Monday, February 28, 2011
One week after the most recent poll on favourite Romance language(s), the results are surprisingly close to the demographics of the languages themselves. Take a look:
Catalan / Occitan
Most population estimates for Spanish, French and Portuguese are around 400 million, 220 million and 250 million, and in the poll they are also at the top. Next up in the poll, and also in real population, comes Italian. Italian is a bit higher than one would expect for population alone so it was probably selected as a fun second choice for most. After that come Romanian and Catalan/Occitan, which is also in line with real population.
My choices were Romanian and (European) Portuguese. Romanian is by far my favourite Romance language. For some reason never pronouncing a written h in other Romance languages tends to get under my skin a bit. I don't mind a silent h every once in a while, nor a silent p in Greek loanwords in English (pneumonia), but never ever pronouncing h...not a huge deal, but I do like a real h. As Eddie Izzard says near the end of this video:
One other nice thing about Romanian is the lack of regional varieties / dialects. Italy is one country in particular where the common language is a bit of an L2 for many:
and as a lover of languages one would prefer to be able to know Sardinian when in Sardinia, Sicilian when in Sicily, instead of using the common language that everyone knows and sees on TV, but doesn't use as much in daily life when talking with people on the street. So Romanian is nice in that it's simply the language spoken in Romania, and Moldova (besides Hungarian in the former and Russian plus Gagauz in the latter).
On top of that the Slavic vocabulary is fun, and being nearly completely phonetic is nice. As a Canadian it was nice to have grown up with French around (on cereal boxes, sometimes in school, on TV...) because I certainly don't envy learning to write even simple phrases like qu'est-ce que c'est, qu'est-ce qu'il y a, and au jour d'aujourd'hui that take but a moment to speak but a longer time to write. Keskilya? No, it's written qu'est-ce qu'il y a. French always feels like another variety of English to me - a mess, but a kind of gloriously fun mess.
The other language I chose is (European) Portuguese. Portuguese to me feels a bit like Spanish spoken by a human. (That's a bit of a backhanded compliment to Spanish, by the way - it's almost inhumanly efficient) Take Spanish, add about ten more vowels, pronounce v and d like a 'real' v and d, then remove the silly diphthongs (siempre - sempre, ciudad - cidade, fuego - fogo), and replace h with f in a lot of places (hijo - filho), and pronounce final s as sh most of the time. When sung it sounds fantastic:
Two other nice things about Portuguese: as with Romanian, there isn't all that much variation within Portugal. There are different types of Portuguese within the country, but it's not nearly as fragmented as Spain with Catalan, Aranese, Aragonese, Asturian, and many others. Portuguese also feels a lot like English in the sense that there is 1) a relatively small country within Europe where the language originally comes from, 2) a much larger country across the Atlantic that has now become the cultural centre of the language, and 3) some other ex-colonies that speak the language but adhere somewhat more to the European standard than the American one.