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Timos
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« on: July 27, 2005, 11:20:36 AM »

Hi everyone. I was just wondering if some of our online Slavic buddies here could tell me.. I am going to be living in Thessaloniki in a few years (God willing) and will be studying while there. While I'm there I wanted to visit the rest of Orthodox Europe (Slavic speaking countries) and Asia Minor (particularly Smyrna, Cappadokia, and, Myra, where the dilapilated church and empty tomb of St. Nicholas is).

Neways I was wondering which Slavic language out of Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian, is the most widely understood in the region. So for example is Russian or Serbian understood most of all in Eastern Europe? I was told that Czech is very different than the rest but still classified as Slavic.

And which is easiest to learn?

P.S: I dontconsider Romanian because it's Romance language and I already speak and understand italian fairly well so I might pick up some Rom. on the way.

H Panagia Mazi Mas~The Theotokos be with us all,
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« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2005, 11:33:04 AM »

If you had to pick one Slavic language to learn, go with Russian. Due to the Soviet Union's hegemony in the area for the past century, there are still lots of people who speak the language, even if they don't like it.
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2005, 11:37:52 AM »

Good grief, half the message board is going to Thessaloniki to study!
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2005, 12:04:51 PM »

Russian grammar can be difficult at first if you're not familiar with case languages.  There is a lot of rote learning you have to do.  Plus you have to learn a thousand words or so before you start to understand how to build words on your own (i.e. makes verbs into nouns, adjectives, etc.). 

But is well worth it.  There's nothing like being able to read Tolstoy in the original.  Moreover, if you travel anywhere in the FSU, you'll be able to communicate.  I've lived in both Ukraine and Georgia (where I am now), and although not everyone speaks Russian, most understand and speak enough of it that we can understand each other.
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2005, 12:13:44 PM »

Russian grammar is difficult, but all Slavic languages have difficult grammar. The three East Slavic languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian) are the most archaic, and have probably the most complex grammar. Polish is just as bad, and has a crapass spelling system to boot (though, to their credit, it's not nearly as bad as Hungarian). Czech and Slovak are almost as bad as Polish when it comes to spelling.

If you're interested in the easiest Slavic language to learn, Serbian or Bulgarian would probably fit the bill, though they're obviously going to be more limited in the area in which they are spoken.

Intriguingly, although Georgian is useless outside of Georgia, from what I've studied of it, it's an exceedingly regular and logical language, and probably wouldn't be that difficult to learn.
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« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2005, 12:40:57 PM »

I would probably go with Russian for the reasons already stated.  You will find once you get a basic grasp of one slavic language, the others come pretty easy.

I can listen to two Russian communicate and understand about 70% of what they are saying and I've never had any instruction in Russian.  Aside from speaking Serbian, I also understand Bulgarian (maybe 80-90%) and modern *Macedonian* (which is more of a dialectic difference than a separate language).

However, just because of sheer numbers, I would think that Russian should be the most useful.
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2005, 01:06:28 PM »


Intriguingly, although Georgian is useless outside of Georgia, from what I've studied of it, it's an exceedingly regular and logical language, and probably wouldn't be that difficult to learn.

I myself have an interest in Georgian. It is directly related to my ancestral Laz. But neither are Slavic languages.

Any internet sources on this language?
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2005, 02:04:28 PM »

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Any internet sources on this language?

It won't teach you to speak it, but this is a fairly complete outline of Georgian phonetics and grammar.
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2005, 03:07:40 PM »

Thanks a lot everyone for your help!

"Good grief, half the message board is going to Thessaloniki to study!"-Silouan.

Silouan, lol really? I never knew that. I figured I was like one of few people to go th the old country to study. I was thinking of also going to Balamand, Lebanon, or Halki until I found out it was closed. Lots of my cousins have gone to Romania to study.

As for the Slavic,I'm guessing that all Slavic comes from the Old Slavonic right who's centre was in ancient Kiev where Sts. Methodius and Cyrill went. I'm also guessing that the language the Roma/gypsy people speak is a mix of slavic and asian roots.

I asked some other friends too and they told me to stick with Russian 2 but I just don't want to be hated everywhere I go other than Russian! lol. But as the old saying goes, "you can't be friends with everyone."


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« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2005, 03:20:45 PM »

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I'm also guessing that the language the Roma/gypsy people speak is a mix of slavic and asian roots.

Nope -- They speak a northern Indian language related to Hindi, Gujarati, and Punjabi.
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« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2005, 03:45:21 PM »

I suppose three doesn't constitute three doesn't constitute half the board, but as far I know GreekisChristian and me are also planning on going, so that'll make 4 oc.net people in Thessaloniki. 

As for Russian you never know where it will come in handy.  I know a little bit (the basics and some common phrases) of Russian.  I work in a grocery store in America....so one day this old Russian woman that speaks not a word of English comes in wanting to buy phone cards that work for Latvia.  So they called me up to help her and figuere out what she wanted.  That was a little different. 

Also from my experiences in Greece and from others that I know that have travelled Eastern Europe, German is a fairly common second language.... and plus German is just plain cool.  And German beer is good.  But there is also lots of good cheap beer in the Czech Republic, so maybe that means I should learn Czech....
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2005, 04:04:41 PM »

I love languages so here goes...

Quote
Neways I was wondering which Slavic language out of Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian, is the most widely understood in the region. So for example is Russian or Serbian understood most of all in Eastern Europe?

Учись русский язык, конечно!

LOL, IOW I second yBeayf's and others' advice to learn Russian. It's widely understood in Eastern Europe not just because of Soviet domination historically but, because it's part of the Slav(on)ic branch of the Indo-European family of languages (which also means it's distantly related to the Germanic branch including English), it's closely related to many/most other languages in the region. Learn it and you've made a substantial down payment on understanding the rest of the branch (Polish, Czech, Serbian, etc.)!

As I like to say, learn one language from each of the three big branches of that family and you can pretty much communicate with people all over Europe!

There's the Germanic branch, including what this is written in, so with English not only have you got a close sister language to German, Dutch and the Scandinavian languages (helpful for reading - about half the words are the same as English!) but thanks to British and then American dominance historically English is now the world's second language.

But of course that doesn't mean everybody in Europe speaks it!

So you might want to augment that by learning German; so doing will open up even more of Dutch and the Scandinavian languages to you.

Then there's the Latin (Romance) family: learn one and you can read a lot in all of them. Spoken French and Portuguese are hard to understand though. (Portuguese is Spanish that sounds like it's being spoken by people who wish they were French.)

And then for Eastern Europe there's the Slavic branch - again, Russian will serve you well.

Quote
I was told that Czech is very different than the rest but still classified as Slavic.

Actually I've heard that Czech, Slovak and Polish, all of the West Slavic subgroup of Slavic languages, are very similar - Czech and Slovak are nearly the same language and that the main difference with Polish is that the stresses are in different parts of the words.

As an amateur Russian speaker I find that spoken Polish and Czech are hard to understand because they have lots of extra sh and zh sounds thrown into words I would recognise in written form.

Quote
Russian grammar can be difficult at first if you're not familiar with case languages.  There is a lot of rote learning you have to do.  Plus you have to learn a thousand words or so before you start to understand how to build words on your own (i.e. makes verbs into nouns, adjectives, etc.).

All true but if you know case languages the grammar isn't that bad. Latin is a case language too: the endings of the words change to tell you what they're doing in the sentence. IMO an elegant way to set up a language.

When learning each of the three core languages to use when communicating in Europe you have start from scratch learning a basic vocabulary. That's probably the hardest part about learning Russian: German and English have about 60 per cent of their basic words in common, with Romance languages there's a lot of vocabulary crossover with English (due to mixing with French thanks to the Norman conquest and scads of loan words since) but with Slavic ones about 80 per cent of the words are different!

Quote
Polish is just as bad, and has a crapass spelling system to boot (though, to their credit, it's not nearly as bad as Hungarian).

LOL, well put!

Quote
Czech and Slovak are almost as bad as Polish when it comes to spelling.

I don't agree. I think their way is simpler and consistent - one simply has to learn it.

Quote
I would probably go with Russian for the reasons already stated.  You will find once you get a basic grasp of one slavic language, the others come pretty easy.

Exactly!

Quote
I just don't want to be hated everywhere I go other than Russia!

Probably not a problem since the people in other countries will know from your accent and other things that you're not a Russian but from someplace else simply trying to communicate.

BTW, here's a thought: check out this site for 'Slovio', also called 'Slavsk':

Quote
Peter, Canada:
My Slavic-speaking ancestors came originally from the Balkan region. However I was born and raised in Canada and had little opportunity to learn their language. Recently I have decided to go back to the Balkans, and look for my long lost cultural roots. Since learning Slavic languages I found very difficult, I just learned Slovio. Upon arrival to the village of my ancestory I was surprised how well I could communicate with the villagers. And later on when I visited other countries in the Balkans, with Slovio I could communicate with just about anybody, and talk just about anything. Thank you Slovio! You have opened up a new huge world for me!

Nathaniel, U.S.A:
I just have to tell you two anecdotal  stories about Slovio that should be a good testimonial. 1) I am a beginner  in Russian, and whenever I order pizza, the Russian pizza man comes. I  always try to struggle with Russian, and then I resort to Slovio. He  understands every word I say! It's wonderful! Slovio truly is Pan-Slavic!   2) I met a Croatian recently and didn't speak a word of Croatian. I resorted to Slovio and he understood everything! So this just goes to show you what a good job you guys are doing! Keep it up! I download every version there is!

It's one of those artificial auxiliary languages: this one was invented by an Eastern European to communicate across countries and languages in his part of the world. It's fascinating! Basically it looks like strange ungrammatical Russian but as an amateur Russian speaker I can understand just about everything. It looks easier to learn than Russian, thanks to the simplified grammar, and probably would serve you about as well as speaking beginner's broken Russian. IOW, it's like Russian with mistakes but not the kind of mistakes that would really get in the way of communicating.

Quote
As for the Slavic,I'm guessing that all Slavic comes from the Old Slavonic right who's centre was in ancient Kiev where Sts. Methodius and Cyrill went.

True except for the Kiev part. The saints went to what's now Bulgaria and the Czech Republic back when all Slavic languages were much closer and everybody essentially spoke a version of Old Slavonic.

Quote
I'm also guessing that the language the Roma/gypsy people speak is a mix of slavic and asian roots.

As you might know the Gypsies/Roma are really Indians. ('Gypsy' comes from the mistaken belief mediæval Europeans had that they came from Egypt.) So Roma is really a (distant?) relative of Hindi in India today (as yBeayf has explained - thanks!). I imagine as Gypsies largely live in Eastern Europe that they've picked up a number of Slavic words but Roma isn't Slavic.

Quote
from others that I know that have travelled Eastern Europe, German is a fairly common second language....

AFAIK that's true. Thanks to the Austrian Empire before World War I, it was the second/auxiliary language in those parts until after World War II.

I won't lie - Russian's tough. I've been acquainted with it for 13 years and am not fluent in it. But as Anthony can tell you, it can be learnt.

Удачи вам! Good luck.
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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2005, 03:46:43 AM »

Well, I would suggest Russian also. If you do visit Romania you will find that most educated people, particularly the older ones, will have learnt Russian at school and, even more useful, everybody can understand the Italian you already know. Most Romanians I know sit and watch Italian television very happily, although I don't believe that it's as easy for an Italian speaker to understand Romanian (especially not spoken).

Russian seems to be the most widely used Slavic language in Eastern Europe, presumably because of the Soviet domination of the eastern bloc, so I'd go with that. I wouldn't mind learning it myself, actually, if I ever get time.

James
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« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2005, 07:20:46 AM »

The three East Slavic languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian) are the most archaic, and have probably the most complex grammar.

That's not generally true. Like most of the Slavonic languages, the East Slavic languages have lost the original Common Slavonic verbal system, which was tremendously complex. Only Bulgarian and Macedonian preserve this system, so they are the "most archaic" when it comes to the verbal system.
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« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2005, 09:04:43 AM »

P.S. Corrections: to agree with the formal you in ‘Удачи вам!’ (where the you should be capitalised: Вам — otherwise it’s a plural) the verb in ‘Учись русский язык, конечно!’ should change to Учитесь. Простите меня!
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« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2005, 09:39:33 AM »

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Only Bulgarian and Macedonian preserve this system, so they are the "most archaic" when it comes to the verbal system.

This is true. If you look at all the Slavic languages, each of them will have certain features that are more archaic than the others (preservation of jat' in Slovak, nasalized vowels in Polish, etc.) Bulgarian certainly has plenty of other innovative features -- loss of case markers, definite article, participation in the Balkan sprachsbund -- such that I wouldn't call it the most archaic on balance.
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« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2005, 09:55:27 AM »

..... Only Bulgarian and Macedonian preserve this system, so they are the "most archaic" when it comes to the verbal system.

This seems an important point. In adding to Serge's contribution here and addressing some of Timos's Reply #8, when Sts. Cyril and Methodios were tasked to mission to the Slavs they translated the NT and the liturgical books into the then current Slavic dialect they knew - the 9th Century Macedonian/Bulgarian one in use in Thessaloniki, a dialect they knew well. As this was a current dialect it was fairly easily understood by all of the Slavs in the same way today's dialects (as noted above) are understandable among the various Slavic speakers.
Hence Slavonic was a common, local, and an once-current dialect which has been preserved; although today it IS old and archaic. It would not be considered a root of various Slavic dialects today, IMO. But I will defer to Serge and you Russkys on that.
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« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2005, 10:20:36 AM »

Quote
As this was a current dialect it was fairly easily understood by all of the Slavs in the same way today's dialects (as noted above) are understandable among the various Slavic speakers.

There's over a thousand years of language development between then and now, though, so whilst the earliest written Slavic languages we know of were in the Balkans, that doesn't mean they're still the most archaic.
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« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2005, 10:24:55 AM »

There's over a thousand years of language development between then and now, though, so whilst the earliest written Slavic languages we know of were in the Balkans, that doesn't mean they're still the most archaic.
Certainly liturgical Slavonic as the oldest dialect in current use and mostly unchanged. I don't think you are stating that Slavonic has undergone massive evolution, are you?
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« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2005, 10:29:52 AM »

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I don't think you are stating that Slavonic has undergone massive evolution, are you?

Well, in one sense it has, in that the common Slavonic evolved into the various present-day Slavic languages. But Church Slavonic is the closest to the old common Slavonic, so I supppose I should have been more clear in that the east Slavic languages are the most archaic living Slavic languages.
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« Reply #20 on: July 28, 2005, 10:34:51 AM »

OK. Got it. As I said, it's a Slavic thing and I'm just an old 'Roman' <grin>

BTW, the Georgian link was great. Thanks.
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« Reply #21 on: July 28, 2005, 10:38:10 AM »

I also think there needs to be some clarification on "Macedonian" with regards to it being equally "archaic" as Bulgarian.

Much of the language spoken in modern "Macedonia" is only dialectically different than Bulgarian or Serbian, but more to the point, much of what you may be classifying as "archaic" Macedonian is in fact "Old Serbian".

The Serbian language has undergone some of the most drastic changes of all the Balkan Slavic Languages.  See here http://www.rastko.org.yu/projekti/cm/1/vpetkovic-spomenici_l.html (I apologize I don't have an English translation).

I think you'll find (for example) that the "version" of Serbian spoken by Tsar Dusan, is very different to modern Serbian spoken in Belgrade today.
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« Reply #22 on: July 28, 2005, 10:42:59 AM »

Thanks SouthSerb99
I was, of course, stating that 9th Century Macedonian/Bulgarian was the basis for SS Cyril & Methodios's Slavonic translations now preserved for the most part as Church Slavonic.
You guys are confusing me, I think.
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« Reply #23 on: July 28, 2005, 10:47:43 AM »

No. I think you were absolutely correct in what you were saying.  I was just "chiming" in on the Macedonian language thing because I think it is often stated incorrectly (although usually well stated at this site).
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« Reply #24 on: July 28, 2005, 10:53:47 AM »

In the article I posted see this quote:

"Srpska crkva u Južnoj Srbiji pribavi imenu srpskom vrlo veliko uvaženje za vreme vladavine turske. Ona je smatrana kao centar pravoslavlja i stari srpski jezik, slično latinskom jeziku na Zapadu, postade crkveni jezik susednih naroda."

Translated...

The Serbian church in Southern Serbia (modern Macedonia) was able to gain a high recognition for the Serbian name during the rule of the Ottoman empire. The church was considered to be center of Orthodox religion and old Serbian language (still in use in northern FYR Macedonia), similar to latin language on the West, which became church language of surrounding nations.  (emphasis added is mine).

Some of my Serbian brothers may offer a more precise translation.

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« Reply #25 on: July 29, 2005, 10:33:53 PM »

[A somewhat off-topic comment]

Then there's the Latin (Romance) family: learn one and you can read a lot in all of them. Spoken French and Portuguese are hard to understand though. (Portuguese is Spanish that sounds like it's being spoken by people who wish they were French.)

LOL

I have never thought about my native language in such a way, but I shall recognize you are right... Portuguese can be fairly said as a "mild" Spanish. Probably harder to be learnt than Spanish, specially if you try to master the Lusitanian standard accent, or a certain accent from Northeastern Brazil that is a fair equivalent in the Portuguese-speaking realm of the Texan accent in the English-speaking world. But the most usual Portuguese accents pay the effort of their students with a nicely musical and "mollified" speech that fits almost ideally to romantic songs or poems -- as witnessed by a large repertoire of Portuguese-language literature and music, since the times of the troubadours in the late Middle Ages. (The Portuguese remarkable troubadour poetry, by the way, is another sign of a spiritual connection between Portugal and France -- or at least Provence, in this case.) Smiley

If somebody wishes to learn one Romance language and his priority is the importance of the language itself, I think his better choice would be French. But if he desires to understand at least the gist of a text in most of Romance languages learning only one of them, perhaps Italian would be the ideal "master key".
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« Reply #26 on: July 30, 2005, 01:26:32 PM »

For learning Bulgarian go to http://learnbulgarian.hit.bg/  and also http://languages.4status.net/english/bul.htm.
Learned in in 1965 at DLI 47-week couse and still remember it, they simplified the grammar in the 1800's similar to german grammar.  Easiest grammar of all Slavic languages and most archaic vocabulary (like Staroslavjanskij)
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« Reply #27 on: July 30, 2005, 05:35:11 PM »

For learning Bulgarian go to http://learnbulgarian.hit.bg/  and also http://languages.4status.net/english/bul.htm.
Learned in in 1965 at DLI 47-week couse and still remember it, they simplified the grammar in the 1800's similar to german grammar.  Easiest grammar of all Slavic languages and most archaic vocabulary (like Staroslavjanskij)

Hey, another DLI alumnus here. I attended 2000 a course of Mandarin Chinese, though I later came to ask for and receive honourable discharge as a conscientious objector, so my subsequent use of the language was brief.

I don't think you can say that Bulgarian has "the most archaic vocabularly", since it is full of Turkish words brought in during the occupation, and the Bulghar Turks left a small but important stock of everyday words that moved the Bulgarian language a bit further away from Slavonicness than, say, Russian. Bulgarian also experienced metathesis of liquid-vowel-consonant combinations, which means that a large stock of its vocabularly has drifted from Common Slavonic.
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« Reply #28 on: July 30, 2005, 09:30:31 PM »

So that means that Bulgarian has some Persian-like words right?- because the Turks came from Asia around Persia as far as I have read...
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« Reply #29 on: July 31, 2005, 06:39:44 AM »

So that means that Bulgarian has some Persian-like words right?- because the Turks came from Asia around Persia as far as I have read...

No, the Turks originally came from northwest China. The Persians speak Persian/Farsi, an Indo-European language, while the Turks speak Turkic languages, there is no relation, and Bulgarian can't really be linked to Persian.
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