Spanish is part of the Romance language family and is related to the majority of European languages either through a shared origin or through direct influence. In fact, Romance languages make up the most mutually intelligible language group. That means that speakers of Romance languages can generally understand each other, especially when writing, without needing to specifically study the other languages within the same family. For example, according to data from Ethnologue, the level of lexical similarity between Spanish and Portuguese is 89%; 85% between Spanish and Catalan, and 82% between Spanish and Italian.
Why is this important?
Because there are a ton of languages that share structures with Spanish and when two languages have common grammatical structures and vocabulary, the learning process becomes a lot faster and easier.
So in this article the team at Goprofe.com has compiled a list of 8 languages that are easy to learn for Spanish-speakers.
Spanish and Portuguese are part of a wider linguistic group known as the Western Iberian group. Considering that the degree of lexical similarity between these two languages is 89%, you could say that this is the easiest language to learn for Spanish-speakers. Regarding the unique vocabulary that isn’t shared, this is due in large part to the fact that Spanish has conserved many words of Arabic influence, while Portuguese didn’t have this influence and in many cases has substitutes for these terms with Latin or French roots.
Just like in Spanish, declarative statements and questions are solely differentiated through intonation, so as long as you can state something in Portuguese, you can ask it too. Pronunciation is relatively simple too, although some of the nasal vowel sounds will require some practice. When choosing who to practice with, remember that there are differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese. Also, be careful with false cognates, since for example, “acietar” means “aceptar” and “prenda” means “regalo”.
French is also a Romance language that shares verb forms with Spanish and the fact that nouns are assigned a grammatical gender (le crayon, la table). Pronunciation is a little more difficult, due to the large amount of nasal and guttural sounds as well as silent letters (i.e., letters that aren’t pronounced depending on their position). One little trick that you can use when conjugating verbs is that although the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular conjugations are spelled differently, they are pronounced the same (“Je connais” “Tu connais” and “Il connait” are all pronounced /cone/). Just like with Portuguese, the vocabulary derived from Latin is quite easy for Spanish-speakers (edifice, royal, cirque).
Italian, which is also a Romance language, is very easy to read for Spanish-speakers except for some phonemes and double letters (doppia mozzarella). However, just because a Spanish speaker can copy the way that an Italian sounds when they speak, doesn’t mean that they can actually speak their language. The majority of Italian words end in vowels, even when they’re plural they end in “i” or “e”, not “s” like in Spanish. Another difference is that Italians don’t use the letter “J” or “Ñ” and the letters “Y” “W”, and “X” only appear in foreign words.
There are many important similarities between Spanish and Italian: the construction of sentences is just like in Spanish (subject + verb), they have a different conjugation for each person, and the all verbs have a root plus an ending (-are, -ere, -ire).
Italian is also known around the world for its influence on gastronomy. Often times, there’s a good incentive to “study” from the menu at an Italian restaurant by ordering things like panino, bruschetta, agnolotti, mozzarella, pasta al dente, etc.
In Argentina, the mix of Italian and Spanish has created Lunfardo, a dialect with words like “laburar” (from lavorare and trabajar) that are still present in everyday speech.
The majority of word in Catalan (which is also called Valencian) come from Latin, although there is some influence from languages like German, Gothic, English, French, Occitan, Arabic, and, of course, Spanish.
When learning to spell Catalan words, the language has some unique characteristics like the use of the germinate L: “l•l” (like in “intel•ligent”) and the replacement of “ñ” with “ny” (piñón, pinyó).
Spanish and Romanian are Romance languages that are related but not mutually intelligible, because Romanian has taken many everyday terms from Slavic and Hungarian languages. Because of this, one might assume that it’s difficult to learn the language, but it’s not so.
Romanian is, in theory, the language still spoken today that’s most similar to Latin, that has preserved a large part of its grammatical structure. With almost 80% of the language based on Latin, there’s a better chance of understanding the language if you take advantage of the terms that have a common etymological origin, also called cognates, like “obiect” (objeto).
With an accent or without an accent, English pronunciation is relatively easy for Spanish-speakers even though English has twice as many diphthongs and vowels (20 instead of 10). The initial trap is that words aren’t necessarily pronounced as they are written (and “h” isn’t silent!).
There are many examples of false friends (cognates like compromise / compromiso or carpet/carpeta) and quasi-homophones that can cause some problems for beginners: bitch / beach.
Conjugating verbs is more simple than in Spanish and it is very easy to invent new concepts with just a prefix or suffix. Last but not least, it can be fun to learn phrasal verbs, idioms and slang by watching movies, TV shows and listening to music.
What’s good is that you are always going to find someone to practice with not just because there are hundreds of millions of native speakers, but also because it is widely studied as a second language.
7) Afrikaans or Dutch
English and Afrikaans come from the same family of Western Germanic languages. Their phonetics and pronunciation are similar, so if you master English, you can go on to learn Afrikaans as long as you learn that “g” is more similar to a “jt”.
It can be even easier than English because it doesn’t use intonation. Once you memorize the vocabulary, you can construct sentences as if they were towers of Legos without even needing to conjugate. Yes, you heard that right, in Afrikaans there are no verb conjugations, grammatical gender or pronouns. It’s a language that uses a lot of logic.
Dutch is related to Afrikaans and both languages are mutually intelligible.
In German, “e” and “u” sound just like they do in Spanish but together they sound like “oi”. German has few specific pronunciation rules, and once you learn them, they are repeated in all cases.
The biggest difficulties arise when there are many consonants together, which happens a lot because there are many compound words like Haarschmuckfachgeschäft (a store specialized in accessories for your hair). There are 3 grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, and each has its own declensions. The good news is that German is quite a logical language, so if you dedicate enough hours to learning the declensions by memory, you can learn very quickly.
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