As many (or few) may know, Modern-Greek and Spanish are similar in pronunciation [...].Someone in the forum links to this music video and asks others to listen to the song so that they can hear for themselves how similar Greek sounds to Spanish. I have to admit, that song serves as a prime example of the acoustic similarity of these two languages, making you feel as if you are supposed to understand what is being said, but you are unable to.
This is an observation I had made myself for quite some time with regards to Greek and European Spanish, about how they indeed sound similar. What is of interest here is how two geographically distant languages give the aural impression of being much more closely related.
To exemplify this, I have selected an audio sample for each language, which you will find below. I reviewed about two minutes of each clip presented; coincidentally, all these clips come from the Ugly Betty adaptions in each country.
Spanish, the Spanish from Central and Northern Spain, to be specific, and Greek sound superficially similar not only because of a similar phonetic inventory, but also because of the frequent occurrence of certain phonemes in both languages. These two languages posses the same set of five vowels [a e i o u], and a similar syllable structure, with words ending generally in a vowel, usually [e] or [o], or [s].
A very important aspect that aids in this superficial similarity is that, in Greek, the quality of /s/ is pronounced in a similar fashion to the typical /s/ of Northern/Central European Spanish, a type of /s/ that the untrained ear may hear as [ʃ]. Common to both languages as well are the series of fricatives [θ], [x~χ], [ð], [ɣ], and [ʝ], among other shared phonemes (see Modern Greek Phonology on Wikipedia).
Regarding the quality of /s/ in Greek, H. Foundalis writes on his website about the Greek language, his mother tongue:
[s], as in“soap”; a voiceless alveolar fricative. Actually, if you listen carefully to native Greek speakers, it sounds a bit between [s] and [sh] (probably because there is no [sh] in Greek, so the sound is somewhat shifted in the phonological space). However, to the native English ear it sounds much closer to [sh] than to [s], whereas every native Greek speaker would swear they pronounce it exactly like the English [s], unless forced to admit the difference by looking at spectrogram.The very same is true for the quality of /s/ in Northern and Central Spain, and Foundalis himself makes a remark about it: This is the way “s” is pronounced in Castilian Spanish (as opposed to Latin American Spanish).
Moving on to another pair of a Romance language with a non-Latin one, all the arguments just discussed apply to European Portuguese and Russian as well. What is described above for Spanish and Greek has been exactly my experience regarding another Ibero-Romance language when hearing Russian in a crowded, noisy place: it sounds like European Portuguese. I get this anxious feeling of wanting to understand what is being said, but I can't; and I assume that I can't understand because of the noise. I have to get close and pay attention simply to confirm that it's Russian, doing this also as an experiment, about which I'm writing here.
In these languages, we find a high occurrence of [ʃ], the schwa-like [ɐ], the peculiar vowel [ɨ], and /l/ in a velarized or pharyngealized variety, [ɫ]. Not only that, but European Portuguese also shares with Russian unique consonant clusters, in Portuguese occurring due to the high frequency of vowel suppression.