Mr. X says Spanish and Italian are the same language!

Thought a Simpsons ref would draw you. Anyway, I’ve been trying to learn Italian recently and a prior knowledge of Spanish from trips to Spain is proving a major hindrance - I’m constantly dropping Spanish vocab in accidentally, instead of Italian words which to my English ear sound similar. “Bueno” instead of “Bene” and what have you.

They’re both Romance languages, but I never recall having this problem learning French and Spanish at the same time. What I guess I’m asking is how far the similarities run; if you put a Spaniard and Italian in a room together how easy would they find verbal communication?

Are there any appropriate comparisons with the relationship between Spanish and Italian and English and another language? I’m guessing German would be most appropriate, I certainly found it easiest to pick up.

Dutch has massive similarities to English.

Depends on the topic, how fast they’re talking, and the accent. I have Italian coworkers, and when they talk Italian to each other, I can barely make a word here and there. I can understand slow Italian songs a bit better, I get the gist but not the details.

But nope, useful verbal communication is not going to happen when someone is speaking Italian and the other Spanish. They can understand each other basics and then try to fill in what they’re missing, and go :confused: .

Spanish and Portuguese, though, it is easier to understand. The pronunciation may throw them off, as well as the false cognates.

Richard Feynman said he got along in Brazil pretty well, using Latin.

They’re not the same language, but they’re similar enough both in vocabulary and in how we approach communication as to be mutually intelligible if both parties want to understand each other. The approach to communication is important: Spaniards talk with our hands, Italians with their whole arms (and for both, the gestures are an important part of communication - some Latin American colleagues who were more restrained in their gestures had more problems communicating with the Italians); when there’s several synonims to choose from, both parties will automatically try to select the synonim that’s most likely to be similar to the other language’s word; we very rapidly start picking the other person’s words and mixing them with ours, producing what’s known as Itagnolo (alternative spelling Itañolo).

Told before:
International project, involving several European factories. Most of the consultants are monolingual Americans. One of these walks by as the Quality managers of the Spanish and Italian factories are having a chat. The American, surprised, stops and says “why, Salva, I didn’t know you spoke Italian!”
Spanish guy: :confused: “Oh I don’t”
American: “oh. So it’s you who speaks Spanish, Marco?”
Italian guy: “No, no I don’t”
American: “but… but then what were you speaking in?”
Spaniard: “each in his language; he speak Italian, I answer Spanish or Catalan.” <— the Spaniard’s Romance-language bilingualism was another tool in the “choose the word that’s more likely to be similar” box.
The American was able to recover from the shock after several hours of mumbling and having his back patted consolingly.

I’m an international consultant; in job interviews I’m often asked whether I speak Italian. The last time went like this, translated and listing languages:
Agent (in mostly-Spanish): “Do you speak Italian?”
Me (Spanish): “Not really, but I’m from Spain, I speak Itagnolo just fine and Italian… (mostly-Italian) well, I speak Italian somewhat worse than you speak Spanish.”
Agent: HAH!

Anecdotal, but last year we had a Spanish philosopher come and do a seminar here (at an Italian university) and he just spoke Spanish with some Italian words dropped in here and there and everybody got along fine. Certainly since learning Italian I can almost read off any Spanish sentence with barely a problem, and from speaking to my Italian coworkers they all say that Spanish is almost mutually intelligible with Italian. Their real problem appears to be French, which they claim is full of false friends and swapped genders for words.

I’ve heard of Itagnolo before (and seen it in action) - to me, an Englishman, it’s a more intriguing notion than the one about what English sounds like to foreigners - because there aren’t really any other common languages that are as close to English as Spanish and Italian are to one another.
Maybe Scots vs English is comparable to Spanish vs Italian.

Nava, when a native speaker of Spanish tries to read italian, what sort of perceptions are common?

I ask because in the case of me (English) reading Scots, my impression is of it being a written portrayal of an accent, not a language - you know, the way an author might portray the accent of, say, a pirate in writing.

Our Spanish and French teachers in high school spoke both languages and used to chatter away during class change. When we asked about it once, and the Spanish teacher mentioned that with knowing both languages, he also found it relatively easy to understand carefully clearly spoken Italian (like news announcers) since quite often if the Italian word was not similar to Spanish it was similar to French. (i.e. bene, bueno, bien)

It’s a long time since I read his autobiographies, but that’s not the way I remember it.

The point of the anecdote was that he learned Portuguese, but he was missing some basic structural vocabulary, so he didn’t know how to say “therefore”. Instead he adapted the English word “consequently” and said “consecuentamente”; the people he was talking to were very impressed that he knew such a big word in Portuguese, whereas the reality was that he didn’t know the simpler word.

If he had really claimed to have managed in Brazil by speaking (and understanding) Latin, I would be extremely sceptical.

That’s something on which I can’t speak for general impressions since I haven’t tried polling people on it, sorry. I can tell you that after a while I don’t even think “I’m reading in Italian” any more, although occasionally I run into a word that’s different enough to smash it home again; when I’ve been in international projects and had documents available in Spanish or English, most of the time Italians preferred the Spanish version (Sales and Finance were the exceptions to this). It’s just another language I can read.

Is that a French bien or a Spanish bien? :slight_smile: (in Spanish bueno = good, bien = well)

Personal anecdote: I speak Spanish with about 90% fluency, and I enjoy the music of Italian rapper/singer Jovanotti. I can understand about 30% of his lyrics (the Italian ones, I mean – he did cut a few tunes in Spanish as well), and of that 30%, I attribute about 20% to my Spanish knowledge, 5% to the bits of Italian I’ve picked up over the years (and the Spanish wouldn’t have helped me with those words), and the final 5% to my high school Latin (and neither the deep Spanish, nor the scanty Italian, knowledge would have helped me with those words).

In sum, for me, spoken Italian and spoken Spanish are similar enough for about 20% true comprehension (maybe more like 25% for a native Spanish speaker). Of course, one can get the gist of things through context and such, which boosts the “partial comprehension” quite a bit. And, the written languages are a bit more similar than the spoken ones, plus you have more time to process written text, so I’d peg the written true-comprehension percentage at more like 40%.

As with any sister languages, a lot of it falls into place when you see common patterns. For example, Italian “pl-” is often cognate to Spanish “ll-”, hence “piove” = “lluvia” (“rain,” from Latin “pluvia”). (This is the title of a Javonotti song, and also an unrelated Spanish salsa tune.)

Heck, you can get some of the same thing even between Spanish and English. A friend of mine from Ecuador would sometimes struggle over the right English word to use, and so I’d ask him what the Spanish word was he was struggling with. Nine times out of ten, I’d just chop the -io off the end and hand it right back to him.

This is probably helped by the fact that English’s more advanced vocabulary tends to be the Romance portion. The Germanic is mostly in the common, everyday words.

That’s less than 1% of words though; someone who speaks Spanish but no more English than what’s been absorbed into the language and a monolingual Anglo (who, again, knows plaza and jalapeño but may not even know they come from Spanish) will not be able to have any kind of meaningful conversation, not even about the most basic of subjects (actually, the most basic subjects are the ones where the vocabulary is completely unrelated). The problem your friend was having was with the kind of advanced vocabulary that’s never taught in language school; many of the words would be ones that the average monolingual Anglo doesn’t use regularly (or may even not know).

The reason is what you point out, and it’s also the reason speakers of Romance languages do absurdly well in the vocabulary parts of the GRE or SAT: these include words which we were not taught in ESL, but which we know because in our native languages you don’t go to the foot doctor, you go to the podólogo (or similar), so it doesn’t take a genius to figure what’s the correct multiple choice answer to “A ______ is a foot doctor”.

But not like Spanish and Italian. English has been infused with too many Romance language words (mostly from French) to make Dutch even remotely comprehensible to an English speaker except on the most basic level, like: What is your name?

That’s the problem with English. It has lost so much of its commonality with the other Germanic languages that we’re not even close to mutual intelligibility, and although we picked up massive French vocabulary, it’s not enough for mutual intelligibility there either.

We are, alas, linguistically isolated in a way that most European languages are not.

Like when an Italian asks for burro on his bread? :slight_smile:

Nah, that’s already absorbed, same as essere/stare having the opposite implications in Italian as ser/estar in Spanish. It would have to be something which is not widely known and for which the Latinate word is extremely unusual in Spanish, say… someone who can’t find the right position in bed moving the cuscino. OK, Spanish has cojín and in some Latin American dialects cojín can refer to a bed-pillow, but in Spain a bed-pillow would be an almohada (from Arabic) and a cojín would be a pillow for your butt or back, not one for your head.

I see. I only asked because (despite never having learned Italian), for some reason when I visited Spain I didn’t know my ass from my yellow spread, as it were.

Caveat lector.

Or your “anus” from your “year”. :stuck_out_tongue:

A language is a dialect with an Army and a Navy