Category Archives: Polish

Check Out Belarussian

Here is a sample of the Belarussian language from a Belarussian TV commercial. For those of you who speak a Slavic language, I would like you to listen to this clip and tell me how much you can understand of it.

I decided to post my section on Belarussian from a recent paper of mine. My charming critics say that I am “promoting misinformation,” and have banned all links to me. They also say that everyone should ignore every single word that I write because nothing that I say is true, not even one sentence. However, some averred that in an entire paper, I might state one or two true things.

If any of you know anything about the subject below, tell me if they are right. Tell me if every single sentence below is true or false. In fact, tell me if you can find one false sentence below.

Here.

Belarussian is one of the most recent East Slavic lects to come into existence, as the earliest Belarussian texts are from only the 1500’s. So the split between Belarussian and Ukrainian and Russian is shallower than that between Spanish and Portuguese.

Belarussian intelligibility with both Ukrainian and Russian is a source of controversy. On the one hand, Belarussian has dialects that are intelligible with dialects of both Russian and Ukrainian.

Reports of the endangerment or looming death of Belarussian are usually politically motivated attacks on President Lukashenko accusing him of killing the language.

On the contrary, Belarussian, while in a disappointing situation, is very much alive. Almost all Belarussians can speak the language, but only 15% do so in day to day conversation. Most of the rest more often play the role of passive speakers although they can speak the language if they need to (Mezentseva 2014).

Belarussian knowledge of their language benefits them because it gives them a head start on learning other Slavic languages (Mezentseva 2014).
Belarus was actually part of Poland at one time, as was Western Ukraine. Belarussians see themselves as a different people from Russians.

For centuries, they called themselves Tutejshiya “our people” (Mezentseva 2015).

Part of the blame for the decline of Belarussian lies with Belarussians themselves because despite the statements in the paragraph above, Belarussians have a very strong attachment to Russia and only a weak attachment to their own land (Mezentseva 2014). The result of this is that although 85% of Belarussians can speak Belarussian, and Russian is the preferred language in the country (Pavlenko 2006).

In 1991, Belarus only had one official language, Belarussian, though Russian was in wide use. In 1994, the people voted to have two official languages, Belarussian and Russian. Russian-language media and politicians quickly took advantage of the situation and used to opportunity to make Russian the dominant language in the country (Mezentseva 2014).

Lukashenko regularly wins elections by 75-80% margins, and polls show about the same support. The very unpopular opposition are regarded by most Belarussians as traitors and anti-Russian, pro-US tools of the West out to destroy the country.

One major problem for the language is that Belarussian is now associated with the opposition in the country. This association of the language with the unpopular opposition has hurt the language and is a major reason why state support for Belarussian has been lukewarm at best (Mezentseva 2014).
However, the linguistic situation in the country is complicated, and there are Belarussian-language TV stations and a number of daily newspapers (Mezentseva 2014).

The Western media reports that Belarussian is dying, but this is politicized discourse.

The truth is that Belarussian is becoming more and more popular these days, as it is coming to be seen as the prestigious “language of the intelligentsia” as opposed to the Soviet era in the 1970’s and 80’s when it was regarded as a “village language.” Belarussian language advocates say that they are not pessimistic at all about the state of the language and in fact they are optimistic. Belarussian is used in the educational system, and advocates expect its use there to expand. Independent Belarussian classes have been springing up to assist Belarussians who want to promote the language and culture. (Mezentseva 2014).

Russian nationalists often state that Belarussian is a dialect of Russian. However, this judgement is based more on national chauvinism than linguistics (Mezentseva 2014), as Russian lacks full intelligibility of Belarussian.

However, the statement is partly true if we are discussing Trasianka and Russian. Trasianka is Belarussian dialect based on a a mix of Russian and Belarussian that arose during the Sovietization of Belarus. It resembles Russian spoken with a Belarussian accent and is spoken mainly by rural dwellers who moved to towns and started to watch a lot of Russian TV. It is also widely spoken in Eastern Belarus near the Russian border (Mezentseva 2014).

West Polesian or West Palesian is a transitional Belarussian dialect to Ukrainian. Some think that West Polesian is a microlanguage, but the majority of Belarussian linguists say it is a dialect of Belarussian (Mezentseva 2014). But see the analysis of Polesian in the Ukrainian section above under Ukraine for a fuller account of this very confusing lect. Belarussian and Ukrainian have 84% lexical similarity.

Pronunciation is also very similar between the two languages. Some of the grammatical categories do differ. Belarussian intelligibility of Ukrainian is high at 80% (Mezentseva 2014).

Belarussian has many Polish borrowings, hence Belarussian has a fairly high intelligibility of Polish at 29%. Written intelligibility is higher at 67% (Mezentseva 2015).

Although Polish is notorious for being one of the hardest languages in Europe for foreigners to learn, Belarussians can actually learn it fairly easily due to the similarities between the two languages (Mezentseva 2014).

Testing Belarussian intelligibility of Russian is not realistically possible.
The vast number of Belarussians speak Russian, and of those who do not, all or nearly all have at least passive knowledge of Russian. At the moment there are few to no Belarussian monolinguals. If they exist at all, there may be a few elderly female monolinguals in the far west of the country by the Polish border (Mezentseva 2015) , but it would be difficult to study them.

MI figures:

Belarussian: Oral intelligibility: 80% of Ukrainian and 29% of Polish.Written intelligibility: 67% of Polish.

References

Mezentseva, Inna. English teacher, Belarussian and Russian speaker, Vitebsk, Belarus. BA in Education and Linguistics. Vitebsk State University, Vitebsk, Belarus. December 2014. Personal communication.
Mezentseva, Inna. English teacher, Belarussian and Russian speaker, Vitebsk, Belarus. BA in Education and Linguistics. Vitebsk State University, Vitebsk, Belarus. May 2015. Personal communication.
Pavlenko, A. 2006. Russian as a Lingua Franca. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 26: 78-99.

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Filed under Applied, Balto-Slavic, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Belarus, Belorussians, Dialectology, Europe, Europeans, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Multilingualism, Polish, Politics, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Russian, Russians, Slavic, Sociolinguistics, USSR

Check Out Upper Sorbian

Upper Sorbian is a Slavic language spoken in Eastern Germany in Lusatia. Upper Sorbian is in pretty good shape and may have as many as 40,000 speakers, but Lower Sorbian is not in good shape and has only ~8,000 speakers, most of them elderly. I would expect Upper Sorbian to live at least until 2100 since children are being brought up speaking it. However, the outlook for Lower Sorbian seems to be quite poor.

East Germany always supported the Sorbian language, and the Sorbs had their own schools set up for them. However, upon German reunification, most of the Sorb schools were shut down for some dumb reason. This was just wrong.

Stanislaw Tillich is a major German politician with the Christian Democratic Party in Germany and he is also a Sorbian native speaker. It appears that children are still being brought up speaking Upper Sorbian.

Sorbian has a close relationship with both Czech and Polish. Its roots were in a movement of Slavic speakers into Lusatia in the 500’s, so it seems to have been split from the rest of Slavic for possibly 1,500 years. Lower Sorbian at least has undergone heavy German influence. Czechs say that they cannot understand a single word of Sorbian, but Poles say they can understand it quite well. I think the Poles are exaggerating though,and Sorbian-Polish intelligibility must not be complete. In fact, I doubt if even Lower and Upper Sorbian have full intelligibility.

I must say that this language sounds rather odd. To my untrained ears, it sounds something like a mixture of Polish and German. Anyone else have any impressions?

 

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Filed under Balto-Slavic, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Czech, Europe, Germany, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Language Samples, Linguistics, Polish, Regional, Slavic, Sociolinguistics

Mutual Intelligibility Chart for the Slavic Languages

Look at how close they are!

Look at how close they are!

This chart is based on lexicostatistics. The best way to do this is with a Swadesh-215 list with borrowings included. You really need to include borrowings when testing mutual intelligibility (MI) because borrowings are frequently used in conversation, and with MI, you are testing whether or not people can understand each other. A Swadesh-215 list is better because more similarities will show up than with a Swadesh-100 list, and there is no need to limit your words when testing MI because people don’t limit their speech to simple vocabulary, except in this slum where I live.

As you can see, once you start getting over 90% cognates (see Ukrainian-Belorussian and Czech-Slovak) you are very close to the same languages. At the very least, you have two very closely related languages, and I do believe that Belorussian is separate from Ukrainian and Czech is separate from Slovak and MI tests show this to be true (MI 82% between Czech and Slovak).

Note that MI is apparently lower between Belorussian and Russian than between Belorussian and Ukrainian. That is interesting because many Russian nationalists say that Belorussian is a Russian dialect. Note also that Bulgarian and Macedonian, often said to be one language, have fewer cognates than between Czech and Slovak. Based on this chart, Bulgarian and Macedonian surely appear to be separate languages, as far apart as Polish and Slovak.

Note how close both Czech and Slovak are to Polish and Slovenian! Note also how close Serbian is to Slovenian and Macedonian.

It is also interesting how close Upper and Lower Sorbian are to each other. I wonder what the MI is like between them.

It is really amazing how closely related the Slavic languages are to each other.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Bulgarian language, Czech, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Linguistics, Polish, Russian, Slavic, Slovak

A Look at the Polish Language

From here.

A look at Polish to see how difficult it is for an English speaker to learn. Polish is probably the hardest I-E European language of all. Its only competition might be Albanian. Among non-IE European languages, we are looking at Basque, Finnish, and Hungarian as competition. The Poles are quite proud of their langauge and even take pride in its difficulty. It is certainly an amazing language.

Polish is similar to Czech and Slovak in having words that seem to have no vowels, but in Polish at least there are invisible vowels. That’s not so obviously the case with Czech. Nevertheless, try these sentences:

  1. Wszczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie.
  2. Wyindywidualizowaliśmy się z rozentuzjazmowanego tłumu.
  3. W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.

I and y, s and z, je and ě alternate at the ends of some words, but the rules governing when to do this, if they exist, don’t seem sensible. The letter ť is very hard to pronounce. There are nasal vowels as in Portuguese. The ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, sz, cz, dz, , sounds are hard for foreigners to make. There are sounds that it is even hard for native speakers to make as they require a lot tongue movements. A word such as szczescie is hard to Polish L2 speakers to pronounce. Polish written to spoken pronunciation has some issues – h and ch are one sound – h, ó and u are the same sound, and u may form diphthongs where it sounds like ł, so u and ł can be the same sound in some cases.

Kura (hen) and kóra are pronounced exactly the same way, and this is confusing to Polish children. However, the distinction between h/ch has gone of most spoken Polish. Furthermore, there is a Polish language committee, but like the French one, it is more concerned with preserving the history or the etymology of the word and less with spelling the word phonemically. Language committees don’t always do their jobs!

Polish orthography, while being regular, is very complex. Polish uses a Latin alphabet unlike most other Slavic languages which use a Cyrillic alphabet. The letters are: AĄ B CĆ D EĘ FGHIJK LŁ M NŃ OÓ QPRSTUVW XY ZŹŻ.

Native speakers speak so fast it’s hard for non-natives to understand them. Due to the consonant-ridden nature of Polish, it is harder to pronounce than most Asian languages. Listening comprehension is made difficult by all of the sh and ch like sounds. Furthermore, since few foreigners learn Polish, Poles are not used to hearing their language mangled by second-language learners. Therefore, foreigners’ Polish will seldom be understood.

Polish grammar is said to be more difficult than Russian grammar. Polish has the following:

There are five different tenses: zaprzeszły, przeszły, teraźniejszy, przyszły prosty, and przyszły złozony. However, zaprzeszły tense is almost extinct by now. There are seven different genders: male animate, male inanimate, feminine and neuter in the singular and  male personal and male impersonal in the plural. Male nouns have five patterns of declension, and feminine and neuter nouns have six different patterns of declension. Adjectives have two different declension patterns. Numbers have five different declension patterns: główne, porządkowe, zbiorowe, nieokreślone, and ułamkowe. There is a special pattern for nouns that are only plural.

There are seven different cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, vocative, and the genitive case, which is irregular. Verbs have nine different persons in their declensions: ja, ty, on, ona, ono, my, wy, oni, one. There are different conjugation patterns for men and women. There are 18 different conjugation patterns in the verb (11 main ones). There are five different polite forms: for a man, a woman, men, women and men, and women combined. There are four different participle forms, three of which inflect.

Polish has seven cases, including the vocative which has gone out of most Slavic. Although the vocative is becoming less common in Polish, it is still used in formal situations, and it’s not really true that it is a dying form.

In an informal situation, a Pole might be more like to use nominative rather than vocative:

Cześć Marek! (Nom.), rather than
Cześć Marku! (Voc.)

However, in a more formal situation, the vocative is still likely to be used. In the case below, the Nominative would never be used by a Polish native speakers:

Dzień dobry panie profesorze/doktorze! (Voc.), rather than
Dzień dobry pan profesor/doktor! (Nom.)

Case declension is very irregular, unlike German. Polish consonant gradation is called oboczność (variation).

It also has seven genders, five in the singular and two in the plural. The genders of nouns cause the adjectives modifying them to inflect differently.

Noun
matka   mother (female gender)
ojciec  father (male gender)
dziecko child (neuter gender)

Modifying Adjective
brzydkiugly ugly

Singular
brzydka matka    ugly mother
brzydki ojciec   ugly father
brzydkie dziecko ugly child

Plural
brzydkie matki   ugly mothers
brzydcy ojcowie  ugly fathers
brzydkie dzieci  ugly children

Gender even effects verbs.

I ate (female speaker) Ja zjadłam
I ate (male speaker)   Ja zjadłem

There are two different forms of the verb kill depending on whether the 1st person singular and plural and 2nd person plural killers are males or females.

I killed     zabiłem/zabiłam
We killed    zabiliśmy/zabiłyśmy
They killed  zabili/zabiły

The perfective and imperfective tenses create a dense jungle of forms:

kupować - to buy

Singular  Simple Past         Imperfect
I (f.)    kupiłam             kupowałam
I (m.)    kupiłem             kupowałem
I (n.)    kupiłom             kupowałom 
you (f.)  kupiłaś             kupowałaś
you (m.)  kupiłeś             kupowałeś
you (n.)  kupiłoś             kupowałoś  
he        kupił               kupował
she       kupiła              kupowała
it        kupiło              kupowało

Plural
we (f.)   kupiłyśmy           kupowałyśmy
we (m.)   kupiliśmy           kupowaliśmy
you (f.)  kupiłyście          kupowałyście 
you (m.)  kupiliście          kupowaliście
they (f.) kupiły              kupowały
they (m.) kupili              kupowali

The verb above forms an incredible 28 different forms in the perfect and imperfect past tense alone.

The existence of the perfective and imperfective verbs themselves is the least of the problem. The problem is that each verb – perfective or imperfective – is in effect a separate verb altogether, instead of just being conjugated differently.

The verb to see has two completely different verbs in Polish:

widziec
zobaczyc

WidziałemI saw (repeatedly in the past, like I saw the sun come up every morning).
ZobaczyłemI saw (only once; I saw the sun come up yesterday).

Some of these verbs are obviously related to each other:

robić/zrobić
czytać
/przeczytać
zachowywać
/zachować
jeść
/zjeść

But others are very different:

mówić/powiedzieć
widzieć
/zobaczyć
kłaść
/położyć

This is not a tense difference – the verbs themselves are different! So for every verb in the language, you effectively have to learn two different verbs. 95% of verbs have these maddening dual forms, but for 5% of verbs that lack a perfective version, you only have one form. The irregular forms may date from archaic Polish.

In addition, the future perfect and future imperfect often conjugate completely differently, though the past forms usually conjugate in the same way – note the -em endings above. There is no present perfect as in English, since in Polish the action must be completed, and you can’t be doing something at this precise moment and at the same time have just finished doing it.

It’s often said that one of the advantages of Polish is that there are only three tenses, but this is not really case, as there are at least eight tenses:

Indicative         grać       to play
Present            gram       I play 
Past               grałem     I played
Conditional        grałbym    I would play
Future*            będę grać  I will play
Continuous future* będę grał  I will be playing
Perfective future  pogram     I will have played*
Perf. conditional  pograłbym  I would have played

*będę grać and będę grał have the same meaning
**Implies you will finish the action

There is also an aspectual distinction made when referring to the past. Different forms are used based on whether or not the action has been completed.

Oddly enough, the present can be used to describe things that happened in the past, although this only applies to very specific situations.

Juliusz Cezar po tym jak zdobywa Galie jedzie do Rzymu.

Julius Caesar after that when he (is) conquer(ing) Gaul, he (is) go(ing) to Rome.

Whereas in English we use one word for go no matter what mode of transportation we are using to get from one place to another, in Polish, you use different verbs if you are going by foot, by car, by plane, by boat or by other means of transportation.

In addition, there is an animate-inanimate distinction in gender. Look at the following nouns:

hat      kapelusz
computer komputer
dog      pies
student  uczen

All are masculine gender, but computer and hat are inanimate, and student and dog are animate, so they inflect differently.

I see a new hatWidze nowy kapelusz
I see a new student
Widze nowego ucznia

Notice how the now- form changed.

In addition to completely irregular verbs, there are also irregular nouns in Polish:

człowiek->ludzie

However, the number of irregular nouns is very small.

Let us look at pronouns. English has one word for the genitive case of the 1st person singular – my. In Polish, depending on the context, you can have the following 11 forms, and actually there are even more than 11:

mój
moje
moja
moją
mojego
mojemu
mojej
moim
moi
moich
moimi

Numerals can be complex. English has one word for the number 2 – two. Polish has 21 words for two (however, only 5-6 of them are in common use):

dwa (nominative non-masculine personal male and neuter and non-masculine personal accusative)
dwaj (masculine personal nominative)
dwie (nominative and accusative female)
dwóch (genitive, locative and masculine personal accusative)
dwom (dative)
dwóm (dative)
dwu (alternative version sometimes used for instrumental, genitive, locative and dative)
dwoma (masculine instrumental)
dwiema (female instrumental)
dwoje (collective, nominative + accusative)
dwojga (collective, genitive)
dwojgu (collective, dative + locative)
dwójka (noun, nominative)
dwójkę (noun, accusative)
dwójki (noun, genitive)
dwójce (noun, dative and locative)
dwójką (noun, instrumental)
dwójko (vocative)
dwojgiem (collective, instrumental)
dwójkach
dwójek
dwója
dwójkami

Polish also has the paucal form like Serbo-Croatian. It is the remains of the old dual. The paucal applies to impersonal masculine, feminine and neuter nouns but not to personal masculine nouns.

Personal Masculine

one boy    jeden chłopiec
two boys   dwóch chłopców
three boys trzech chłopców
four boys  czterech chłopców
five boys  pięciu chłopców
six boys   sześciu chłopców
seven boys siedmiu chłopców
eight boys ośmiu chłopców

Impersonal Masculine

one dog    jeden pies
two dogs   dwa psy
three dogs trzy psy
four dogs  cztery psy
five dogs  pięć psów
six dogs   sześć psów
seven dogs siedem psów
eight dogs osiem psów

In the above, two, three and four dogs is in the paucal (psy), while two, three or four men is not and is instead in the plural (chłopców).

Polish, like Hungarian and Finnish, can also have very long words. For instance:

pięćsetdwadzieściajedenmiliardówdwieścieczterdzieścisiedemmiloionów-trzystaosiemdzisiątpięćtysięcyczterystadziewięćdziesięciopięcioletni

is a word in Polish (There is no dash in the word – I was just dividing the line).

A single noun can change in many ways and take many forms. Compare przyjacielfriend:

                           Singular       Plural
who is my friend           przyjaciel     przyjaciele
who is not my friend       przyjacielem   przyjaciół
friend who I give s.t. to  przyjacielowi  przyjaciołom
friend who I see           przyjaciela    przyjaciół
friend who I go with       z przyajcielem z przyjaciółmi
friend who I dream of      o przyjacielu  o przyjaciołach
Oh my friend!              Przyajaciela!   Przyjaciele!

There are 12 forms of the noun friend above.

Plurals change based on number. In English, the plural of telephone is telephones, whether you have two or 1,000 of them. In Polish, you use different words depending on how many telephones you have:

two, three or four telefony, but
five telefonów.

Sometimes, this radically changes the word, as in hands:

four ręce, but
five rąk.

There are also irregular diminutives such as

pies -> psiaczek

słońce -> słoneczko

Polish seems like Lithuanian in the sense that almost every grammatical form seems to inflect in some way or other. Even conjunctions inflect in Polish.

In addition, like Serbo-Croatian, Polish can use multiple negation in a sentence. You can use up to five negatives in a perfectly grammatical sentence:

Nikt nikomu nigdy nic nie powiedział.
Nobody ever said anything to anyone
.

Like Russian, there are multiple ways to say the same thing in Polish. However, the meaning changes subtly with these different word combinations, so you are not exactly saying the same thing with each change of word order. Nevertheless, this mess does not seem to be something that would be transparent to the Polish learner.

In English, you can say Ann has a cat, but you can’t mix the words up and mean the same thing. In Polish you can say Ann has a cat five different ways:

Ania ma kota.
Kota ma Ania.
Ma Ania kota.
Kota Ania ma.
Ma kota Ania.

The first one is the most common, but the other four can certainly be used.

In addition, Polish has a wide variety of dialects, and a huge vocabulary. However, the dialects are for the most part quite similar. Similar to Hungarian, there may be many different words for the same thing. There are 43 different words for ladybird. The following are 30 separate lexical items (not case-inflected terms) for ladybird, for which the main word is biedronka:

maryszepka, sarynka, katrynka, petronelka, skobrunek, skrzipeczka, panienka, makówka, letewka, kruszka, kropelniczka, guedzinka, motilewka, matoweczka, dzegotka, podlecuszka, maleneczka, pągwiczka, popruszka, markowiczka, parzedliszka, prochowniczka, krówka jałowiczka, karkukuczka, rączepiórka, borowa matinka, motuszka kruszka, marianna, mróweczka, and boża krówka.

Although Polish grammar is said to be irregular, this is probably not true. It only gives the appearance of being irregular, as there are so many different rules, but there is a method to the madness underneath it all. The rules themselves are so complex and numerous that it is hard to figure them all out.

It is said English-speaking children reach full adult competency in the language (reading, writing, speaking, spelling) at age 12. Polish children do not reach this milestone until age 16. Even many adult Poles make a lot of mistakes in speaking and writing Polish properly. However, most Poles are quite proud of their difficult language (though a few hate it) and even take pride in its difficult nature.

On the positive side, in Polish, the stress is fixed, there are no short or long vowels nor is there any vowel harmony, there are no tones, and it uses a Latin alphabet.

Polish is one of the most difficult of the Slavic languages. It is probably harder than Russian but not as hard as Czech, though this is controversial.

Polish gets a 5 rating, hardest of all.

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Filed under Applied, Balto-Slavic, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Polish, Slavic

Evidence That Some Languages are Harder to Learn Than Others

From here and here.

The standard view in Linguistics is that there are no easy or hard languages for either children L1 learners or older and adult L2 learners. It is also said that all languages are equally complex and no language is more simple or more complex than any other. On its face, this seems preposterous, especially for L2 learners. Linguists say that it all depends on what L1 you are coming from.

There are anecdotal reports that Navajo children have a hard time learning Navajo as compared to children learning other languages, but Navajo kids definitely learn the language.

Reportedly, Nambikwara children do not pick up the language fully until age 10 or so, one of the latest recorded ages for full competence. Nambikwara is sometimes said to be the hardest language on Earth to learn, but it has some competition.

Adding weight to the commonly held belief that Arabic is hard to learn is research done in Germany in 2005 which showed that Turkish children learn their language at age 2-3, German children at age 4-5, but Arabic kids did not get Arabic until age 12.

This implies that from easiest to hardest, it is Turkish -> German -> Arabic.

Italian is still easier to learn than French, for evidence see the research that shows Italian children learning to write Italian properly by age 6, 6-7 years ahead of French children. So at least in terms of writing, it is much easier to learn to write Italian than it is to learn to write French.

Careful studies have shown that English-speaking children take longer to read than children speaking other languages (Finnish, Greek and various Romance and other Germanic languages) due to the difficulty of the spelling system. Romance languages were easier to read than Germanic ones. So in terms of learning to read, from easiest to hardest, it would be Romance languages -> Finnish/Greek -> Germanic languages except English -> English.

Suggesting that Danish may be harder to learn than Swedish or Norwegian, it’s said that Danish children speak later than Swedish or Norwegian children. One study comparing Danish children to Croatian tots found that the Croat children had learned over twice as many words by 15 months as the Danes. According to the study:

The University of Southern Denmark study shows that at 15 months, the average Danish toddler has mastered just 80 words, whereas a Croatian tot of the same age has a vocabulary of up to 200 terms.

[…] According to the study, the primary reason Danish children lag behind in language comprehension is because single words are difficult to extract from Danish’s slurring together of words in sentences. Danish is also one of the languages with the most vowel sounds, which leads to a ‘mushier’ pronunciation of words in everyday conversation.

Therefore, Danish is harder to learn to speak than Croatian, Norwegian or Swedish. From easiest to hardest to learn to speak, it is Norwegian/Swedish -> Danish and Croatian -> Danish.

Russian is harder to learn than English. We know this because Russian children take longer to learn their language than English speaking children do. The reason given was that Russian words tended to be longer, but there may be other reasons. So from easier to harder to speak, it is Russian -> English.

It is said English-speaking children reach full adult competency in the language (reading, writing, speaking, spelling) at age 12. Polish children do not reach this milestone until age 16. So from easier to harder, it would be Russian -> Polish -> English.

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