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Easiest languages to listen to?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
26 messages over 4 pages: 1 2 3
Senior Member
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Speaks: Croatian*, English, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Norwegian, Hindi, Nepali

 Message 25 of 26
20 December 2015 at 1:38am | IP Logged 
Brazilian and Angolan are supereasy, while the European pronunciation is not that difficult to listen to either, phonetics may be different but phonology is the same...
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Bilingual Heptaglot
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Speaks: Spanish*, English*, German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Mandarin
Studies: Korean

 Message 26 of 26
20 December 2015 at 2:29pm | IP Logged 
Based on the aggregate of the responses here, past discussions on this subject, and my personal experience (which not too humbly I can say gives me good voice, having studied French intensively and now Mandarin to equal zeal), it is fairly clear that French and Mandarin are two examples of major languages that are a bit harder to master in the listening.

To me it is fairly straight forward: both languages have undergone massive attrition of sounds (look at French verbs "-ent" endings for example). It is what sets French apart from the other major Romance languages, it has undergone a substantial reduction of finals in particular. French has a significant number of homophones or near-homophones. That makes it hard to understand when learning, because you need to rely on context to figure out which word of the homophone pairs is meant. This means you need to have enough processing speed in your brain to figure it all out before you are left in the dust, which means high listening ability (which requires a higher amount of vocabulary).

Same in Chinese, which is why Chinese has tones, having lost so many finals the language was creating an unacceptable number of homophones for it to be practical for communication, so tones had to fill in the gap of the vanished phonemes. I always joke, that if French keeps effacing sounds it will have to come up with tones at some point!

The other thing is languages with a larger number of monosyllabic words are harder to understand, because obviously the time you have to pick the word up is far shorter and you get left behind far more easily.

The good news in the longer term none of this matters, with hard work almost anyone can overcome this slightly steeper curve.
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