Which languages are similar? You might be surprised!
Have you ever considered how similar (or different) various languages are? While many of us don’t know more than one or two languages, there are hundreds of them spoken around the world. Some, like Spanish and French, are closely related; others, like English speakers and Italian, are only distantly related, having borrowed many of their words from each other long ago; still others, like Farsi and Arabic, have almost no relation to each other at all! Can you spot the similarities between these pairs of languages?
Czech and Slovak
Both these Slavic cousins come from the same root, and they’re easy to tell apart because Slovak is written in a different alphabet than Czech. Both are Indo-European languages and part of an older Slavic branch. Most Czech speakers also speak Slovak and can understand each other with few problems. Even though they sound slightly different, you don’t need to worry about language barriers when traveling between Prague (Czech Republic) and Bratislava (Slovakia).
This close relationship has led some linguists to speculate that one day they will merge into one single language. But since both have their own cultural identities, it’s more likely that they will stay separate—but that doesn’t mean you won’t have any challenges trying to figure out which one people are speaking of if you travel around Eastern Europe.
Gaelic and Irish
Like many language groups, Celtic languages have evolved. Today there are two main versions of Irish: Gaeilge and Gaelic. While both share a common linguistic background, it’s best to view them as different dialects rather than other languages (Gaelic is sometimes referred to as Scottish Gaelic). They’re so closely related that some linguists consider them the same. However, most think Irish refer to Irish written in Latin script (Gaeilge) while Gaelic refers to those written in Ogham script (which looks like a series of wavy lines). Both are spoken by around 2 million people worldwide—most commonly in Ireland—and they can trace their roots back at least 1,500 years.
Welsh and Breton
Despite both being European Celtic, their similarities end there: Welsh is a language known for its guttural pronunciation, while Breton sounds more Italian than anything else. The two don’t even share a common ancestor language. Welsh descended from Brythonic (the language of pre-Roman Britain), while Breton belongs to the branch of Romance languages that includes French and Occitan. But they do have one thing in common: They’re both endangered languages—and they could use your help. Only 20 percent of people in Wales speak Welsh fluently, according to Ethnologue, and only about 200,000 people speak Breton today.
To help preserve these unique languages for future generations, sign up with an organization like Tafod y Ddraig or Tregeriezh Vreizh. These groups organize social events and promote online communities where you can meet native speakers who will help you learn more about each language. Plus, speaking a little bit of another language has made you better at learning new things, so it’s never too early to start expanding your horizons!
Shona and Chichewa
While these two languages may sound similar, Chichewa is a Bantu language spoken in Malawi and Mozambique. As such, it is not related to Shona, which is a group of dialects from Zimbabwe and Zambia. These two African countries were once one country (Zimbabwe), so they share dialects. All of Africa was once part of a single continent called Africa before splitting into smaller continents over time.
This explains why there are many similarities between African languages that have evolved. For example, Xhosa and Zulu—two very different languages—share many cognates. This means that words with identical or nearly identical meanings can be found in both languages due to their common roots and trade and other historical ties between people who spoke those particular languages at some point in history.
Afrikaans, Dutch, German, English, and French
These five European languages not only sound very similar to each other, but some words in them come from a common source. It’s called Romance Germanic people and includes many French, Spanish and Italian words. They also come from a common ancestor: Vulgar Latin, which is ancient Latin as it was spoken in everyday life. After Rome fell, Europeans spoke Vulgar Latin until it evolved into today’s modern Romance languages.
New Zealand Sign Language, British Sign Language, Auslan, American Sign Language
Sign language is a language for everyone – regardless of whether you’re deaf or hearing. There are many different sign languages around the world, and they’re all different from each other in terms of grammar, lexicon, and syntax (which refers to how words and phrases are put together). It can be hard to work out which ones are related. There are over 300 spoken languages in Australia alone! So it may come as a surprise that Auslan and British Sign Language (BSL) share more than 80% of their vocabulary with American Sign Language (ASL). If you speak one of these three sign languages, it will be much easier for you to learn another one because so much will already make sense.
Serbian and Croatian Languages
The Serbian language ( / srpski jezik) is a South Slavic language spoken by Serbs, Bosniaks, Montenegrins, and Roma. It belongs to the East-Slavic group of the Indo-European family of languages. Its closest relatives are Croatian, Slovene, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Russian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Hungarian language, Romanian, Moldovan, Albanian, Turkish, Finnish, and Swedish. The name of the language comes from the territory where it originated – Serbia.
The Persian language (/fa/), also known as Farsi or Parsi, is an Iranian language belonging to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is mainly spoken natively by ethnic Persians living outside Iran, though it has been adopted by Iranians abroad. It is the official language of Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Canada, China, Georgia, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nepal, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
The Arabic language (/ar/) is a Central Semitic language, one of several branches within the Afroasiatic language family. It is widely used as a liturgical language throughout the Muslim world and a major international lingua franca. It is the primary language of the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and most of its member states. It is also the second most widely spoken mother tongue after Mandarin Chinese. According to Ethnologue, the speakership of Arabic exceeds that of any other non-Indo-European language.
The Welsh language (/cy/; plural: llywodraeth) is a Celtic language descended from Brittonic, spoken primarily in Wales and parts of England. It is closely related to Cornish, Breton, Manx, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, etc. It is sometimes considered a separate language, but this view is not universally accepted. The term “Welsh” is often used to refer only to the Cymraeg variety of the language, although the word itself includes both dialects.
The Basque language (/eu/; plural: Euskara) is a language isolate, part of the Iberian subfamily of the Uto-Aztecan family. It is spoken mainly in Spain and France by about 5 million people, who call themselves Euskaldunaren Elkarrekin Batzuk (“Basques in the Kingdom of Aragon”) or Euskadi in Spanish. It is the third most widely spoken mother tongue behind Spanish and Portuguese.
The Maltese language (/mt/; plural: l-Malti) is a Romance language spoken by around half a million people worldwide. It is a descendant of Latin and Sicilian Greek and was first brought to Malta by Byzantine settlers during the Middle Ages. Today, it is the national language of Malta, being co-official with the English language, which is the de facto working language of government, education, business, and media. Like all Romance languages, Maltese uses subject–verb–object word order.
The Malayalam language (/ml/, /ˈmeɪlʊə/; plural: [ˈmɑ́liː] malaṭī; ) is a Dravidian language spoken by approximately 70 million people predominantly in southern India and Kerala state. It belongs to the South Asia group of the Indic languages. It is the fourth-most widely spoken mother tongue after Bengali, Hindi, and Tamil. It is written using the Devanagari script and spoken using either the Roman alphabet or the Telugu script. In addition to being the official language of the Indian state of Kerala, it is also spoken by significant communities elsewhere in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Malaysia.
The Maori language (/ta/; plural: te reo Māori) is an indigenous Polynesian language belonging to the Te Reo (New Zealand) branch of the larger Pōkehā (NZ) language family. It has been spoken on New Zealand’s North Island since at least AD 1300 and possibly for much longer. There were once more than 1,000 native speakers of Maori, but today there are fewer than 10,000 fluent speakers, including many older adults. Maori is now the second most widely spoken the Maori language after Tok Pisin.
The Macedonian language (/MK/; plural: македонски ) is a South Slavic language that originated as a dialect of Old Church Slavonic. It is one of two official languages of the Republic of Macedonia, alongside Albanian. It is spoken by over 2.5 million people, primarily ethnic Macedonians living in North Macedonia and other countries.
The Marathi language (/mr/; plural: मराठी ) is a member of the Indo-Aryan language family. According to Ethnologue, it is the fifth most common language in India and the eighth-most popular native language globally. It is spoken by about 62% of Maharashtra’s population.
The Nepalese language (/ne/; plural: नेपाली ) is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by nearly 30 million people in Nepal and India. It is closely related to Tibetan and Burmese.
The Nias language (/ni/) is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by about 250,000 people in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
The Norwegian language (/no/; plural: norsk ) is a West Germanic. It is the official language of Norway and Sweden, known as Bokmål. It is also spoken in Greenland, where it is called Kalaallisut, and in Iceland, it is known simply as Icelandic. There were periods where consonant sounds changed slightly between German and English language. German is a notoriously difficult language to learn, and many people are pretty proud of having mastered it.
The Polish language (/pl/; plural: Polski ) is a West Slavic. It is primarily spoken in Poland and its surrounding areas, such as Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Monaco, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, East Timor, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Tokelau.
The Portuguese language (/pt/; plural: português ) is a Romance language. It is spoken by approximately 210 million people worldwide. In addition to Brazil and Portugal, it is also expressed in Angola, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Macau, Namibia, and several overseas territories of France, including Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Réunion, Mayotte, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, and Wallis and Futuna.
The Punjabi language (/pa/; plural: ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ) is a Dravidian language spoken mainly in Punjab, Pakistan, with significant communities elsewhere in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Canada.
The Romanian language (/ro/; plural: românescă ) is an indo-European language belonging to the Balkan group of the Romance language family. It is the second most widely spoken language in Europe after English, with around 20 million speakers. Its literary standard form is based on the medieval Latin Vulgate Bible. It has been written using the Latin alphabet since the 15th century.
The Russian language (/ru/; plural: польский /polskiy/ or немецкий /немец/; plural: европейский) is a Uralic language that belongs to the Finno-Ugric subgroup within the broader Finno-European linguistic family. It is one of the six official languages of Russia (along with Ukrainian, Belarussian, Bashkir, Mordvinian, and Tatar). It is also used as a lingua franca in many other countries throughout Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa, and South America.
What is the Romance language most similar to English?
The 4th and 12th centuries CE. Today, it is spoken natively by over 40 million people in Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and parts of northern Albania.
Slovak language (/sk/; plural: slovenčina ) is a member of the Indo-European family of languages. It is closely related to the Czech language and is mutually intelligible with them. It is the national language of Slovakia and is also spoken in parts of Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
The Slovene language (/sl/; plural: slovenščina ) is a West Slavonic. It is the only official language of Slovenia. It is closely related to Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Macedonian, and Montenegrin.
The Spanish language (/es/; plural: español ) is a Romance language that evolved from Vulgar Latin during the Middle Ages. It is currently the third most spoken language globally, following Mandarin Chinese and Standard Arabic. It is estimated there were about 588 million Spanish speakers in 2017.
The Swedish language (/SV/; plural: Svenska ) is a Scandinavian language belonging to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Sweden is home to the largest Swedish-speaking population outside of Scandinavia.
The Turkish language (/tr/; plural: türkçe ) is a Turkic language and the official language of Turkey. It is also spoken by ethnic Turks living abroad, especially in Germany, France, Bulgaria, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
Similarities between Asian Languages
The following is a list of similarities and differences in the writing systems of various Asian languages. The table shows how some characters represent sounds similar to those in English, while others are used for different sounds. For example, the Chinese use pinyin romanization, but the Japanese use hiragana and katakana. In addition, both use kanji. Some languages have no distinction between consonants and vowels so that they may look like each other.
A language family is a group of languages that share standard features. The term “language family” was first used by Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1817, and the concept has been applied to various groups of related languages since then. Most contemporary classifications of language families include at least two significant branches, called primary and secondary. However, the number of branches can vary greatly depending on the classification system used.
Language families tend to be geographically widespread and geographically widespread, and their members often form dialect continua. They typically exhibit a high degree of mutual intelligibility and sometimes even regular sound correspondences. This makes it possible for one person to learn another’s a language without knowing its grammar, or their members often live near one another. They also tend to have a relatively stable structure, as opposed to the more fluid nature of individual complex languages. A language family is defined by shared characteristics such as vocabulary, grammar, phonology, or syntax—the stable structure over time.
There are many examples of language families across the globe. One such example is the Afroasiatic family, which includes Arabic, Amharic, Berber, Cushitic, East Semitic (Hebrew), Hamito-Semitic (Arabic, Persian, etc.), North African, South Arabian, Ugaritic, West Semitic (Phoenician, Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, etc.) and Caucasian Albanian. Another example is the Sino-Tibetan family, which includes Chinese, Burmese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, Khmer, Malay, Indonesian, Tagalog, Filipino, Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese, Timor, Chamorro, Papuan, Austronesian, Polynesian, Samoan, Hawaiian, Maori, Tahitian, Māori, New Zealander, Australian Aboriginal, Oceanic, Micronesian, Melanesian, Eskimo–Aleut, Ainu, Ryukyuan, Ainu, Tlingit, Navajo, Yupik, Chukchi, Koryak, Nivkh, Yukaghirs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Spanish and Portuguese are the most mutually understandable pair. In certain circumstances, television stations do not even translate between the two languages, presuming that Spanish-speaking viewers will understand Portuguese and vice versa.
In reality, vocabulary similarity between French and Spanish is over 75%, implying that many terms in both languages are pretty similar. The lexical similarity between French and Spanish and English is less than 50%.
As a Romance language with Latin roots, French and English have a similar lexicon. French is claimed to have the most vocabulary terms in common with English.