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Easiest languages to listen to?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
26 messages over 4 pages: 13 4  Next >>
Senior Member
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Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 Message 9 of 26
23 June 2015 at 6:01pm | IP Logged 
I think one of the reasons that people find French hard to understand is the fact that French can be considered not to have lexical stress. One normally says that French has the stress on the last syllable of the word, but that is only when the word is said in isolation. In a sentence, French has only prosodic stress, meaning that stress is placed on the final syllable of a string of words. In Spanish for example, lexical stress can be crucial for the meaning Tomo la pastilla (I take the pill) vs. Tomó la pastilla (She/he took the pill), and in many languages, including English, you can choose to change the stress pattern in a sentence to emphasise a certain meaning, but none of this is really possible in French. This, toghether with the many homonyms and the tendency in spoken French to abbreviate words may all contribute to making spoken French more difficult to understand for the non-native speaker.

However, one advantage with French is that there are not any big dialectal differences (at least in France. Quebec and French spoken in parts of Africe are different), the pronunciation is pretty standardised. You cannot say the same for English. I think I am pretty good at understanding most varieties of spoken English, but this morning I listened to an interview on BBC4 with a young man speaking a very broad Geordi dialect and I really had difficulties understanding him at times.So in the end, it is all about sufficient exposure.

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United Kingdom
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 Message 10 of 26
23 June 2015 at 8:11pm | IP Logged 
I've also seen it said that one of the reasons why French is hard because there are so many tiny words that carry quite a lot of meaning - y and en being the two examples that spring easily to mind. If you're not used to listening to it (and sometimes, even if you are) these can get lost quite easily. I agree with Ogrim about the dialectical differences, however. There are forms of British English that even I have difficulty understanding!

I'm not sure which of German and Swedish I find easier to listen to. I understand Swedish better, because I have worked with it more, but German seems to be more regular. The grammar would be (and is) a pretty large obstacle to aural comprehension, however.
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 Message 11 of 26
23 June 2015 at 10:07pm | IP Logged 
And m', l', t', s', before a verb! We don't even get a vowel to work with!?
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United States
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Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 Message 12 of 26
26 July 2015 at 6:19am | IP Logged 
I like the sound of Spanish but for music only when I am trying to watch something in Spanish like
the news it's give me a headache because they talk so darn fast.
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 Message 13 of 26
26 July 2015 at 7:21am | IP Logged 
AlexTG wrote:
And m', l', t', s', before a verb! We don't even get a vowel to work with!?
Slavic languages are full of consonant clusters, m', l', t', s' are just a joke in comparaison.
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 Message 14 of 26
26 July 2015 at 7:10pm | IP Logged 
I find German to be very easy when it comes to discerning specific words. I can hear rapid conversation and pick out specific words, even if I don't know what they mean. However, when it comes to comprehension, the different word order tends to make things a bit tricky but I imagine it's the same with every other language with a word order different from English.

Italian I don't find to be too tough when picking out specific words, it's more that it's one of those rapid-fire languages that can seem quite chaotic at times when spoken at a conversational pace. I don't know any Spanish, but I imagine it to be similar to Italian in the fashion, maybe worse since it does seem to be more rapid.

French, I'm still just a beginner but I try to focus more on context because I know it'd drive me crazy trying to figure out which way the aforementioned m', l', t', s's were driving the sentence.

Those are the only languages that I've heard enough of while having even a basic idea of how they work for me to pass judgement; I'm sure there are easier/harder ones out there.
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 Message 15 of 26
27 July 2015 at 12:34am | IP Logged 
Czech. All those consonants help. :)
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United States
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Studies: French

 Message 16 of 26
27 July 2015 at 8:31am | IP Logged 
I had a recent experience of having homophone problems in French. I was watching a show on TV5Monde about some guy filming some musk oxen and reindeer in some northern country. I understood about half of the French he was using. He kept talking about looking for "les reines sauvages". I couldn't figure out why he was looking for "the wild queens". Later I used a dictionary and learned that "la reine" means "queen", but "le renne" means "reindeer". They sound the same.

The Wild Queens sounds kinda cool. Should be a movie, or at least a song.

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