While Romance languages may feel quite distant to an English speaker, they are closer than you think. In addition to being widely spoken, Romance languages are some of the easiest languages to learn if your native language is English.
The grammar & pronunciation are completely different, but the frequency at which these languages are used in the English-speaking world makes these languages much more approachable.
History: Romance Influence on English
Much of English’s similarities to the Romance language have to do with only one Romance language, French. While 29% of English vocab stems from Latin, there is an additional 29% of vocabulary that stems directly from French, making over 58% of English vocabulary from Latin origins.
In 1066, the Norman French invaded and subsequently became the ruling class of England for more than 300 years. You even see this influence today when speaking about meats and the animals from which they come from.
While English peasants would be on their farm, surrounded by cū (cows), the Norman elite would be served bœuf (beef) for dinner.
Look at the equivalence of Modern German (a fellow Germanic language) and Modern French:
Additionally, colonialism brought words from Native American languages to various Romance languages and then subsequently English, for example:
Another note is that Latin and French were the Lingua Francas for a considerable period of time, meaning that many words of academic or “elite” origins stem from these two.
Additionally, you cannot deny the impact that Spanish has had on English throughout Latin America and the USA. Take these state names:
English Influence on Spanish
Now English is the lingua franca of the world. Considering their proximity, both culturally and physically to many Romance-speaking nations, you can see words from English origins influencing Romance languages. For example, there are many “Spanization” of English words, usually called anglocisimos in Spanish like:
While the grammar of the languages may be different, especially considering English is Germanic in origin, there are still some similarities.
While German (another Germanic language) only has six tenses, English has 12 and Spanish has 14, with many of these overlapping
For example, german uses the same tense to express an idea that English and Spanish use two for:
However, there are plenty of differences. Romance languages place their adjectives after the nouns they modify, and most vocab is entirely different. Additionally, the conjugation system of English is considerably more simple (and I cannot stress how much more simple) than Portuguese for example:
In English, we mostly use the same word across all people for whom we are conjugating, whereas Portuguese changes every form.
Learning The Romance Languages
You have a huge advantage in learning a Romance language as an English speaker, so don’t feel discouraged to learn one of these amazing languages. LanguageBird has plenty of amazing tutors and teachers that will make the experience feel easy and fun!
Disclaimer: The only Romance language that may be considerably more challenging is Romanian as the grammar is a bit different from its siblings in the Romance Language Family