Most phonetic languages

I couldn’t find a thread on this so here goes:

  1. I’m a native English speaker and the disconnect between spelling and pronunciation is pretty large.

  2. Spanish is my second language and it is pretty darn phonetic; I’ve read that Spanish and Swahili are two of the most phonetic languages since if you can pronounce a word, you can spell it VERY easily. (Thus, you don’t have spelling bees in Spanish)

  3. My question: what other languages are very phonetic? The thing that gives me pause about French, and to a lesser extent Portuguese, is the fact that they aren’t that phonetic. Well, at least less so than Spanish.

  4. German is a language that I’ve always been interested in since it is apparently very phonetic, but according to the FSI it is about 25% harder for an English speaker to learn than romance languages, it isn’t as widespread as French or Portuguese, and I wouldn’t get a Romance language “discount” by knowing Spanish. This may seem weird to you guys, but for me to get excited about a language it has to have a lot of native speakers, be widespread, be very influential world-wide, be relatively easier for English speakers, and also ideally be phonetic. Thus, I haven’t ever learned a third language but I’m still deciding between Portuguese, French, and German.

I like Brazilian music but also have a strong interest in World War 2; I read a lot of books about the topic. With French…I don’t have any big interest in anything the language has to offer, unfortunately. I joke that I don’t learn French because I don’t want to get “smug.” My friends that took French in HS tended to look down on us Spanish students because French was considered more prestigious and higher-class. But I didn’t mind.

(actually, German is pretty much only spoken in Europe and as a second language in Eastern Europe. Germany only had its colonies in Africa for about 20 years and there are very few speakers in Nambia, Togo, and the other colony that they had in Africa, as well as German East Indies)

German: A “powerful” language, especially in Europe, phonetic, not “super” hard like Arabic or Chinese but it is not widely spoken outside of Europe.

Portuguese: A lot of countries speak it and Brazil, according to many surveys and studies, has a VERY poor English level. Thus, it would be more useful to know Portuguese to communicate with them. Also, it would be much easier learning Portuguese than the other two due to my Spanish background. But in my lifetime it will always be less developed than German-speaking countries.

French: Probably the language that I could use more face to face since I live relatively close to Canada, though it is mostly Quebec that speaks it in North America. It would be hard to learn, but much easier than German for me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a burning desire to learn it. The good news is that I learned Spanish just by habit and it just became part of my life; it’s not hard for me to develop an attachment to a language. Thanks!

Apparently this has been discussed in detail:

The thread is called “the most phonetic languages”, same as yours actually.

The first post appeared in 2009 and last post in 2013

Finnish comes out as rather phonetic, though obviously not a widely used language.

Thanks. I actually read that thread but didn’t find the conclusions I was looking for in regards to French, German, and Portuguese.

Better said, I’m less interested in knowing about what are the most phonetic languages than in knowing how phonetic German, French, and Portuguese are relative to each other.

But I don’t think I can fix the title of the thread, right?

I think Kanji kind of kills how phonetic Hiragana, Katagana, and Furigana are. Korean… now that’s phonetic.

I’d tell you to learn French, but then again I’m not really the type who gets upset when I mispronounce a word.

@Iri, thanks, I actually downloaded the Spanish to Portuguese course. I only studied Portuguese by myself for a month, but only writing and reading. It is VERY close to Spanish; the vocabulary is apparently 89% similar. And the sentence structure is almost the same, too. I guess I’m just deciding between German and Portuguese.

Unfortunately, in my career, aside from Spanish any language of the three will just be for fun and personal growth.

“Unfortunately, in my career, aside from Spanish any language of the three will just be for fun and personal growth.”

Aren’t you a doctor? Can’t a doctor doctor wherever a doctor wishes to doctor?

“Can’t a doctor doctor wherever a doctor wishes to doctor?”

Are you suggesting that he doctors his doctorate?

German is very phonetic, but not entirely. There are some irregularities, but I have not found them to be a problem. Also German has the most number of native speakers in Europe.

@Colin: Thanks, it confirms what I thought about German being pretty phonetic. Yes, I know German has the most number of native speakers and is behind English for the total number of speakers. (French is third for total European speakers)

@Iri: I’m a mere medical student and for us Americans, Spanish is by far the second most important language to know in the field. However, since i live in a state with few hispanics, it isn’t that important. Since I plan on moving to a particular state which is probably the 2nd or 3rd best state for Spanish speakers, it should come in handy, however. Note: the state I want to move to is cheap to live in, low taxes, and is great for doctors. I wouldn’t move to a state just because there are Hispanics! haha. The problem with learning a third language is that just maintaining a strong C1 level in Spanish and takes a lot of effort. I spend an hour doing Spanish each day (speaking, reading, listening) and that is enough to barely improve. I found that:

To go from A1-B2: about 1,000 hours.
B2-C1: 5,000 hours.
C1-C2: I estimate about 15,000 hours, but perhaps my expectations are more demanding than most. To me, a C2 means you are pretty much a native with a slight accent or the VERY rare mistake. I have about 6,500 I calculated, perhaps a conservative estimate since I count each day abroad as 8 hours.The improvement is pretty slow once you get to C1, I think.

I like Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to-perfect-anything estimate. Including languages.

In a book titled “Bounce,” the hours it took for various famous prodigies and virtuosos to get their abilities was estimated in an attempt to discount talent. 10,000 hours was the typical time taken. The book was reccomended to me by a famous musician I used to study with who was a prodigy, and is a virtuoso, who I believe you probably have heard of.

I haven’t read the Outliers book but I have also read the critiques of it. I sincerely do believe that talent does matter in many activities and that some people reach the same level much faster than others. And the 10,000 rule definitely doesn’t apply for sports. A 5’5" guy with a 20 inch vertical leap is not going to make the NBA, for example. If he works at it and does specific exercises to improve his vertical leap, he may get to 24 inches, or so. And in skill activities like shooting baskets, he may very well be an expert at 10,000 hours. (The world record holder for consecutive free throws made is like 5’7" and he did 3,000 in a row, I think. But he’s not very athletic and was a scrub on his HS b-ball team)

Similarly, you don’t see any 5’7" tennis players in the top 10 (nor top 100, unless 5’5" Olivier Rochus gets back in form. He’s currently 150th and was a career-high 24th in the world at his peak) The best players are 6’1" because it is the best balance between power and quickness.

East Africans are famous for their distance running prowess (I’m a fairly competitive distance runner so I know a little bit about the subject) but about 75% of the fastest runners come from group of 4.4 million in Kenya. It was thought that Kenyans ran to school 8 miles a day but apparently that is false. The best runner from Sweden went to Kenya and raced some Kenyan teenagers that had trained for 2 months or so and some of the Kenyans beat him! With very little training, they beat one of the fastest men in the world. (In 1990, Sweden was a top distance running country, before the Kenyans showed up)

“And even more amazing is that three-fourths of the Kenyan champions come from an ethnic minority of 4.4. million, or 0.06% of global population.”

" The researchers estimated that the average Kalenjin could outrun 90% of the global population, and that at least 500 amateur high school students in Iten alone could defeat Sweden’s greatest professional runner at the 2,000-meter."

For sprinting, African-Americans (descendants from West Africa) and Caribbean blacks dominate; there is ONE white person in the history of track and field that has broken 10 seconds in the 100 meters, this French guy that is the fastest man in Europe, I believe. Sprinting is more dependent on talent than distance running and unless you believe that Blacks LOVE sprinting and whites not so much, there is probably a physiological basis for their success.

For languages, I think that it is more hard work, though I maintain that some people (very few) are better at them naturally than others and can reach the same levels in pronunciation and grammar with less time spent on it. But even if the 10,000 rule were correct, hypothetically, it is not like a lightbulb switches on at 10,000 hours. For some people it may be at 9,000 and for others 12,000. 10,000 hours is still a LOT of time for anything, though.

I like how you defined talent in a physical sense of the word (height). I really can’t understand some people’s less resolute definitions of talent. In the context of sports, that makes certain sense. In music composition, I don’t think it is possible to be physically advantageous. (Strauss could not move his hand, so had his wife “play” as he composed)

I would also agree there are deriviations between people in how long it takes them to learn a language. I think these deriviations, though, are largely based on experiences before they started learning languages. For example, someone who grew up in a bilingual household will learn a third language faster than any one else would a second.

Its outside of my ability to really discuss more deep differences between people than those. I also don’t think those differences make enough of an improvement on the language spoken to be noticed by a “non-expert.” This non-expert could include a native speaker in this context. I only noticed luca’s not being a native speaker of English after someone told me.

I also think Robert (LoverlanguagesII), who comes on this forum, could be from Ohio or Minnesotta and be lying to us =p.

I heard Luca speak on a video he made like 4 years ago in English and his accent was good and he spoke well, though he was clearly not a native speaker. But a more recent video showed that he improved and I couldn’t tell if he was a native or not. He tries for the Chicago accent and his accent in English sounds “weird” to me possibly because I am not used to how they talk in Chicago. He wrote on his blog that he tries to work on his accent from the start and it shows! :slight_smile:

In Spain I met an American that had lived in the city for like 5 years and still made the same mistakes in regards to word gender and grammar. She lived her life like 50% in English (work) and 50% Spanish. (friends) However, though she had spent a LOT more time involved with the language, her grammar was still clearly inferior to mine. So since she hadn’t had dedicated education from good native teachers in speaking correctly, she never got it right. That tells me that it is not just the number of hours but the education you have received.

If I learned German and somebody taught me how to pronounce certain sounds incorrectly, and I spoke German for 10,000 hours, I would be good at pronouncing them badly and my German pronunciation would suck.

“That tells me that it is not just the number of hours but the education you have received… If I learned German and somebody taught me how to pronounce certain sounds incorrectly, and I spoke German for 10,000 hours, I would be good at pronouncing them badly and my German pronunciation would suck.”

Exactly. You would speak bad German perfectly.

Your friend obviously spent her 10,000 hours speaking poorly, probably communicating effectively, but not studying correctly. I heard David Mansaray mention in a video the “Jackie Chan” effect. Someone can spend years speaking a language, can speak effectively, but the language is in no way “correct.”

Have you used a “Pronounce it Perfectly” course? I was thinking about investing in the French version.

@djvl: I’ve never learned a language by myself! I had years of Spanish in HS and college so formal schooling is the only method of learning a language I’ve been exposed to. Although the college semi-immersion program that I told you about was definitely much more intensive than traditional language programs. Formal schooling, of course, has its positives and negatives. Thankfully, our teachers in HS and college were very good, unlike a lot of school programs. :slight_smile:

@Iri, Since docs get destroyed by the tax man, I thought that states with no state income tax would be best. The state I was talking about is Texas; a lot of physicians I’ve talked to say it is the best place to practice. It is apparently VERY popular, so much that the application process to work there takes about a year. They make it very hard to dissuade applicants apparently. Property taxes are high there but houses are cheap and malpractice suits are capped for pain and suffering, I believe. I assume the ER doctor heard Brazilian Portuguese. :slight_smile:

For better or worse, none of the three languages are very useful in the US.

What residency are you looking at doing?

The reason I live in this state (North Carolina) is because my father is an O.D. and the laws are fairly liberal when it comes to the medical professions. Within a half hour of the town I live in (Raleigh) there is Duke Med, UNC, Rex, and Wake Forest. Its not a terrible place to live, at least I’d rather be here than anywhere in Texas (except maybe Austin). We’re one of the more hispanophone states.

Do you mean “specialty”? In case you didn’t know, medicine is an extreme sellers market. Due to the very high demand to get into medical schools and residencies, you really don’t have a choice of where you go to school or do residency. You just apply to a lot of programs and hope to God that somebody accepts you. I will most likely do my residency in my home state since I will do rotations here (which is not Texas) and then apply to work at hospitals in Texas after finishing residency, which will be more of a buyer’s market once you are a doctor. (I.E, if you are flexible in where you want to work you can work almost anywhere)

Embarrassingly, I’ve never been to the South of the US! Only Florida once, but I don’t know if that “counts.” And I wouldn’t work in a state with a lot of Latinos just to talk Spanish; I’d want to work in a place because it is a good place to work. (lot of work opportunities, cheap to live in, low taxes, which eliminates California and New York)

Now, to find a Latina, that is another matter. :slight_smile:

“Do you mean “specialty”?”
Yes. Does not your choice of residency determine you specialty?

“Embarrassingly, I’ve never been to the South of the US!”
You haven’t missed much. The thing is, if you are in a college town, or a capitol, you don’t really feel like you are in the south. Still, if I were to drive thirty miles in any direction I’d see every southern stereotype carried out. It should be pointed out that the political differences between the north and south US have been increasing lately, with the exception of a few states. I think Texas will only increase as far as quality of life over the next decade, but for now I’d stay in Austin, if possible.

North Carolina’s property taxes, and coincidentally/subsequentially, home prices, are relatively low compared to, lets say, New England. This attracts a lot of northerners. At the same time, other things, like food, are more expensive. A gallon of milk is about double the price here than in the state I used to live in; Massachusetts.

I think this is a trend that will follow wherever you go in the south. The one thing cheaper is tobacco, but I doubt you smoke, being a doctor and all.

You can’t choose a specialty nor residency. It is a sellers market; very competitive. You can apply, but for most students, specialties like Ophthalmology, Radiology, some types of surgery, and Dermatology are unrealistic. Conversely, if you graduate and pass all your tests, Family medicine and psychiatry are very easy to get into. You can apply to residencies in any specialty but you usually can’t pick the exact program you want to train at for residency due to the competition.

For example, if a first year medical student said that he was going to be a neurosurgeon, I would probably laugh at him. It is extremely difficult to become a neurosurgeon due to the competition and also the grueling nature of training.

I’m more worried about state income taxes since they take out a lot of money of high-income earners. Wherever I live, my house will be pretty cheap because I don’t care about living in an expensive house.