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Thread: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

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    German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    I have read that Germans in the north have do not have mutual intelligibility with Germans in, say, Austria, but ich finde this very hard to believe. In addition, to me, German looks very much like Dutch. On Dutch TV, when a German-speaking person comes on and they put subtitles at the bottom of the screen, it almost sounds like the German speaker is reading them (no, I don't speak Dutch).

    Can most German speakers understand, at least to some minor extent (not with full fluency, of course) spoken and written Dutch? Can the Dutch do the same with German? How about Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish? I think that might be a stretch, but they seem to speak a language more similar to German than English.

    Thank you.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by tvdxer
    I have read that Germans in the north have do not have mutual intelligibility with Germans in, say, Austria, but ich finde this very hard to believe. In addition, to me, German looks very much like Dutch. On Dutch TV, when a German-speaking person comes on and they put subtitles at the bottom of the screen, it almost sounds like the German speaker is reading them (no, I don't speak Dutch).
    I have never had the chance to watch Dutch TV, but what I can tell from Dutch texts, I think that it is possible to understand oneself with person from the other country. I can understand some written Dutch, but I believe that I wouldn't even understand the gist when a native Dutch speaker speaks fluently. If he make an effort and speaks slowly, and I make an effort to understand him, we will be able to communciate, at least to some minor extent, as you said.

    Can most German speakers understand, at least to some minor extent (not with full fluency, of course) spoken and written Dutch? Can the Dutch do the same with German? How about Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish? I think that might be a stretch, but they seem to speak a language more similar to German than English.
    I would not say that most German speakers can understand Dutch. I daresay that this is not the case for Dutch speakers who try to understand German. Most of the Dutch can even speak German, whereas just a little percentage of all German could speak Dutch.

    It is much more complicated with Danish, let alone Norwegian or Swedish. There are some words that look like "wrong German", but I don't think that we can understand ourselves. When I was in Sweden, I comversed with them in English.
    Wer keine großen Dinge vollbringen kann, tue kleine in großem Maße. — Free translation of Napoleon Hill's citation —

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    1. Of course, Germans, Austrians and Swiss understand each other fluently -- so far as everyone is willing and uses more or less standard German, even if with a strong accent. However, there are German dialects that, if spoken fast and very strongly accented, are difficult to understand.

    2. Germans do not understand Dutch, but nearly all Dutch understand a little bit German. When reading Dutch, Germans can grasp simple sentences or words, but not comprehend a text fluently. The exposure to Dutch is pretty low, even in Northern Germany. Maybe close to the border the situation is different.

    3. Skandinavian languages are, from my point of view, very different. We have to learn those languages like any other foreign language.

    Kajjo


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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Germans in the northwestern part of the country speak Plattdüütsch as their first language/dialect. It is much closer to Dutch then to high German (in fact they spoke pure Dutch before the age of Nationalism in the 19th century) and it is assumable that they can understand Dutch to a high degree. Germans in other parts of the country speak other languages (commonly seen as dialects) as their first. I, being from Hessen, cannot understand spoken bavarian, or even Swiss German, but I do understand Luxembourgish and other dialects of the Rhine valley quite well. They differ approximately as much, say, two slavic languages from the same subgroup. But fear not, all Germans speak high German aswell and this is the language of all media (except Swiss and Luxembourgois).

    Norse languages are very different from the Western Germanic ones regards on grammar and everything else. They however had, just as French, some influence exclusively on English (blame Harald Hardraada) making it easier for english speaking people to understand then say, to Dutch or German.

    EDIT:Hey, everybody, what about writing a simple sentence in several Germanic languages for comparisson?
    Last edited by übermönch; 4th July 2006 at 12:15 AM.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    This might not be the best example, but at least it's a holy one :

    English: Give us this day our daily bread
    German: Unser tägliches Brot gib uns heute (Our daily bread give us today)
    Swedish (German-like version):
    Vårt dagliga bröd giv oss idag (Our daily bread give us today)
    Dutch:
    Geef ons heden ons dagelijks brood (Give us today our daily bread)
    Frisian: Jow ús hjoed ús deistich brea.

    Norwegian: Gi oss i dag vårt daglige brød. (Give us today our daily bread)
    Danish:
    Giv os i dag vort daglige brød
    Swedish (other version):
    Ge oss i dag vårt bröd för dagen som kommer.
    Icelandic:
    Gef oss í dag vort daglegt brauð.
    Faroese:
    Gev okkum í dag okkara dagliga breyð.

    Source: http://www.christusrex.com/www1/pater/index.html

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    As a Swede, I understand spoken Norwegian without any problem, spoken Danish if they articulate well, written Norwegian or Danish without a problem. German is too different, but Dutch is quite interesting because while spoken Dutch is "Greek" to us, we could quite easily understand the general context of written Dutch. If I had to choose between a German and a Dutch text I would choose the Dutch, while if I had to choose between getting information from a German or a Dutch speaker I would have to take my chances with the German.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by Kajjo
    1. Of course, Germans, Austrians and Swiss understand each other fluently -- so far as everyone is willing and uses more or less standard German, even if with a strong accent. However, there are German dialects that, if spoken fast and very strongly accented, are difficult to understand.
    Mh I don´t think this is so natural. At least I didn´t understand that much when I was in Austria last year. Alright, perhaps I´m deaf or something.

    We stood in front of our house and the landlord said something to me, as I learned later, just that the key already is in the lock of the door, but I couldn´t understand a single word.
    It was actually quite an awkward moment and I just answered with an uncertain "Mh" and called for my friends. ^^

    Same thing in the ski lift where an old lady asked me something and I didn´t get anything.
    I´ll never go to Austria again!


    I agree completely with your 2nd and 3rd point.
    Even though I think the 2nd point also goes for Skandinavian languages up to a certain point.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    My German teacher went on holiday to Sweden and found she could help them with their English.
    Last edited by Jana337; 11th July 2006 at 2:17 PM. Reason: rule 22!

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Most Dutch can understand to a certain point German and in that case I mean the so-called high-German. The dialect in the northwestern part of Germany is very close to dutch indeed. You have to get used to it a little but after that it goes quitte good.
    However swiss or austrian is difficult for the average dutch (maybe after being there on vacation they get used to it and it becomes easier )
    Concerning the scandinavian languages I can only give my personal opinion; When spoken I can pick out some words but fully understand: no way.
    However reading is a lot easier and in general I can follow the meaning (though I read in that case very slow).

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    I wonder if you are really talking about German dialects or you are talking about regional languages like Friesisch or Nord-Friesisch? They are sometimes mistaken for German dialects although they are not. But they are languages that are being spoken, an have been for centuries, in the North of Germany - alongside with Plattdeutsch and Danish.

    Earlier in this thread somebody mentioned that these languages would be the mother tongue of most people in this region. Not quite true any more - I do know people who did not learn High-German till they entered first grade, but most of them are 50 years or older.

    I hardly know anybody - who can only speak High-German - who is capable of understanding even simple Nederlands. But once you know a couple of other languages, like English and Danish it suddenly becomes transparent.
    Personally I have trouble with the phonetic side of it. Spoken, I can understand Belgian-Flemish a lot better.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by Paskovich
    We stood in front of our house and the landlord said something to me, as I learned later, just that the key already is in the lock of the door, but I couldn´t understand a single word.
    It was actually quite an awkward moment and I just answered with an uncertain "Mh" and called for my friends. ^^

    Same thing in the ski lift where an old lady asked me something and I didn´t get anything.
    I´ll never go to Austria again!
    My goodness - what can I do to change your mind!

    In my opinion the German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility has to do with the redundancy of our languages.

    My mother tounge is German (OK Paskovich it's Austrian ), an I'd say I have a decent knowledge of English. With that
    • I can read Dutch up to a point that I can grasp the content of the text. Not in all detail but just enough that I know what they are writing about and get the main intention of the article.
    • I cannot understand spoken Dutch unless it is pronounced very slowly, giving me the time to guess how it would look in writing
    • I could not read enough Swedish to cross the redundancy border, but I was close to it
    • I could not understand Swedish at all
    Nevertheless I started to learn Swedish and found it it quite easy and had a good initial progress. After some years of doing Swedish I started to understand Norwegian an Icelandic, but I still have difficulties with Danish and the lyrics sung by Agnes Buen-Garnås on "Rosensfole" (Jan Garbarek )(ancient Norwegian?)
    ... den Wurschtl kaun kana darschlogn!

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    I understand a bit Norwegian and a bit Swedish, but I think it's much easier to understand when it's written. hehe.
    Last edited by Jana337; 11th July 2006 at 8:59 PM. Reason: Rule 22 - proper capitalization!

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by tvdxer
    I have read that Germans in the north have do not have mutual intelligibility with Germans in, say, Austria, but ich finde this very hard to believe..
    I used to live in SW Germany. Even there people found that if they went to Berlin or Hamburg fellow Germans would struggle to understand them if they spoke like they were still at home. The point for me is that German is a constellation of languages. The dialects people speak are as varied as the ones that go under the umbrella term Italian. What you hear on telly or at the theatre are standard forms, whereas on the street it is anything but.

    Quote Originally Posted by tvdxer
    In addition, to me, German looks very much like Dutch. On Dutch TV, when a German-speaking person comes on and they put subtitles at the bottom of the screen, it almost sounds like the German speaker is reading them (no, I don't speak Dutch).
    In Holland German TV has been transmitted for years and years without subtitles. Most Dutch people study German, French and English at school. There are similarities but they are very different. There are lots of sounds that get in the way. The dutch g is a hard ch (and then again some). There are consonant clusters which have sounds that just don't exist in German: sch, ij and ui being particularly hard for German speakers to process. It all gets a bit alphabet soupy. If you stare long enough at written versions you can decode things but as for understanding spoken Dutch, forget it without study.

    Quote Originally Posted by tvdxer
    How about Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish? I think that might be a stretch, but they seem to speak a language more similar to German than English.
    The commonality between Nordic languages and German is broadly comparable to that between English with Dutch and separated by about the same length of historical linguistic development.
    Last edited by cirrus; 12th July 2006 at 10:36 AM.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    I would be careful with the term "Nordic" in this connection; it implies that we are talking about the languages spoken in the Nordic countries. That would include Icelandic and Finnish.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Hi,

    after training some times, I could understand most of the contents in Dutch books. But I could not understand much of the spoken Dutch, just a little bit.

    I could almoust nothing understand in Skandinavian books or audio books.

    My native language is the high German language.

    I live in Saxony, in Dresden, in the east part of Germany. Some say in the middle part.

    Best regards
    Bernd

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    As a Norwegian (the same applies to those from other Scandinavian countries) one cannot understand written or spoken German, without learning the language first. We do, on the other hand, get a lot of help from our own vocabulary - which has many words with roots in Germanic languages. Thus, there is no mutual intelligibility between German and the Scandinavian languages.

    In written German the biggest problem for us is the case system, unknown to Scandinavian languages today. In spoken German of course there are problems understanding some of the dialects (those spoken in North-Germany tend to be a lot easier to understand, than in South-Germany - in my experience).

    The sad thing is that the number of those learning German in Norway (in Denmark as well, I know) decreases every year.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    I grew up speaking a local dialect at home, which happens to be close to the Dutch border, so I have no problems understanding people from Limburg. High German is what I call my second language
    I can not understand Fries.
    If people from the south in Germany or Austria or Switzerland do not make an attempt to speak "high German", I have problems understanding them.

    From the Scandinavian languages I would guess that Danish is easiest to "understand" at least written (although it looks "strange" to me). Spoken, I doubt I would get the meaning in a conversation, but I have not tried to.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Believe me, I would have the same problems unterstanding you if you speak your local dialect It even took me some minutes to get accostumed to the accent when I hit upon some people from Schleswig-Holstein in a pub the other day, although they spoke largely Standard German.

    Do you unterstand Luxembourgish easily? I don't. Yiddish, yes, except of course the Hebrew and Slavic parts of the vocabulary.

    As for Scandinavian languages: I can guess quite a lot when reading, but I might not even realize it is Germanic when I hear it. Even in spoken Dutch I find it hard to understand a thing, but I guess it's more like with other German dialects: once your ears get accostumed to the most common differences, you understand a lot without learning. On the basis of speaking Croatian/Serbian rather well, I find spoken Czech or Ukrainian easier than Dutch, but in written language it is the other way round.
    Last edited by beclija; 28th October 2006 at 6:20 PM.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by beclija View Post
    Believe me, I would have the same problems unterstanding you if you speak your local dialect It even took me some minutes to get accostumed to the accent when I hit upon some people from Schleswig-Holstein in a pub the other day, although they spoke largely Standard German.

    Do you unterstand Luxembourgish easily? I don't. Yiddish, yes, except of course the Hebrew and Slavic parts of the vocabulary.
    I believe if we both spoke in dialect it would make for a funny conversation . Even when I speak "regular German" I have a strong accent.
    Luxembourgish is difficult for me, because it comes from a different sub group of dialects. My local dialect is "classified" as a "ostlimburgischer Dialekt des Limburgisch-Bergischen" or more "scientific" as suedniederfraenkischer Dialekt der niederfraenkischen Mundart.

    As for Yiddish, yes, the Germanic parts for the most, and since I am trying to learn Hebrew, I am (slowly) getting a hang of the Hebrew parts, too.

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    Re: German - Dutch - Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

    I would have somehow expected that for you, Luxembourgish should be at least as easy as Yiddish, but obviously geographical vicinity can be quite misleading. By the way, I envy you: You can read original Yiddish texts. I admit that I am very slow at deciphering Hebrew characters (and bad at guessing vowels), thus what I said mainly refers to spoken Yiddish and transliterations.

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