If you know Spanish, I’m sure these languages will be as easy as eating a piece of cake!
Spanish is part of the Romance language family and is related to most European languages by descent or influence. Today, we’ll discuss the group of languages with the greatest mutual intelligibility without the need for special studies or knowledge of those other languages. In simpler words, speakers of a Romance language can understand each other, mostly in written form.
But wait. This doesn’t mean that the languages are identical because they do not derive from each other. They share their roots, which I’ll explain later. In this post, you’ll learn in which way Spanish is different and similar to any of these other languages and if they can understand each other or not.
After this post, you may discover your new goal of learning one of these languages. Who knows? So, vamos por ello!
What languages are the most similar to Spanish?
The languages most similar to Spanish are Italian, Portuguese, French, and Catalan since they all come from Romanic languages. Followed by German, which, by having the same roots, are among the most similar and easy to learn if Spanish is your mother tongue.
In addition, there is a lexical similarity of 89% between Spanish and Portuguese, 85% between Spanish and Catalan, and 82% between Spanish and Italian. According to Ethnologue.
Are Spanish and Portuguese similar?
Spanish and Portuguese have a degree of lexical similarity of 89%, so this is probably the easiest language for Spanish speakers to learn. The two languages are part of a larger linguistic group known as the Ibero-Western group.
Spanish retains words of Arabic origin, while Portuguese did not have that influence and, in many cases, replaced those terms with Latin and French roots. This could be why the part of the vocabulary is not shared.
There are also some differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese.
The differences in vocabulary between these two languages stem from several factors:
- Spelling: some words are spelled differently, despite having the exact origin and similar pronunciation.
- Different phonetic evolution.
- Influences from other European languages during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Portuguese was strongly influenced by French, while Spanish was more autonomous and oriented towards the Mediterranean.
- Other languages that influenced Portuguese (Amerindian, African, or Asian)
- Semantic changes produce cognates that, although they appear similar, have different meanings (they are false friends)
- Words that have two forms in one language but only one in the other.
Some examples of words that are similar in both languages are:
In general terms, the grammars of Spanish and Portuguese are similar. However, some differences between the two languages may delay learning one with knowledge of the other.
- Spanish has three forms for the singular definite article, el, masculine, la, feminine, and lo, neuter. In Portuguese, there is only o, male, and a, female.
- In Portuguese, all possessive adjectives agree in gender with the thing possessed. While this only happens in Spanish with nuestro/nuestra and vuestro/vuestra.
- Although the vocabularies of Spanish and Portuguese are similar, phonetically, Portuguese is closer to Catalan or French.
Are Spanish and Italian similar?
Spanish and Italian are similar since they are both from romance language families. They have a lexical similarity of more than 80%. This means that most of the words in the two languages will have a related vocabulary in the other language. For example:
Both developed from dialects of vulgar Latin spoken throughout the Roman Empire. For more information about the history of the Spanish language, I suggest you read this post:
The Language of Iberian Peninsula: Interesting Facts We Should know!
History of the Spanish Language
They are both believed to be mutually intelligible to some extent, mostly in their written and spoken forms. (when spoken clearly) However, it does not imply that they are mutually intelligible to native speakers due to other differences in pronunciation and syntax. There are many differences to be highlighted.
In Italian, the verbs are different. For example, in the verb “ser and/or estar”, in Italian, “essere” is used.
One of the most marked differences is that CI and NE are used very much in Italian. It has many different meanings, so you should be attentive to its use since it does not exist in Spanish. For example:
- Ci sono, which means here I am
- Me ne vado, which means I’m leaving
Although there are many similarities in the vocabulary, as we saw earlier, it does not mean that every word has the exact translation to Spanish. There are “false friends” —words almost identical in their writing but represent a different thing, making it hard to master the language completely. For example:
|Salire||Subir||To go up|
Are Spanish and French similar?
It is estimated that Spanish and French have about 70% similarities. If you master Spanish, learning French will be much easier. The first and most obvious advantage is that they share the same alphabet. But there are also several grammatical characteristics that both share. For example:
Some other similarities are:
- Regarding the construction of basic sentences, the structure is the same: subject, verb, and predicate.
- Another similarity is that there is gender in the nouns (masculine and feminine), the verb conjugation also varies depending on the verb tense and the subject, and there are two possibilities for the grammatical number (singular, plural)
- There are two versions of the past tense.
Among the differences, the most obvious are the pronunciation and the accent. At first glance, they are not so similar since French is known for being more firm and accented. In addition, we can highlight that conjugation is sometimes different from Spanish. Various ways to conjugate in French than in Spanish do not exist.
To sum up, both countries are united by a shared history that has left its mark on the linguistic level. Throughout the 20th century, many Spaniards emigrated to France for better living conditions. That history explains why Spain and France share a border and a region: the Basque Country. An area where both cultures and languages merge in philosophy, architecture, gastronomy, and many more!! Find out here:
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Are Spanish and Catalan similar?
Spanish and Catalan are Western Romance languages, however, they come from two different branches. Castilian comes from the Ibero-Romance branch, while Catalan belongs to the Gallo-Romance branch.
Of the most marked differences we can highlight the following:
- The African influence in the Catalan language: such as /ts, dz, tS, dZ/ that do not exist in Spanish.
- The pronoun “en”, which means “de eso” (something that was previously mentioned) but these do not exist at all in Spanish. Catalan always leaves out the vowels -o, -a, or -e; which are commonly used in Spanish.
- Catalan leaves out the “n” in many nouns, while Spanish words usually end in this consonant.
- Catalan uses “ny” which corresponds to Spanish “ñ”, in Portuguese “nh”, or French / Italian “gn”;
- Catalan uses both grave and acute accents, such as á, ò, è: anglès, francès;
- Catalan in the simple past tense is very unique. It has a simple past tense that is very different from other Romance languages. It is composed of the present form of the auxiliary verb and the infinitive form of the verb.
Although they may seem very different a priori, most Catalan words come from Latin, although of course there are historical and continental influences, from languages as varied as German, Gothic, English, French, Occitan, Arabic, and also, of course, Spanish.
Moreover, Catalan is the official language of the region of Catalonia in Spain. but It is essential to mention that not all Spaniards understand or speak Catalan since Spain has 47.33 million people, of whose approximately 9 million are Catalan speakers. However, most Catalan speakers can speak Spanish, as they live in territories that are politically integrated into Spain. If you want to understand more about this interesting language take a look at this article:
Is catalan a language or a dialect? The Beloved Soul of Catalonia
Are Spanish and German similar?
Spanish and German are more similar than you might imagine. Sharing a common Romance language root of Spanish and German, a portion of the grammatical structure and vocabulary makes it somewhat easier to learn German after you’ve learned Spanish. However, German is a Germanic language whose origin dates back to the Middle Ages.
Some aspects shared between the two languages are:
- German and Spanish share almost all the letters of the alphabet, distinguishing only their sounds in each language. In German, some additional sounds result from merging some letters (vowels).
- Another similarity between these two languages is the gender. In German, there are three genders: masculine, feminine and neutral. But in contrast, each word has a particular gender.
- Similar words: such as the following
Now let’s see the differences:
- Compared to Spanish, in German, numbers are said backward.
- The differences with Spanish are more profound and revealed when it comes to putting sentences together. Some forms are impossible to understand in Spanish because they do not exist in German, and vice versa.
- The pronunciation is different. Some German sounds don’t exist in Spanish.
- German Declension is the inflection of nouns, adjectives, and pronouns to express different grammatical relationships within a sentence. Thus, Declension aims to mark the subject of a sentence, the direct and indirect object, among other syntactic relations.
- Despite having a similar alphabet, the words formed in German do not necessarily resemble what Spanish speakers know or use frequently. The combination of several German words does not necessarily have a precise meaning in the German dictionary.
Are Spanish and English similar?
Spanish and English are similar languages. Both languages use the Roman alphabet, so the letter sounds are similar in Spanish and English. This lays the foundation for the similarities between the two languages. In addition, approximately 30% to 40% of all English words have a related word in Spanish with a similar sound, appearance, and meaning.
Some examples of similar words are:
Also, both languages are alphabetic, meaning they use symbols (letters) to represent sounds. It opposes logographic systems such as Chinese, which use symbols to represent whole words. Moreover, the vocabulary is formed with prefixes and suffixes in both.
- Spanish has only five vowel sounds, while English has more than 14, depending on regional dialects.
- English nouns have no gender.
- In Spanish, it is normal to negate twice, but this rarely happens in English, which forces us to mix negative and affirmative words.
- Adjectives come before nouns.
- English verbs are not conjugated. Therefore, they can’t indicate the gender or number of the subject, so the subject provides this information.
- Capitalization and punctuation are used slightly differently.
- The consonants v, ll, h, j, r, rr, z, and x have very different pronunciations in the two languages.
- The consonant ñ does not exist in English; instead, the sound it represents is written with two letters, ny.
- Some combinations are pronounced differently.
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As you can see, the Iberian Peninsula is home to many different cultures and languages. Yes, we speak Spanish in Spain, but we also have many other official languages in various regions throughout the country. They all represent the identity, culture, and customs of cities occupied by many civilizations millions of years ago that have left their mark on what is Spain today. Find out more here:
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