Romance languages: order of difficulty

avalon2004

Senior Member
UK- English/Spanish
Hi all,

I was wondering how everyone would rank the Romance languages in order of difficulty (out of the ones they know).

Based on my experience and what I find difficult, I'd rank them as follows:

1st (hardest)- Romanian: Still has cases, plural is less regular, influenced by Slavic languages, less similarities with other languages
2nd- French: Difficult to pronounce and spell, large difference between written and spoken usage
3rd- Italian: Lots of preposition contractions, lots of tenses, many dialects
4th- Portuguese (and Galician): Hard to pronounce, some preposition contractions, more tenses in use than French and Spanish
5th- Catalan: Pronoun system is somewhat complicated, plurals, pronunciation
6th- Spanish/Castellano: Many tenses and irregular verbs but easy to spell, few contractions and plural is simple

I'd be interested to see what other people think..
 
  • Riccardino

    Member
    USA - English
    Preposition contractions are not difficult at all, in French or Italian. And I've found after some time French orthography can make sense, I was at a point where I could spell a word after hearing it. French and Italian also have the same amount of tenses.

    Here's how I'd rank them, but I've only studied French and Latin in highschool, Italian in college, and Spanish for kicks.

    1.) Romanian - Cases are tough. Irregular plurals.

    2.) Latin - I found Latin pretty tough, especially when I had to translate from English into Latin, or read literature in Latin.

    3.) French - Hard to pick up from hearing it, written and spoken very different, le subjonctif was hard

    4.) Portugese - Sounds seem tough to produce, variations between Iberian and Brazilian.

    5.) Italian - Idiomatic prepositions are tough, verb and noun agreement can get annoying, passive voice and passato remoto is hard, regional vocabulary, but still my favorite.

    6.) Castillian - Easy to spell, Easy to Read and write, but I've been told mastery is extremely tough.


    I've had zero exposure to Catalan so I don't know.
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    Hi all,

    3rd- Italian: Lots of preposition contractions, lots of tenses, many dialects
    I would take out the "many dialects". Standard Italian is based on Tuscan (toscano), and most people are educated in that language. These "dialects" that you speak of are actually separate but related languages. Sardinian and Friulian are as much languages as Catalan is.

    I don't speak Italian, but from what I've seen, it looks easier than Portuguese and Catalan.

    Here's my ordering:

    1.) Latin
    2.) Romanian
    3.) French
    4.) Catalan
    5.) Portuguese
    6.) Italian
    7.) Spanish
     

    padredeocho

    Banned
    United States
    I teach Spanish. I honestly feel anybody can learn the basics of Spanish in a day. I agree, it is the easiest to learn of ALL the foreign languages.
     

    Riccardino

    Member
    USA - English
    French and Italian also have the clitic pronouns, which are odd for us English speakers. I've found them tougher in French than Italian. In French they are y and en, and in Italian they are ci and ne.

    There's also the bias of this list being for English speakers so far. I'm sure a French speaker would have an entirely different list.

    Also, as far as cognates to English go, the list is more like, starting with the easiest...

    1.) French
    2.) Spanish (a close second, and maybe first since words like hombre, chica, etc are often borrowed and known by everyone)
    3.) Latin
    4.) Italian
    5.) Portuguese
    6.) Romanian

    Often, the cognates only differ in an ending.

    The amount of cognates has a large effect on this list, I imagine.
     

    avalon2004

    Senior Member
    UK- English/Spanish
    Actually yes, the Italian dialects are just as different to standard Italian as Catalan is to Spanish. Still, it seems you are more likely to study those dialects/languages if you do an Italian degree than Catalan with a Spanish degree, though I don't know why exactly.

    I agree with the French spelling comment, too. I don't find it that difficult now that I've learnt most of the rules, but for beginners it is tough (I always remember "étaient" being the example given to us at school..). I also found that a relatively difficult aspect of French and Italian is the verb agreement which sometimes occurs, but sometimes doesn't (e.g. J'ai parlé avec la femme but La femme que j'ai connue). French is also very idiomatic, a lot of it seems to have no direct English translation.

    Is Latin counted as a Romance language? I always thought that the Romance languages had developed in the first place from (Vulgar) Latin..

    At first Brazilian Portuguese sounds unrelated to Iberian Portuguese, but I get the impression it's easier. I think the phrasing/syntax of Brazilian Prt is more similar to Spanish (estou fazendo instead of estou a fazer etc..)
     

    ronanpoirier

    Senior Member
    Brazil - Portuguese
    My opinion:

    1) Romanian (yeah, cases!)
    2) Portuguese (irregularity (exceptions), pronounce, variations, personal infinitive)
    3) French (Pronounce, vocabulary not much similar to other Latin languages)
    4/5) Spanish/Italian (I can't decide which is easier, although I think Spanish's pronounce the easiest but Italian conjugations the easiest.)

    I have never studied Catalan to give my opinion but I guess it would be right after French.
     

    parakseno

    Senior Member
    Romanian, Romania
    Ha ha seems that Romanian is considered the toughest Romance language and... I somewhat agree. It's true it still has cases (actually all languages do, but in some of them the nouns have the same form) but there are just 2 different forms: one for the nominative and accusative, and another for genitive and dative. Oh... and some nouns have distinct forms for the vocative too. :D
    The "problem" is that Romanian marks the case through endings which, when added to the stem of the noun, might generate changes in the stem too in order to "sound better" (I think it's called euphony). And the same thing happens when we add the definite article (which, again goes at the end of the noun) For example:
    N. Ac. casă/casa (home/the home)
    G. D. căşi/căşii (of home/of the home)
    Of all the Romance languages I find French to be the most complicated... because of the pronunciation (actually understanding when someone speaks), the fact that you can't say what gender is a noun (unless it's with the article... and it doesn't begin with a vowel)...
    Looking on the bright side, Romanian being so "complicated" can be a good thing... it's easy to pick up foreign languages (At least for me it is :D) Because I learned many grammar concepts while learning my native language so now it's just a matter of applying those concepts.
    Well, hope I haven't bored you too much :)
     

    robbie_SWE

    Senior Member
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    .......Looking on the bright side, Romanian being so "complicated" can be a good thing... it's easy to pick up foreign languages (At least for me it is :D) Because I learned many grammar concepts while learning my native language so now it's just a matter of applying those concepts.
    Well, hope I haven't bored you too much :)
    Totally agree! Knowing Romanian makes it easier to learn other languages. I personally don't think that Romanian is so complicated. My list would look like this:

    1. French
    2. Portuguese
    3. Spanish
    4. Italian
    5. Romanian (I'm so bias! :D )

    :) robbie
     

    TommyilRomano

    New Member
    USA
    U.S./Italia - English/Italiano
    (Starting with most difficult)

    1.) French
    .
    .
    .
    2.) Portuguese [European]
    3.) Catalan
    4.) Spanish
    5.) Italian [Tuscon]

    * I have had no contact at all with the Romanian language
     

    alitza

    Senior Member
    Romania, Romanian
    Given that I'm Romanian and biased :D I agree with Robbie. It's easy to understand all other Romance languages if you can speak Romanian. So guys (and girls) learn first Romanian and then learning French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese etc is going to be a piece of cake! ;)
    Here's my list :
    1. Catalan (all those x's )
    2. Portuguese (hard to pronounce)
    3. French
    4. Spanish
    5. Italian (it has the most similarities with Romanian, especially the fact that it's basically read as it's written)
    6. Romanian (maybe I shouldn't even put it on the list).
     

    Floridsdorfer

    Senior Member
    Italian, Spanish, Sardinian (trilingual)
    I'm seeing this old topic and I would like to give briefly my opinion, because it interests me a lot, basically due to the fact that I speak the great majority of romance languages and all the most important ones, and I also teach few of them, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan...

    It's true what has been said about Romanian, but it's also true on the other way: knowing other Romance languages, especially Italian, due to the many similarities, Romanian is for me not so difficult at all.
    And it's also true that it depends on the point of view: it is different if it is a German or a Russian or an Italian, an Englishman or a Romanian who says that...
    and it also depends on which languages you already know, etc...So, very difficult to make such a ranking, which would not be totally reliable for sure, but I like that...

    Based on my personal experience and what a lot of people has said to me, without doing a deep analysis now, I would list them as follows, trying to see it not from my own point of view:

    Perhaps ROMANIAN is still the most difficult, due to the cases, the articles (definite and indefinite), to the plural...
    But maybe a Serbian would not say the same...That's why I don't take into account the Romanian words of Slavic origin: they have not the same difficult for everybody.

    Second one maybe CATALAN: 4 groups of verbs (cantar, córrer, admetre, omplir), but really really a lot of irregular ones and also with other suffixes (-eix); complicated pronouns system: ES pentina; S'ha llevat tard; va llevar-SE; not so easy the plural too; particles: en, n': se'N va; different pronunciation of e and o depending on if they are stressed or unstressed (in this last case, they become respectively a and u)...

    Then, more or less same difficulty level as Catalan, I would say SARDINIAN: verbs are pretty regular, even if not in the participles (3 main groups like in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French), plural too (the same as Spanish), but the syntax is often uncommon to the other romance languages (and not only to them), which influences the Italian spoken in Sardinia too (faendoddu fia = "facendolo stavo" = stavo facendolo, estaba haciéndolo; fae' puru d'aias pòtziu = "fare pure l'avresti potuto" = l'avresti pure potuto fare, también podrías haberlo hecho); a lot of particles, (ke, nde, bi...), sometimes even 2 in the same sentence: si KE ND'at pigau duas (se NE ha preso due (feminin), se N'ha agafat dues, in both Italian and Catalan just one particle, se ha tomado dos, se pegou duas/apanhou-se duas, in Spanish and Portuguese there are no particles.
    In addition to that, pronunciation is very complicated too: according to the word that follows, p becomes something between b and p, c something between g and c, b something between b and v (like in Spanish), t something between d and t; also at the end of the word, you never know how the s of the plural is pronounced: for example, the article sos/sas could be "sor/sar (or sol/sal, according to the region)", "so'/sa'" or "sos/sas" indeed, and one vowel can be added at the end of each word.
    One more easy example with two words common to many languages: su cane/sos canes (the dog/the dogs) is pronounced "su gane/sos cànese" or also "sos canes" indeed; su gatu/sos gatos (the cat/the cats) instead is "su 'atu/sor gattos" or "so'gàttoso".
    And also, the apostrophs' system is very free, like or more than Catalan and much more than Italian.
    There is a lot of unique vocabulary too, like the months for example: làmpadas (June), triulas (July), cabudanne (September), ledàmini (October), Sant'Andria (November); also chenàbara (Friday), Paschighedda (Christmas), petha/petza (meat), tziligherta (lizard), tzilibriccu (grasshopper), tzintzigorru (snail).

    I would give one special mention to SASSARESE, which is a language between Sardinian and Corsican-Gallurese.
    It has most of its features from Sardinian, but grammatically is more akin to Corsican, and as a result to Italian.
    Its pronunciation is as difficult as the Sardinian one, he has also the cacuminal sound DD and the guttural GG, not really common. And o if not stressed becomes u, as well as e becomes i.
    But more than all, it has a unique sound, that elsewhere is just to find in Northern Sardinian, transcripted as "sth" or "lth", which is impossible to describe, also phonetically, because it is pronounced like a kind of whistle...and it's also impossible to imitate.


    Then I would put PORTUGUESE, which has a verbal system more complicated than Spanish, and maybe more than all the other romance languages too, with some unique features like future subjunctive (in Spanish it is disappeared now) and personal inifinitive...; the pronouns are also not so easy (even if more than in Catalan), particularly the contracted ones mo, to...but they are disappeared in Brazil; plural (with forms like répteis, utis, corações, pães, mãos) is more difficult than in Spanish, Sardinian or Italian, but not so impossible; in the pronunciation, e if not stressed is almost not pronounced (Portugal), or pronounced as i (Brazil; telefone being respectively "tlfon" or "telifoni"), and o, if not stressed and at the end of a word, is always u.

    Following Portuguese, same level more or less for French and Italian.
    FRENCH is so difficult for many, for me is not as much because, even if it is right that the pronunciation has its own rules and is not consistent with the writing at all, it has anyways not so much exceptions to its rules as English, for example; in addition to that, the fact that in many verbs the pronunciation is the same for the most persons, as well as in the singular/plural, helps a lot.
    The verbal system has got less times than other languages, and the plural is also not complicated.
    Writing French is much more difficult than speaking it.

    ITALIAN, in comparison to Spanish, has more irregular verbs (with suffixes, like in Catalan, for example by preferisco), even if the endings are easier; then, it has 7 articles, the most between all the romance languages; plurals are more complicated then in Spanish or French, with endings i, e, or staying as in singular, plus exceptions: il dito/le dita, l'uovo/le uova, l'osso/le ossa and, different meaning, gli ossi, etc; like the other romances, it has stressed and unstressed pronouns and therefore two forms of dativ, a me und mi, like Spanish, Portuguese, Sardinian, Catalan...; it has particles: ci, ne...together they become "ce ne/ce n'".
    The pronunciation, nevertheless, is to some extent easier than the French one.

    Last but not least, SPANISH.
    It may be the easiest one to speak it a little bit, but surely not so easy to speak it properly, due to his HUGE vocabulary, surely bigger than the Italian one, for example, and it has also a lot of peculiar words, for example of Arabic origin, like alfombra, alforja, albarán...
    Anyways, its pronunciation, like the Italian, doesn't have vowels pronounced differently depending on if stressed or not, and not so many consonants with double sound like Sardinian for example, except b/v and ll/y.
    The Andalucian and South American pronunciation anyways is more complicated, with the dropping of s in implosive position (los amigo' or los amigoh, loh perroh...etc). It has also the sound "th", like in Zaragoza, almost unique between the romance languages, and a very strong (in Spain) anspirated j/ge/gi.
    The verbal system is very large, but with not so many irregular verbs as in other languages; the double dativ and double accusative (in South America) are surely a problem for speakers for exemple of German or English.
    Anyways the pronouns are not so difficult, there no contractions (therefore no apostrophs, like elsewhere just in Portuguese between the romance languages) and no particles.

    Greetings
     

    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    I have to admit that it might sound silly to define a language as easy or difficult, at least from a mere linguistic point of view. Furthermore, people’s opinion on this subject may be influenced by a lot of factors: their native tongue, the languages they already know, their language ability and motivation. So, all in all, in my humble opinion, it does not make sense to say, for instance, Russian is way harder than Spanish or the other way around or Arabic is easier than Hindi, and so forth. Other elements can be taken into consideration in this regard: people are generally scared of cases when they learn a new language but most of them tend to underestimate the intricacies of verb tenses and moods or the proper use of prepositions and articles, especially those speakers whose languages do not possess articles at all, such as Slavic languages, Japanese, Finnish or Turkish. As far as the Romance languages are concerned, the comparison among them should be somewhat easier because they all derive from Latin, they share the same structure more or less, the vocabulary is pretty similar. Nevertheless, each Latin-based language has its own features and peculiarities and a series of relevant differences can certainly be spotted. Does this mean that one language is harder than another? Probably not, but I have always liked to compare the Romance languages, it is a sort of hobby or game for me, I have learnt most of these languages and I am really interested in linguistics and particularly in the structure of languages and phonology.

    European Portuguese and Romanian are probably the most conservative romance languages: Portuguese has got the richest verbal system (personal infinitive, future subjunctive and simple past perfect) and the usage of clitic, enclitic and mesoclitic object pronouns is really tricky. Portuguese also has a bunch of contractions and a few irregular plurals, but they are not too complicated in my view. In addition, Portuguese pronunciation is quite hard: it has plenty of vowel sounds, even nasal vowels, and on the whole, the pronunciation is not clear at all, one needs some exposure to the language before grasping the meaning. On the other hand, the second person plural is no longer used in contemporary Portuguese so just five verb forms must be studied for each verb tense, instead of the six forms of other languages. What I have just said can be largely applied to Continental or European Portuguese, whereas Colloquial Brazilian has been undergoing a process of morphological simplification, a sort of creolization.

    For instance, in most verb tenses only two or three verb forms are currently used: Present tense of the verb to sing/cantar: eu canto, tu ele/ela a gente canta (nós cantamos) and eles/elas cantam. In conditional or future subjunctive only two forms are used: eu, tu eles,elas, a gente cantaria; eles/elas cantariam; eu, tu ele/ela, a gente cantar; eles/elas cantarem. This helps the verbal system of Portuguese to simplify a lot. Also the usage of personal pronouns is much more simplified compared to that of Portugal.

    To be honest, I have recently begun learning Romanian but I don’t find it to be particularly difficult. It is true that Romanian retains a couple of simplified cases, but I have never reckoned that languages with grammatical cases are tremendously hard. In addition, Romanian cases are a walk in the park if you compare them to Russian or Lithuanian ones. Romanian articles are enclitic unlike Western Romance languages and the formation of plurals is not easy, there are plenty of exceptions. In addition, some nouns are masculine in singular and turn into feminine in plural. Traditionally, Romanian grammarians consider these nouns as neuter. Romanian verbs are categorized into four large conjugation groups and a more appropriate classification, which provides useful information on the actual conjugation pattern, groups all regular verbs into 11 conjugation classes. At the beginning, all this might be scary but Romanian also presents some easy aspects. Romanian subjunctive is morphologically simplified, the simple past is no longer used, even in the written language. The present perfect is formed like in English using the auxiliary verb "to have" plus the past participle, which remains invariable. Last but not least, verbal syntax is not as strict as in Spanish, Italian or Portuguese.

    French is said to be a hard language, basically because of its pronunciation and conservative spelling. However, the spoken language is morphologically simplified, in most cases plurals are not pronounced, lots of verb forms are homophones, the subjunctive imperfect and the simple past are formal, literary or obsolete.

    I started learning Catalan after having studied Spanish and French, and probably for this reason I found this language pretty easy to learn. A lot of words resemble Italian or Italian dialects and sometimes they really sound funny to me. Unfortunately, Catalan has been influenced by Castilian too much, this phenomenon particularly affects syntax and vocabulary but even prununciation in some cases. Catalan verbs present many exceptions but the periphrastic past tense is simple indeed! Besides, Catalan like Spanish only uses the auxiliary verb “to have” to form the compound tenses, unlike French or Italian. Plurals are more irregular than in French or Spanish but all the irregularities can intuitively be grouped in predictable subcategories. The usage of object pronouns is quite complex and also the pronoun particles hi/ en are tricky, but not for the speakers of French or Italian, who have similar particles. Finally Catalan spelling is also a bit tricky to master..

    I do think Italian is slightly harder than its “brother” Spanish basically for two reasons: it has lots of geminate consonants and it doesn’t use accent marks, except on a few words. So if you want to find out the exact pronunciation of a word you need to look it up in the dictionary. Geminate consonants are generally disregarded by foreigners, but in my opinion they are one of the most difficult features in Italian. There are so many, even two or three in a single word. As a result, a lot of accuracy is required to write and pronounce them properly.
    Italian has various articles (definite, indefinite and partitive). All definite articles also combine with prepositions forming many contracted prepositions. Italian presents some irregularities in plural formation. Like Romanian it retains a few nouns which are masculine in singular and feminine in plural, preserving the Latin plural ending –A. Uovo – uova egg/eggs; dito/dita finger/s and so on. Italian also has a series of words with double plural. Some other plurals are not easily predictable, for instance, amico/amici friend/s medico/medici doctor/s but baco/bachi worm and asparago/asparagi asparagus but lago/laghi. Italian makes use of two auxiliary verbs to form compound tenses and the agreement of the past participle may be tricky. Italian also presents many irregularities in forming the past participle and the simple past. Finally the usage of pronoun particles like ci/vi/ce/ne is not easy, because it is essentially idiomatic. On the other hand, Italian pronunciation is clear and the spelling is basically phonetic, while the intonation is not so easy with lots of ups and downs.

    Spanish is the easiest language to learn at least at an elementary/intermediate level. Spanish has few or no irregular plurals (except pez/peces and so on). Articles and prepositions are quite logical and straightforward, in particular it only has two contracted prepositions al/del. It uses no apostrophe. It has no pronoun particles unlike French; Italian or Catalan. All the compound tenses are formed by the verb to have plus the past participle, which remains invariable, like in English. Thanks to the accent marks, it is easy to read.
    As for the difficulties of Spanish: the difference between ser/estar can be difficult, in particular at the beginning. Verbs are quite irregular, particularly in the present tense with lots of “diphtongations” like pierdo puedo, siento and so on. Fortunately the verbs ending in –ir don’t split into two groups like in French, Catalan or Italian. The past tenses are rather regular compared to other languages but the subjunctive mood is a nightmare: to make things even harder it also has two sets of endings for the subjunctive imperfect – ara/ase. Finally, the imperative mood is harder than in Italian or French.

    Unfortunately I don’t know Sardinian, so I cannot say anything about this interesting language. Once I had a look at a Sardinian grammar on the Internet and it seemed to me that nouns are verbs were pretty regular but that’s it!

    To sum up I’d rank the Romance languages as follows:

    1) Romanian; European Portuguese (probably Romanian grammar is a bit more complicated but Portuguese Pronunciation is harder)

    2) French; Catalan, Italian (in this order)

    3) Brazilian; Spanish (in this order)
     

    Floridsdorfer

    Senior Member
    Italian, Spanish, Sardinian (trilingual)
    I agree it doesn't make so much sense to compare the languages, but yeah, the same, as I speak all of these romances, I wanted to try to make a comparison, but no comparison, made from nobody, can be complete and exhaustive, no way.

    I didn't split Portuguese because it is the same language, but it is however more possible, let's say like that, to split Portuguese than it is to split English or Spanish.
    But then we could at least also speak about Argentinian or Chilean Spanish or Québecois.

    Anyways, if I was due to split Portuguese, yes, I would also put, as most people that I know, European Portuguese as more difficult in comparison to Brazilian Portuguese, no doubts.

    I would put then Romanian; just following European Portuguese, then Catalan, Sardinian, French, Brazilian Portuguese and Italian, then Spanish, no much difference between these last three.

    Sassarese I would put it somewhere by Sardinian, and Corsican just slight more difficult than Italian (Corsican pronunciation it is harder indeed, as the Gallurese one, with chji/ghji, although written Corsican may look like Italian).

    Yes Sardinian verbs are relatively easy, just the first person is often irregular, they are other things that are difficult.
    Anyways, Sardinian conjugations (there are three) have a different ending for each person in each conjugation, excluding the first one in the first and the second conjugation, that is more than in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and also Catalan. In all of them, there are some endings that are equal.
    Even if I speak Sardinian, it is surely a bit easier for me to read a text in Spanish or Italian.

    By the way, my wife has a Slavic mother tongue, so far away from any Romance language, she speaks Italian and Spanish, understands well Sardinian, less well Portuguese (because she has less exposition), not well Sassarese, not well Catalan, and, although she has had very few exposition, not at all French.
    She doesn't know anything about Romanian, also excluding that one, she say, starting from the most difficult for her, French, Catalan, Sardinian, Sassarese, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish.



     
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    Floridsdorfer

    Senior Member
    Italian, Spanish, Sardinian (trilingual)
    By the way, Catalan from Alghero/L'Alguer has an especially hard, crazy pronunciation (really crazy! ; ) port is polt, escola is (a)scora, dormir is rumì, Barceloneta is Balsaruneta :D) and many many others more (see Wikipedia, algherese or alguerés in the Italian or Catalan versions) and uses in the past haver as well as ésser: so' anat/anada, as well as it has another pronouns, articles, and vocabulary too.

    So, I put Catalan above basically because I take THAT into account ; ))
     
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    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    Hello Floridsdorfer.
    I have learned Standard Catalan, if I may use this expression for a language like Catalan, that is to say, the language you can find in textbooks. It is essentially based upon the language spoken in Barcelona. I don't think I should take all the variaties of this language into account (Mallorqui, Valencian, Alguerese), otherwise this should be done for every language, even though the language situation of Catalan is really peculiar and I have read a lot about this subject.
    In my opinion, the differences between Continental Portuguese and Brazialian are much greater than, say, British and American or European Spanish and Argentian or Mexican, that's why I spoke about European Portuguese and Brazilian in my previous comment. However I really hope nobody will get offended, this is just my personal opinion.
     

    Floridsdorfer

    Senior Member
    Italian, Spanish, Sardinian (trilingual)
    hey: )
    of course I agree that makes more sense to split Portuguese than Catalan,because we are talking about two main varieties with equal prestige,but that's our opinion,and we are nobody to prevent someone else to think differently,that is language,no mathemathics,here nothing is fix,everything is changing,no fixed rules,to some extent.

    And if I play this game,a bit absurd indeed,to compare all romance languages,than i want at least the freedom to make it until the furthermost point,also because I honestly have the knowledge at least to try to do that: )
    One may say: learning Spanish is for me a children's game,but Chilean is to me like Chinese,for example...
    You can do that for all languages: even Corsican has a couple of different varieties,better not to talk about Sardinian,which is something incredible! (that's why so difficult to standardize: )
    If you learn German and you come here to Vienna,you have to know some Viennese too,if you want to get something. It is really common that visitors say to me "German is hard,but Viennese is impossible!".
    Same if you go to Rome:standard Italian is not enough at all (and I am not taking into account Napolitan or Sicilian etc.,which are separate languages indeed).
    So,the perception may totally change: one thing is to compare some languages without varieties,one completely different is with varieties.

    As a Catalan speaker,I can just say that for me Alguerés is much more difficult than Barcelonés; if I just take into account the standard,I would not put Catalan as the most difficult Romance language to learn,but with Alguerés maybe yes. That's what I meant...And that's just my opinion,nothing more and of course nothing scientific: )

    As for Portuguese,I teach all this languages, Spanish,English,Portuguese,etc...to different levels in some cases,and anyways I agree that the differences are bigger in Portuguese,but I would avoid to say "much"bigger or something like that,just bigger is enough for me, I prefere not to be too definitive in these things.
    In French,however,Québecois is different from French from France to a similar extent. And the Spanish that I learnt as a child is Argentinian Spanish:maybe a bit less than Brazilian from Portuguese,maybe,but surely almost the same level of difference. In Portuguese we use two different books for European and Brazilian,that's true,even if at the end many dialogues are exactly the same,whereas in Spanish and English we just use one book. But I don't teach Argentinian,if I would I guess I'd better use a different book.

    Szia
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Hello Floridsdorfer.
    I have learned Standard Catalan, if I may use this expression for a language like Catalan,
    Why may you not?
    Old Catalan was one of the first Romance languages to be unified, being the official one used by the Royal Chancellery Crown of Aragon.
    In Modern Catalan, the General Standard dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and, while certainly based on the educated speech of the Central variety, it admits substandards for all other varieties -included Algherese- and is clearly regulated by an official institution, the IEC. The only variety using a different standard is Valencian, being regulated by a different institution, but even that standard is based on the same works on which the General one was based, only adapted to the Western traits of Valencian.

    Come to think of it, the only six Romance with clearly accepted standards are mainly the six major ones: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian and Catalan. The only other two I can think of with an old standard, Galician and Occitan, still have some serious problems with regard to their social acceptance in some aspects of the language (spelling, choice of forms...).

    Regarding the difficulty of each, I would also place Catalan in a middle place. The pronunciation is rather difficult (eigh vowel sounds and more consonant sounds than any other, as well as high quality and frequency of diphthongs, vowel reduction, etc.). The spelling, even if logical, is also rather difficult. The morphology has a system of clitics rather complex when compared to other Romance languages, but uses a periphrastic form for the past -that avoids having to learn the many irregular pasts of Spanish and Portuguese, at least in the common language. The vocabulary is rich but quite 'central', having many words shared with French, many with Spanish/Portuguese and many with Italian, even if the amount of distinctive non-shared lexicon is also quite high.

    My ranking of these 6 would be, from hardest to easiest (and taking into account that none of them is actually easy and that my knowledge of Romanian is much lesser than that of the rest):

    1. Romanian, French
    3. Portuguese, Catalan
    5. Italian, Spanish

    (The order within each group could be changed.)
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Why may you not?
    hello,
    Perhaps because :
    Catalan dialects may be relatively uniform, and are mutually intelligible, but you must admit there are quite a few dialects. Those of us familiar with other minority dialects (Alsatian, Swiss German, etc) don't have similar uniformity nor mutual intelligibility.

    • Catalonia (Spain): 5.7 million (2.8 million native)
    • Valencian Community (Spain): 2.4 million (1 million native)
    • Balearic Islands (Spain): 700,000 (400,000 native)
    • Roussillon (France): 125,000 (35,000 native)
    • Andorra: 60,000 (26,000 native)
    • La Franja (Aragon, Spain): 45,000 (33,00 native)
    • Alghero (Sardinia, Italy): 20,000 (8,000 native)
    • Rest of World: 350,000
    • Source Wikipedia.
     

    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    Why may you not?
    Old Catalan was one of the first Romance languages to be unified, being the official one used by the Royal Chancellery Crown of Aragon.
    Hello Penyafort. Actually I was answering a previous post of Floridsdorfer's about Catalan varieties such as Valencian, Mallorqui, Alguerese. Personally I don't find Catalan pronunciation particularly difficult. It's probably the most similar to Italian, apart from a couple of consonants (j and [β̞, ð̞, ɣ̞) the latter sounds are present in Spanish as well and I suppose Castilian had an influence on Catalan in this regard, but I may be wrong. As for the vowel sounds, Catalan has 8 sounds, Standard Italian doesn't have the schwa, but it does have open and closed o and e. I have to say that the Standard Catalan schwa is quite clear (to my ears) compared to English or Portuguese ones. On the other hand, Catalan does not possess as many double consonants as Italian. However, it is true tha Catalan, unlike most Romance languages, has a bunch of geminate consonants too.
    Changing the topic... I am wondering why so many people think French is such a difficult language... Is it due to its spelling and pronunciation?! In my opinion, I would never say that French is the hardest Romance language... European Portuguese is more complicated in my view. :)
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I'd separate grammar from pronunciation.

    Grammar: French, Italian (harder); Catalan (in the middle); Spanish and Portuguese (easier)*
    Pronunciation: French, Catalan, European Portuguese (harder); Brazilian Portuguese, Italian (in the middle); Spanish (easier)**

    *French and Italian (adverbial pronouns, more irregular verbs, past participle agreement not only in the passive form), Catalan (adverbial pronouns)
    ** French, Catalan and EP (strong vowel reduction), Brazilian Portuguese (nasal vowels), Italian (phonemic double consonants), Spanish (5 vowels)

    If we speak about Italian languages, I'd say:
    Grammar: Gallo-Italian languages, Venetian, Emiliano-Romagnolo (subject clitic pronouns), all other languages.
    Pronunciation: Gallo-Italian languages (Piedmontese, Lombard, Ligurian), Emiliano-Romagnolo (strong vowel reduction), Neapolitan and Apulian (middle vowel reduction), Venetian, Tuscan, Roman, Sicilian (no vowel reduction).

    I can't neither speak nor understand Sardinian, Friulan and Romanian, which are not Italo-Romance languages.
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    Realistically, all of these languages' difficulty for an adult learner really depends on the individual's native language.

    Interesting to see an Italian speaker think that French is more complicated than Spanish or Portuguese grammar, when those two languages have several more tenses to learn (and to learn all of their irregular verb variations on top of it), and each tense is pronounced distinctly differently, whereas the various spellings of many French verb endings disappears in speech.

    Anyway, if a Chinese- or Armenian-speaker were to weigh in here, we might see quite a different lineup of difficulty. It all depends on where you start from...
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    hello,
    Perhaps because :
    Catalan dialects may be relatively uniform, and are mutually intelligible, but you must admit there are quite a few dialects. Those of us familiar with other minority dialects (Alsatian, Swiss German, etc) don't have similar uniformity nor mutual intelligibility.

    • Catalonia (Spain): 5.7 million (2.8 million native)
    • Valencian Community (Spain): 2.4 million (1 million native)
    • Balearic Islands (Spain): 700,000 (400,000 native)
    • Roussillon (France): 125,000 (35,000 native)
    • Andorra: 60,000 (26,000 native)
    • La Franja (Aragon, Spain): 45,000 (33,00 native)
    • Alghero (Sardinia, Italy): 20,000 (8,000 native)
    • Rest of World: 350,000
    • Source Wikipedia.
    Hello, L'irlandais. Those are the territories where Catalan is spoken, not the dialects, although some coincide. The main dialects are basically seven, traditionally classified into two groups:

    Eastern Catalan

    - Central Catalan (Central-Eastern Catalonia, the basis for the General Standard)
    - Balearic Catalan (Majorcan, Minorcan, Ibizan)
    - Northern Catalan (in French Catalonia)
    - Algherese (in Sardinia, Italy) --Definitely the least understandable variety for the rest of speakers.

    Western Catalan

    - North-Western Catalan (Andorra, western Catalonia, eastern Aragon)
    - Middle-Western Catalan (southern Catalonia, south-eastern Aragon)
    - Valencian (standardized with priority for Western traits)


    Regarding the figures, natives are indeed about 4,4 millions, but the total number of speakers of Catalan is in the region of 10 millions, so I wouldn't really consider it a minority language, at least in Europe. Otherwise all European languages but ten are minoritarian.

    Hello Penyafort. Actually I was answering a previous post of Floridsdorfer's about Catalan varieties such as Valencian, Mallorqui, Alguerese. Personally I don't find Catalan pronunciation particularly difficult. It's probably the most similar to Italian, apart from a couple of consonants (j and [β̞, ð̞, ɣ̞) the latter sounds are present in Spanish as well and I suppose Castilian had an influence on Catalan in this regard, but I may be wrong. As for the vowel sounds, Catalan has 8 sounds, Standard Italian doesn't have the schwa, but it does have open and closed o and e. I have to say that the Standard Catalan schwa is quite clear (to my ears) compared to English or Portuguese ones. On the other hand, Catalan does not possess as many double consonants as Italian. However, it is true tha Catalan, unlike most Romance languages, has a bunch of geminate consonants too.
    Hello Olaszinho.

    Catalan pronunciation may not be difficult when compared to many world languages, but I'd say it is within the Romance family. Yes, Catalan has only one or two more consonant sounds than Italian, so they are very close, and geminates in Italian are far more frequent (probably because Catalan, like the rest of Iberia, Gascon, and Sardinia, use allophones for the stops) but then the final clusters in a word in Catalan, specially in the plurals, are certainly more difficult for most people than the Italian ones (compare saying gerds frescs [ʒɛrtsfrɛsks] 'fresh raspberries' with lamponi freschi [lam'poni'freski].

    The difference in this is more obvious with Spanish, as up to five or six consonant sounds in Catalan are not present in Spanish (/z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /dz/, /dʒ/, /ʎ/) and many do exist (/m/, /ʎ/, /ɲ/) in Spanish but never (or seldom) in final positions (which is why Spanish speakers tend to mispronounce many Catalan names). Not to mention that combinations such as the one above, with only two vowels in a set of eleven phonemes, are impossible in Spanish.

    The Catalan schwa is like the English one in about. The Portuguese one I've heard is slightly different, more similar to my ears to the way many say it in Barcelona city, a sort of /ɐ/.
     
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    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    Regarding the figures, natives are indeed about 4,4 millions, but the total number of speakers of Catalan is in the region of 10 millions, so I wouldn't really consider it a minority language, at least in Europe. Otherwise all European languages but ten are minoritarian.
    I think minority languages are generally defined by their position in a given country rather than a continent. Every language is a minority language if you define it by continent, except in the New World with Spanish and English. :) Catalan is not the primary official language of any country (with the exception of the micronation Andorra) so it's classed as a minority language.
     

    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    As for Portuguese,I teach all this languages, Spanish,English,Portuguese,etc...to different levels in some cases,and anyways I agree that the differences are bigger in Portuguese,but I would avoid to say "much"bigger or something like that,just bigger is enough for me, I prefere not to be too definitive in these things.
    In French,however,Québecois is different from French from France to a similar extent.
    Szia! Beszélsz magyarul? :)

    Hello, you're probably right, but for instance Coelho's novels are "translated" into European Portuguese, and this is just an exemple. It is also true, as you said, that there are different textbooks for European and Brazilian Portuguese, in the latter tongue just 4 verb forms are used: eu falo, ele/ela fala, nós falamos and eles/elas falam, in colloquial Brazilian (this is also true in continental Portuguese) even nós can be replaced by a gente, employing the verb in the third person singular. As a matter of fact, the second person singular and plural are old-fashioned and obsolete. On the other hand, it is true that there are also remarkable differences between European Spanish and some South Amican varieties of Spanish, like Chilean and Argentinian: different personal pronouns are used, mainly vos and consequently different verbal forms too, besides, in all Latin America vosotros/as are no longer used. Not to mention vocabulary differences...

    Realistically, all of these languages' difficulty for an adult learner really depends on the individual's native language

    In my view, it doesn't only depend on the individual native language but also on the other languages the person may have learned. Furthermore, verb endings are not the only difficulty in the Romance languages: articles, simple and contracted prepositions, pronouns, pronominal particles, auxiliaries, agreement of past participles, irregular plurals should be borne in mind.

    I'd separate grammar from pronunciation.
    If I separated grammar from pronunciation, my list would be as follows, but it wouldn't change that much, though:
    Grammar: Romanian, European Portuguese, French, Catalan, Italian, Colloquial Brazilian, Spanish (difficult verbs, but almost everything else is more logical and straighforward in my opinion)
    Pronunciation: European Portuguese, French, Brazilian, Romanian, Catalan, Italian, Spanish (only 5 vowel sounds, lack of common consonants, no geminate consonants, except RR)
     
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    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    As several people have observed, one's first language(s) (and languages learned later) help determine how difficult a new language might be, apart from any special difficulties or complexities of that new language. But there is another social reason why a language may be easy or difficult, which also interact with a person's preferred learning style--there may not be many (or any) speakers of the new language available to "practice" with in everyday life, although Skype and other internet based communication has changed that a bit. Obvious--most people find it easier to learn French in France. Some people learn more easily from other people, and are relatively slow to learn a language from books or computers. For example it is quite easy for me to find speakers of French to interact with here (Minneapolis), especially with a surge of immigration from francophone Africa in the last few years. Having several such immigrants living in my house for a few years raised the level of my French considerably. But for me to learn Faetar (my maternal grandfather's language, a kind of franco-provenzale spoken in Faeto, Italy) would be almost impossible unless I traveled to Faeto; as far as I know there are no speakers of Faetar in Minnesota. This is one way in which "dominant" languages maintain their dominance, of course, and those "unhappy" languages which have lost a critical mass struggle to survive, however hard or easy they might be. A common or "useful" language is easier because there are more opportunities to use it.
     

    Ghabi

    AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod
    Cantonese
    Moderator's Note: Unfortunately, this interesting thread has gone off its stated topic. It is now closed to avoid further digressions. Please contact the moderators if you think it's justified to reopen it. Thank you for your understanding.

    Edit: A number of off-topic posts have now been removed. Hopefully the discussion can continue without derailing again. Thank you.:)
     
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Are you kidding? French sounds are pretty simple.
    Yes, French is pretty easy to pronounce. But isn't easy to hear where a word stops, so I find it very hard to learn new words if I just listen to it.
    This is not the case with the other Romance languages.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Yes, European Portuguese sounds like Polish to me. (I know no one will agree, but I am not making this up, it really sounds like Polish to me)

    But I have never tried to learn it.
     

    WannaBFluent

    Senior Member
    Français
    Yes, French is pretty easy to pronounce. But isn't easy to hear where a word stops, so I find it very hard to learn new words if I just listen to it.
    This is not the case with the other Romance languages.
    I could say the same for every language... Of course, when you don't have the basics, about the grammar, how a sentence works, and some vocabulary, you can't know where a word stops. And French is not the language that flows speeches the most by eating away some syllabes or sounds.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I could say the same for every language...
    Standard French has a sentence stress, i.e the stress falls on the last syllable of the last word of the prosodic unit while the other Romance languages (Occitan and Francitan included) have a word stress, so word boundaries are clear in speech.
     

    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    Yes, European Portuguese sounds like Polish to me. (I know no one will agree, but I am not making this up, it really sounds like Polish to me)

    But I have never tried to learn it.
    Yes, a lot of people claim that Portuguese sounds like Russian or Polish, I do not agree, though. However, it is true that its pronunciation is quite complicated and not romance, at least at first hearing. The first time I was in Lisbon I was not able to understand a thing, particularly in the street, even though I had already learnt Spanish. A few years later I began studying it and after some exposure to the language, now I can understand almost everything and it is probably my favourite Romance language, along with French. I still avoid mixing it up with Brazilian....Brazilian is another language to me... I know, most people will not agree with me.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I still avoid mixing it up with Brazilian....Brazilian is another language to me... I know, most people will not agree with me.
    Object pronouns, some preposition (a vs. para, a vs. em) and pronunciation? Too little for two "different" languages. ;)
    I prefer the sound of Brazilian Portuguese (even if I can understand and pronounce both variants).
    I quite agree that European Portuguese does not sound like a Romance language.
    Also French language sounds very different from Italian, Spanish, Galician or Brazilian Portuguese.
    Anyway, the Portuguese say lava! ['lavɜ] and lava as os! ['lavɜ ɜʒ mɜ̃u̯ʃ] while the French say lavez! [la've] and lavez les mains! ['lave le mɛ̃], i.e they have sentence stress, which is very different from the common Romance word stress.
     
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    WannaBFluent

    Senior Member
    Français
    Ce n'est pas difficile, c'est différent! :)
    Aprite! = Aprite il libro!
    Abrid! = Abrid el libro!
    Ouvrez! > Ouvrez le livre! (this sample is present in your link)
    I don't agree. It would be :
    OUvrez le LIvre!
    in French :)
    With 2 stress on the first syllabes.

    But to be honest, stressing is not really important in French. And this one :
    ouVREZ le LIvre!
    sounds correct to my ears as well.
    Especially of yo want to hightlight the fact of opening. As if it was :
    ouVREZ! ... le LIvre!
     
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    WannaBFluent

    Senior Member
    Français
    By Occitan you mean that regional language spoken in south-west France? Because I'm not Occitan, and you know, nowadays, there are not a lot of people that actually can be able to speak fluently in Occitan.
    And ouVREZ le LIvre can be said in Paris, I live and was born in Paris surburbs.
     

    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    By the way, is Occitan still spoken somewhere in South France nowadays? The elderly might still speak it in the most remote villages.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    It's true that there are few native speakers (except for Gascon, according to UNESCO), but it influences the accent, what is called accent du Midi (more standard) or Francitan (stronger).
     
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    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    It's still spoken but would be nowhere near as healthy as, say, Corsican.
    I was hearing a few TV interviews in Corsican the other day and I realised that Corsican is probably the most comprehensible "Italian dialect/language". It is very very similar to Italian, indeed. It is a sort of Italian with French R and intonation. I really hope no Corsican will be offended by my statement. :)
     
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