Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

Sepia

Senior Member
High German/Danish
... I hear that there an institution (in Danmark if I'm not mistaken) that is working on a common scandinavian linguistic norm for all 3 countries. I for one like the sound of Danish the way it is. I would find it a pity if a supranational scandinavian norm were to crush the lignuistic "national norms" of those countries.
Yes, that might be true. While I worked for the Danish Tourist Board a few decades ago, we actually had material printed in "Scandinavian". However, that is also the last I have heard or seen of them that actually reached out to Joe Public. They seem to me to be as successfull as those who kept telling us that the language of the future would be Esperanto. For comparison: In the meantime there are more people in China who can speak English fairly well than there are inhabitants in the USA.
I wouldn't expect to hear more of this "Scandinavian" language, if I were you.
 
  • Stoggler

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Out of pure curiosity, how does one "construct" a "Scandinavian" language? What's their methodology? How do they decide what words or grammatical structures to use (at least the few that differ from language to language)? What about orthography? Do they use ö or ø, hv- or v-?

    I suppose they are minor details really - a Swede confronted with a passage written with ø rather than ö would still be able to understand it I guess.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    The chances of ever encountering a Scandinavian norm, is slim to none, but it is an interesting question.

    I presume it would have <ø> and <æ> rather than <ö> and <ä>. Both Norw and Dan at one point switched to these more easily recognizable characters. When it comes to hv- vs. v-, my gut feeling tells me it would have been the simple (Swedish) v-. Neither Norw nor Dan pronounce the -h- more than English pronounces the -h-e in what. In terms of grammar, Norwegian feminine form would have to go, and Swedish would perhaps have to give up some of its intricacies in passive voice.
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Out of pure curiosity, how does one "construct" a "Scandinavian" language? ... How do they decide what words or grammatical structures to use ...? What about orthography?
    One might ask similar questions about creating a unified "English", and I think the answer is compromise: you agree to say "period" (instead of "full-stop") and I'll agree to say "lift" (instead of "elevator"). You agree to write "-or" in words like "colour" and I'll agree to write "-yse" in words like "analyze". Of course, I don't want to modify my language to make it sound/look more British (and it appears the Scandinavians have analogous feelings, and of course much more radical changes would have to be made than in the Amer/Brit case), but that's the approach one wishing to unify the dialects would take, I assume.
    When it comes to hv- vs. v- ... Neither Norw nor Dan pronounce the -h- more than English pronounces the -h- in what.
    Not in NYC, NorwegianNYC :), but a pronunciation of "wh-" words with what sounds like [hw-] (varies dialectically) is heard in a significant percentage of Americans and in some British-Isles dialects, and is shown in most dictionaries. Aren't there also relevant dialectal Norwegian pronunciations, reflected in the Nynorsk decision to use "kv-" for words cognate to Bokmål "hv-"?
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Well, I personally think that it would be more like trying to impose universal rules on a few Slavic languages, rather than on different varieties of English, which would be basically impossible. Scandinavian languages are not as close as just different varieties of English.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Not in NYC, NorwegianNYC :), but a pronunciation of "wh-" words with what sounds like [hw-] (varies dialectically) is heard in a significant percentage of Americans and in some British-Isles dialects, and is shown in most dictionaries. Aren't there also relevant dialectal Norwegian pronunciations, reflected in the Nynorsk decision to use "kv-" for words cognate to Bokmål "hv-"?
    Dan - long time!
    Yes - you are of course entirely correct. During my coursework at Cambridge, my professor made a point out of warning me against those (qv.) "ghastly Americanisms", and that "what" was indeed pronounced "hhh-what". That aside - no Scandinavians actually pronounce the <h> in hv-words. In a number of Norwegian, and a few Swedish dialects, the <h> is rendered <k> - not surprising, since it was originally rendered neither <h> nor <k>, but [x]. The now vanished <h> is simply a softening of [x], and <k> is a hardening of the same.

    That being said - if one were to create a common Scandinavian norm, you will fall short of arguments for keeping the <h> - which is why the Swedes got rid of it. Another case may be made for the pan-Scandinavian habit of dropping <g> in -eg and -ig constructs. English in that respect abolished the <g> altogether, and was left with -y
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Scandinavian languages are not as close as just different varieties of English.
    Oh I agree; that's why I said that "much more radical changes would have to be made" if you tried to unify the Scandinavian languages, compared to unifying American and British English. I was just making the analogy, which I think is obvious, that it would have to be a matter of each party "giving" something in return for something else.
    I personally think that it would be more like trying to impose universal rules on a few Slavic languages
    I've emphasized "few" - I agree that there are subgroups within the larger Slavic family in which the degree of difference is similar to the Scandinavian situation. Overall of course, as you know better than I, there's more diversity in the Slavic languages than in Scandinavian.
    That being said - if one were to create a common Scandinavian norm, you will fall short of arguments for keeping the <h>
    I understand. It just seems a shame to get rid of this I-E reflex, cognate to English "wh-" and Romance "qu-", etc. "Time marches on", I guess... :)
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Yes, but probably not within the languages of the former Yugoslavia, yet people would probably still be reluctant to do it. I think no-one just wants to give up certain things they are used, even such as a graphic representation of a single sound.
     
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    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Scandinavian languages are not as close as just different varieties of English.
    Liliana - I disagree. If you put a native speaker from Queensland, Australia; Nairobi, Kenya; Leith, Scotland and Birmingham, Alabama in the same room, the respective variants of English would probably be more different than Norw, Swe and Dan. What separates the Scandinavian languages is a political will to differentiate between them, not a natural division. As we have discussed in the past, there are dialects in Sweden and Denmark, and in Norway and Sweden, more akin to each other than to Danish/Swedish/Norwegian. To use a Slavic analogy - they are more different than a Serb and a Croatian, but less so than a Russian and a Ukrainian.
    I think no-one just wants to give up certain things they are used, even such as a graphic representation of a single sound.
    No, not today. That ship has long since sailed. However, Stoggler's question was hypothetical, and if one were to construct a common Scandinavian standard, I think Ø and Æ would be used, that Feminine would disappear, double-definite would become standard, and than the h- in hv-words would be shed. I believe that is a fairly educated guess based on the current developments in these countries.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I don't know -- I am not sure. I somehow understand all varieties of English easily, but I have sometimes, or more I used to have, serious problems understanding Norwegian or Danish, when spoken, especially. I think the difference between Scandinavian languages is really more like the difference between some Southern Slavic languages, or even Western Slavic, like Polish, Czech and SlovaK, than between different varieties of English.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    You must pardon my lack of fluency in Polish, Czech and Slovak, but I believe Dan/Swe/Norw has a slightly higher degree of mutual intelligibility than Pol/Cze/Slovak. However, the comparison is valid, because the Scandinavian forms are moving apart, so it is only a matter of time. Swedish and Norwegian is generally understood more than 75%, and that is actually higher than most Brits from the south rank the mutual intelligibility with the Northern and Scots dialects (60-70%). And, famously, the iPhone service Siri has an easier time understanding non-Native English speakers, than native speakers from Texas/Deep South, Scotland and India.

    Admittedly, Danish is different. Both Norwegians and Swedes (except the Scanian dialects of Southern Sweden, which historically are Danish dialects) understand only about 50% (or less) of spoken Danish. The reason is not that Swe/Norw has changed, but that Danish pronunciation has changed radically over the past 100-120 years.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I am not sure. All I know is that I know Swedish very well, I even have my linguistic education partially in Swedish, and I used to have problems understanding spoken Norwegian, and Danish, especially. I have never had any problems with Swedish dialects. It was always considered a separate language, in the past. Many native speakers, especially older, would joke that they did not understand a word of Danish. What else can I say. (sometimes even of Skanska).
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    I am not sure. All I know is that I know Swedish very well, I even have my linguistic education partially in Swedish, and I used to have problems understanding spoken Norwegian, and Danish, especially. I have never had any problems with Swedish dialects. It was always considered a separate language, in the past. Many native speakers, especially older, would joke that they did not understand a word of Danish. What else can I say. (sometimes even of Skanska).
    I am sure we could find some where you would have bad trouble understanding. Search the Internet for the documentary "Svenska dialektmysterier". Parts of it may be on Youtube. It is not on the SR website any more.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    No not really. Some people might of course, but I really like most of the dialects, and I studied them. I just think it is a misconception that all Scandinavian languages in the spoken form, or even in the written form to a considerable degree, are mutually intelligible. I think some Norwegian dialects, are even hard to understand for the people who speak a more standard Norwegian, like the boksmal or Nynorsk. I think the phonetic diversity of Scandinavian languages, and their phonetic complexity makes up for the quite simple grammar and not as large vocabulary, compared to English. In my opinion they are phonetically much harder than many other languages, not personally for me, but this is something I have heard from many people who were trying to learn them.
     
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    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I just think it is a misconception that all Scandinavian languages in the spoken form, or even in the written form to a considerable degree, are mutually intelligible.
    It is not a misconception, quite opposite the statement is quite true, but it is important to remember that:
    - You must be precise by what you mean by Scandinavian languages: the Peninsular languages (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish) or also the Insular langauges (Icelandic and Faroese). If you mean both Peninsular and Insular then the statement marked bold is definitely not true.

    - If you mean the Peninsular languages, then it is important to stress the clause "to a considerable degree", the statement is then true. In fact most Norwegians understand Swedish i very high degree (usually 70%-95% of the text, depending on the topic). Everyday communication is absolutely no problem. The Swedes understand Norwegian usually in a moderate degree (about 50%), but with some training they easily achieve 80-90%. A Swede needs three months to understand 95% of Norwegian if immersed into the language. Norwegians understand Danish in a more variable degree, depending on the indivdual, but the range mayvary from about 40% to about 80% for spoken language. The diference is mostly phonetic, so a written text is usually understood in 95%. Danes understand Norwegian poorly, and Swedish even more poorly, and most of them don't hear the difference between these two langauges. Swedes understand very little of spoken Danish, but I presume they understand much more of the written text (I'd assume at least 50%).
    One must also take into consideration the dialect the indvidual speaks. The dialects closer to the "standard" form of the language are more easily understood than more peripheral or special dialects. The age is also important: older people have a much better understanding than the young ones.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I am not sure what you mean but Peninsular -- of course I meant Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. Icelandic and Faroese are even more remote. I could have been slightly influenced by many Swedish people in my judgement who have always claimed that they did not understand Danish and Norwegian well. Regardless, they are not as close as some people claim. Many words are false friends. The rhythm is different -- basically the pronunciation is much different -- I don't know much about the Norwegian dialects right across the border.
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    I am not sure what you mean but Peninsular -- of course I meant Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. Icelandic and Faroese are even more remote. I could have been slightly influenced by many Swedish people in my judgement who have always claimed that they did not understand Danish and Norwegian well. Regardless, they are not as close as some people claim. Many words are false friends. The rhythm is different -- basically the pronunciation is much different -- I don't know much about the Norwegian dialects right across the border.
    As for Swedes saying that they don't understand spoken Danish or Norwegian well, I think it's more that they don't want to understand, many don't even make an effort to try to understand as they expect that the Danes and the Norwegians instead should try to speak Swedish. When it comes to reading a text in either language, it's not that difficult to understand, there are enough similarities between Swedish and Norwegian/Danish to be able to understand most of the text, even if you can't translate it into Swedish word for word. Yes, there are false friends, but not that many, it's the same between Swedish and English, and I don't see Swedes complain about that. As for the rhythm being different, it's the same between Swedish spoken in Sweden and Swedish spoken in Finland, and also depending on from what part of Sweden a person is from, there are more differences in rhythm between a Swede from Scania in the south and a Swede from the north of Sweden than between a Norwegian from Halden and a Swede fron the north of Bohuslän.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Yes, I agree with many of the points, or some at least -- I just don't think Scandinavian languages should be called a Scandinavian, because it creates the wrong impression, just like calling Polish and Slovak the Western Slavic, or something to that effect. They are separate languages, after all. They were never called this way by any serious linguistic department some twenty years ago. I have not checked what the universities call them now. Yes, I agree that you can understand most of the text written in any of the three languages -- but can you really enjoy it, if you have to guess most of the things and constantly think which letter represents what? Sometimes just a few false friends may create a disaster in translation. It is like reading a language in another script. Like reading Lithuanian in the Polish writing system.
     
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    vestfoldlilja

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    This might not be of help, but I think the situation is that it goes beyond differences and similarities in languages. It has much to do with shared identity tied to common history, mythology and a sense of being the same group, even when we very clearly define ourselves by nationalities. There is a strong Scandinavian identify that has branches that tie in with the understanding that Swedish, Danish and Norwegian are dialectal variations of the same language. It is something that unifies us as Scandinavians.

    And as AutumnOwn said, with effort we do understand each other, written and spoken. It’s all about perspective and yes the other languages can sound very foreign, but when you have tuned your brain to a different setting it goes easier. We can indeed talk so that we are not remotely understood, but that is true, if to a lesser degree, within each Scandinavian language as well. If the language barrier were greater I think that would show in how we relate to each other, both officially and commoner to commoner.

    The thing, for me, about reading a text in either Danish or Swedish is that even if there is a word I cannot translate I understand it out of context much more readily than I do in English. I have a greater innate understanding of the languages. I think it’s a point to make that a foreigner learning one of the Scandinavian languages does not have that innate understanding and will perhaps have a harder time recognizing nöjd and fornøyd as the same word. Scandinavians will have an easier time recognizing words as we can more easily discern the separate words in compound words and recognize other words as lesser used synonyms, or words used back in the day.

    Some false friends do have the same root or have a link in meaning – like rar in Swedish and Norwegian. Others of course do not, but many false friends are learned growing up, certainly if one has much contact with the other Scandinavian languages.

    People from different countries will most likely not keep to their own language even; not if they know each other well and are used to two or three languages being spoken at the same time. They will change out words, either because one language has a better word for something or just because a word is funny to say. This again goes to identity. Changing words and playing with false friends and different pronunciation across the languages is part of strengthen the shared identity.

    All in all I think Scandinavians would communicate more smoothly by just slowing our speech and speaking more clearly.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    As for Swedes saying that they don't understand spoken Danish or Norwegian well, I think it's more that they don't want to understand, many don't even make an effort to try to understand as they expect that the Danes and the Norwegians instead should try to speak Swedish. When it comes to reading a text in either language, it's not that difficult to understand, there are enough similarities between Swedish and Norwegian/Danish to be able to understand most of the text, even if you can't translate it into Swedish word for word. Yes, there are false friends, but not that many, it's the same between Swedish and English, and I don't see Swedes complain about that. As for the rhythm being different, it's the same between Swedish spoken in Sweden and Swedish spoken in Finland, and also depending on from what part of Sweden a person is from, there are more differences in rhythm between a Swede from Scania in the south and a Swede from the north of Sweden than between a Norwegian from Halden and a Swede fron the north of Bohuslän.
    You make good point. If you look at Jemtish, it is closer to Trøndsk than to Götamål; Scanian is at least as close to Danish as it is to Sveamål, and Dalsland/Värmland is absolutely closer to South-Eastern Norwegian than to most other Swedish dialects. Like the former Yugoslavia, Scandinavia is a dialect continuum, where the extremes may have little mutual intelligibility, but the majority enjoys a common understanding well within the scope of the variants of English
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    Yes, I agree that you can understand most of the text written in any of the three languages -- but can you really enjoy it, if you have to guess most of the things and constantly think which letter represents what? Sometimes just a few false friends may create a disaster in translation.
    It depends entirely on the text, if it's a technical/scientific article in a subject I don't know much about in Swedish, then I can't make much of it in Danish or Norwegian, but nor would I understand much if the article was in English if I don't have access to that vocabulary in English without the help of a dictionary. And as vestfoldlilja mentions, it's usually possible to recognize the similarities in words in the Scandinavian languages, so reading a newspaper article or a fiction book doesn't give me any major problems, there are a word here and there I don't understand the meaning of, but it's the same when I read an English book, I can't say that I know or understand every word, but it's still possible to understand the context of what I'm reading. It's one thing if I worked as a translator and had to make a correct translation of what I was reading, then I would have to have a dictionary and look up a lot of words to be certain that I got the true meaning of the text, but when reading for pleasure there is no need for that, it's possible to understand the context without knowing the exact Swedish word for every Danish or Norwegian word.

    I find it much easier to read a Danish or a Norwegian text in a magazine, and understand what I read better, than I understand a text in Finnish, which is after all my mother tongue and a language I used daily until five years ago.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Hi, Autumnawl. I may really be a perfectionist, but I could not enjoy any book in this form. For me each word is very important, each structure and even the way the text looks. I agree that you can more or less understand what the book is about. I once read Per Gynt in this form and I got really upset. ( I only had it in Norwegian -- I still have it, I think) On the other hand, Chaucer is hard to read, too.
     
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    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Hi, Autumnawl. I may really be a perfectionist, but I could not enjoy any book in this form. For me each word is very important, each structure and even the way the text looks. I agree that you can more or less understand what the book is about. I once read Per Gynt in this form and I got really upset. ( I only had it in Norwegian -- I still have it, I think) On the other hand, Chaucer is hard to read, too.
    Liliana - Most Norwegians struggle with Peer Gynt also, in its corny 19th Century verse and rhyme
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    Hi, Autumnawl. I may really be a perfectionist, but I could not enjoy any book in this form. For me each word is very important, each structure and even the way the text looks. I agree that you can more or less understand what the book is about.
    And if it was as important for me to understand everything I read, I wouldn't be able to read any book in English either as there always are some words and structures I don't understand, and I've been reading mostly English books for almost 40 years and enjoyed them very much.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I could probably understand 80% of Ukrainian, or Slovak, but I still would not read the books in the original. What I am saying is, that it is basically not one language -- this is all.
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    I could probably understand 80% of Ukrainian, or Slovak, but I still would not read the books in the original. What I am saying is, that it is basically not one language -- this is all.
    Depending on the text, but for a newspaper text I would say that my understanding of a Danish or Norwegian text is higher than 80%.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Sure, that might be true. I still do not see any basis for the three languages to be treated as one language, because the differences are too significant. I have this cookbook from the end of the 18th century, and I cannot say that i understand a lot in it, especially that most of the ingredients have changed, the food portions and the writing system has changed around 1920. (in old Swedish).
     
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    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    I don't mean that the three Scandinavian languages should be treated as one language, they are clearly three different languages, but the differences between them are not so great that it's not possible to understand the other languages. I've seen some texts in the Occitan language and I would say that the differences between the different dialects seems to be as varied as between the Scandinavian languages. I don't know if people who speak Occitan think that it's difficult to understand the other Occitan dialects or Catalan, which is the language closest related to Occitan, but in the case of Occitan the different dialects are treated as one language, regardless of their differences. The difference with the Scandinavian languages are that all three have their own standardized written language and that written language differs from the spoken dialects in each country. There are often many similarities between the different spoken dialects in border areas, but depending on what country you go to school in, you will learn a different written language.
     
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    esornod

    New Member
    English
    My son and his family live in the middle of Sweden so I visit regularly. Sweden, Norway and Denmark and to a lesser extent Finland get the same TV shows and understand them. My son and his wife often go to Norway to shop for some items cheaper there and they speak Swedish. I should say that their Alvdalen accent is quite close to Norwegian and they live only a few Km. from the border. Danish is hard for them to understand but they copy well. I have learned some very basic Swedish but find it hard to practice because they insist on practising their English.
    The alphabets do differ. I am confident in saying that to a large extent the three languages are mutually intelligible.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    My Advanced Norwegian class is exploring these similarities, and came across a Norwegian tv-show called "Arkeologene". The interesting thing about this show is that it consists of two hosts speaking Western Norwegian dialects (Voss and Stavanger) traveling to archaeological digs all over Scandinavia, talking to professionals speaking various Norwegian, Swedish and Danish dialects, and the whole thing is subtitled in standard Norwegian. After a while, one cannot help being struck a notion of how similar sounding e.g. Southern and South-Western Norwegian is to various Danish accents, and how similar sounding certain Mid and Eastern Norwegian dialects are to various forms of Swedish. Especially since one has an added benefit of having it subtitled in Norwegian. You will find it on www.nrk.no, and it is an interesting lesson in Scandinavian as a "common" language
     

    Havfruen

    Senior Member
    USA
    English - American
    My Advanced Norwegian class is exploring these similarities, and came across a Norwegian tv-show called "Arkeologene". The interesting thing about this show is that it consists of two hosts speaking Western Norwegian dialects (Voss and Stavanger) traveling to archaeological digs all over Scandinavia, talking to professionals speaking various Norwegian, Swedish and Danish dialects, and the whole thing is subtitled in standard Norwegian. After a while, one cannot help being struck a notion of how similar sounding e.g. Southern and South-Western Norwegian is to various Danish accents, and how similar sounding certain Mid and Eastern Norwegian dialects are to various forms of Swedish. Especially since one has an added benefit of having it subtitled in Norwegian. You will find it on www.nrk.no, and it is an interesting lesson in Scandinavian as a "common" language
    Thanks for the recommendation, I will enjoy this program! Which host is from Voss and which from Stavanger? The one with glasses swallows his words more, I think. The subtitles on www.nrk.no TV programs in general are a great aid to me, as I can read Norwegian far better than I can understand the spoken language. Are there other www.nrk.no TV programs you use with your students?

    Here's the direct link http://tv.nrk.no/serie/arkeologene Also if anyone does not understand Norwegian well, the entire transcript is available if you click on "Teksting" which you can put into Google translate or similar as required.
     
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    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks for the recommendation, I will enjoy this program! Which host is from Voss and which from Stavanger? The one with glasses swallows his words more, I think. The subtitles on www.nrk.no TV programs in general are a great aid to me, as I can read Norwegian far better than I can understand the spoken language. Are there other www.nrk.no TV programs you use with your students?

    Here's the direct link http://tv.nrk.no/serie/arkeologene Also if anyone does not understand Norwegian well, the entire transcript is available if you click on "Teksting" which you can put into Google translate or similar as required.
    At the same NRK site you can see the TV talk show with a Norwegian host (Fredrik Skavlan) interviewing guests speaking Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. The guests then talk often to each other, and the conversation goes on in all three langauges apparently smoothly and without misunderstandings. The program is emitted on Friday nights and can be retrieved online some days afterwards.
     

    Havfruen

    Senior Member
    USA
    English - American
    At the same NRK site you can see the TV talk show with a Norwegian host (Fredrik Skavlan) interviewing guests speaking Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. The guests then talk often to each other, and the conversation goes on in all three langauges apparently smoothly and without misunderstandings. The program is emitted on Friday nights and can be retrieved online some days afterwards.
    Tusen takk for det! I do appreciate your Norwegian tax dollars at work providing high quality programming to me, kind of a charity service to educate some poor ignorant Americans and help our brain development.:D On the topic of this thread, is Skavlan's program also shown in Sweden and Denmark?
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    What a beautiful and educational documentary. Thanks so much for the link. It seems to me that every participant in this program is making an effort to speak slowly and clearly...(even the Danes!). Do your students have problems understanding the Danish speakers, NYC?
    Bic.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Well - they struggle with certain variants of Danish. More specifically what someone described as street-Copenhagen or working class Copenhagen dialect, which is that half-pronounced variety that has become so prevalent in Danish. However, when spoken at a moderate pace (and with more than two-and-a-half syllable pronounced per sentence...), and preferable on a topic (not just chit chat), they have no problems.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Tusen takk for det! I do appreciate your Norwegian tax dollars at work providing high quality programming to me, kind of a charity service to educate some poor ignorant Americans and help our brain development.:D On the topic of this thread, is Skavlan's program also shown in Sweden and Denmark?
    It is shown in Sweden. I don't know if it is shown in Denmark, may be not. Sweden and Norway form today a much closer knit cultural area, than Norway and Denmark, and the Swedish - Danish ties are even looser.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    What a beautiful and educational documentary. Thanks so much for the link. It seems to me that every participant in this program is making an effort to speak slowly and clearly...(even the Danes!). ...
    Bic.
    Well of course - how else would you make a show with guests speaking different languages work out well? I'd expect the same from a Norwegian speaking Norwegian in a Danish television show. Or from somone from Georgia, USA, talking on British or Australian television.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Well of course - how else would you make a show with guests speaking different languages work out well? I'd expect the same from a Norwegian speaking Norwegian in a Danish television show. Or from somone from Georgia, USA, talking on British or Australian television.
    I suspect this is done on purpose. They do not have to use Swedish and Danish professionals, but they are trying to bridge Scandinavia, and probably instruct their guest to use clear pronunciation. However, the whole idea is that as long as Scandinavian is spoken non-colloquially and at a moderate pace with proper pronunciation, it is usually not a problem for Scandinavians to understand it.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Well of course - how else would you make a show with guests speaking different languages work out well? I'd expect the same from a Norwegian speaking Norwegian in a Danish television show. Or from somone from Georgia, USA, talking on British or Australian television.
    Maybe on television, but I attended lectures where the lecturer spoke a dialect of the English language that was almost incomprehensible.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    It is shown in Sweden. I don't know if it is shown in Denmark, may be not. Sweden and Norway form today a much closer knit cultural area, than Norway and Denmark, and the Swedish - Danish ties are even looser.
    I don't quite agree on that point. It probably depends on the region. Take a closer look at what is going on down south. Greater Copenhagen and Malmö + Suburbs are becoming sort of a mega-city. Everything is mixing a lot more than ever before.
     

    esornod

    New Member
    English
    I think the saying goes that a language is a dialect with an army behind it. My feeling is that the Scandinavian countries are trying to define their own separate languages and even use the artifice of unusual characters. What interests me is just how many English words are from the Old Norse. My son lives near Alvdalen which has a local dialect called amongst other names Älvdalsmål. The Alvdalen intonation is very similar to that just 14 km. across the border and the locals often cannot discern any difference. In fact Alvdalen was once part of Norway.
    I wanted to sing O Store Gud at my son's wedding in Sarna but no one could agree on the correct pronunciation. I found a lecturer in modern Swedish literature who advised me that the dialect is that spoken right at the bottom of Sweden and is nearly identical with Danish. I eventually sang using the sing-song local Alvdalen pronunciation which sounds like Norwegian.
    Sadly back in Australia I have lost much of the Swedish I had acquired because even in Sweden no one wanted to talk in Swedish, preferring to practice their English on me. Sigh!
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Hi Ben - yes, that is what I mean. Copenhagen and Scania is a region with stronger cultural, historical and linguistic ties than e.g. Scania and Stockholm, or Copenhagen and Jutland


    True. And in the other end of the country it is the same problem. I remember once that a member of the Danish government got pissed off because two mayors, one from a city in Soenderjylland/Nordschleswig and the Mayor of Flensburg, began cooperatiing in various matters. The national politician thought it was their job only to cooperate with anyone across the borders. However, they had never taken any steps to doing so in municipal matters.

    And the two mayors had never even given it a thought involving their respective nationl governments. And they didn't start there, that's for sure!
     

    alexoi

    New Member
    Swedish - Sweden
    I guess the best choice is to learn the language they speak where you're going to relocate.

    However, linguistically speaking, Danish would have been the best choice since it's somewhere in between the others IF (and this is a BIG one) it hadn't been for the very hard to pick up accent that the danes have. For that reason I'd go for swedish which is the larger one, preferably not Swedish with southern accent which can resemble the Danish.

    It's funny how swedes can read a danish newspaper without a single lesson in danish, but may fail utterly when trying to understand spoken danish. It takes months (!) to get used to.
     

    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    My two cents:

    A Dane, a Swede, and a Norwegian can have a normal conversation where each speaks his own language. I've done this myself many times, and it's no problem at all. Include a Dutchman, however, and this is no longer possible. We can read a Dutch text, though, without much trouble, so if we had the conversation in writing, it would be possible even with the inclusion of a Dutchman.

    (I'm assuming, of course, that all 3 (or 4) are at least average language users. If one participant doesn't master his own language (as some people don't), he will probably have some trouble (I have seen this happen on occasion). But then again - for such people - even if the conversation is conducted in their own language, they have trouble understanding what's being said, so I would disregard this fact.)

    In other words: Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are all dialects of a language we might call 'Mainland Scandinavian' (as opposed to 'Insular Scandinavian' (Icelandic and Faroese), both of which have retained a lot of archaic forms - something which makes them much harder to understand even for a competent speaker of Mainland Scandinavian).

    Dutch (like old English) is close to old Frisian, and so is the local Danish dialect in the far southwest of Denmark. If a Dane speaks this dialect, he may well be able to have a conversation with a Dutch person (each speaking their own language). Standard Danish, however, is mostly based on the Copenhagen dialect spoken in the far east of our country, and is therefore much closer to Swedish than to Dutch.
     
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