Slavonic Language Groups

Damian   Friday, July 23, 2004, 10:42 GMT
I have a day off today so I'm chilling. I should be out in the lovely sunshine (later!) but such is the Antimoon pulling power.

I currently work in a supermarket on a checkout and at this time of the year the UK has thousands of young people from the Continent (mostly students) on temporary visas doing all sorts of seasonal jobs. In this area, that is mainly on the fruit farms. The overwhelming majority come from Eastern Europe so we hear many languages spoken from the Slavonic group area.....Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, the Balkans (Serbo Croat?), Slovakia/Slovenia (Czech) etc. In addition, Romanian...which is an exception and interesting because it is a Romance language surrounded by Slavonic.

It's against the rules really but I can't resist asking where they come from. I wish I was allowed to chat to some of these people when they come to my checkout, as mostly they speak good English, some really excellent in standard and clarity. I enjoy listening to their own languages but to me they all sound similar and I would never know the difference between any of them. That is to be expected as basically my knowledge of them is zero.

They all belong to the same Slavonic group, which in turn is divided into sub divisions. What I would like to know is whether a Russian, for instance, would be able to understand a Ukrainian and vice versa? From what I can gather they are the two languages closest to each other in the Slavonic group.
Goran   Friday, July 23, 2004, 15:47 GMT

I'm from Macedonia, and Macedonian is a Slavic language (I think it's called "Slavic", not "Slavonic", but English is your first language, not mine). I can understand Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian perfectly (they are very much alike, they used to be the same language, only 15 years ago, but now there are some differences). However, I can't speak any of them, I sound very funny. Serbians have no problems understanding Macedonian (I go there every summer, my father's half-Serbian, and everyone understands me). Croatians understand everything too (or so I'm told, I have a friend who's half-Croatian, and she spends every summer there, and she says people understand her). I also understand Bulgarian, though not as good as Serbian/Croatian. I read that Macedonian is basically Bulgarian, but with a different accent, but I disagree. When it comes to languages like Slovenian, Russian or Hungarian, I can only understand like 30% when I listening to someone.

I can see why you can't see the difference, I sometimes can't do it myself. And the reason that most of them/us have good English accent is that we know that our languages are not widely spoken, and if we want to communicate with foreign people, we have to know at least two languages (English and German or French). I started studying English when I was only five. Most of the people under 30 speak English, but the older ones speak French instead of English. I've studied German for four years and I think it's going great, I started studying Spanish, and it's so easy to me because the Grammar is very much alike (but not the vocabulary!). I plan to learn English, German, Spanish, French and Italian perfectly before I turn 30 (I'm fifteen).
Mike   Friday, July 23, 2004, 17:54 GMT
>> (I think it's called "Slavic", not "Slavonic", but English is your first language, not mine).

"Slavic" and "Slavonic" can be used interchangeably since they mean the same thing (of or pertaining to the Slavic lands), but I think "Slavonic" is most often used to describe the languages and literature.
Ed   Friday, July 23, 2004, 19:41 GMT
I'm originally from Bulgaria and it's much easier for me to understand Russian than Serbian, for example.
As to Macedonian, I share the point of view with most of the Bulgarians that it is a Bulgarian dialect. We understand it easily although sometimes it sounds funny because they use words which are archaic in Bulgarian, and grammar forms which in Bulgarian would be considered uneducated; their accent varies, too. In some areas they sound like Bulgarians, in others - like Serbians.
Polish and Czech, however, are quite different and hard to understand unless you actually read it (I understand 60% of written Polish and Czech).
Goran   Friday, July 23, 2004, 19:53 GMT
I have to disagree that Macedonian is just a Bulgarian dialect. There are way too many different words, and the grammar is totaly different. I think Bulgarian is more like Russian, and Macedonian is more like Serbian. That's why it's easy for Bulgarians to understand Russian, and no Macedonian can (unless s/he has studied Russian).
Ed   Saturday, July 24, 2004, 15:57 GMT

<< I wish I was allowed to chat to some of these people when they come to my checkout>>

What do you mean? Are you not allowed to talk to them?!
garans   Saturday, July 24, 2004, 16:53 GMT
I am Russian and live in Moscow.
We - Russians, Ukranians, belorussians - understand each other very well because we can speak in Russian that is wide spread in all countries that were the former Soviet Union.

Ukranian is not a mono-language. At the border with Russia it is similar to Russian, at the Border to Molvovia it is similat to Moldovian (Romanian), and it has some similitaries to Polish.

Sounds of our languages and the "sentence managing system" is similar - that is why it is not so hard to understand each other.

All of us have some sort of harsh or shrill sound - consonants are not so vocalized as in English, German or French.

Our vowels system is more simple - only 10 vowels in Russian.
We have some soft consonant in slavonic languages.
But on the whole our phonetics seems to me more simple. at least more evident.

But to tell the truth I understand Ukranian about 50%. Belorussian - 70%.
garans   Saturday, July 24, 2004, 16:58 GMT
similarities, Belorussians, border of Moldovia, are similar, sounds, some soft consonants etc.

I would be good to have a previewing feature...
Ed   Saturday, July 24, 2004, 20:08 GMT

Bulgarian and Macedonian grammars are very much alike! And the words aren't so different. Maybe you haven't heard much Bulgarian speech in your life so that's why you say so.

I'm not going to go into a political debate with you but Macedonian was created from a Southwestern Bulgarian dialect and heavily influenced by Serbian by the Yugoslavian government in order to alienate its ties with Bulgaria.
Damian   Sunday, July 25, 2004, 13:42 GMT
What do you mean? Are you not allowed to talk to them?!

In response: I work on a checkout in a very busy supermarket and we are not allowed to engage the customers in conversation other than to discuss anything to do with their purchases, payment methods etc and/or answer their questions. Apart from scanning their goods and dealing with credit cards, debit cards, cashbacks, special offers etc etc etc blah! blah! blah!...there are other things to watch out for as well so it is busy. Also, there are invariably queues of people waiting behind and when you deal with the public you get to know how impatient and even angry they can get if they have to wait a mere nanosecond longer than they need to.

With the interesting people I referred to I do "break the rules" and get away with asking them questions like where they come from as I pass their goodies through the scanner or enter codes on the computer....a bit of multi tasking but so far I haven't got into any real trouble.

Wandering from the Language topic but just a point of interest....I'm amazed how tall a lot of the guys from Eastern Europe are...real giants some of them..must be close on 2m tall. Is it something in the water there or something? Look at the Croatian tennis players at Wimbledon for instance.
Easterner   Monday, July 26, 2004, 08:03 GMT

Zdravo Goran, I also grew up in Yugoslavia, though I am a Hungarian from Vojvodina. (Or do you say Gorane, like in Serbian?)

To the topic: I can understand something of all Slavic languages (about 60-80%), mostly because I grew up in former Yugoslavia, where three Slavic languages had official status: Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian and Macedonian. I mention Serbo-Croatian as one language because the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian variety have only minimal differences in phonetics and vocabulary, and they are regarded as separate languages mainly because of political reasons. It is true, the three nations are culturally much different, which is reflected in their language, too. And I do think Macedonian is a separate language, whatever similarity it bears to Bulgarian. At any rate, Macedonians regard themselves as a separate nation, and their language is as distinct from Bulgarian as say, Swedish is from Danish or Norwegian.

Slovenian is an interesting one, because although it bears some similarity to Czech or Croatian, it has a few morphological peculiarities (e.g. the interrogative pronoun for "what?" is "kaj", not "shto" or "chto" or "co" as in other Slavic languages).

By the way, if anyone wants to learn a Slavic language that has the most in common with all others, I recommend Slovakian. It is equally close to Czech, Polish, Ukrainian and Standard Croatian (roughly speaking, of course). And it is just a few steps from Ukrainian to Russian (I say a few because they are quite distinct both phonetically and morphologicaly).

Goran, I saw you classed Hungarian as a Slavic language. Well, even if it has borrowed many words from Slavic languages (and some Central Asian ones earlier, for that mater), it is still a Finno-Ugric language, therefore a completely different matter. However, there have been very close links between Hungarians (or Magyars, as we call ourselves) and Slovaks and Croatians, and you can still meet a lot of Hungarians with Slavic-sounding surnames. It is actually a miracle that Hungarian survived much unchanged despite of the constant changes in the ethnic composition of the Carpathian Basin, but I think everyone has profited from this diversity.
Vixago   Monday, July 26, 2004, 10:47 GMT
I am basque (from the spanish side) and i can easily understand bulgarian because it comes from the same language, i understand a few russian and polish.
Lizarazo Vi’Xen !
garans   Monday, July 26, 2004, 11:57 GMT
Hey, Goran and Easterner!

Why don't we try to understand each other language?

Ya pishu vam eto pismo i dumayu vi ponimaete menya.
Ya muzhchina, mne pyatdesyat let i u menya est zhena i dve vzroslie docheri.

How about it?
Trekker   Monday, July 26, 2004, 19:57 GMT
Vitay, Garans !

To bardzo dobra mysl :)

Yak zrozumyetye tso pishe too to yestestye dobrzy :)
Garans, ya rozumyem (ponimaye) tsie dosconale.
Mam osyemnastye lat i yestem z poludnya Polsky. Tshasem bivam na Slovatsi i svietnye sye dogaduye z nashymi powudnyovymi bratsmi.
Ale vas, Rosyan, nyekyedy bardzo trudno zrozumiets.
Pozdraviam ! :):):)
Ed   Monday, July 26, 2004, 22:06 GMT
Zdraveyte i ot men!

Radvam se, che mozhem da se razbirame lesno sas slavianskite ezitsi. Tova e balgarski, ako ne znaete. Az sam na devetnaiset godini i jiveia v Saedinenite Shtati (USA).

Dovijdane :-P


<<i can easily understand bulgarian because it comes from the same language>>

What are you talking about? Bulgarian and Basque have nothing to do with each other!