.Almost every year I go to Czech or Slovakia for skiing and have problems with understanding them, but I catch on the sense of the sentences of course - rough to be honest. I don't talk word in Czech.
    But I never forgot one moment of my life when I have been in London and met some people from Czech amongst terrible crowd near British Museum. Talking in our mother tounge languages we understood each other and moreover we felt such a liking and fondness as we never feel that when we are in our own Polish-Czech areas . I think it is tipical for the neighbourhood countries.
    We talked so fluently as we all would be from the same country. It was amazing.
    2. Latvia. I was lost in the strange city. It started getting dark and late and I couldn't return to place where I had been stayed. Riga it is harbour I was little scared. At last I have met very nice man who helped me in finding a way to my place. For a long time we talked about various topics. We both even didn't try to pretend that we could be able to speak Russian or Polish. We have talked only in our own language and we understood perfectly.
    In the conclusion I must say that our determination is the best linguistic teacher for mutual intelligibility especially into groups Slavic (western, eastern or southern), Romance, Germanic or others main language branches.
    Last edited by Seana; 11th May 2006 at 6:51 PM.

  8. #28
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Just a little contribution from my point of view (Macedonian):
    I understand good 95% and around 85% of Serbian and Croatian, respectively. This is the case with most adult Macedonians, since " Serbocroatian" was the official language in the former federation. I can read books, magazines, watch TV, and converse in Serbian with the ease I speak my mother tongue. I suppose it is the same case with Ukranians and the Russian language. However, I know that the opposite does not apply. Most Serbians, and espeically Croatians, find it difficult to fully understand colloqial or writtten Macedonian; but after a short exposure to the language they feel like home in Macedonia.

    I also find Bulgarian very easy to understand, and vice versa, Bulgarians have no trouble understanding us. Grammatically, our languages are extremely similar, and we share a vast amount of common vocabulary (experts say around 65% of our words are identical and even many others similar). My friends from Bulgaria often say that I (and other Macedonians) speak exactly like their grandfathers and grandmothers did and they often laugh at some of the expressions (especially idioms) we use (I wonder why this is the case ) Many Macedonians study in Bulgaria at University level with only a month or two language courses prior to their studies.

    From the other Slavic languages, I can only understand Slovenian a little, and always in context.

  9. #29
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    It really does depend on context.
    I'm no native speaker, but I speak Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian pretty well, close to my English (little formal training, mostly conversational picked up in Osijek and Sarajevo, and a fair lot of reading from all sides; I wouldn't dare to say which one I speak, vocabulary is probably quite mixed up but they say I've got a Bosnian accent), and I've attempted at several occasions to learn Russian, though giving up pretty soon every time for lack of motivation. With that basis, I sometimes try to listen to the news broadcast on Bratislava radio stations, and I understand something like 70% if I concentrate hard (lot of context provided, i.e. placenames etc.). Normal conversations are harder, though. Interestingly, I find Czech much harder than Slovak, although they are so similar.
    I hardly understand spoken Polish or Russian, though written is much better (especially Russian, which I sure mispronounce badly trying to make it as Serbian as possible in order to understand). Bulgarian and Slovenian kind of works if both sides are willing (using different paraphrases if you get stuck etc.), as for example at one occasion on the train from Zagreb to Austria with one Bulgarian and one Slovenian person, where we communicated. I definitely cannot follow a fluent Bulgarian or Slovenian conversation.

  10. #30
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    Calling all Slavs!

    I studied basic Russian when I was at school in the 1980s. Shortly after leaving school I did a lot of travelling around Eastern Europe, but spent most time in Yugoslavia. I could never speak or understand Russian well...and now it has almost disappeared . But...

    Whenever I listened to other Slavonic language speakers I found I could pick out really a LOT of words that I recognised from Russian. Especially in Slovenia and more than anywhere, Serbia-Croatia.

    How mutually intelligible are you guys to each other? Are there any language combinations where you can each speak your own language and more or less understand the other? Or is it more a case of having a vague idea of what the other is saying but not much more? Or do you sound totally foreign to each other?

    I have always wanted to know this.

    I know the Norwegians and Danes, and to a lesser degree, those people and Swedes, can understand each other's languages. I know the Germans and Dutch (without study) can often get a vague, or sometimes better, idea of what the others are saying. English is too far removed from our 'brother' languages for a Brit to understand a Dutch or German speaker without studying their language. (Apart from a few simple sentences that are more or less the same in all 3 languages.)

    I get the impression...probably false?...that Serbo-Croat, Bulgarian and Russian are more like one another, and that Czech, Slovak and Polish are more unlike the other three.

    If you are a Slavic native speaker, is there a Slavic language you can more or less understand without study?

    Just to add, I am already aware that Czechs and Slovaks can do this.
    Last edited by Jana337; 5th October 2006 at 9:02 PM. Reason: merged

  11. #31
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by natasha2000 View Post
    Personally, I REALLY do not understand anything of any Slavic language but mu own and a little bit of Bulgarian/Macedonian. Only in Bulgarian/Macedonian I really can catch the meaning of the conversation or what the speaker wants to say. Not even Slovenian I can catch for head nor tail.
    I must say that I, actually, do understand a bit of Slovenian, although I live on the opposite side of Croatia - so the dialectal simmilarity (like in Zagorje or Međimurje, for example) is excluded. With the written Slovenian it's easy, I can really get the idea (I even used to have two pen-friends from Slovenia when I was a kid, we wrote in our own languages, and managed to understand each other just fine), and conversational... I think I can understand them - if they talk slow.
    Recently I started dabbling into Polish, and then Slovak. Polish seems totally messed up when I compare it to Croatian, but written Slovak is quite easy for me to understand. I think that I would have a bigger problem understanding spoken Slovak, due to the different accents in Slovak and Croatian. And, comparing Czech and Slovak with Croatian (the little Czech I've heard spending a week in Prague), I'd say Slovak is more simmilar to Croatian than Czech, and a Czech-Croatian conversation would include equal amounts of mime, hand-waving and talking.
    But on the other hand, Jana does seem to understand when we go off-topic in Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian discussions, doesn't she?


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  12. #32
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    But then, Jana seems to know Slovak nearly as well as Czech. At least, she's usually the first person that answers if any request reguarding Slovak comes up. I do agree (as stated before) that Slovak is closer to any and all South Slavic languages than Czech. One of the reasons why I want to learn Slovak sometime: because it's the only real "Cеntral Slavic" language.

  13. #33
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    Re: How mutually intelligible are Slavic languages?

    Quote Originally Posted by Violet Green View Post
    Hello,
    I have little knowledge of Slavic languages, but a Russian friend whose grandparents were Polish (and who speaks French and Italian well) told me that he thought Polish and Russian resembled each other more closely than Spanish and Italian do...
    I agree with that too. Despite some other comments, IMO, Slavic people learn to understand first then speak other Slavic languages faster then speakers of Roman languages. I know a case when a Polish woman worked in Russia, she learned to understand Russian but her colleagues learned to understand Polish, so she continued speaking to them and they spoke Russian back to her.
    Анатолий أناتولي 阿纳托利 アナトーリー 아나톨리 अनातोली อานาโตลี آناتولی

  14. #34
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by venenum View Post
    But on the other hand, Jana does seem to understand when we go off-topic in Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian discussions, doesn't she?
    Yes, this I do, so do not mess with me! However, plodding through South Slavic texts is not my idea of fun because it requires a lot of concentration and guessing.
    Quote Originally Posted by beclija View Post
    But then, Jana seems to know Slovak nearly as well as Czech. At least, she's usually the first person that answers if any request reguarding Slovak comes up.
    "Nearly as well" is grossly exaggerated. I feel compelled to guess because Slovak natives are scarce but I wouldn't dare to post anything without double-checking with Google although I am pretty sure most of the time.

    Jana
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  15. #35
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    I am a native Polish speaker. Since I was born in 1967, I had to learn Russian in school. It wasn't easy. Although the grammar rules and some vocabulary are similar to some degree, there are also plenty of differences. It wasn't easy for me to learn Russian. I learnt Russian for almost ten years but I never used Russian outside the class room and since I ceased to learn Russian in 1987, I cannot follow conversations or newscats on TV in Russian. I can get some words but am not able to get the meaning.

    In 1986, I was in the former Czechoslovakia. I was able to talk to the Czechs and be understood but only when we kept low level without fancy words and even that needed some explanation. I also had to avoid language pitfalls - Czech and Polish have a lot of very similar or identical words but with a wholly diferent meaning, the best example of that it the word "szukać" (Polish - to look for, Czech - to f*ck)
    It was easier to talk to Slovaks - I was even able to converse quite easily.

    In 2001, I spent a week in Croatia. I was not able to understand the Croatians and vice versa, even after a couple of glasses of wine in konoba :-).

    In Poland in the northern part of the country near the Gdansk-Sopot-Gdynia conurbation, people speak the Kashubian language. It's very similar to Polish. I can understand Kashubian texts but not the language spoken on the streets. However, I was able to follow a program in Kashubian on TV - perhaps the lector had a clean accent.

  16. #36
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by beclija View Post
    But then, Jana seems to know Slovak nearly as well as Czech. At least, she's usually the first person that answers if any request reguarding Slovak comes up. I do agree (as stated before) that Slovak is closer to any and all South Slavic languages than Czech. One of the reasons why I want to learn Slovak sometime: because it's the only real "Cеntral Slavic" language.

    Slovak also seems to be much closer to Russian. But I must confess that I understand Belarussian easily when I hear it but not always so with Ukrainian.
    It takes great courage to speak out loud about things which on the quiet are known to everybody.

  17. #37
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by invictaspirit View Post
    Calling all Slavs!

    I studied basic Russian when I was at school in the 1980s. Shortly after leaving school I did a lot of travelling around Eastern Europe, but spent most time in Yugoslavia. I could never speak or understand Russian well...and now it has almost disappeared . But...

    Whenever I listened to other Slavonic language speakers I found I could pick out really a LOT of words that I recognised from Russian. Especially in Slovenia and more than anywhere, Serbia-Croatia.

    How mutually intelligible are you guys to each other? Are there any language combinations where you can each speak your own language and more or less understand the other? Or is it more a case of having a vague idea of what the other is saying but not much more? Or do you sound totally foreign to each other?

    I have always wanted to know this.

    I know the Norwegians and Danes, and to a lesser degree, those people and Swedes, can understand each other's languages. I know the Germans and Dutch (without study) can often get a vague, or sometimes better, idea of what the others are saying. English is too far removed from our 'brother' languages for a Brit to understand a Dutch or German speaker without studying their language. (Apart from a few simple sentences that are more or less the same in all 3 languages.)

    I get the impression...probably false?...that Serbo-Croat, Bulgarian and Russian are more like one another, and that Czech, Slovak and Polish are more unlike the other three.

    If you are a Slavic native speaker, is there a Slavic language you can more or less understand without study?

    Just to add, I am already aware that Czechs and Slovaks can do this.
    Czechs and Slovaks over age 20 today understand each other 95% (because of similarities in standard Czech and standard Slovak, and constant exposure to each other's language during days of Czechoslovakia.)

    Czechs and Slovaks younger than age 20 today understand each other no more than 80%. It's getting harder for the kids to understand each other. I heard that there was a small scandal in Czech Republic last year, when a Slovak show being shown in Czech Republic needed Czech subtitles.

    Bosnians, Croats and Serbs can understand each other 99% of the time. By virtue of Yugoslavia and education in Serbo-Croatian, most Slovenes and Macedonians older than 25 can easily communicate with Bosnians, Croats and Serbs.

    Depending on where they live, Poles can understand some Czech, Slovak, Belorussian or Ukrainian without special training. (e.g. Eastern Slovak dialects share more features with Polish dialects than standard Slovak does.).

    However, the best way to look at it is that, apart from the combinations of Czech-Slovak, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian and Bulgarian-Macedonian, it takes education and some effort for any Slav to use another Slavonic language properly.

  18. #38
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Hi, unfortunately, I missed a language (more exaclty, there are two versions): serbšcina, serbska rec, spoken in the Lausitz (Delnja Lužica, and Hornja Lužica)

    I do not know the name in English.

    But both languages are minority languages in Germany.

    Are they similar to Polish? Or is this a special group of comprehensibility?

    Best regards
    Bernd

  19. #39
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    Re: All Slavic languages: Mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by Hutschi View Post
    Hi, unfortunately, I missed a language (more exaclty, there are two versions): serbšcina, serbska rec, spoken in the Lausitz (Delnja Lužica, and Hornja Lužica)

    I do not know the name in English.

    But both languages are minority languages in Germany.

    Are they similar to Polish? Or is this a special group of comprehensibility?

    Best regards
    Bernd
    Sorbian, Wendish or Lusatian in English.

    In general, Upper and Lower Sorbian are similar to Polish (as well as Czech and to a certain degree, Slovak) and are classified as Western Slavonic languages.

    Upper Sorbian seems a little closer to Czech, while Lower Sorbian seems a little closer to Polish.

    Sorbian is a little unusual for Poles because it still uses the dual, and its stress is on the first syllable. Polish has stress on the second-last syllable, and only has traces of the dual with some numbers and certain words for anatomy.

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    Bulgarian Speakers Or Slavic Experts

    COULD A BULGARIAN SPEAKER UNDERSTAND MORE SERBIAN OR RUSSIAN? Im talking about by hearing/ speach , not reading. I myself believe that Serbo-croatian/Bosnian is more understandable by speach to a Bulgarian person than to Russian language. Now if a Bulgarian was to read both languages, I believe that it's is slmost equal in this manner.

    But I'm looking for more opinions, would a Bulgarian find Serbian more undestrandable than Russian by speech? How about in writing?

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