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'Gateway' slavic language?

stevew 2 | 29  
19 Oct 2009 /  #1
Hi there

I have tried to learn Polish but... it seems a very unforgiving language, very easy to make mistakes that render you unintelligible and a very precise language as well.

I had heard that of the Slavic languages, Polish might be one of the hardest.

So it occurred to me to wonder if there might be another Slavic language which could be easier for a native English speaker to pick up?

Sort of as an introduction to the Slavic languages and with lessons learned which could be applied to the learning of Polish.
19 Oct 2009 /  #2
So it occurred to me to wonder if there might be another Slavic language which could be easier for a native English speaker to pick up?

Not really, but in my opinion, the Czech alphabet is easier to read than the Polish, but you still have to deal with all the verb stuff, so there's no easy way round it to be honest. For native speakers of English, none of the Slavic languages are likely to be particularly easy. Those using the Cyrillic alphabet are likely to be the hardest, though, because at least with the West Slavic languages, you simply deal with a modified Roman alphabet, and not a completely new one, so the written word is going to be at least slightly familiar.
gumishu 13 | 6,144  
19 Oct 2009 /  #3
Russian has simpler grammar (though not very simple and in many cases similar to Polish)
It has a bit simpler phonetics as well. I guess there are also plenty of resources to learn Russian.

Both Czech and Slovak have a bit simpler grammars, simpler phonetics (though Czech has one pretty unique sound that large part of Czechs don't render properly ;) ) that are better accessed by English speakers.

I have met claims that Croatian (Serbocroatian) is not very difficult to pick up by English speakers - but I don't know much about the language.

Bulgarian is unique in some ways among Slavic languages (grammar wise)

you can have a go and try Russian or Czech and then see if it helps in Polish. (I am not sure. I think the opinions will vary greatly among individuals (opinions based on experiences - never mind any other opinion)

a thing to remember is there are false friends - similarly looking/sounding words in different Slavic languages that mean something completely different - some 'false friends' can cause unpleasant situations (being neutral in one and gross language in other Slavic language)
Leopejo 4 | 120  
19 Oct 2009 /  #4
to learn Russian.

I agree with Russian being a good choice for first language.

Surely the simplest gateway to Slavic languages would be... Slovio! ;-)

(no, I am not really advocating studying Slovio first. They say learning Esperanto makes learning other Western European languages much easier, but I hate conlangs)
Magdalena 3 | 1,837  
19 Oct 2009 /  #5
Both Czech and Slovak have a bit simpler grammars

I would definitely disagree. Both declension and conjugation systems (at least in Czech) are massively difficult.
19 Oct 2009 /  #6
Slovio! ;-)

Is that a real language? :)

I'd never heard of it until now, but I can understand over 90% of this:

Sxto es Slovio? Slovio es novju mezxunarodju jazika ktor razumijut cxtirsto milion ludis na celoju zemla

MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
19 Oct 2009 /  #7
Slovio! ;-)

I read the page and it seems like a good idea. However, one question: you don't learn how to read, or is that included? I mean, the cyrillic will remain the same, Slovio or no Slovio. And, if you write something in Slovio, can ppl actually read it? Or is it just meant as a phonetic repro of Slavic languages?


M-G (curious)
19 Oct 2009 /  #8
And, if you write something in Slovio, can ppl actually read it?

Well, as I mentioned above, I can understand most of my quote. It helps to know more than one Slavic language though (as I do).

(hopefully correct) translation:

Slovio imajt prostju, logikju gramatia i Slovio es idealju jazika dla dnesju ludis. Ucxijte Slovio tper!

What is Slovio? Slovio is a new, international language which is understood by millions of people around the world. Slovio which may be used to converse with millions of Slavic people from Prague to Vladivostok, from St.Petersburg via Warsaw to Varna; from the Mediterranean to the North Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Slovio has a clear, logical grammar and Slovio is an ideal language for today's people. Learn Slovio now!
Leopejo 4 | 120  
19 Oct 2009 /  #9
I guess it's mainly for speaking. The idea would be that you (Slavic or not) can talk with Slavic people from different countries and more or less understand each other.

But apart from knowing the name Slovio and having read some of that website, I know nothing. I personally find the case system of Slavic languages beautiful, while Slovio, trying to be an easy language, hasn't got declinations at all (apart from a strange "to" case).
19 Oct 2009 /  #10
To be honest, it's a good idea, but would it be really of much use to anyone, unless both parties knew at least two or three Slavic languages? And is it really any different to mixing up the languages you know at randon, to form some form of self-created "Slavic pidgin"?

For example (silly, but....)

mame penize na kawy a pivo ale ne na knedliky a tramwaje

is probably as easily understood by a Pole as a Czech and possibly a Slovak, so do we really need Slovio? :)
Sasha 2 | 1,083  
21 Oct 2009 /  #11
but I can understand over 90% of this

Seems like it's based on Russian mostly. I didn't only get what


meant. Did you, OR?

So it occurred to me to wonder if there might be another Slavic language which could be easier for a native English speaker to pick up?

You might wanna give a try in Serbian. I've studied it for some period of my life and may tell that I find their grammar closer to English than at least Russian one. Serbian alike to English uses auxiliary verbs to form different tenses which we Russians do not have at all (or being accurate we've still got them as throwbacks that do not play role of verbs in a sentence). Russian also uses Cyrillic alphabet which might be hard on the first stages of studying whereas Serbian uses both Latin and Cyrillic.

Knowing Serbian would let you understand Bulgarian, Croatian (which is actually the same).
If you want to learn Russian then the list of similarity from my perspective to other Slavic languages would be as follows (descending):
1. Belorussian
2. Ukrainian
3. Polish or Bulgarian
4. I think Czech

As for Slovio... I'd heard of it had known their website. It's interesting however it's hardly has a future. Slavic World is too disintegrated.
mafketis 36 | 10,371  
21 Oct 2009 /  #12
IMO the two best (not great but best) gateway Slavic languages are Slovak and Slovenian.

But the concept doesn't really work for Slavic languages anyway. The one to learn is the one you need to learn. Other than that, learn the one you find most appealing/interesting.

Slovio is a cute idea but is badly undermined by not having any case endings, when it would be super easy to come up with five different cases that wouldn't be hard to remember and would give learners an intro in the way case works in Slavic (more necessary than a bunch of 'common' vocabulary that doesn't work.

nom. muzx
acc. muzxa
gen muzxa
dat.loc muzxu
instr muzxem

nom zxena
acc zxenu
gen zxeny
datloc zxene
instr zxenau (or maybe zxenam)

nom. deto
acc deto
gen deta
dat.loc detu
instr detem

Also, the plural in -s is totally, completely, horribly non-Slavic.

nom. muzxi
acc. muzxov
gen muzxov
dat.loc muzxah
instr muzxema

nom zxeny
acc zxeny
gen zxen
datloc zxenach
instr zxenama

nom. deta
acc deta
gen det
dat.loc detach
instr detema

are much more likely to aid a learner in understanding what kinds of plurals actually occur.
21 Oct 2009 /  #13

I did, from Czech dnes = today. I speak Polish and Czech, but not a word of Russian.

i.e. "dnesju ludis" appears to me to mean dnešní lidé in Czech (today's people/people today in English)
Leopejo 4 | 120  
21 Oct 2009 /  #14
Slovio is a cute idea but is badly undermined by not having any case endings
I'm exactly of the same idea. Have an "easy" and regular case system taken from the actual languages and we can talk about it.
Sasha 2 | 1,083  
21 Oct 2009 /  #15
I did, from Czech dnes = today.

Aha. :) I should have guessed that. So it finally took one Eastern and one Western Slav to understand the whole text in Slovio. :) Not that bad.

I still have copybook of Czech language at home ("htete mluvit cesky" or some like that... "wanna speak Czech?"). I read it occasionally some time ago, remember it was fun but now I don't really have a time for that.
21 Oct 2009 /  #16
Having learned some intermediate Russian after Polish, I would conclude (as a non-native Slavic speaker, mind you!) that the latter is infinitely more challenging than the former. Sure, all Slavic has grammatical fixtures which deviate from the more familiar Romance and even most Germanic languages, yet Polish appears to this poster at least, to be more quixotic, not to mention slippery, in it's inflectional endings, as well as it's verb conjugations LOL

As a gateway language, Polish helped me immensely before studying Russian; aspect, extended case system, plural declensions, masculine vs. feminine endings in past tense etc.... As with all Slavic tongues, exceedingly practical in the professional world today, especially in Eastern Europe, where expectedly, actual English competence vs. enthusiasm for 'cool' Western American capitalism, are scarcely in synch, if they ever really will be.

Am sure to post more on this later-:)

......its inflectional endings and its verbal declensions... pardon!!
22 Oct 2009 /  #17
Also, the plural in -s is totally, completely, horribly non-Slavic.

Neither totally nor horribly. Polish has fossilized "niebiosa", Russians has a few more such fossils, and in Slovene neuter plurals in '-sa' are completely regular :)
mafketis 36 | 10,371  
22 Oct 2009 /  #18
None of your examples are plurals ending in -s.

Fossilized plurale tantum forms are of no wider applicability and the Slovene forms are part of a subclass of neuter nouns that use an expanded stem ending in -t, -s or -n for everything but nominative/accusative singular, like Polish imię / imienia or zwierzę / zwierzęta, the -s is part of the stem and not part of the plural.

I'm unmoved and still maintain that -s is a very un-Slavic kind of plural marker and an extremely poor choice for a compromise pan-Slavic gateway, -i for masculine and feminine and -a for neuter would have been far better (and patterns that AFAIK exist in just about every slavic language).
Bondi 4 | 142  
22 Oct 2009 /  #19
I think Russian is more difficult than Polish - even its Cyrillic ortography is much like the English ortography: the spelling is confusing.

Not that I'm perfect in either of 'em... I started to study Polish and my remembrance of the mandatory Russian at school helped a bit - but when I look back at Russian (listening to songs, watching films etc.) it is shocking how confusing it is. Pronounciation and spelling is nearly a piece of cake in Polish, once you know the alphabet. While in Russian, it won't help to read Cyrillic when they always change the intonation and the emphasis in mysterious ways. They also have more softened+hardened pairs of vowels and consonants than Polish.

Just my two pence, though, as a non-Slavic speaker. :)
23 Oct 2009 /  #20
In terms though of sheer recognizability, Hungarian's got 'em all beat:-)
This is not to mention the umpteen cases to contend with, even in daily life, compared with Polish's paultry seven or Russian six. Even German's four pale by comparison.

I can read Hungarian reasonably well, speaking and writing it, however, another story!

Thank Heaven for German. At least there was one language I could more than get by in outside the major cities without having to rely on English (....usually the foreign visitor's BIG mistake!).
gumishu 13 | 6,144  
23 Oct 2009 /  #21
yeah - not so many Germans know English reasonably well to communicate - which is very different from Scandinavia and Holland
mafketis 36 | 10,371  
23 Oct 2009 /  #22
I think Lyzko was talking about Hungary. According to official figures English is the most widely studied foreign language but I personally have found that outside Budapest (and even outside a few tourist spots in Budapest) that German is more widely understood.
23 Oct 2009 /  #23
Slight difference though, is that many (not all!) Scandis and Dutch THINK they know English a lot better than is often the case. Once, a Dane was so bold as to correct my English:-) Turned out, of course, I was correct, but boy oh boy did he put up a dogfight trying to prove the contrary LOL The Dutch ain't much different)))))
gumishu 13 | 6,144  
23 Oct 2009 /  #24
German is more widely understood.

it seems it is useful to know at least some basic German - older Polish generation also understand lots of German - especially those who did their slave work time in the Third Reich - I tend to think that before the war most educated people in Poland knew at least good basics of German ( Yiddish is very close to German so knowledge of German was quite practical even in everyday life)

I knew of one person in Holland (an older guy) who could speak or understand no English but we could talk in German (mind you this was very close to the Dutch-German border - what I guess is though it not that difficult for the Dutch to understand and even speak German - have seen plenty of German TV personalities who were Dutch - many had this particular Dutch accent but I really like it - the Schwitzer Tuetsch has quite similar accent to Dutch language (at least that of the Basel area - I met a group of tourists from there in Poland)
24 Oct 2009 /  #25
Yes, gumishu. The analogy is quite apt between Swiss-German and Dutch dipthongs (półgłoski).

Perhaps too for this reason, Swiss-Germans and Dutch speakers especially, have one helluva time learning correct Polish pronunciation:-)

slowianski - | 7  
7 Nov 2009 /  #26
There is another constructed Slavic language out there called "Slovianski" (my user name has nothing to do with it, all I wanted to do was say Slavic in Polish because I had no other ideas for a user name ;) ) There are two Slovianski languages, one with easy grammar with no case system intened for western foreigners and one with a case system to be more turely Slavic.

Unlike Slovio one of the Slovianski languages has a simple case system and retains many heart-warming and learnable "slavisms." It uses both the cyrillic and latin alphabets. I don't know if its any good for getting intruduced to slavic languages then moving onto a real one, seeing how I only speak English, some German, and some Polish. I tried learning Polish and failed miserably becuse every time I told the teacher I needed to learn the case system she said I should already know it.

The website is:

I have a question about Slavic languages - I've asked my babcia and pra babcia this but they were unsure... what is the closest major language to Polish? is it Slovak or Belarusian? They don't speak either of those but are very familiar with them and couldn't decide.
mafketis 36 | 10,371  
7 Nov 2009 /  #27
From a 'genetic' point of view, as used by linguists, Czech.

From a practical point of view, as in easiest to understand, Slovak.

That's just in terms of the literary languages (since Slovak separated from written Czech after Polish and Czech separated). In terms of speech, then Slovak, period.

Belarussian belongs to the eastern Slavic group which separated from the western group before the individual eastern and western varieties separated. Belarussian is easy to understand if you know some Russian, but in formal terms it's further away than Slovak or Czech.
Bondi 4 | 142  
7 Nov 2009 /  #28
Having a closer look at Slovio, I think it's a "one-way language". It would be one thing to speak it and get away with this "broken Slavic", but it'd be quite another thing to understand anything a native Polish, Czech or Russian says in reply...
MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
7 Nov 2009 /  #29

I think it's at least an accomplishment to try and have something that is somehow intelligable for Slavic ppl, but you're right (and I think I already stated that somewhere before); you may talk Slovio to a Slav, but what when he starts talking back to you? Would you be able to follow then? I mean, since Slovio seems to be a mash of the diverse Slavic languages, every Slav you speak with in Slovio, will answer in his own version of Slavic. Might present a little problem there. Or is this caught by some loophole in Slovio?

Edit: seems the same with Esperanto, only if your discussion partner speaks Esperanto too, you can converse with him. Does this mean that every Slavic person will have to learn Slovio too? Would not even be such a bad idea, since it's one world, one global village...


M-G (good mooded)
7 Nov 2009 /  #30
The closest "relative" of modern-day Esperanto (invented, of course, by a Pole, Jewish to boot, Dr. Ludvik Zamenhof) is admittedly Globish or 'Global English', the Anglo equivalent, more or less, to "broken Slavic", i.e. "fractured English" LOL


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