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Thread: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

  1. #41
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    Re: Relationship Between Nordic Languages

    Quote Originally Posted by BoTrojan View Post

    If you successfully learn Danish, you'll be able to read Norwegian almost without problem.
    Weeelllll ... yes and no. You would probably have no problem with "bokmål". But there is also "nynorsk" which may cause some problems. And there are plenty of Norwegian dialects also almost impossible to understand for Norwegians themselves unless you are born in the region of the particular spoken dialect

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    Re: Relationship Between Nordic Languages

    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot_wannabe View Post
    In my experience, you can usually manage using Danish in Sweden and Norway.
    My experience is different. You may manage with Norwegian in Denmark and Sweden When it comes to reading I find Danish easier to read than Swedish - although non of these languages are really hard to read and understand for a Norwegian as myself. When it comes to speaking I find Swedish easier to understand than Danish.

    By the way, here is a Norwegian made you-tube video that makes fun of how difficult spoken Danish may be youtube.com/watch?v=s-mOy8VUEBk
    (You have to cut and past as I am not yet allowed to post links)

    Enjoy.

  3. #43
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    Re: Relationship Between Nordic Languages

    In his list of threads containing similar topics jonquiliser (#5) missed one. No wonder, the thread Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility curiously ended up in the “Dutch forum” – see http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=209571. In my double posting #27-28 I ask some questions linked to the issue and try to provide some answers. I also propose a “stemma” showing the relationship between Germanic languages, and I discuss the notions of Scandinavian and Nordic.

  4. #44
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    Re: Relationship Between Nordic Languages

    Thanks, this thread has been pretty interesting and informative.

    From what everyone has said, I'm sure my cousin actually said that he could understand Norwegian pretty well after learning Swedish, and I just heard Finnish. That also explains why Finnish isn't listed as one of the Nordic languages on this forum.

    As far as Icelandic, I've heard it's the hardest language to learn, but I've heard the same thing about Chinese, Portugese, and Japanese. Hearing that it's not that impossible is reassuring.

    And to Knut, thanks for the video. I almost died laughing.

  5. #45
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    Re: Relationship Between Nordic Languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Agarina View Post
    Thanks, this thread has been pretty interesting and informative.

    From what everyone has said, I'm sure my cousin actually said that he could understand Norwegian pretty well after learning Swedish, and I just heard Finnish. That also explains why Finnish isn't listed as one of the Nordic languages on this forum.

    As far as Icelandic, I've heard it's the hardest language to learn, but I've heard the same thing about Chinese, Portugese, and Japanese. Hearing that it's not that impossible is reassuring.

    And to Knut, thanks for the video. I almost died laughing.
    I have seen it too (found it by coincidence and thought for a while that it were a documentary). But in fact, the actors hit the sound of the language as spoken in certain parts of Greater Copenhagen very well. Especially the very open vocals and the rythm - if you are going to Copenhagen, this is the kind of accent to be prepared for. (Or speak in yourselves, if you can handle it).

  6. #46
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Hei !

    Jeg synes det er en særtrekk av den nordiske forumen at folk som ikke er native av språket svarer til spørsmål i dette språket (for eksempel en Nordmenn som svarer på et "svensk" spørsmål).
    Jeg synes det er litt forstyrende siden jeg ikke vet hvor mye jeg kan stole på svaret (selv om de ofte råder å vente på et svar fra en native). Og av og til blir tråden uklart fordi emnen skiftet fra et språk til et annet.
    Samtidig liker jeg å lære på denne måten forskjellene mellom de skandinaviske språkene, eller til og med etymologien ). Og det hjelper også for at man ikke venter lenge til at en native ser og svarer på tråden (men der kommer problemet om påliteligheten til svaret ).

    Hva synes dere forum-brukere om det ?


    I think it's one peculiarity of the Nordic forum that someone who's not a native of a language answers a question in this language (for example a Norwegian answering a "swedish" question).
    I think it can be troubling because I don't know if I can trust the answer (even if they often say to wait for a native). And sometimes the thread turns fuzzy because the original language shifted to an other.
    But I do like to learn the differences between scandinavian languages in this way. And it also allows not to wait to much until a native see and answer the question (but it brings the question of trusting the answer ).

    What do you think of it ?

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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Quote Originally Posted by Lilla My View Post
    I think it's one peculiarity of the Nordic forum that someone who's not a native of a language answers a question in this language (for example a Norwegian answering a "swedish" question).
    I think it can be troubling because I don't know if I can trust the answer (even if they often say to wait for a native). And sometimes the thread turns fuzzy because the original language shifted to an other.
    But I do like to learn the differences between scandinavian languages in this way. And it also allows not to wait to much until a native see and answer the question (but it brings the question of trusting the answer ).

    What do you think of it ?
    I'll take it in English then .

    As I'm one of the people to answer questions about Danish or Norwegian from time to time, I thought I better explain myself..! The thing is, I can understand a great deal, so I feel fairly confident to sometimes give a translation to English from either of the languages (the times I do understand, obviously). The other way around I can't, as I quite literally don't speak either.

    I guess it can be troubling for non-native speakers of N, Dk or S to get answers in one of the languages they haven't learnt/studied. As a native Swedish speaker however, I think discussions in multiple of these languages are fine, and actually enriching. I hope it could be like that for learners as well, I think many people pretty quickly get able to read and understand the others once they get the hang of the first one they're learning.

    Have a nice weekend!
    Nixtieq nitgħallem Malti

  8. #48
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    For Interscandinavian, I'm lucky. My father had his roots in Skåne, so I had from an early age a certain feeling for Danish. I have lived in the Göteborg area for most of my life, so Norway is not much further away than 'just around the corner'. Moreover, I inherited some genes useful for languages from especialy my maternal grandpa and my paternal grandma.

    I translate professionally from Danish and Norwegian, among others, into Swedish. Those two normally come quite easily to me, but before the advent of the Internet, when I encountered a problem, there was a HUGE PROBLEM. For most cases, my dictionaries for other languages helped, but it's not easy to find good and current volumes for Danish and Norwegian.

    Anyway, most Danish and Norwegian dialects are more comprehensible to me (and vice versa) than for example the supposedly "Swedish dialect" Älvdalsmål. And count me out when it comes to our officially recognized minority languages, like assorted Saami languages, Meänkieli (a very Northern Swedish variety of Finnish), or Finnish itself. I understand more of Yiddish (also included in that group).

    Once, in a Copenhagen café, I heard two people speaking at an adjacent table. Totally incomprehensible to me, and the language nut that I am, I concentrated to guess the language. After a while, I picked up a short word or two that sounded almost Scandinavian. Concentrating even more, I finally came to the conclusion that they spoke Icelandic, but I still understood nothing whatsoever from it.

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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    What regards Icelandic, I have the same feeling. Often when I hear it (though I don't hear it often!), I get a feeling it sounds familiar, and every once in a while there's a word or a short phrase I understand, so I get the impression it might be Norwegian. But no matter how much effort I put into it, I understand near to nothing. Just a strange sense of familiarity in the way it sounds...
    Nixtieq nitgħallem Malti

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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Interesting anecdote from the café there Lugubert. However, are you sure, as in, did they confirm it, that they were speaking Icelandic? I don't speak it myself, but I've studdied and listened to it a bit and I think it's quite easy to recognize due to the characteristic stress (on the first syllable). Faroese, on the other hand, sounds...well, at least to me, apart from being less comprehensible, less Scandinavian.

    I don't mean to question your ability to distinguish Icelandic from Faroese, but since I personally find Icelandic relatively easy to recognize, it surprised me you didn't, so to me it would make more sense if those people had been speaking Faroese, which is also, given the connection between Denmark and the Faroese island, slightly less likely I would say. Anyone else has any experience or oppinions of which is easier/hard to recognize/understand of Icelandic and Faroese for a continental Scandinavian?

    Maybe a too useless of a point to raise, but please forgive me in that case.

  11. #51
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Hmm, I had actually never heard Faroese spoken before but just watched a video on YouTube, and to me it sounded much more comprehensible than Icelandic! I even understood bits and pieces. It sounds a somewhat similar to Dutch, to my ears. Very curious.
    Nixtieq nitgħallem Malti

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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Norwegian here. I haven't read much Faroese, but I remember it as slightly easier than Icelandic. Of course, that might have something to do with the kind of texts I have read in each language. I can pretty much understand both in written form, but it takes some effort.

    This post made me curious about spoken Faroese, so I tried listening to today's news in both languages. The result: I don't really understand anything of the Faroese. Icelandic sounds more familiar, but I don't really understand anything of that either. A word here and there, but not enough to really make sense of it. I think I might mistake one for the other if I didn't hear both at the same time.

    Now that I've compared them, I'll probably remember...completely non-scientific impression is that while they both sound a bit like scrambled west Norwegian, Icelandic sounds "swedish" and Faroese "northern norwegian" in intonation.

  13. #53
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    I've read this whole thread with great interest, apart from that Norwegian-Danish YouTube video, which sent me ROFLMAO!

    Since there was so little input from Swedes, I thought I'd just add my own: I've lived in Lund, Skåne for most of my life (43 out of 47), and picked up my Danish vocabulary by watching Danish TV, listening to the English-language TV shows while reading the Danish subtitles.

    My Swedish accent sounds decidedly 'Skånsk', and by adapting it a bit to Danish intonation and throwing in some Danish words here and there, I produce a "Scandinavian" language that gets me by in Copenhagen and Elsinore, at least, but definitely not in Jutland, where people could understand me with great effort only while I was dumbstruck at their replies - it might just as well have been Finnish or Mongolian!

    Norwegian as spoken on TV and in Oslo I find even easier to understand. The weirdest Norwegian accent I've come across is that from Bergen, which sounded more like the Skåne accent adapted to the Norwegian language, and even easier to follow than the Oslo one!

    If it's any comfort to you, it's taken me 40 years to learn the Danish number system, but now I've finally got it, which also helps keeping my wallet free of all those 20 and 10 kr coins that you otherwise end up with!

    As far as English native speakers are concerned, I believe Danish would be the easiest language to learn in terms of accent. In reverse, Danish news reporters always speak better English than their Swedish colleagues, judging from what I've seen on TV over the years. Crown Princess Mary of Denmark must be extremely talented, because after so few years in Denmakr, she now speaks English with a slight Danish accent, which was confirmed in an interview with her Tasmanian relatives who all complained about her language!

    I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion of Icelandic being a language you don't understand a word of, although it sounds familiar and you recognise a word here and there... Unlike Swedish, Danish and Norwegian, there are very few foreign words in the modern Icelandic language due to their policy of linguistic protectionism. I know absolutely nothing about Faeroese, but their text at first glance looks much like Icelandic, perhaps just a wee bit easier to understand, for some indiscernible reason.

    /Wilma

  14. #54
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Quote Originally Posted by Lilla My View Post
    Hei !

    Jeg synes det er en særtrekk av den nordiske forumen at folk som ikke er native av språket svarer til spørsmål i dette språket (for eksempel en Nordmenn som svarer på et "svensk" spørsmål).
    Jeg synes det er litt forstyrende siden jeg ikke vet hvor mye jeg kan stole på svaret (selv om de ofte råder å vente på et svar fra en native). Og av og til blir tråden uklart fordi emnen skiftet fra et språk til et annet.
    Samtidig liker jeg å lære på denne måten forskjellene mellom de skandinaviske språkene, eller til og med etymologien ). Og det hjelper også for at man ikke venter lenge til at en native ser og svarer på tråden (men der kommer problemet om påliteligheten til svaret ).

    Hva synes dere forum-brukere om det ?


    I think it's one peculiarity of the Nordic forum that someone who's not a native of a language answers a question in this language (for example a Norwegian answering a "swedish" question).
    I think it can be troubling because I don't know if I can trust the answer (even if they often say to wait for a native). And sometimes the thread turns fuzzy because the original language shifted to an other.
    But I do like to learn the differences between scandinavian languages in this way. And it also allows not to wait to much until a native see and answer the question (but it brings the question of trusting the answer ).

    What do you think of it ?
    Jeg synes det er OK, naar svarene er kvalificerede.

    Hvad mig angaar, er det ogsaa vaerd at laegge maerke til, at jeg under "native of" har skrevet landets navn og ikke sproget - eller rettere sagt sprogene. Man behoever ikke noedvendigvis vaer dansker for at vaere opvokset med dansk sprog, vel? Der er en hel del af os i S-H og Hamborg som taler dansk. Ydermere har jeg boet flere aar i Koebenhavn og har diplom som oversaetter i sprogene DK-D-EN.

    Jeg er sikker paa, at der er mange andre her i forumet, som er lige saa kvalificerede af lignende eller andre aarsager.
    Last edited by Sepia; 15th October 2007 at 9:50 AM.

  15. #55
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilma_Sweden View Post
    I know absolutely nothing about Faeroese, but their text at first glance looks much like Icelandic, perhaps just a wee bit easier to understand, for some indiscernible reason.
    I just read some articles in Icelandic and Faroese (Wiki in Faroese isn't that big so difficult to find articles that could serve to compare the two languages). I find Faroese very much easier, I pretty much get the idea even though I don't understand a number of words. The effort that goes into understanding Icelandic is for me decidedly greater.
    Nixtieq nitgħallem Malti

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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Quote Originally Posted by Tjahzi View Post
    Interesting anecdote from the café there Lugubert. However, are you sure, as in, did they confirm it, that they were speaking Icelandic? I don't speak it myself, but I've studdied and listened to it a bit and I think it's quite easy to recognize due to the characteristic stress (on the first syllable). Faroese, on the other hand, sounds...well, at least to me, apart from being less comprehensible, less Scandinavian.

    I don't mean to question your ability to distinguish Icelandic from Faroese, but since I personally find Icelandic relatively easy to recognize, it surprised me you didn't, so to me it would make more sense if those people had been speaking Faroese, which is also, given the connection between Denmark and the Faroese island, slightly less likely I would say. Anyone else has any experience or oppinions of which is easier/hard to recognize/understand of Icelandic and Faroese for a continental Scandinavian?
    Once I decided what to listen for, there were more clues. Admittedly, I didn't even think of Faroese (of which I know nothing), perhaps for statistical reasons. I just (still) assume that there is a higher posssibility to find Icelanders then Faroese in Copenhagen.

  17. #57
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Nu vet jag inte på vilket språk man ska skriva här. Jag kör på engelska, då.

    I've read and enjoyed all your posts. I share the point of view of some of you and I can't say I've really ever had serious problems with Norwegian or Danish, but it's true I've never had a very advanced conversation with people from those countries further than "är planet försenat?" even if I'm not a Swedish native speaker, despite my years living there as a teen.

    However, after reading all your responses I must ask, how is it possible that many Scandinavian natives who live abroad claim on their CV's they are "trilingual" (S/N/D)? They say they are because "Scandinavian languages are soooo similar we have no problem understanding each other".

    I always thought that was such a blatant lie, understanding a similar language to a certain extent is one thing (just as I understand Italian and Portuguese being a native Spanish speaker), being able to communicate fluently and actually speaking the language is a completely different matter. Have you come across anything like that? I don't think people would ever do that if living in Scandinavia (unless they really speak the language due to different reasons, as some of you do). Hälsningar,

  18. #58
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    I looked around at the homesites of the national radio broadcasting services of Iceland and the Faroese island to refresh my memory.

    Turns out I hardly understand anything of neither Faroese nor Icelandic, however, my earlier experiences regarding which language is the easiest to understand in its written form was definatly wrong. After looking around and reading some news as well as checking some wikipedia articles, I came to the conclusion that I found Faroese to be more comprehensible.

    Although the languages sound similar (or at least equally foreign to me ), I'm curious about to which degree they understand each other. Are there any Faroese/Icelandic speakers around here? (Maybe that disscussion deserves a thread of it's own though.)


    Hehe, I really understand your point there María. Scandinavian "trilingualism" is a complicated issue. I would, in some odd way, characterize it as a situation of "mutual one-way understanding". As you might have noticed, as a fluent Swedish speaker , when communicating with a speaker of another continantal North Germanic language, the level of understanding is usually very high, despite the obvious differences. Let's just assume I, a Swedish speaker, would run into a Norwegian. He/she says something to me in Norwegian and I understand it. Let's just say my reply would consist of 7 words. 3 of those are probably identical to Swedish, 2 are spelled differently and 2 are just different words. (For the record, that's just my own rough, estimation). So, if I don't know which words change, and to what, I am probably more likely to be understood if I speak Swedish (and in addtion to that, I don't have to look dumb ). This is even more present in spoken language when stress and pronounciation comes into play.

  19. #59
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    Hej Tjahzi!

    Yes I get your point, it's basically the same with Spanish Italian and Portuguese (not with French, even though I once heard a Swedish guy saying he could understand a conversation in French because he was completely fluent in Spanish... smart guy, I'm completely unable to do so, even though I am a native speaker).

    Have you heard of people stating on their CVs they're trilingual when they just understand the other languages? Am I wrong guessing they'd never do it if they were in Scandinavia? I can't think of any Spanish speaker including something similar in their CVs, anyway.

  20. #60
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    Re: All Scandinavian languages: Mutual intelligibility/Difficulty

    No María, I have not. However, I've live all my life here in Sweden and since everyone understands Norwegian/Danish equally well, more or less.....you don't really brag about it.

    However, had I been abroad and in a situation similar to the people you mention, I would have been tempted to, but definatly wouldn't label myself as a "Danish/Norwegian" speaker (although I supose a note about my high level of understanding of said languages wouldn't hurt...) But still, if some had asked me to translate a text from English or German or something into Danish/Norwegian, I would have failed. Despite being able to do it the other way around.

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