Romance languages. If the term evokes images of couples walking hand in hand through the streets of Paris whispering sweet things to each other in French, you are not alone.
Many people believe that Romance languages are related to their romantic connotations. After all, important Romance languages like French, Spanish, and Italian are always at the top of the list of sexiest accents.
But we’re sorry to say that Romance languages have nothing to do with love. Read on to find out what the Romance languages are, where they come from, and why they are great languages to learn. And of course, if they are unable to make us pass out, we explain exactly why they are called Romance languages.
What are the Romance languages?
Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European languages that have their roots in Latin. Overall, over a billion people speak Romance languages worldwide.
The main languages are Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Catalan, Provencal and Romansh (an official language in Switzerland). While these languages can have phonetic differences, they share many similarities in vocabulary and grammatical forms.
These similarities explain why speakers of Spanish and Italian can often understand each other without ever learning the other language.
Where do Romance languages come from?
The term romanticism is derived from the historical origins of these languages in the Roman Empire. Romanice wanted to speak “in novel”, which eventually turned into romance. That is why we still refer to any language with roots in Latin as a Romance language with a capital letter R.
However, a recent study found that French is the most romantic language according to men, while women prefer Italian. Who knows, maybe your catalog with more than 250 Italian hand gestures has something to do with it?
How have the Romance languages developed across Europe?
During the time of the Roman Empire, the Romans spoke an informal version of written Latin called Vulgar Latin. And no, vulgar has nothing to do with swearing like a sailor, it simply means the common language spoken by common people. As the empire spread across Europe and conquered new territories, so did this language.
This spoken Latin eventually mixed with the national language and formed dialects that differed from village to village. The further it spread from Rome, the more it changed. While many of these regional dialects are now extinct, you can still find many regional dialects across Europe spoken alongside the standard variant taught in schools.
After the fall of the empire, these languages continued to change until they became recognized languages.
Colonization and the building of empires later took these languages even further to South America, Africa and Asia, where they were again transformed into regional dialects.
Okay, do you have a list of Romance languages on hand?
A list of Romance languages usually starts with the five most important: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. They are considered to be the most important as they are all official languages. Together, these five languages make up over 90% of all Romance speakers.
However, the full list of Romance languages is much longer, with a total of 44 languages. Linguists include the following lesser-known languages within the Romance language family, with Sardinian closest to Latin:
- Aromanian (Greece)
- Romanian (Romania)
- Istro (Croatia)
- Megleno (Greece)
- Istriot (Croatia)
- Italian (Italy)
- Judeo-Italian (Italy)
- Napoletano-Calabrese (Italy)
- Sicilian (Italy)
- Emiliano-Romagnolo (Italy)
- Ligurian (Italy)
- Lombard (Italy)
- Piemontese (Italy)
- Romangnol (Italy)
- Venetian (Italy)
- French France)
- French, Cajun (USA)
- Guernésiais (Guernsey)
- Picard (France)
- Walloon (Belgium)
- Arpitan (France)
- Friulian (Italy)
- Ladin (Italy)
- Romansch (Switzerland)
- Catalan (Spain)
- Occitan (France)
- Shuadit (France)
- Asturians (Spain)
- Mirandese (Portugal)
- Extremaduran (Spain)
- Ladino (Israel)
- Spanish (Spain)
- Spanish, Charapa (Peru)
- Fala (Spain)
- Galician (Spain)
- Minderico (Portugal)
- Portuguese (Portugal)
- Aragonese (Spain)
- Corsican (France)
- Sardinian Campidanese (Italy)
- Sardinian Gallurese (Italy)
- Sardinian Logudorese (Italy)
- Sardinian, Sassarese (Italy)
Is English a Romance Language?
Although English has borrowed many words from Latin (as you will see in the table below), it is not officially a Romance language. In fact, as a Germanic language, English is placed in the same category as German, Yiddish, Dutch, and Afrikaans.
Fun Fact: Trivia, Prior, Delete, and Terrible are all Latin words that are used in the English language but have become extinct in Romance languages.
Which Romance language should I learn?
Lucky for you – Romance languages are also some of the easiest languages to learn. Spanish has been rated the easiest because of its easy spelling, pronunciation, and grammar. With 21 countries listed as an official language, Spanish is also a very practical choice for travelers.
Fun Fact: Spanish is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world by native speakers.
French is also another popular option. While learning the French accent can take a little longer, the language itself is relatively easy. The key phrases – you know, the ones that will make sure you never go hungry – won’t take too long to understand. “Un croissant s’il vous plaîtIs a good start.
Even better, once you’ve learned a Romance language, it’s much easier to learn another language below. Take a look at this table to see how similar the Romance languages are to one another.
Here at Busuu, the language learning app with over 100 million learners, we can’t promise we’ll turn you into a Casanova, but we can help you master the Romance language of your choice.
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