How does my language sound to you?

Yesterday I learnt that to Polish speakers Czech can sound cute, as quite a few Czech words sound like diminutives in Polish. For example cat is kot in Polish and kočka in Czech. Polish diminutives of kot are kotka and kociątko. A Czech diminutive of kočka is koťátko.

What do closely related languages or varieties of your language sound like to you?

Do any of them sound cute like Czech to Polish speakers?

How does Polish sound to Czech speakers?

This entry was posted in Czech, Language, Polish.

12 Responses to How does my language sound to you?

  1. Dean says:

    I remember sitting in the park with some people from University. There were a few Bulgarians and one Russian-speaking girl from Latvia. When one of the Bulgarian girls took a phone call in Bulgarian, the Russian speaker remarked to me that it sounded like “child Russian”.

    I think Bulgarian is supposed to have a much simpler grammar than Russian, as well as an easier sound system. Maybe the uncomplicated way of speaking mirrored a Russian child, who has yet to learn more advanced grammatical forms.

  2. P. says:

    ^I’ve read that Russians think the same thing about Polish. For example, in one of Robert Craft’s books about Stravinsky, he notes that someone (Mr. and/or Mrs. Stravinsky, I think) made a contemptuous remark about the Polish language, calling it “baby talk” or the equivalent.

  3. Lev says:

    As a native speaker of Russian, Ukrainian sometimes sounds funny to me. Also surprisingly quite incomprehensible.

  4. bulbul says:

    I’m not sure about Czech, but to most speakers of Slovak, there is something inherently funny about the way Polish sounds.

    @Dean: In Bulgarian (and Macedonian), the Slavic case system is nearly entirely gone, so to speakers of other Slavic languages, it does sometimes sound as child X or broken (imperfectly learned) X.

  5. TJ says:

    Interesting topic.
    I didn’t quite see into the general “feel” of languages, but I would say that I always felt Irish to be the “Spanish” of the Celtic branch, and Welsh do feel like the “German” of the Celtic branch.

    In between the regions of the colloquial Arabic varieties, most of us would understand each other in Arabic but would feel funny sometimes. In the case of Moroccan, to a native Arabic speaker from the East, it is still comprehensible if the speaker slows down I presume. Moroccan and Algerian specifically, do use and write the variety of Arabic that somehow went out of use in the peninsula.

    Generally speaking, for people in the gulf, Lebanese and Syrian col. Arabic do sound gentle and smooth, and Lebanese specifically is associated with fashion and etiquette sometimes in the region.
    For others, the gulf dialect do sound harsh, and dare I say, some think of it to be somehow barbaric. Within one country, like Kuwait, we do have varieties of minor dialects and some of them do feel harsh even for some of us – while some others are completely incomprehensible (specially the ones used by desert dwellers).

    The list would be long enough to give the impressions that we make of other languages like Persian, Turkish, Italian, ..etc. That might be done in another post!

  6. Remd says:

    I speak Spanish and we usually have a different range of feels about dialects of Spanish. There are some typical conceptions. For example, within Spain, Andalusian Spanish sometimes sound to people from the north of the country funny and even uneducated. That is something Andalusian people complain about (I am myself from Andalusia and it can be quite unpleasant). As for American dialects, many people generally find Argentinian Spanish as “oversweet”.

    I’ve studied Portuguese and because of the phonetics it is funny how it has even been described as “Spanish spoken by an old man without teeth”. But I’ve always thought Portuguese sounds way more beautiful than Spanish!

    As for what TJ said about Celtic languages, I’m studying Welsh right now and tried to study some Irish years ago and have found that even though the Welsh orthography may appear a little strange at first sight, the variety of sounds of the language and the straightforwardness of their representation make it more Spanishlike, or at least that’s what I think.

  7. jonathan says:

    I’ve no personally views, but I have heard that Danish sounds like Swedish spoken with rocks in your mouth.

    And if you want to read a whole bunch of views on different types of Spanish, I came across a Reddit thread on this a while back.

  8. David Eger says:

    Whilst I was in Latvia, I was told that some Russian-speakers called the Latvian language (not closely related) a “dogs’ language”, and compared it to the sound of barking. As a first language English speaker, I have to say that I never noticed that characteristic myself, and I suspect there may have been something of big-nation superiority complex involved. I never actually heard anyone make the comparison first-hand, although I was asked once or twice why on earth I had bothered to learn Latvian and not Russian.

    In the UK, there are certainly personality stereotypes based on regional accent – e.g. Birmingham – miserable; Liverpool – shifty; East Anglian/West Country – dim-witted; Newcastle/Glasgow – hard, aggressive, short-tempered etc.; I have, of course, met many people from these places, sporting the accents, that do not fit the stereotypes at all. Iterestingly, I heard a programme on Radio 4 some years ago that made mention if an experiment, in which a sample of non-English speakers were played recordings of different regional UK accents and were asked to rank them according to their ‘beauty’. Guess what came top – Brummie!

  9. Arakun says:

    @jonathan: You’re quite right. We Swedes find Danish incredibly amusing. It’s usually described as speaking with porridge or a hot potato in your mouth. Stick a Danish character into a movie and you have instant comedy. Incidentally that’s how the rest of Sweden treats my southern dialect which shares several traits with Danish. As a rule of thumb, aspirated plosives turn into unaspirated, and unaspirated plosives turn into approximants, giving it a soft and slurred sound.

    I never hear Danes comment on what Swedish sounds like, but I believe they find it overarticulated and archaic sounding. What they usually comment on is our choices of words and phrases and that we tend to curse a lot (Swedish curse words are incredibly dull and have to be used in large quantities to have an effect).

  10. Leonardo Cecchini says:

    A Russian-speaking Mongolian friend reported Bulgarian to sound like having “wrong” word endings.

    To Brazilians:
    Spanish may sound rude (fast and “strong”);
    German and Arabic sound harsh (because of the guttural sounds);
    Chinese speakers seem to be arguing;
    French is related to politeness;
    Italian is Musical.

  11. dreaminjosh says:

    I think Danish sounds like someone trying to speak Swedish while trying to keep water in their mouth without spilling. Have you ever tried to talk to someone right before you swallow a drink?

  12. Darryl Shpak says:

    I’ve jokingly described Dutch as “badly spelled English” — despite knowing very little of the language, I can often understand the gist of, say, a Dutch newspaper article. The historical links between the languages are, I think, a lot more apparent in the written form than the spoken form.

    And the general question of “How does this language sound to you?” also applies across regional variations: I think that most North American English speakers (myself included) often find that British English sounds amusingly archaic/proper, and then of course there are negative associations as well, speakers from the south of the US are often interpreted as sounding “uneducated”.

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