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Are latin languages similar?
Thread poster: siralbert
siralbert
English to Chinese
+ ...
Dec 12, 2003

I often heard that some people in Europe know two or three or even more languages.And I do find some tranlators here mastering about 10 European languages.So I have got a question that whether latin languages are similar.For example,French,Spanish and Italian.Anyone who knows it please tell me

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
English to Tamil
+ ...
My experiences Dec 12, 2003

At that time I was working as a French translator in a pharmaceutical company. I did not know Italian. One fine day my boss gave me a small letter sent from Rome. I went through the letter and I could make out what it said. I gave a free translation telling my boss that it was possible because French and Italian have a lot of affinity for each other. When I was asked to translate the reply to that letter into Italian, I refused. Instead I translated into French and the letter was sent. There in Rome they had no difficulty in following our reply sent in French.
In another instance I was able to translate a small para from Dutch into English as this language is very similar to German.
In this manner Spanish, Rumanian, French, Italian etc seem to belong together.
Regards,
N.Raghavan


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Albert Golub  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:08
English to French
Similar and not similar Dec 12, 2003

Those 3 languages are far from being totally similar but you can generally understand 80% of a written text or learn them faster especially when you have studied Latin beforehand. The grammar system is about the same. It is different for Russian for instance because no transfer is possible.
Speaking 10 languages fluently is almost impossible, I would say 5 is the maximum if for instance you have lived for a long time in a foreign country or if one of your parents came from a different country/culture (emigrant)


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RafaLee
Australia
Local time: 09:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, pretty much Dec 12, 2003

Having stayed in Spain for almost one year, I have observed that Latin languages similar to each other in the same way as what-so-called "Chinese dialects" to each other.

As I know Castillian Spanish, I can understand Catalan texts and the general idea of Italian, French and Portuguese texts.

I find that there are more differences between Hakkanese dialect and Mandarin than Castillian Spanish and Catalan or Italian.

In other word, you can argue that a lot of people in China, including the Han Chinese in the South, are as multilingual as Europeans.

I know this because I have a Chinese family background and sometimes we speak Chinese at home.


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Francesca moletta
Italy
Local time: 01:08
English to Italian
+ ...
Do you really think so? Dec 12, 2003

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:


In this manner Spanish, Rumanian, French, Italian etc seem to belong together.


I'm an Italian native speaker, I can speak French and Spanish and I also studied Rumanian for one year but honestly if I have a look to the Rumanian forum ... I can't understand much things!
As far as French/Italian/Spanish/Portuguese are concerned, one can understand maybe 70% of the WRITTEN text by being a native speaker of one of these 3 languages. But when it comes to oral language ... no way! I can understand French and Spanish and I'm an Italian native speaker, but I can't understand a single word if a Portuguese is speaking in front of me!
Italians (not Italian translators or interpreters obviously) think that Spanish is easy because generally words are similar to Italian. But when it comes to listen to a Spanish speaker saying something different from "Hello, how are you?" ... they do need interpreters too.
Dear colleagues, as you all know there are many clichés concerning languages ...
Bye


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sabina moscatelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:08
Member (2004)
German to Italian
+ ...
As an Italian native speaker Dec 12, 2003

I can tell you that last summer I spent my holidays in Spain. My 7 year old child could perfectly understand Spanish people: he spoke Italian and they replied in Spanish, but understood each other without any difficulties. It's not that easy for spoken French or Portuguese.
The general meaning of a written Spanish text (basic level, of course) can be gathered by most of Italian native speakers.

Sabina


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Maurizio Spagnuolo  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:08
English to Italian
All European languages share a common root... Dec 12, 2003

When I was a teenager in high school we did a lot of translation from Latin and Ancient Greek. I remember that in the Ancient Greek dictionary for every word was specified also the corresponding word/ethimology in Sanskrit.

It was amazing to see the correspondence between Ancient Greek and Sanskrit.
Later, studying languages at the University, I came to know the scientific reason for this.

A couple of years ago, two friends of mine from US visited me in Naples. For work reasons, I left them for three days and advised them to speak Spanish while visitng the city.

The interesting thing is that they were ok even talking with people not speaking Italian but Neapolitan dialect which is fairly different from standard Italian.


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Nathalie Kourimsky  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
There are several groups of languages in Europe Dec 12, 2003

Latin languages (french, italian, spanish, portuguese and romanian) have a lot of similarities.
Anglo-saxon languages such as english, german dutch are also very similar and scandinavian languages (danish, swedish, norwegian) are almost one language. The history of the countries and thus the languages has formed big linguistic blocs.
And all these languages have one common root in sanskrit (except languages such as basque and a few other exceptions).
In Europe students are encouraged to study several foreign languages as we are bound to travel across Europe and meet people who do not speak our mother tongue and as a mean to open up our interest towards other cultures.


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siralbert
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all your reply Dec 12, 2003

Thank you all for your replies!That had been a problem puzzling me a lot.when I was a sophomore in Tsinghua university,my English teacher told me that languages like Spanish,Italian and French etc. are rooted from Latin,so that they are similar.And English and German belongs to another type,maybe called "German"?Also there is another type called Slavic.
I'm not a student of language,indeed,my major is mechanical engineering,while the teacher himself was not an expert on this.Thank you for all your explanation,I suppose I'm getting to know it.
I think maybe it has some similarity with things in China.China is as large as Europe in area,and almost every province has got its own accent,which made it hard for Chinese to know each other if there had been no Mandarin.One thing different is that we have a uniform character system for all this accent,and now almost everyone can speak Mandarin.
Both Spagnuolo and Kourimsky mentioned sanskrit.I think it's intersting,as it is also retained in some field in Chinese,as things related to Buddha.Many Buddhist read sutra in sanskrit(of course with Chinese pronunciation),but they seldom know what it means,neither do I.Maybe Raghavan also know sanskrit?A teacher of western history told me that the ancient Indians spoke sanskrit because they were whites,in other words belonging to European race.


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vladex  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:08
Polish
+ ...
the same root, but very different branches :-) Dec 12, 2003

Maurizio Spagnuolo wrote:

When I was a teenager in high school we did a lot of translation from Latin and Ancient Greek.

Ok. I suppose that Latin is more similar to Italian, than Old English to Modern English

It was amazing to see the correspondence between Ancient Greek and Sanskrit.


When you are a linguist, you can find, that Greek 'gyne' (a woman), English 'queen' (a queen) and Polish '¿ona' (a wife) had a common ancestor. But when you are not awared, what linguistic laws ruled the changes of Indoeuropean languages (starting from the kentum/satem division), it is not so easy. When you hear words mentioned above, it is not easy to find out that [gine], [kwin] and [3ona] are related to each other. Even inside one group the pronunciation can be very different (when you see English "water" and German "wasser", you see that they're similar, buy when you hear [wote] and [vaser], it is not so obvious... (the phonetic transcription is very simplified, because the sound of schwa is not an ASCII character)
Of course, the similarity of Indoeuropean languages is gradable - this family is divided into subfamilies, branches etc. Therefore romance languages (Latin, Spanish, French etc.) are similar to each other inside their subfamily, so are slavic ones (Polish, Croatian, Russian etc.), but differences between these groups are really significant.


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 02:08
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Outsider's view Dec 12, 2003

Myself belonging to a different language group (Baltic- it is Indo-European, but there are only 2 living languages of it left- Latvian and Lithuanian, the last having kept much more ancient forms) I can tell my outsiders view.

I have studied some Latin and French long ago and in written form I can guess meaning of about a half of words in such Romance languages as French, Italian, and Spanish.
As you know, also more than a half of words English have Latin roots.
About Scandinavian languages- knowing English and a little German I often find myself in a situation, that after looking up some, say, Norwegian word in a dictionary, I say to myself- what a fool I am, it is so obvious… it’s to smear (smøre) + bread (sm¸rbr¸d) or English- bread and butter > Butterbrot…


Uldis


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vladex  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:08
Polish
+ ...
understanding vs fluent speaking Dec 12, 2003

Uldis Liepkalns wrote:

Myself belonging to a different language group (Baltic- it is Indo-European, but there are only 2 living languages of it left- Latvian and Lithuanian, the last having kept much more ancient forms)

Linguists have linked Slavic and Baltic subfamilies into Balto-Slavic group, but that's because of hard core linguistic reasons, not a common knowledge (I do not find Lithuanian significantly easier to me, a Polish native-speaker, than, eg. German)

About Scandinavian languages- knowing English and a little German I often find myself in a situation, that after looking up some, say, Norwegian word in a dictionary, I say to myself- what a fool I am, it is so obvious… it’s to smear (smøre) + bread (sm¸rbr¸d) or English- bread and butter > Butterbrot…

Yes, that's true. When I am in Czech Republic, I know, that "pivo" means "piwo" (beer), but being translating English medicine texts into Polish, I wouldn't dare to translate Czech law or medicine text into my mother tongue. And although I understand English films, I do not understand other Germanic languages (I watch Swedish TV, because, they do not dub English films )


[Edited at 2003-12-12 14:22]


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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 01:08
English to French
+ ...
Different languages Dec 12, 2003

Thus if I understand well, anglo-saxon, latin, scandinavish and baltic languages are all indo-european.

I rememeber seeing a film in roumanian and to my amazement be able to follow what was said, though for me it was closer to the latin than the french is.

I did not know about baltic, that it was so close to latin language.

But sure not the slavish languages ?


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Lorenzo Lilli  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:08
German to Italian
+ ...
Definitely, but... Dec 12, 2003

Of course they are similar. But of course there are false friends, too. As an Italian speaker with a background in Portuguese and French (although I don't translate from French), I can understand almost everything of a written text in Spanish. Also, I usually can understand written Dutch, given its similarity to German. But when I heard oral Dutch... er... well, you know.... 8)?

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
English to Tamil
+ ...
Alas, not to the extent I would have liked Dec 12, 2003

siralbert wrote:
Both Spagnuolo and Kourimsky mentioned sanskrit.I think it's intersting,as it is also retained in some field in Chinese,as things related to Buddha.Many Buddhist read sutra in sanskrit(of course with Chinese pronunciation),but they seldom know what it means,neither do I.Maybe Raghavan also know sanskrit?A teacher of western history told me that the ancient Indians spoke sanskrit because they were whites,in other words belonging to European race.


I would have loved to say I do but cannot in all honesty. But by birth I am a Brahmin and have been in constant contact with the language while assisting my elders in religious duties, Brahmins making up the priests community. But I do know Hindi very well and Hindi's relationship to Sanskrit is similar to that of Italian to Latin.
One of the reasons for my learning German was because when I heard it spoken in the Czech film "Higher Principles", it sounded very much like Sanskrit to my ears.
There is also a theory that Sanskrit was introduced to India by the Aryans (how this term was made fearful by Hitler!), who were said to be Indo-Europeans.
Regards,
N.Raghavan


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