Difficulty of Lerning Chinese vs. difficulty of learning a Slavic language

General discussion about learning languages
aquarius
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Languages: German (N), English, French, Italian, Spanish (a bit), Catalan (a bit), Polish (learning), Slovak (a bit)
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Re: Difficulty of Lerning Chinese vs. difficulty of learning a Slavic language

Postby aquarius » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:48 pm

Axon wrote:For English speakers, there's a huge amount of shared vocabulary in Slavic languages, even more so if you know some other European languages. You don't start to get vocabulary bonuses in Chinese until you've learned enough words that you can start breaking down new words into their roots.


I've often heard this argument, and initially I thought that it hasn't got too much importance: You must learn a lot of new vocabulary. Even if 10 % or 20 % of the vocabulary consists of loanwords, you still have to learn 80 % or 90 % of the vocabulary.

Eventually, however, I realized that the shared vocabulary can help a lot for listening comprehension. The more words you understand in a sentence, the more it is likely that you will understand the gist of the sentence.

When I'm listening to native speakers of Polish speaking in 'normal' speed', there are some words I understand easily, without effort. They can serve as "cloud points", and they can help me to understand also some of the word 'around' them, which I probably wouldn't have understood without the "cloud point". I've noticed that a considerable part of these "cloud points" are loanwords.
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Axon
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Languages: Comfortable: German, Mandarin, Indonesian.
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Also: Cantonese, Vietnamese, Polish.
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Re: Difficulty of Lerning Chinese vs. difficulty of learning a Slavic language

Postby Axon » Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:18 am

aquarius wrote:
Eventually, however, I realized that the shared vocabulary can help a lot for listening comprehension. The more words you understand in a sentence, the more it is likely that you will understand the gist of the sentence.

When I'm listening to native speakers of Polish speaking in 'normal' speed', there are some words I understand easily, without effort. They can serve as "cloud points", and they can help me to understand also some of the word 'around' them, which I probably wouldn't have understood without the "cloud point". I've noticed that a considerable part of these "cloud points" are loanwords.


Exactly! And I would argue that Mandarin Chinese is even more difficult in this regard because the loanwords are both very rare and often obfuscated by the way they fit Chinese phonology. If you hear someone say "Xiāngcǎo bùdīng yǐjīng mài wánle" and you don't speak Mandarin, you're probably going to have a hard time knowing that the sentence is related to pudding (bùdīng). I believe Cantonese has slightly more loanwords that are closer to English, though in any conversation in either language the number is almost certainly below one percent.

But here I've got a sentence in Slovene, a language I've never studied. "Te so bile nameščene v prostorih, ki jih uporabljajo britanski, francoski, nemški in španski diplomati." Clearly, there's something about Britain, France, Spain, and diplomats. Now obviously you've got to learn what the endings mean in order to really grasp how these words are being used in the sentence, but the point remains that Slavic languages are just that more transparent from the start for English speakers.
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