Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by nederlandsk, Jul 4, 2006.
Everyone says they do
I've only heard Russian and Slovenian
They sound alike
For natives, they obviously do not!
For the uninitiated, they might. But Czech is less soft than the others, Russian vocals are less clear, Polish does not have long vowels etc. - all of these influence how the languages sound.
It's interesting that you wrote this. It reminds me of something, but as you can see it's rather long, so I won't blame you for not reading. -> I spend one semester in Germany about three years ago. My room-mate there was also Slovenian, but we both spoke dialects, so I didn't hear anyone who'd speak standard Slovenian for quite some time.
When we were returning home a young couple entered the train (this was in Slovenia already). I wasn't really listening to them, but I heard them talking and I started wondering what language they were talking in. It sounded like Russian. I thought that it's very unlikely that I'd meet a couple of Russians here. I realized they are probably Slovenians, but I just couldn't believe it - how could Slovenian sound so strange to me that I didn't even recognize it? My own mother tongue? They really were Slovenians and once I realized that the language didn't sound anything like Russian to me any more. It was very weird. It never happened again.
I told this to my room-mate who was also going back with the same train and she said the same thing happened to her.
On the other hand, I can distinguish a lot of dialect varieties in my area (as most other people in my town also do) and I can tell you aproximately where someone's from.
I think all Slavic languages do have a fairly similar sound. I have found myself in a noisy train hearing a group of people speak (NY subway). I couldn't quite hear what they're saying but I thought that they were Russian. Nope, they were polish...
Another interesting point is the accent that we (Slavic speakers) have when speaking in a foreign language. We all (OK, most of us sans special training) have this "East European" accent, particularly in English. To me, even Swedish people have a similar accent. Perhaps that's why Lena Olin sounded so natural in the Unbearable Lightness of Being (or maybe she's just a good actress!)
They, certainly, do not all sound the same but to my ears there are some groups of them which include similar (if not the same) sounding Slavic languages, e.g. (you probably won't agree with me, Jana ) Czech and Slovak.
I think that what happened to skye and polaco have a little to do with being slavic speakers and Slavic languages...
I think this can happen to anyone who spends some time out of their country and does not listen or speak their own language for some time. I have already seen here in this forum some Englishmen telling the same thing. I myself, after spending almost a year in Spain and not saying nor jhearing almost none of Serbian, had a difficulties when I came back to Belgrade... At the airport, people were speaking Serbian, and it sounded me so wierd both to listen and to speak my own mother tongue...
As far as the initial question is concerned.... I suppose it is very possible that all Slavic languages sound to you same, if you have no idea how each particular language sounds. The same you can say , for example, all Asian languages... I have no idea how Japanese, Chinese or Korean, or Vitnamise, or any of Hindu languages sound... So, I am sure I would say the same - they all sound the same to me, but on the other hand, I am sure that any Japanese, Korean or Chinese would be shocked if they hear me what I say....
On the other hand, even though I don't speak all Roman languages (only Spanish), I am able to recognize each and everyone of them - Portugese, French,Italian, Catalan, Galician, etc...
I have heard fragments of many Slavic languages in my life, but not enough to get an auditive image of most of them. I would, however, venture to say that Polish sounds distinctly different from Russian.
That sounds very reasonable, I agree with this. I guess this is why so many foreigners say that all Slavic languages are alike and that if you speak one you can communicate in all others as well.
This absolutely is not the truth.
We cannot understand more each other than for example an Italian or Spaniard can understand without any problem some French or Romanian.
There are words that are similar, but in no way if you speak, for example, Russian, you can understand me, or a Bulgarian...
Many times the differences between related languages are exagerated for nationalistic regions, but from what I gather, this isnt the case with Slavic languages. Is there any specific tone or sound that an untrained person (such as myself) can listen for so I can identify what language Im listening too? I was watching the show 24, and they identified a community as being Ukrainian, and when the character spoke, I suspected either Russian or Ukrainian but I had no clue. I did hear the word "niet" though...hehe
To my ears Polish sounds very sibilant. Czech and Slovak sound very similar. Russian sounds very different to me because of the reduced vowels and the irregular stress patterns. I've heard Ukrainian and mistaken it for Russian for a moment.
My native language is English and I've heard people speaking Dutch in the distance and mistaken it for English- more because of the intonation I think.
Sounding similar phonetically and being related (etymology, grammar, vocabulary wise) are (or at least can be) two completely different things. There are languages that sound similar (of course, as long as your knowledge of both of them is close to zero) but don't even belong to the same language group.
So, which similarities are we looking for?
Of course, I (as a Slav) can say for myself that a Slavic language (that I have never learnt or encountered before) still sounds much more familiar to my ear than a Germanic languages (that I have also never learnt or encountered before) – let's say Upper Sorbian and Icelandic .
I think that when I hear something Slavic I can distinguish it, or perhaps say, from what region they are>>> like from the south, east or middle. Ukrainian and Russian sounds very alike to me, but when I'm listening to it longer, maybe I can distinguish some differences. Also when I hear someone speaking some of the south slavic languages-like Croatian, Slovenian...they will probably sound quite similar to my ear...don't know.
But it is always somewhat pleasant to hear a similar, slavic language, like on the airport...
Just one more thing: I'm currently living in Poland and it has happened to me (and not only once) that Polish people would approach me (when I was speaking Slovene) asking me: "What language are you speaking? Portuguese? Romansh?" Well, to say the least, I was shocked. Is my language really so unrecognisable as Slavic or are just speakers of certain Slavic languages less capable of recognizing languages within the language group to which their mother tongue belongs as well... Once there was one who actually guessed it and another one that thought it was Croatian – close enough.
From my experience, the sound of Slovene is very removed from what I'd expect from a Slavic language, and spoken Slovene is much harder for me to understand than Croatian or Bulgarian.
To throw my two cents in, my experience is that...it depends to some extent on who is talking.
I speak and understand Russian quite well, and consequently I find that I can normally understand Ukranian when I hear it; I've never heard Belarussian, but my guess is that the same would probably apply. I can also understand Polish if it is spoken clearly and precisely, as in the TV news, but not in other circumstances. I can frequently understand Serbian, but for any other Slavic languages I can only grasp the occasional word.
I think Slavic languages can sound distinctivley different. Around where I live there are now loads of Polish people, and hearing them speak it sounds like their sentences are made up from very short words that when put to me sound like whispers. The only understanding I can get of it is maybe every third word.
Though I think Romanian being a Romance language might be very hard for someone who doesn't speak a Slavic language to spot out. As I was listening to some Romanians speaking on the Bus the other day, and was puzzled becuase their accents sounds eastern european though the words where something completley different. It was only then I found they where Romanian.
Even listening to different English speakers can come as a challenge. Have your ever heard a Scottish or Irish person, with a really thick accent speak English? Becuase I have and even being very close to them it sounded like they where speaking a different language. It was only when I listened very carefully that I could understand them.
I think also that people from Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, having learnt English are able to gain a very good authentic some what native sounding accent, that could easily fool people.
For my part, I usually have little trouble telling them apart.
Polish and Ukranian tend to sound similar to me, though.
I can hardly distinguish Czech from Slovakian. The same goes with Russian and Ukrainian. From all Slavic languages, I find the Slovenian the easiest for recognizing.
Echo chamber, being a Macedonian, please tell us your secret how do you distinguish Slovene from others.
Well, as I previously said, Czech and Slovakian (even Polish sometimes!) sound very similar to me(probably because I have never been in a contact with these two languages, so that I could here and recognize the diference. (Russian, Ukrainian, or Belarusian too!)
I can clearly make a diference between Serbian and Croatian, for example, but it takes some time (it depends, if I don`t here some word which exists in the Croatian, but is not used in the Serbian, for example, it`s harder for me to distinguish them only by the intonation). OK, yes, Bulgarian is clear too, but there is something in the Slovenian, in the intonation(also, the lenght of the words), in the way of pronounciation, the words themselves, that makes the Slovenian a bit different. For me, of course, it is the case with all macedonians!
OK, you got me, now even I don`t know how do I always distinguish it that quickly. Maybe it`s because, together with the Russian, I like it most from all Slavic languages
I've been to Prague once and I was amazed to see that it was easier for me to communicate with the natives using Polish than English... Firstly the languages are similar, secondly, many inhabitants of the Czech Republic come from Poland, thirdly, people in public places - like shops or cafes often deal with foreign customers and eventually get to know some phrases they commonly use
BTW it was on the very same trip that I tried for several minutes to talk in English to a group of people in a queue, before I realised they were Polish... :]
On the other hand, I've heard of Slovenians and Serbians and Bosnians talking in English to each other. Cause they didn't understand what the other person was saying. I'm not joking.
I guess that those Bosnians and Serbians understood each other well but they didn´t understand the Slovenians By the way, it would be interesting to know how much Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian speakers understand Slovenians since the 2 languages seem to be very similar, but unfortunately it would be rather off-topic
Yeah, that's what I meant. I guess I shouldn't be so economical with words.
Btw, it depends a lot on individual speakers. I can understand quite a lot of Croatian (and Serbian), but not everything, and sometimes I miss a joke or two, but I get the gist. (I also watched quite a lot of Croatian tv growing up and had classes in the fifth grade). I know people who say they understand nothing or very little and can't communicate normally, so they prefer English.
They definitely sound different to me.
Last Sunday I was at the beach and like half of the group were Czechs.
Their language didn't sound "Slavic" to me.
If I hadn't known, I'd have guessed that it was a Latin language, like Spanish or Italian.
O, Czech alike to Spanish or Italian? For me Czech is much more mm "hard", "dry", unless when it is sung.
Before I have started really learning Czech, when I had only listened to some things in Slavic language, I thought they were very common. One day in Corcovado, famous touristic place here in Rio, I heard a group of people speaking, I was sure it was slavic, but I could not say which language, then I asked them, it was Polish.
Now, Czech and Russian sounds much more different for my ears, Russian is more "soft" to me. I cannot say much about other languages, since I seldom hear them. But, I think that Slavic languages is something that many people seldom hear, so, it is going to be really hard to told one from another. But it may happen with other group, other day a Russian girl asked sent me a song she thought it was in Portuguese, but it was Spanish.
I don't know what you mean with "soft", but I guess Czech sounded "Latin" to me because of its clear vowels, whereas Russian sounds like Portugal Portuguese, with its "weak" vowels, thus sounds "Slavic" to me.
The above post probably referred to B/C/S speakers talking to Slovenians. In such a situation, it is indeed easier to speak in English if both sides are fluent in it, especially if neither side has had much exposure to the language of the other.
On the other hand, people from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro talking to each other in English would be a scene of montypythonesque absurdity. I suppose totally uneducated people from different regions who speak only their village dialects might have serious problems in communication, but anyone who speaks any English is virtually guaranteed to have learned the standard language first.
I have a little bit experience hearing Slovenian, Serbian/Croatian and Russian and less of Czech, Slovakian and Polish.
They all sound rather different to my ears, but then this is typical if you know at least one Slavic language.
Slovenian is "softer" to my ears than Serbian/Croatian which sounds rather "hard" and very "precise" (staccato even) but with "melody", while Russian is even "softer" (at least if not spoken by a martial politician like Stalin who was Georgian in the first place anyway), especially if you listen to Russian songs.
Czech and, even more so, Polish come over "harder" to my ear, and both have quite a different prosody compared to Russian and the South Slavic languages.
Typical for all of them are some basics in phonetics (even if there are quite some differencies between Slavic languages, for example the ones with palatalization - like Russian - and the ones without - like Slovenian).
But for anyone not knowing any Slavic language the Slavic languages may indeed sound similar.
This thread is interesting to me because I have always wondered about the same thing.
To me, all Slavic languages sound similar too! Whenever I hear a native Slavic language speaker, I say "this must be an Eastern European language".
Of course, the situation must be different for someone who is able to speak a Slavic language fluently. They can grasp the differences between different Slavic languages.
However, no matter how similar they are, each "Latin language" sounds different. French and Italian, two similar languages, yet they sound very different, even people who dont speak French / Italian can distinguish these two languages.
To me, "Russian" sounds so Slavic and I can somehow guess that the speaker is Russian. Other than that, the other Slavic languages sound so similar.
Still, to me, the less Slavic sounding Slavic languages are South Slavic languages ex. Croatian, Bosnian...the most Slavic sounding languages are Russian, Polish etc.
I guess, Belorussians and Ukranians prefer speaking Russian in their daily lives, so they sound as Slavic as Russians
Also some non-Slavic languages sound Slavic to me!
Romanian, Lithuanian, Portuguese
The easiest way to differentiate between Russian and Ukrainian is to listen to the way the letter "g" is pronounced. In Ukrainian "g" is palatalized, like in Greek. However, when Ukrainians speak Russian they still palatalize their "g"s...
I think there is also a big difference between how the spoken language sounds, and how it sounds when it is read/written. Despite the fact that I have spoken and written/read Polish for over 35 years, I still find some Polish a little difficult to read at times, but do not feel the same way about Czech. I cannot speak Croatian, but I've attempted to read a few Croatian articles recently and have found the difficulty level to be similar to Czech. But could I understand most of what a Croat says, or have a 10-minute conversation with them? Clearly not.
While I would argue that there is certainly some similarity in the way all members of a certain language group sound, and there may be some common (or, at least similar) vocabulary, all that this serves to do, in my opinion, is to make it a little easier for speakers of other languages in the same group to communicate with each other. But by no means can anyone truly claim that all speakers of Slavic languages can communicate with each other, simply because they speak a related language!
One of the big myths I hear in the Polish community is that it is very easy for us to communicate with Czechs and Slovaks. On a very basic level, this is true - a Polish-only speaker probably won't go wrong when ordering coffees in a Czech cafe, or booking themselves into a hotel, for example. But beyond that... there are so many differences in grammar, vocabulary, word endings and pronunciation that it quickly becomes clear that Czech is a totally different language. Even Silesian, which some argue is "just a dialect of Polish" (I disagree though) sounds and is written quite differently to standard Polish, despite being spoken mainly within Poland!
As an aside, my mother works as an interpreter and speaks English, Polish and Russian, and therefore manages to interpret for Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and the occasional Czech/Slovak. But because she has never studied Czech/Slovak, it is with the natives of those two countries that she has the most problems, and manages only with the aid of a dictionary and phrasebook. Whereas I can only speak English, Polish and Czech, so I can communicate with Poles, Czechs and Slovaks, but cannot understand a word of Russian and virtually no Ukrainian. Yet, strangely, I appear to be able to understand some Croatian (and once had a fairly lengthy conversation in Polish-Croatian during the early part of the third Balkan War - but that's another thread altogether, lol )
based on my experinces (well that are not so numerous) I would say that a Slovenian can (could?) communicate with Croate, Serb, Bosnian without many difficulties or big misunderstandings, and of other (slav) languages the mostly with Czech, then Slovak and after than Polish (for the Russian, Ukranian etc. I don't know). But I think that a Croate can ever more understand a Czech (than a Slovenian), that they are even closer.
and for that Portugese sounding like slavic languages: the first time I heard it, I was convinced it was Romanian (because of the "soft" endings, with many [č], [š], [ž], ... ). the pronounciation was "slavic" to me, but the roots of the words sounded romanic.
After studying Czech for a few months with a tutor (not having studied another Slavic language), I was interested in listening to Czech songs, so went to look for songs to download from the internet. One that I downloaded ("Dokud se zpívá") turned out to be a version with verses alternating in Czech and Polish (the singer, Jaromír Nohavica, is Czech but also popular with Polish audiences). At first I didn't notice, I just thought it was all Czech with a lot of unfamiliar words, but then I noticed the distinctive Polish sound "ł" (similar to English "w") which doesn't exist in Czech.
I tried some Czech on a Polish woman I know, and she said, "I can't understand that language! It sounds like Polish people when they are drinking!"
I think Czech sounds like a funny, ungrammatical form of Polish. I'm sure native Czech speakers may think something similar about Polish, though.
Mind you, I wish I could stop pronouncing Czech words like neplatným as
nepłatným... I wonder if other Polish speakers have the same problem with Czech, haha
It does sound funny to us indeed, there were some discussions on the forum about that, but I cannot find anything at the moment.
The problem unfortunatley exists when we try to speak other Slavic languages too: Russian: Лайка/Laika.
I'm a native Serbian speaker from Belgrade and I've always been interested in one thing, which can unfortunately only be answered by non Serbian speakers.
I was just wondering how does Serbian language sound to foreigners? Which language could I most easily compare it to so that I can hear it from your point of listening, and how does it generally sound like: soft, sharp, etc. Are you usually going to like it when you first hear it or not?
Hope you can give me a short description of Serbian and quench my curiosity.
The problem with your question is that the answer depends on the native language of these foreigners and also on the other languages to which they have been exposed previously.
As mentioned before, it depends on your mother language. For me, I have no problems recognizing a Slavic language from another non-Slavic one. As for distinguishing different Slavic tongues from each other, I can usually recognize Croatian/Serbian, Macedonian/Bulgarian, Polish, Russian, Czech/Slovak, but I don`t think I`ve ever heard Belarussian or Ukrainian or Upper/Lower Lusatian Sorbian in a spoken form. I would probably be able to seperate Lusatian Sorbian from other Slavic languages if I listened to someone speak it for a while because it (Upper and Lower) Lusatian Sorbian have preserved the grammatical dual like Slovenian which is my mother tongue. As far as understanding goes, I believe I can safely say I understand Croatian/Serbian very well(differences between the two are minuscule, to me they seem more like a dialect of the same language rather then languages on their own), if I listen carefully, I can also make out a great deal of Macedonian and Bulgarian(both written and spoken form). But Slavic languages from other groups(the Eastern and the Western) are much harder for me to grasp. I can say one thing though: If I hear a text spoken and then have the opportunity to read that same text, I am sure I would understand at least the gist in any Slavic language(even East and West).
Of course. As native Croatian speaker, I can say that Serbian is very interesting language, I don't understand very much of it, but it sounds a little bit like Russian.
I'm just kiding, I just wanted to say, that as Slavic language speaker, I feel the difference very much...
I noticed that every Slavic nation thinks of their language as less soft then the others. I don't know why that's so, but for me Croatian is definitely less soft than the others , and Czech, Slovak, Polish are the most soft languages.
Is it just me - or Ukrainian is easier for us (Croats) to understand than Russian? Like it's vowels are more open, or something. I don't know, maybe i'm just imagining.I never heard Belarusian.
Slovenian for me sounds like German in some way, definetly not like Russian.
Macedonian /Bulgarian also/ sounds like Croatian but more dynamic (if that's right expression).
I believe Slovenian definitely sounds harder than most other Slavic languages and in this respect it is probably closer to German than to Russian. However there are sounds in Slovene that sound softer and hard to pronounce for many non-native(even some other Slavic) speakers: like the "šč" consonant cluster(example: "ščegetavček" pronounced like "shchegetauchek"). Interestingly I once read in an article that to Germans Slovene sounds like a language almost without vowels, although I am not sure if that goes for all Germans or if it was meant to be more of a joke.
I have a rather different opinion about the sound of Slovene.
Yes, Slovene (to my ears) is definitely 'harder' than Russian: Russian sounds so 'soft' because of the palatalisation, also the melody of Russian is 'soft' to my ears (the whole Russian language is like a poem to me, that is if spoken 'normal', not Stalin-style, of course).
But Serbian/Croatian really sounds 'hard' to my ears, definitely much harder than Slovene, despite the fact in SC the tonal accent is much stronger pronounced than Slovene (at least, in standard SC).
To my ears Czech also is definitely harder than Slovene, Polish too. But this also may be due to the speakers of both languages that I had the chance using their mother tongue (the sample of Polish and Czech speakers I already heard in real life is very small while I had quite some hearing experience with Slovene and Croatian/Serbian).
I think the person who wrote this either had Croatian or Czech in mind and didn't know much about Slovenian at all - or was only joking about the Slovenian writing system. Because in Slovenian the shwa sound before the 'r' (in words like 'vrniti') is quite pronounced, more so than in some other Slavic languages; and the 'v' in 'vtis' too is a vowel, which many speakers who don't know much about Slovene don't realise.
No, Slovenian sounds quite 'vocalic' to speakers with German mother tongue - much more so some Slovenian dialects, of course, but standard language too.
I think the branches are pretty much devided by their sounding. Eastern ones comprised by Russian, sound very soft, they have this accent I can spot everywhere when they speak English too. Western sounds very jumpy, with too much stress and polish has too mush sss... sounds
Can't speak of Bulgarian as it is my language, but for southern, Serbian sound as less consonated Bulgaian with some missing sounds. Plus that gammer...
This is my impression also.
Putin of course also has a strong Russian accent when speaking English - anyone may search for audio files, there's plenty on the www, but I shouldn't link to sites probably violating copyrights.
And yes, 'jumpy' is what I too have in mind when thinking of Western Slavic, and Polish really has a great many sibilants.
A Polish colleague of mine also told me that the Poles are used to speaking in a rather 'hard' manner (that is, not sounding polite at all - to Austrian ears it sounds as if they were quarreling with each other while this colleague said this is just 'normal talking' without any impoliteness attached to it; as this is my only source of course I can't be sure if this is an exception in Poland, or rather the rule).
Of Bulgarian however I know little. What I know of South Slavic languages (mainly Slovenian and Serbian/Croatian) sounds - to me - softer and more melodic than Western Slavic, and less so than Eastern Slavic. But this generalisation probably isn't shared by others, especially native speakers.
As far as I know, Stalin's stereotypical Georgian inability to palatalize soft consonants has been a running joke in Russia for many decades.
"Despite"? I would actually say it's in part because of the tonal accents. I would describe the "melody" played by these tonal accents as quite heavy and rough.
BCS dialects in which the tonal accents are most prominent nowadays (e.g. most of Bosnia, and especially Herzegovina and Montenegro) are perceived by people from other BCS-speaking areas as very hard and rough. In contrast, for example, Kajkavian dialects, and even standard Croatian as pronounced in traditionally Kajkavian areas, which lacks the official BCS tonal accents, sounds very soft and gentle to e.g. Bosnians.
Well yes, the 'short' one displayed in writing with two accents grave above the vowel certainly is heavy and rough but I didn't quite realise - as you wrote - that in the dialects where the neoštokavian accent is most prominent still (e. g. Bosnia) the speech sounds harder to other BCS speakers.
There's a simple reason for this, my ears mainly were exposed mostly to northern and western Croatian speakers (i. e. not-quite-neoštokavian accents).
So I only perceived the 'double-short-accent' as hard (that is, this one was the only one I really could clearly differentiate from all the others - with my mother tongue lacking a similar tonal accent it is different for me to perceive it correctly, let alone produce it).
But it is very interesting for me to hear that the classical neoštokavian accent also is perceived as 'hard' by speakers who only produce a weaker form of this tonal accent.
A similar, if not quite the same, form of accent also exists in Slovenian, by the way, but with the accent also the vocal quality changes (péti and pêti both being long vowels, but the é being closed while the ê is open), therefore the different tone curve of both vowels (in 'classical' pronunciation; some dialects seem to be different) is not phonemical but only a phonetic feature (or so my teachers said).
As for Slovene, we have a saying "Each village has its voice" and in the countryside this is very much true even today. The villages are separated by numerous hills and in the past people did not travel much, so they developed their own local distinctive dialects which can be hard if not impossible to understand for other Slovenes, both in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation. It's stunning to hear what some 20km distance may mean in terms of pronunciation.
As for Serbian - to me it sounds as if a person has a dumpling in his mouth while speaking, particularly for the faaat "L" sound
I have taught English for ten years and I noted that the Slovenes have the least heavily accented English when they speak it, much less than the Serbs and the Croats, let alone Russians. We tend to be quite good at learning German, although I would never say Slovene sounds in any way like German. My English pronunciation is British and I'm very close to fooling even the Brits with it, heh
Czech is to me the language of TV cartoons - because I watched lots of them when I was little.. I am fluent in Serbian and Croatian and may understand every 50th Russian word, but that's about it in terms of Slavic languages, I think. I cannot distinguish between Bulgarian, Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian.. Someone mentioned Hungarian - it is not a Slavic language, though they are nestled next to the Slavic countries.
Has anyone heard Bulgarian? How it sounds to you? I've only heard the opinion of Americans about the sound which is not a good source. They said it's like Arabic.
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