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Is it easier for you to learn the language of neighboring countries?


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I mentioned in this thread in the "learn Tagalog" forum http://linguaholic.com/study-tagalog/my-indonesian-friend-isn't-having-a-hard-time-learning-tagalog/ that my Indonesian friend learned how to speak Tagalog really fast. I think a big factor is how similar the two languages are. Has it been easy for you too to learn a language from a neighboring country? Or do you find it just as difficult as learning other languages?

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I think that can be the case sometimes just because the proximity to the other country makes it more likely that the language will be integrated into your everyday life in various ways- talking, exchanging information and cultural similarities, etc. so it will have the benefit of being more relevant to your day to day life.

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I do think it's easier to learn languages of neighboring countries because usually those cultures already spill over to your area in the first place, so learning it would only feel like second nature or the next step. It would definitely still take some effort though, but I think because of the familiarity it becomes way easier as compared to someone who is from far away and has no idea of the culture at all. Also I think it helps if the language you speak already has a similar tone and accent.

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I actually have an Indonesian friend whose family can speak a bit of Filipino slash Visayan (a popular dialect in the Philippines, south of the country) because they worked in India with other Filipinos for more than half a decade back in the 1980's. I also realized (while talking to the same friend) that some words in Filipino are similar to some of the words in Indonesia.

However, I really doubt it would be easier for me who can speak Tagalog to learn Bahasa faster just because of these similarities. One needs to take into account the accent, sentence construction, and the alphabet. All of which will always take time to master and be fluent in.

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I don't see proximity as a contributing factor to learning neighboring countries language. Learning neighboring countries language would be more easier for those that are separated by borders. I live on an island in the Caribbean so my neighbors are across water and that would most likely cause restrictions in learning their language.

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It all depends where you live. The closest country to where I grew up was Italy, but we spoke German in our region. Not many people in my neighborhood spoke Italian. Partially, because they didn't feel that they had much in common with the Italian culture, and also due to national pride. Yes, pride. It's a strange thing, but there are people all over the world who refuse to speak in any other language than their own.

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Mexico borders us and so there are a lot of Spanish speaking people who come into this country. I think it is much easier learning this language because I get exposure to it more often than other languages. This way I can also be neighborly and help others out who don't speak english.

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Proximity can be a big factor. However, it can only do so much if there is 'actual' interaction involved. No matter how close you are to a neighbor, if you don't interact with them, you will never really learn anything from them absent interaction. So, the same goes for language. Even if your country borders on another, you will still find it difficult to acquire the other's language, if you don't engage.

Like in my case, I've worked with Koreans for more than 10 years. Because I made the mistake of following my boss' instructions NOT to engage the Korean staff in Korean, I still have difficulty learning Korean. I primarily interact with them only in English. Their English have improved because of our interaction, but my Korean didn't prosper because we rarely interact in Korean.

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Actually, I've tried to learn Swedish because it is really pretty, and I've found it really hard. I fall back on the Danish grammar too much, because it's so similar. I've since found that learning it is not really needed: You just need to speak Danish in an incredibly sing-song voice, and all the Swedish people suddenly understand you.

It's actually kind of funny, since the Swedes I know always tell me that speaking Danish is like speaking Swedish with a baked potato in your mouth.

Jävla Svensker!

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I mentioned in this thread in the "learn Tagalog" forum http://linguaholic.com/study-tagalog/my-indonesian-friend-isn't-having-a-hard-time-learning-tagalog/ that my Indonesian friend learned how to speak Tagalog really fast. I think a big factor is how similar the two languages are. Has it been easy for you too to learn a language from a neighboring country? Or do you find it just as difficult as learning other languages?

You bet it is! But there are exceptions, holding the Caribbean as an example. Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba all speak Spanish but many other countries in the vicinity of these islands speak an entirely different language. This is due to the historical process of each zone. There was a lot of warring over the territories of the Caribbean which included the Spanish, the French, the Dutch, the English. There also linguistic injections of African slave communities and even the language of those indigenous to the islands.

Haiti and the Dominic Republic has strong French roots as does Martinique and Saint Martin. Half the island of Saint Martin is actually dutch and is called Sint Maarten.

Make sure you say hi to your neighbors today!  :grin:

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I totally believe it is easier for me to learn neighboring country’s language than those that are continents away. I live in the Philippines and I find that Malaysian language has similarities with Tagalog. Sometimes they would even have the same meaning although there’s a very slight difference in spelling and pronunciation but they are understandable.

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I think it is because you hear it on a regular basis when you have people from the other country move into your own. It is hard to get used to at first, but if you are immersed in it then it just comes to you. I find it easier to pick up things that way.

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Well, considering that the neighbouring countries speak almost the same language (Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian are like British and American English, truly - there are some differences, but they are in essence the same), I don't think my answer would really count. I could try comparing Croatian with Russian... it's not that difficult to read Russian with Croatian as your native tongue, and some words are familiar, but there are also many ''false friends'', which can hinder the language learning.  I never tried learning Czech, though, but it doesn't seem like my knowledge of Croatian would help me much there.

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  • 1 month later...

I think that proximity is a big factor in learning a neighboring countries language more so if the countries are separated by boarders.

In my personal experience, I found it fairly easy being from Botswana to learn most of the South African languages especially since some of the cultural aspects of these two countries overlap and also because I interacted a lot with South African native speakers.

On the other hand I find it difficult to learn say a language from Zambia even though it's in close proximity to my country of origin. So it all basically boils down to interactions, interest and obviously having the passion to learn the particular language or languages.

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I'm a little embarrassed to say even though my country is landlocked and surrounded by a few countries, I've never even tried to learn their languages. So I wouldn't be able to answer the question. It's made worse by the fact that there are a lot of people coming to work and live in my country, who seem to pick up my language without much trouble! -and let me just say, it's a very difficult language to learn!

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I would say yes because you are more likely to run into someone from a neighboring country that someone half way across the world. I also imagine that it would be easier to find resources in the native language of a neighboring country. I live in the United States and there are a tone of Spanish language resources and Spanish speakers around.

There are also a good number of Portuguese speakers and resources too. This makes sense because Latin America is right below us and we also get a lot of immigrants from Brazil and Spanish Speaking countries. Meanwhile, I'm over here trying to learn Italian and there are way fewer resources and speakers for that language compared to Spanish and Portuguese.

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  • 10 months later...

I wouldn't say it's necessarily easier - depends on what languages those neighbouring countries speak. However, it could be a factor in your motivation - going to visit a country that's quite close to the border is cheaper and easier than going somewhere very far. Knowing you are likely to visit the country can motivate you to learn the language.

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No, not really. I would like to learn and in the process of learning Romanian right now and it sounds nothing like hungarian at all. It has more common things with english which is my second language.

And of course because it is a romance language a lot common with Italian and french, and those countries are not even close.

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For me not really. I am from Serbia, surrounded by Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Montenegro..and to be honest, the only languages that I can say I understand are those closest to my own language, and these would be Bosian, Macedonian and Croatian. Well, Croatian and Bosnian are actually almost the same as Serbian, except for different dialects. But, I can't say I can speak them perfectly, or even closely. If I did not live there or had the language taught at school, it would be hard for me to learn it. Maybe those closely related I could learn on my own, but I would still have to have someone coming from that country to at least talk to me .

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I definitely think when you have people in your country and life that speak a different language it is much easier to pick up.  I know that my father works with a lot of Spanish speaking people and has learned a good deal of Spanish over the years.  Likewise, my mother grew up in an Italian neighborhood and was able to speak a good amount of Italian as a child.

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4 hours ago, pesic87 said:

For me not really. I am from Serbia, surrounded by Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Montenegro..and to be honest, the only languages that I can say I understand are those closest to my own language, and these would be Bosian, Macedonian and Croatian. Well, Croatian and Bosnian are actually almost the same as Serbian, except for different dialects. But, I can't say I can speak them perfectly, or even closely. If I did not live there or had the language taught at school, it would be hard for me to learn it. Maybe those closely related I could learn on my own, but I would still have to have someone coming from that country to at least talk to me .

I'm pretty sure you understand Montenegrian as well :P

It really depends on a country too, origins of a nation as well as their languages play a big role in this. Like you said, Croatian and Bosnian are pretty similar to Serbian, while Hungarian is a whole different ball game and that's because we have similar origins to Croatians and Bosnians, but are different from Hungarians. 

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I still find it difficult to learn the language of neighboring countries.  Though I live in the Philippines, I am not interested at the moment to learn about the languages of its neighbors, in particular Indonesia and Malaysia.  True, Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia have similarities to Filipino, but if you're not happy about learning the language, it won't help much.  Actually, I know of a doctor here who is from Indonesia, but he studied medicine in the Philippines.  However, he speaks English more often. 

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On ‎12‎/‎6‎/‎2014‎ ‎8‎:‎51‎:‎55‎, Rosyrain said:

Mexico borders us and so there are a lot of Spanish speaking people who come into this country. I think it is much easier learning this language because I get exposure to it more often than other languages. This way I can also be neighborly and help others out who don't speak english.

I am also from the United States. However, I'm from the Northeast and I live in a rural community.  We don't have a lot of Spanish-speaking people around here.  Some, but not many.  Languages have always come pretty easy to me, though.  I'm not fluent because I grew up very poor, so I've had to work extra (most jobs around here are minimum wage, but the rents are pretty steep, not to mention the $250 heat bill every month), leaving little time for studying languages.  I still try to study when I can.  This site has been a huge help. 

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I don`t think neighboring countries make it easier to learn a language. But if there are minorities in your local community, that speak different languages, that definitely helps. Romania is a tri-lingual country, having German and Hungarian speaking people everywhere, as well as, naturally, Romanian speaking people. So that made me learning these three languages much easier.

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