How should we go about learning the similarities and disparities between Spanish, French, and Italian languages? This topic will make us establish the measure or degree of why learning one language benefits us with eventually learning the other two languages and there are varied considerations in determining its similarities and differences. Many language teachers often say that these languages are different in many respects. The Spanish language is popularly described as an easy language to write and it is written as pronounced compared to the writing rules of Italian and French.
What are the differences between these three languages?
If you are someone like me who has vast exposure to Spanish influence over the years, someone who has traveled to Italy and learned the very basic Italian words and phrases for tourists, and someone who is presently struggling to learn other languages including French, you certainly have the basic knowledge of determining the characteristics of each.
Spanish, French, and Italian are three of the five official languages of the European Union while Spanish and French are two of the six official languages of the United Nations.
Hailed from the Romance Language, that was the language of the Roman Empire stemmed from Latin and later on became the dialects of Vulgar Latin; these three languages can be similar interchangeably in grammar, syntax, pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling, and accentuation. At some point, these languages are reciprocally logical.
Most people I knew who either are learning or are already fluent in these three languages have their impressions on the distinctive personalities of each language.
Spanish is phonetic and authoritative. The manner in which the Spanish people speak commands respect. The Spanish language is almost ahead of the English language due to the huge number of Spanish speaking population across the globe. This language is the most important and immensely useful language in the business and commercial environment due to the numerous transactions and agreements made every day between the Spanish speaking companies from around the world.
French is sophisticated and passionate. French speakers find the language radiant more than beautiful. They emphasize the words strongly and very meticulously yet politely.
Italian is romantic and musical. Italians have their unique way in the pronunciation and intonation of words which are long and high pitch in the middle of the words yet calm towards the end.
There is a convincing argument for many years that Italian and French are easier to learn and speak than Spanish. Most linguists also recommend that we must first learn the Italian and French languages so that we can learn the Spanish language much easier.
However, if you come from countries which were colonized by the Spaniards for hundreds of years, I would say it is easier to learn French and Italian because you are already well conversant in Spanish. As we go along, let me share with you my own impressions alongside my learning journeys in Spanish, Italian, and French languages so there is a basis for my rationale behind this topical question towards the end of this article.
What makes Spanish and Italian very similar?
I recall traveling to Rome, Italy back in October 2002 when I attended the Canonization of St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei. My group engaged the services of a travel agency in the Philippines and one of the core documents in our travel pack is a five-page basic Italian words and phrases translated in English to guide us in our tour to Italy.
I was compelled to learn the language to my advantage and for a smooth travel. Since I can read and speak basic Spanish, it was easier for me to recognize most of the words and phrases in Italian while reading the travel guide.
Below are some notable Italian words and phrases I encountered which are similar in meaning and almost similar in spelling to Spanish:
|come stai||como estas||how are you|
|a che ora||que hora||what time is it|
|per favore||por favor||please|
|come ti chiami||como te llamas||what is your name|
|Con permesso||con permiso||excuse me|
While learning the Italian language, I recognized more similarities and differences in various aspects:
1. Spanish has five vowel sounds while Italian has seven. The pronunciation of the vowels a, i, and u are very similar. For vowels e and o, Spanish has only one version for each while Italian has an open and closed version of both vowels.
2. The letter h is silent in both languages.
3. In Spanish, the way to pronounce sc is ch as in English while it is pronounced sh in Italian as in English.
4. In Spanish, the letter s is always a voiceless pronunciation but in Italian, it can be either voice or voiceless depending on the setting.
5. Accents are permanently sharp in Spanish while it is customary in Italian.
6. Many Spanish words do not end in a vowel while it is mostly the case in Italian.
7. The syllable ie in Spanish becomes e in Italian when emphasized. For example, concierto/ concerto.
8. The voice consonants g and d in Spanish become voiceless in Italian when pronounced. For example, amigo/ amico.
On the average, I would say that the etymological resemblance between the Spanish and Italian language is around 80%. Both languages may have similar words but are not necessarily comprehensible to fluent speakers given the differences in pronunciation, grammar, spelling, vocabulary.
Does Spanish have similarities with French?
I remember the first time I fell in love with the French language was when I watched the French war movie “Special Forces”. It has English sub-titles but because of the many captivating scenes in the movie and the way the actors articulately communicate in French with so much elegance, I cannot be bothered reading the English translations. I was confident I understand the movie with the interesting flow of the story and stunning moves of the actors.
I started learning basic French online a week after watching the movie. I tried as much to learn the language regularly but it was tough from the very beginning. Perhaps, learning online without actual and follow-up conversations is not very helpful.
A number of people consider French as one of the hardest languages to learn. Actually, if you hear the language for the first time, you can almost associate it with the Russian language. This was probably because of the strong emphasis on the accents. The only difference is that French tone is more affectionate.
When I was learning French online, I stumble upon some basic words which are similar in meaning and almost similar in spelling with that of the Spanish language:
|comprendo||je comprends||i understand|
|puede repetir||pouvez-vous répéter||can you repeat|
|depende||ca depend||it depends|
You will encounter the following points when you learn the French language whether formally or casually:
1. The origin of the Spanish and French language from Vulgar or Colloquial Latin is the most significant resemblance of both languages among all other considerations.
2. Another principal similarity between the two languages is that they both use the same basic 26 letters from the Latin alphabet. I can see it as one advantage for beginners in French language because using the same letters could mean having the same basic writing system. This makes writing in French easier to grasp.
3. The number of shared grammatical features is one additional crucial resemblance. Many of the words used in Spanish and French either are the same in meaning or just simply spelled in very similar way.
4. The written accent marks over certain letters in both Spanish and French indicate more force in pronunciation. However, French has the most stress part having five different accent marks. Two of these accent marks though are also visible in Spanish – the modern and historical accents as I understood it.
On the average, the verbal similarities between the Spanish and French language is at 65 percent.
I must say that my learning journeys of the three languages are indeed distinctive of one another. In summary, I learned that:
1. Spanish and Italian are similar in vocabulary.
2. Spanish and French are similar in some vocabulary.
3. French and Italian are similar in grammar.
Is Spanish more similar to Italian?
Yes, Spanish is more similar to Italian than French, to answer the question.
The reason why Spanish and Italian are similar is because of the mutual clarity between them. Take a look at how both languages share a lot of cognates such as nouns which is the very basic thing to communicate with one another.
Another thing – Spanish is considered one of the largest producers in the world of entertainment with 527 million speakers across the globe. Over the years, the Italian entertainers continue to cross over into the Spanish entertainment. Come to think of how very difficult it is for non-Spanish speakers to cross over into Spanish entertainment. But in the case of the Italians, they can do so with very little to no effort at all.
Bear in mind that two languages don’t sound so similar by chance. Most of the time, they sound so similar because of cross-communication required from both languages.