All Slavic languages: The degree of difficulty

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by languageinterest, May 15, 2007.

  1. languageinterest New Member

    USA and English
    Which Slavic languages are hardest for English speakers to learn, in order? Which would be hardest out of them and why?
  2. Ptak Senior Member

    I think all of them are hard for English speakers :)

    But Polish words always have a stress on the penultimate syllable, so maybe Polish is a little easier :)
  3. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Czech words on the first one. And you don't have to learn a new alphabet. :)

    But learners should also consider the availability of resources; Russian is the most generous language, by a huge margin. :)

    Grammarwise, the differences between Slavic languages are rather minuscule.
  4. Q-cumber

    Q-cumber Senior Member

    A bit on the side
    I guess the Russian and other languages that use Cyrillic alphabet are difficult for English speakers to learn.
  5. Ptak Senior Member

    Heh, it's not so easy to pronounce ;)

    P.S. when the word is long.
  6. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    I think that for an English speaker, the issues of alphabet and orthography are trivial compared to the vocabulary and grammar.
  7. Ptak Senior Member

    Yes. I learn Ancient Greek. The ALPHABET is nothing compared with the rest!!
  8. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Except for Bulgarian and Macedonian versus the rest, I'd say. :) The lack of noun inflections could perhaps make those languages somewhat easier for English speakers, at least at the beginner level.
  9. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    That's right but unless you learn a new script as a child, it's really hard to scan a page quickly to find a word you need (or is it just me?). It can be frustrating at times but it will hardly seal your decision to learn a particular language. :)

    The moral is: If you want to learn a Slavic language, let your heart make the choice. Your brain will hate you anyway. :)
  10. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Bulgarian/Macedonian don't have cases - a very difficult aspect of the rest of the Slavic languages but they do have definite/indefinite concept.

    Learning a new alphabet like Cyrillic is not hard and would only take a week (maximum) to master. It's the least hurdle, IMHO.

    Sorry, other users already mentioned this.
  11. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    I'd guess each has its particularities. I'd like to see what English-native speakers would say, though. :)

  12. Ptak Senior Member

    Oh no. I don't agree. I learn Ancient Greek for a year. I can quickly read texts and find words. I could do it as early as in September :D
  13. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    My hypothesis is that the hardest one would likely be Russian or Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian, because of the stress. I'm not aware of any significant complexities of, say, Polish, Czech, or Slovak that these ones wouldn't have, while their mindblowingly complicated stress rules greatly add to their difficulty.
  14. niko Senior Member

    French (France)
    This is a personnal feeling which worth what it worth (that is to say not much :) ), but as a learner of Polish & Russian, I'd say that Polish is harder. Not from far though ;)
    The accent is something (ok, not a little thing) but declensions and conjugation in Polish are so complicated !
    Though in the end, I agree with Jana : whatever you'll choose, your brain will hate you :)
  15. tom_in_bahia Senior Member

    Teixeira de Freitas, BA, Brasil
    South Florida/Phoenix-Tucson/the Adirondacks. Native of North American English
    My aunt's first husband was Polish, her second was Slovak, and her third is Polish. The second one we call Radek number 1 and the third husband is Radek number 2 (we don't talk about the second husband though because it was for greencard purposes and he was a jerk. Aside from that, at my father's restaurant we've frequently had Czech Czicks (excuse the pun) who worked as waitresses (usually under the table - without papers). So, I've had some interesting exposure to both Czech and (especially) Polish throughout my life.

    In my opinion, I think every language has it's quirks that make it difficult for a speaker of a different language.

    Anyway, when I was in college I wanted to take Polish, but it wasn't available, however Czech was. I took a little bit and got into the interesting differences from English (perfective and imperfective verbs, lack of articles, etc.). Having studied Spanish and Portuguese extensively, I found things like the 6-person verbal conjugations and concept of the reflexive particle easy to understand - if not altogether similar. Naturally, the cases were the hardest.

    I couldn't continue after the first semester, but I picked up a Polish grammar (Teach yourself style) and ditched the Czech avenue - sorry to those of you who speak Czech, but since I had to choose, it made sense to go with the one that 2 of my uncles, 2 of my cousins and the wife of another cousin speak, cause I'd be able to practice more often.

    I went to Poland this summer for 3 weeks. I went to Rybnyk, a small town near Stalowa Wola, and Ketrzyn (for my cousin's wedding). I had to spend a few days alone with my cousin's family, who didn't speak any English while he went off to visit his girlfriend and found myself understanding the case endings through context a lot easier than when I tried to memorize them one by one out of the grammar. I would really like to continue with Polish, because I think it's an interesting language - any suggestions for beginners: types of books, websites, programs, etc.?
  16. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Welcome! :)

    Thanks for sharing. For suggestions, please join this thread and read our resources sticky. It would be off-topic here.
  17. vput Junior Member

    Shangri-La, English
    Each Slavic language has its own difficulties for a native English speaker.

    Belorussian: Somewhat similar to Ukrainian or Russian, but virtually no decent resources available.

    Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian: Cyrillic (Serbian only) or Latin alphabet; free stress (but not on last syllable); pitch/tone distinctions; long and short vowels; 6-7 cases (the merging of the dative and locative make it arguable whether there are 7 cases as is traditionally asserted); 2 future tenses, 4 past tenses; vocabulary in Croatian is notoriously puristic and "international" loanwords are not as common as in other Slavic languages. Serbian on the other hand is less puristic and "international" loanwords are more common than in Croatian; a few decent resources available

    Bulgarian: Cyrillic alphabet; free stress; all vowels are short; virtually no case inflections (except for pronouns and a few nouns) but many verb tenses and moods; part of the Balkan "Sprachbund" (i.e. definite suffix, no infinitive); certain similarities to Russian vocabulary (probably because of common Eastern Orthodox religion/culture); a few decent resources available

    Czech: Latin alphabet; fixed stress; long and short vowels; 7 cases; vocabulary in Czech is quite puristic and "international" loanwords are not as common as in other Slavic languages; some decent resources available

    Macedonian: Similar to Bulgarian EXCEPT that standard Macedonian has stress that's fixed on the third-last syllable and even fewer decent resources

    Polish: Latin alphabet; fixed stress; all vowels are short; 2 nasal vowels; 7 cases; some decent resources available

    Russian: Cyrillic alphabet; free stress; all vowels are short; vowel reduction (i.e. pronunciation of vowels depends on whether they are stressed or unstressed, but stress isn't indicated with diacritical marks in most Russian texts.); 6-8 cases (depending on how you look at it); many decent resources available.

    Slovak: Latin alphabet; fixed stress; long and short vowels; 6 cases; a few decent resources available.

    Slovenian: Latin alphabet; free stress; pitch/tone/length distinctions; 6 cases; regular use of dual (in addition to singular and plural); vocabulary in Slovenian is quite puristic and "international" loanwords are not as common as in other Slavic languages; certain similarities to Western Slavic languages that aren't shared by other Southern Slavic languages; virtually no decent resources available (Colloquial Slovene and Teach Yourself Slovene are inadequate and much less thorough than courses in the same series for other languages.)

    Sorbian: Latin alphabet; fixed stress; all vowels are short; 7 cases; regular use of dual (in addition to singular and plural); no decent resources available (maybe there are some in German, but I haven't seen any in English)

    Ukrainian: Somewhat similar to Russian, but seems to have quite a lot of loanwords from Polish, a few decent resources available.

    Your choice of language may depend on what you find to be more difficult. Does unpredictable pronunciation cause more problems? Is your weakness in declension? Do you get frustrated by lots of conjugations? The presence of loanwords may also be helpful and some Slavic languages compared to others have stronger puristic tendencies as noted above.

    e.g. airplane, car, computer, history, music

    Croatian: zrakoplov; auto(mobil); kompjutor/računalo; povijest ("historija" is less common); glazba
    Czech: letadlo; auto; počítač; dějiny; hudba
    Polish: samolot; samochód; komputer; historia; muzyka
    Russian: самолет (samolot); автомобиль (avtomobil'); компьютер (kompyuter); история (istoriya); музыка (muzyka)
    Serbian: avion (from French); auto(mobil); kompjuter/računar; istorija ("povest" is less common); muzika
    Slovak: lietadlo; auto; počítač; dejiny; hudba
    Slovenian: zrakoplov; avtomobil/vozilo; računalnik; zgodovina ("historija" is rarely used); glasba

    In general, Bulgarian and Macedonian on one end and Russian at the other can represent a type of contrast. Bulgarian and Macedonian have the most tenses, but the fewest cases; Russian has the fewest tenses, but the most cases (if you hold that Russian has 8 cases instead of 6).

    Slovenian and Sorbian represent a different sort of difficulty because these languages use the dual regularly, while the other Slavic languages have lost almost all of the dual declensions. Thus in Slovenian or Sorbian, you need to decline or conjugate based on whether the subject or objects come as one, two or more than two.

    Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian can be tricky because they use distinctions in tone/pitch/length to distinguish between different cases or conjugations. However, the spelling doesn't indicate such distinctions so you have to learn it "by feel". Athaulf is right in that it can be complicated for foreigners.

    You can also consider the amount of resources as someone suggested. Russian's difficulty is alleviated by the fact that there are about 140 million native speakers and lots of good resources for foreigners. Sorbian is on the other extreme in that it has about 50,000 speakers, and the amount of decent resources for foreigners is next to nothing.

    In my opinion, here are some suggestions for a learning sequence of Slavic languages.

    1) Russian > Bulgarian/Macedonian > Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian > Slovenian > Sorbian > Czech/Slovak > Polish > Ukrainian/Belorussian

    2) Czech/Slovak > Polish > Ukrainian/Belorussian > Russian > Bulgarian/Macedonian > Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian > Slovenian > Sorbian

    3) Czech/Slovak > Sorbian > Slovenian > Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian > Macedonian/Bulgarian > Russian > Ukrainian/Belorussian > Polish

    4) Bulgarian/Macedonian > Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian > Slovenian > Sorbian > Czech/Slovak > Polish > Belorussian/Ukrainian > Russian

    5) Russian > Belorussian/Ukrainian > Polish > Czech/Slovak > Sorbian > Slovenian > Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian > Bulgarian/Macedonian

    Of course, you can learn these languages in any order, but these suggestions reflect the idea of a continuum (sort of) where moving from one language to the next should be as "smooth" as possible, and you can see that the sequences are variations of each other.
  18. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Thanks for this awesome review, vput. :)

    I suspect it will breed quite a few comparative discussions (please start new ones instead of hijacking this one!). One of them got moved here.
  19. Kriviq Senior Member

    Bulgarian, Bulgaria
    I can list about 30 tenses :)
  20. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    An excellent list! However, I think there are at least two more factors that should be considered for each language:

    (1) Syntax
    Highly inflected Slavic languages generally have very free word order, but each one has some syntactic peculiarities that can be a real nightmare for the learner. Also, at advanced levels, it can be quite difficult to get the feel for subtle nuances of meaning that can be conveyed by the choice of word order. I guess there could be some differences in difficulty from an English speaker's perspective in this regard.

    Furthermore, I've never learned Bulgarian and Macedonian, but I would bet that they have much more complex syntax rules than the other Slavic languages, because without cases the word order can't possibly be equally free. (Just like English got rid of nearly all morphology, but at the expense of maddeningly complicated syntax.)

    (2) Phonology
    Decent pronunciation of any Slavic language is certainly very hard for an English speaker, but I think that languages with larger numbers of consonants, like Russian, are much harder. Personally, I find it enormously difficult to either hear or reproduce accurately the difference between a hard Russian consonant and its soft pair. It's also very hard for me to remember which ones are soft and hard when memorizing a Russian word. I'm pretty sure that for an English speaker, all this is even more difficult.

    In other Slavic languages, however, things haven't really gotten much simpler after the dual disappeared. :D Most Slavic languages have utterly bizarre complicated rules about the number and case of nouns preceded by different numbers, and the declensions of numbers can confuse even native speakers...
  21. vput Junior Member

    Shangri-La, English
    That's true about the dual. The dual didn't go down quietly. While most nouns and adjectives today show few traces of the dual (e.g. some nouns for body parts, the old dual ending -ama is now used in plural instrumental of Czech, and plural of dative/locative and instrumental in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian) , virtually all of the declensions with numerals got screwed up by the dual's passing.

    1 is singular, 2, 3 and 4 govern plural in Czech, Polish and Slovak but (genitive) singular in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and Russian.

    5 is genitive plural in almost all Slavic languages as far as I know.

    In Slovenian, 2 is dual while 3 and up is plural.
  22. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    I thought about this too. I don't know any Bulgarian but I noticed they used prepositions much more heavily, which substitute for missing case endings to show the relations in the sentence but it can't be just prepositions, the word order must be different as well.
  23. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    I know next to nothing about Bulgarian but I kind of think that a rigid word order is a blessing for learners. Advanced Czech learners I know have major difficulties with aspects and their mind boggles at the easiness with which we simply reshuffle words to convey a new shade of meaning. The problem is that however complex the word order is, it is still quite far from "anything goes". Now if a learner of Bulgarian is presented with just a few possibilities, I am not sure it is a bad thing. Unless the nature of rigidity is different from what I imagine.
  24. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    In addition, B/C/S has probably the most complex phone alterations (sandhi rules), which often lead to mind-boggling phenomena, e.g. metak (bullet) has plural meci, genitive plural metaka and dative plural mecima. When one adds numerous exceptions atop of that (e.g. kutak (corner)->kutkovi, kutaka, kutkovima), the result is...
  25. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Not to mention the neuter nouns ending in -o, which have three different stress patterns that are the sole thing distinguishing three cases (singular genitive, plural nominative, and plural genitive). For example, all these three cases for jezero (lake) are spelled jezera, but the stress is different for each of them (short rising, short falling, and long rising). And this difference is largely imperceptible for an untrained English speaker.

    I sometimes wonder how I ever managed to learn this mess of a language. :p
  26. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    However, in a free word order language, an English speaker can usually translate an English sentence mostly word-for-word and the result will be a valid (or at least nearly valid) sentence conveying the intended meaning, even if some shades are missed. On the other hand, beginner-level learners of English are usually unable to produce anything but a meaningless mess whenever they try anything more complex than a simple subject-verb-object sentence. I agree that at advanced levels, the supposedly "free" word order in fact turns out to be a complex device for adding subtle shades of meaning, but I think that it still makes things easier at less advanced levels, where the learner is still not worrying about such subtleties. The few possibilities for valid ordering of words are in fact another set of rules that have to be painstakingly learned and drilled, just like declensions and conjugations.

    Also, besides the word order, I would expect that Bulgarian and Macedonian have additional syntactic complexities with prepositions and articles. If the rules for articles are half as complicated and bizarre as in English, I would gladly trade them for even the most complex declensions. :D
  27. palomnik Senior Member


    While I certainly don't dispute what you say about Croatian, it is also true that the pronunciation is generally easier for English speakers than most other Slavic languages, setting aside the issue of tones which personally I don't find so difficult to entune my ear to, and which don't exist in some dialects anyway. Long vowels occur only in stressed syllables, which is similar if not exactly the same as English, you don't have to deal with the vagaries of a plethora of palatized vs. velar consonants, and personally I've always found the fixed accent on the first syllable in languages like Czech to be very difficult to get used to. In general, I think that Croatian is one of the easiest Slavic languages for English speakers to learn.
  28. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Heh. False Not quite so. Athaulf already gave the example of jezero, which has cases (among others)

    ['jezera] Gen. Sg.
    [je'zera] Nom. Pl.
    [je'ze:ra:] Gen. Pl.

    AFAICT, every genitive plural form I can think of should have post-accented long syllables, at least in last two syllables.

    Now, the said "post-accent" lengths are largely absent from much of Shtokavian-speaking area; they're best preserved in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Dubrovnik area and Western Serbia; in large parts of Croatia, they're absent from vernacular speech. I'm not sure how Croatian linguists treat the "correct" accentuation nowadays; after all, the accent in e.g. Zagreb area significantly differs from the "Vukovski" standard. (And, frankly, they're often not significant for understanding and disambiguation).
  29. vput Junior Member

    Shangri-La, English
    As I had posted, each native speaker of English has his/her bugbears. You find tones to be easier, but palatalization to be tougher.

    Others may be relieved that Bulgarian and Macedonian have lost almost all of the case distinctions (outside pronouns), and don't mind the the fact that there are lots of tenses (a bit like English) and moods (indicative, renarrative, conditional, subjunctive/imperative).

    I agree with Athaulf in that BCS can be mind-bogglingly tough. I don't mind conjugations and declensions as much since there are rules (more or less) so long as there's regular accentuation/stress. This explains why I picked up "proper" Czech and Polish more quickly than when I had to learn some Croatian and Slovenian. It's when I learn a foreign language with free stress, tones/pitch, and varying length - all of which are NOT marked in spelling that gives the most problems for me. I guess that my being a native speaker of English (whose spelling doesn't usually reflect the free stress and vowel length either) doesn't give much advantage when I tackle languages with similar characteristics. :eek:
  30. Tolovaj_Mataj Senior Member

    Ljubljana, SI
    Slovene, Slovenia
    I'd like to make a few corrections and clarifications. (Why are you inventing things, vput?)

    airplane = letálo (

    car = avtomobíl (

    računalnik, zgodovina and glasba are okey.

    zrakoplòv ( = airship
    Nobody ever uses word zrakoplov for an airplane. :rolleyes:

    vozílo ( = vehicle
    Thus avtomobil (or avto in short) is just a type of vozilo.

    historija is so oldfashioned that nobody under 70 uses it at all. I had to check it in the SSKJ to see if it is considered to be a Slovene word. :D

    You forgot a word muzika for music. It is used, through glasba is prefered.
  31. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    I think it also much depends on what other foreign languages you learnt before. If you know some Romance language (at least at a "just about communicative" level) Macedonian or Bulgarian may well be easiest - not only do they share the feature of having next to no case declinations but a lot of tenses and moods, even the behacior of mk/bg pronoun clitics is very much "Romance". Otherwhise, for an English speaker who until now doesn't know any language other than English, the difference will be small.

    Also, Bulgarian has (like Russian/East Slavic and Slovenian as well as B/C/S formerly known as Serbo-Croatian) free accent, so if you find this difficult, you should go for the West Slavic languages or Macedonian.
  32. vput Junior Member

    Shangri-La, English
    Hey, hey, I didn't invent anything. "Zrakoplov", I must have been thinking of Croatian instead. Oops.

    For Slovenian "vozilo/avtomobil", I ran a search on google and pieced together that "vozilo/avtomobil" could translate as English "car". Again, I apologize if you took offense to my faulty understanding.
  33. Tolovaj_Mataj Senior Member

    Ljubljana, SI
    Slovene, Slovenia
    everything's fine. :)
    Just be careful when mixing languages. Croatian is not a good choice, Polish or Russian would do better. :D
    And I see that when Croats want to separate with Serbian, they have turned towards Slovene instead. No wonder you've make a mistake.
  34. palomnik Senior Member

    Admittedly, since I already speak Russian I don't find the cases of Croatian very difficult, so Bulgarian or Macedonian don't hold the same interest for me.

    But I still think that Croatian is pretty easy for English speakers to pronounce.
  35. Kriviq Senior Member

    Bulgarian, Bulgaria
    You have a point here - unlike any other Slavic language, Bulgarian has undergone an almost full transition from a highly synthetic to an analitic language.
  36. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    However, I'm curious how well you are able to handle the infamous Croatian consonant clusters? A good example is the word Hrvatska; I've asked English speakers to try reproducing that name several times, and they were unable to produce anything close. Generally, I've noticed that any of the numerous Croatian words that use the rolled r as a vowel are immensely difficult for English speakers. (The difficulty goes both ways, of course -- I can't produce anything resembling the way native English speakers pronounce, say, the words true, sixth, or Toronto.)

    As a side note, interestingly, we pronounce loudly and clearly all consonants even in -vstv- clusters that Russians can't stomach, e.g. in the word zdravstvo (= healthcare). :D
  37. tkekte Senior Member

    I think it's an interesting question, especially if the person's native language is slavic too. :) Which do you find easiest to understand? What about speaking? (understanding and speaking are quite different :p)

    I will grade mine...
    1. Ukrainian
    I am a Russian speaker born in Ukraine. Hearing and reading that language since childhood, I don't have much problems with it. :p

    2. Bulgarian
    Hey, almost every word here is pretty much like russian. :) Освен онези че на руския не преличат. The grammar is a bit different, but you get used to it. The verbs are... let's not get into it. :^D

    Съществоването на определителен член ми харесва (макар че не сещам хубаво къде той трябва да се слага), щом дава на езика осещане подобно на английски. Извиняйте, моля, за лошата ми грамматика.. (с едно м ли се пише или с две?)

    3. Polish
    I can read it with relatively few problems, have to look in dictionaries once in a while, but same with Bulgarian. At least here we have the infinitive. :)

    Bizarrely enough, polish has some words in common with Bulgarian which don't exist in Russian...

    for example:

    przegąrnąć (sp?) - прегьрна - hug

    łudzić się - be confused
    полудява - go crazy

    przez - през - through


    The hardest for me to understand is Serbian... probably due to Vuk Karadzic's orthography. :) (no offense to Serbian speakers, but the phonetical orthography makes the language hard to understand by hiding the etymological cues)

    Slovene is quite hard too... too many unknown words.

    So basically, from a "Russian as native" viewpoint, Polish and Bulgarian feel the closest to me... I wonder what the picture is like for speakers of other languages? :)
  38. Emmanon82 Junior Member

    Ukraine;Ukrainian and Russian
    You probably wasn`t motivated enough to understand.
    To my mind , for a person, who speaks both Russian and Ukrainian, Serbian( Croatian, Bosnian) can not be difficult.
    But I can say, as I don`t speak Czech and Slovak at all, I had great problems with understanding and reading when I came there. I haven`t had such great problems in Bulgaria and Poland although I didn`t speak those languages either.
  39. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Actually, I don't think the main problem is that the alphabet is phonetic, but rather the numerous differences between letters. I read the Serbian Cyrillic seamlessly just like the Latin alphabet (where I lived as a kid, we were equally drilled in both at school), and yet, Russian texts were almost incomprehensible to me before I learned what all those strange symbols like ю or я stand for. :D

    Once you figure out these differences, you should be able to get quite a lot of from reasonably complex texts. Additionally, if you take the minimal effort to learn a handful of extremely frequent, but totally different looking words (уже = већ, только = само, ещё = још, and the like), your understanding will quickly increase dramatically.

    Also, Russians have a bit of a head start when reading South Slavic languages, compared to the other way around. There are many pairs of synonyms in Russian (e.g. глаз/око or лошадь/конь), only one of which is understandable to the South Slavic speakers. The reverse is true nowhere as frequently.

    You'll find similar lists already posted by several people (including me) in this thread. Enjoy the reading, and comments are always welcome. :)
  40. Piotr_WRF Senior Member

    Polish, German
    The proper spelling is przygarnąć.

    This means to delude oneself.
  41. Tolovaj_Mataj Senior Member

    Ljubljana, SI
    Slovene, Slovenia
    We, Slovenes, also have this particular cluster, but we are not that strict - the first v is usually pronounced like u. This reminded me on another cluster: -strstv- like in ministrstvo, mojstrstvo, sestrstvo. No cheating here. :D
  42. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    To me (a native Russian) it's Ukrainian and Belarussian, despite rare exposure to Belarussian, I can say it's objectively easier to read and understand spoken in Ukrainian and Belarussian than Polish and Bulgarian. But that's me.
  43. Kolan Banned

    Montréal (Québec)
    Russian (CCCP)
    I haven't seen this thread, so let me add some comments after all.

    I had some exposure to a few Slavic languages while living abroad of the USSR, mostly Ukrainian (which is quite common), then Polish, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, and always tried to learn the distinctions compared to my native Russian.

    Well, the hardest so far I would consider the Czech (complicated accent system), then Croatian (can't reproduce the pronunciation), Bulgarian (but I love old, almost forgotten and lost Russian words commonly used there), Polish, Ukrainian. The last two are quite transparent to Russians and relatively easy to learn (phonetics, grammar, the most of vocabulary are very similar), at least in their written forms.

    We almost forgot about the Belorussian language in this thread. It is basically Russian (the difference is like between Bulgarian and Macedonian), sounds more melodic, however, the spelling is purely phonetic, and it is sometimes difficult to guess on the first glance what is written. Looking at a text in the Belorussian you understand how far is the Russian phonetics from its own spelling in reality.

    The number of native Russian speakers (including those truly bilingual from the ex-USSR) nears 300 millions people, not 140.
  44. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    I'm not even going to comment on that. Although that's what many Russians think their opinion mostly results from ignorance on the subject.
  45. Kolan Banned

    Montréal (Québec)
    Russian (CCCP)
    Please, don't get offended, Cyanista. We are not talking about the academic point of view. This is my personal experience from learning how to speak Belorussian. I traveled many times there, visited and stayed in Gomel, Ivanovo (Ivanava), Pinsk, Minsk, Borisov (Barysaw), Vitebsk and never had trouble communicating, easily picked the difference between the spoken languages, but still each time it is an effort for me to understand the written words in Belorussian. Well, the Belorussian words that are similar to Polish/Ukrainian, not Russian do not complicate the learning.
  46. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
  47. Kolan Banned

    Montréal (Québec)
    Russian (CCCP)
    I have to add that in Russian it's almost the same, except of Gen.Pl, so that we have one complication less. The written forms also differentiate from each other, however, a commonly used written е instead of ё, I guess, would create certain confusion for a foreigner.

    озера Gen. Sg.
    озёра Nom. Pl.
    озёр Gen. Pl.
  48. Aleksey Groz Junior Member

    Belgrade, Serbia
    Serbia, Serbo-Croatian
    Well, by my experience ( I speak B/C/S and Czech and Slovak, and bit more...), B/C/S is the hardest because of stress, but I think that Czech and of course Polish are hard for pronanciation. That's what I think. Pozdrav
  49. Kolan Banned

    Montréal (Québec)
    Russian (CCCP)
    I have to admit that the Russian phonetics tends to cheat on consonant clusters, however, this discussion reminds me also of a certain exception, where no one can cheat, взбзднуть. That's the only Russian example I could ever recall, but it gives another outstanding cluster (10 consonants) in a phrase like this one, Эрнст взбзднул. No way you can cheat on it speaking Russian.
  50. HaKeHa New Member

    Yorkshire - English

    I am going to Russia in a year to learn Russian in an intensive course (for 9 months). Before then, however, I want to try and teach myself a language, preferably one that uses Latin but is similar enough to Russian that I have a grasp on the grammar and vocabulary. Does anyone have any ideas about what I should learn?

    *I should also point out I currently know less than 10 words of Russian, much less pronounce them

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