The 3 Most Common Questions About the Romance Languages

No we're not talking about the language of love here. In this post we look at 3 of the most common questions about the Romance languages!

What are the Romance languages?

The Romance languages are a group of languages within the Indo-European language family which share a common origin in the now extinct Latin language.

Some of the most popular Romance languages are Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. There are over 800 million people in the world who speak at least one romance language.

Why are they called Romance languages?

They are called Romance languages because they developed from Latin, the language of the Roman empire. When the Roman Empire expanded into Western Europe the locals usually adopted the Latin language. 

Over time the Latin spoken throughout the Empire evolved into regional forms of Latin. After Rome fell these regional versions of the language broke off from each other and developed into separate languages.

Are the Romance languages mutually intelligible?

The answer is a little complicated. It depends on which two languages you're talking about. Just because the Romance languages are similar doesn't mean their native speakers can always understand one another. 

For example, Spanish and Portuguese are closely related. It's said that native Portuguese speakers can understand Spanish better than native Spanish speakers can understand Portuguese. This is probably because Portuguese has a more complicated pronunciation system. 

Spanish and Portuguese are closely related to one another

Spanish and Italian are also very similar, and Italian is also said to share commonalities with Romanian. 

Spanish and Italian are also similar to one another

These similarities don't usually end up in mutual intelligibility, in that you learn two Romance languages for the price of one. However the similarities will give you a huge leg up if you know one Romance language and decide to learn another.

The common Latin roots of the language mean that there will be words that look and or sound the similar across the Romance language family. Also the grammatical structures in these language will also be similar. 


In the world of living languages the Romance languages hold a prominent place. Their shared ancestry doesn't necessarily make them mutually intelligible but there are many practical similarities.  

All in all these languages are some of the most popular foreign languages to learn for native speakers. To be sure this language family is going to be around for a while!

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