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Tackling Germanic languages

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Ygangerg
Pentaglot
Senior Member
United States
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100 posts - 140 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Arabic (Written), Mandarin, French
Studies: German

 
 Message 1 of 15
22 January 2011 at 3:46am | IP Logged 
I am seeking advice about learning Germanic languages. I've been studying Icelandic for a couple months, and while I'm making progress, it's certainly a task. While technically my native language, English, is Germanic, I've found I can pick up Spanish, French and Italian much quicker than a new Germanic language. Here's my question: from the standpoint that my long-term goal is to learn a handful of Germanic languages, would it be more effective to first gain control of a closer cousin to English (like German or Dutch) and then proceed? That is, by starting with a challenge like Icelandic, am I dooming myself to slower progress down the line than if I started with Dutch?

What would seasoned polyglots recommend as an intro to the Germanic languages, not in terms of real-world practicality, but from a purely linguistic standpoint?
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Lucky Charms
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
lapacifica.net
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752 posts - 1711 votes 
Speaks: English*, Japanese
Studies: German, Spanish

 
 Message 2 of 15
22 January 2011 at 4:05am | IP Logged 
German, because it has a great wealth of study materials for learning the other Germanic
languages, and because if you end your endeavor there you'll still be left with a useful
and widely-spoken language.
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Chung
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Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 
 Message 3 of 15
22 January 2011 at 4:41am | IP Logged 
Ygangerg wrote:
I am seeking advice about learning Germanic languages. I've been studying Icelandic for a couple months, and while I'm making progress, it's certainly a task. While technically my native language, English, is Germanic, I've found I can pick up Spanish, French and Italian much quicker than a new Germanic language. Here's my question: from the standpoint that my long-term goal is to learn a handful of Germanic languages, would it be more effective to first gain control of a closer cousin to English (like German or Dutch) and then proceed? That is, by starting with a challenge like Icelandic, am I dooming myself to slower progress down the line than if I started with Dutch?

What would seasoned polyglots recommend as an intro to the Germanic languages, not in terms of real-world practicality, but from a purely linguistic standpoint?


I would give a serious look at Afrikaans. I've been quite surprised by how similar it is to English. It's not so much in the grammar (here it is more similar to what I see in English than in German) but the vocabulary has obviously high overlap with Dutch and to a lesser extent German. Afrikaans can serve as a useful bridge between English and ultimately learning other Germanic languages. For me personally, it's surprisingly easy to figure out using a background English and German, to say nothing about how much of a breeze it would be if I were to know Dutch.
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Mithridates
Newbie
Korea, South
pagef30.com
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21 posts - 36 votes

 
 Message 4 of 15
23 January 2011 at 6:05pm | IP Logged 
I'm also a fan of Afrikaans and would recommend it to anyone that is interested in
Germanic languages but isn't planning on going abroad within the next while. The best
site to learn it is this:

http://www.openlanguages.net/afrikaans

but the other day I found the entire New Testament recorded at faithcomesbyhearing.com
(the 1983 translation) in Afrikaans and listened to the whole thing. A rare treat since
finding audio and matching text in Afrikaans is almost impossible. It's not a religious
thing either - I would read and listen to a book of any subject if it's Afrikaans. The
best way to do it is to use Google Translate in a new tab but with the original text
showing, then use mouseover to view the translation when you need it.
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Didgeridoo
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United States
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Speaks: English*
Studies: Finnish

 
 Message 5 of 15
23 January 2011 at 6:55pm | IP Logged 
Afrikaans and Dutch would both be good stepping stones towards German and other Germanic languages. But since you're already into Icelandic, perhaps it would help you more to pick up Norwegian or Swedish...
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Mithridates
Newbie
Korea, South
pagef30.com
Joined 5522 days ago

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 Message 6 of 15
23 January 2011 at 7:14pm | IP Logged 
By the way, re-reading the op I noticed this:

>a closer cousin to English (like German or Dutch) and then proceed? That is, by starting
with a challenge like Icelandic, am I dooming myself to slower progress down the line
than if I started with Dutch?

I'm not sure if German or Dutch are actual closer cousins to English. Technically they
are West Germanic along with English but Icelandic word order is much more natural to an
English speaker and has a lot of interesting hidden cognates. Having both English th
sounds is also nice. Apparently Old English and Icelandic were more or less mutually
intelligible too.
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w.shipley
Groupie
United States
Joined 5522 days ago

42 posts - 43 votes
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 7 of 15
23 January 2011 at 9:15pm | IP Logged 
Personally, I find Icelandic to be one of the more exotic and interesting choices - both
linguistically and culturally. I think if you really enjoy it you should stick with that
one and then move on to a language that "makes more sense," like German or Dutch. Either
that or start with German and then move around in the family as you please. But, that's
just what I would do. Good luck!
2 persons have voted this message useful



ellasevia
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2011
Senior Member
Germany
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Speaks: English*, German, Croatian, Greek, French, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian
Studies: Catalan, Persian, Mandarin, Japanese, Romanian, Ukrainian

 
 Message 8 of 15
23 January 2011 at 9:39pm | IP Logged 
If you're looking for a good starting point for the Germanic languages, I'd also say that German is a good starting point. Although it's more complicated than others like Dutch or Swedish, there are many more resources for it than those other languages, as Lucky Charms pointed out. After German, Dutch and Swedish will be a breeze and some of the difficulty of Icelandic will probably be reduced (just a guess though, since I've never studied Icelandic myself).

If the amount of resources isn't a problem, then Dutch or Afrikaans could also be good choices for a native English speaker. The Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish) are also easy choices, but they're a little more distant from English than Dutch/Afrikaans/German.


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