What other languages can a Russian speaker understand?

Angela asked:
What other languages can a Russian speaker understand? A Russian friend I had once told me that to her, Ukranians sound very feminine or like children while speaking their language. Do you agree?

Hello Angela!

I think that Ukrainian or Belorussian languages sound for a Russian person like Portuguese to Italian or Spanish-speaking one. There are many words that look similar and if written, you’ll sure will understand the main points but when spoken, it’s weirdly unusual to listen to.

Some Polish or Czech or Slovak or Serbian words may seem familiar but they often have another meaning so it's dangerous to feel free to avoid dictionaries behind. "Attention" in Polish is similar to "shame" in Russia, "Shop" to "Vault"; not logical and a bit creepy.

I’ve seen the «Rock wave» movie in Kiev once. It was in Ukrainian and I didn’t get anything from it. Some words sounded similar to Russian ones but funnier. I even didn’t get the plot. My Russian friend told me she understood it pretty good. Both we do not speak Ukrainian, but I am not sure why our perception was so different.

Did she really understand or maybe she got the same as I did and thought it to be sufficient while I stated I understood nothing? I didn’t know how to measure. Maybe if the movie was in another language, not similar to Russian, we’d get just as same as we could because there are faces and gestures and actions on the screen. Oh well.

As for sound, Ukrainian language has soft endings so it’s more tender when spoken. Many diminutives make it feel more like mother is speaking to a dear child, that’s probably why your friend mentioned women and children.

This post is an answer to one of The Listserve replies I’ve got.
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