How Language Similarities Help to Learn a New Language

If you are contemplating taking on a second language, it's common practice to lean toward a language that is very similar to your native tongue. Languages that share similar words, similar sentence structures and similar conjugations to any language that you are already fluent in will most likely be all the easier for you to pick up quickly.

People often compare the romance languages like French, Spanish and Italian; or the Germanic languages like English, German and Dutch and site all of the notable similarities that connect them and how seamlessly one can be translated into the other, but do you know why some so seemingly different languages share so many similarities?

It's All Relative

The reason that some languages are so similar to others is that the two are somehow related, and as they say, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." The different families of languages share the same or very similar words or word combination often because one language was partially derived from the other. Languages change over time, they borrow words, sounds and ideas from other languages and melt them into their own, this has been going on since the dawn of the spoken work.

Thousands of years ago, as these languages were being developed, explorers where traveling to new lands and picking up nuances of communication from the people that they were interacting with and in essence changing or newly developing the language that they were speaking. Languages are constantly changing and evolving and in essence turning into different languages.

If an English speaking American from today could be transported back in time to the year 1900 and tried to communicate with someone speaking English as it was spoken at that time, the two would have a very difficult time understanding each other due to all of the words, ideas and phases that have been borrowed and absorbed into the English language over the course of the last thousand years.

If the English spoken in America continues to transform itself at the rate that it has over the last few hundred years, they may have to start calling it "American English", because of all of the alterations will have created a real separation between it and the English spoken in England, though the two would still be from the same "family" of languages.

Spanish and French seem so similar to one another because they are so closely related, despite the fact that there are many differences present with individual words and vowel sounds, the two languages have enough similarities in terms of pronunciation and structure that someone who is fluent in one can often understand at least some of the basics of the other without having had any formal instruction.

The Borrowers

Even when two languages aren't directly "related" there can be a connection that leads to some glaring similarities. When two previously unrelated languages come together, as could be the case with war occupation or invasion, one language will often borrow any number of things from the other - adding potentially hundreds of new words to the borrowing language.

This is precisely the reason that there are so many similar words in the English language and the French language. French speaking Normans had at one time occupied a portion of England, the English speaking natives borrowed several words and phrases that stuck and effectively altered the language from what it had been and made it much more similar to a language from another language "family"

Purely by Chance

The least likely reason of all of the potentials for a similarity among different languages is the fact that it is so purely by chance. Things can certainly happen by chance or by accident, which may be why two words from otherwise entirely different languages, having the same meaning, may sound similar, but when there are several similarities of sounds, pronunciation or grammar, often either the languages are related or there has been some other reason for borrowing.


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