Andy Zhang
Community Tutor
Hey Everyone, What do you think about mutually intelligible languages/dialects?
Do you speak a language or dialect very similar to another one (e.g. Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, or Spanish, Italian, or a Chinese dialect/language?

I'm really interested in your experiences with speakers of different but similar languages/dialects.

Even weirder, there can sometimes be asymmetric mutual intelligibility; someone can understand you while you can't understand them or vice versa!

Any thoughts?

Jun 16, 2020 9:17 PM
Comments · 4
I speak Hainan, and I cannot for the life of me understand anything Mandarin or Cantonese. How screwed up is that? Hainan isn't even that far off the coast from China/Guangdong.I think we only have common writing as you know, but I never learned =/. I guess the only edge it gives me is that I can detect tonal differences, but that's about it.
June 16, 2020
Hi Andy, well, I can't say I speak Portuguese but I'm able to understand about 70% or 80% of written Portuguese. Regarding to spoken Portuguese, this percentage is lower but it's still high if you consider that I've never studied this language in my whole life. My mother is learning Portuguese, just for fun, and the other day I was explaining to her where to find her online homework since she's not very skillful when it comes to technology. The thing is that I saw an email sent by her teacher, which was written in Portuguese, and I could understand almost everything she said. It's impressive.
On the other hand, Italian is also pretty similar to Spanish but the similarity isn't as high as it is between Spanish and Portuguese. Sure, I can understand many Italian words and expressions but I'd say I'm able to understand only about <50% of it.
June 16, 2020
Although it is not me who can speak other dialects, my parents can.

An especially interesting story is that my parents both speak different dialects, from different provinces in China. I once visited a city near my dad's hometown with my dad, and he couldn't understand them despite the sound being so familiar, he just couldn't understand. BUT somehow he can understand my mom's dialect. I personally can understand around 30-40% of what they say, but it is interesting how a city so close, but the language is still so different.
June 16, 2020
Hola Andy , soy mexicana y estoy de acuerdo con tu comentario, ya que, he tenido experiencias directas con personas de habla inglesa , incluso cuando no tenia mucha habilidad para expresarme de forma básica.

Después de quitarme todos los obstáculos que me impedían atreverme a expresarme poco a poco; pude ir mejorando mis habilidades y aprendiendo cosas nuevas del idioma que estoy aprendiendo: Inglés.

Creo que la magia de la comunicación y los lenguajes florece cuando estas dispuesto a traspasar las barreras del miedo a expresarte sin importar el idioma , la nacionalidad , ideología, etc.

Saludos Andy
June 16, 2020
Andy Zhang
Language Skills
Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, Finnish, French, Greenlandic, Italian, Japanese, Turkish
Learning Language
Arabic, Finnish, Greenlandic, Italian, Japanese, Turkish