Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

MindBoggle

Senior Member
Danish. English from childhood
@Sepia:

Greater Copenhagen and Malmö + Suburbs are becoming sort of a mega-city. Everything is mixing a lot more than ever before.

Yes, very much.
So much so, in fact, that Malmö is now, colloquially, known as 'Copenhagen M'. :cool:
 
  • Ricard_o

    New Member
    Español
    Hello,

    I was looking for a page like wordreference but for danish students and I found this. I know my answer is not exactly about the subject but I thought among you people maybe somebody knows one. Beginning to study danish is hard to find a good dictionary, I have been using google translate and others pages but none of them give a context or exemples of how to use the word therefore sometimes they are innacurate.

    Thanks
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Hello,

    I was looking for a page like wordreference but for danish students and I found this. I know my answer is not exactly about the subject but I thought among you people maybe somebody knows one. Beginning to study danish is hard to find a good dictionary, I have been using google translate and others pages but none of them give a context or exemples of how to use the word therefore sometimes they are innacurate.

    Thanks
    Google translate is not a dictionary. I don't know for what it is of any use, but it is not a dictionary.

    Why don't you check up on what Danish publishers have to offer? Gyldendals used to be the top runners and may still be. And when you have the ISBN number you can order them in a book store.
     

    Ricard_o

    New Member
    Español
    Thanks for the advice Sepia, I'll check it out. And in case someone else is studying Danish, another member told me about this page: www.bab.la which gives diferent exemples inside a sentence of the word you shearch.
     

    Varis

    New Member
    Dutch
    I recently saw the Bron/Broen series (season 1 and 2) and I was curious: does the level of mutual intelligibility between Swedes and Danes depicted in it reflect reality (keeping in mind that Martin is a Copenhagen Dane and the Swedes are (mostly) from Scania) or have a lot of potential misunderstandings been 'smoothed out' for television?

    Also, to contribute something to this thread: Dutch (my language) really isn't mutually intelligible with the Scandinavian languages to any significant degree, as has been previously established. Regarding the Bron/Broen series, I could understand only a few words and phrases directly (and they were mostly Swedish ones uttered by Saga; I guess she has a pretty clear articulation). Written Swedish I can understand a lot better, without having any formal training, provided I know the context. This is probably not due to to the common Germanic source from which both Dutch and Swedish (and the other Scandinavian languages) evolved, but has more to do with the massive influence of Low German/Dutch on Scandinavian, starting from the High Middle Ages (the time of the Hanseatic League).

    And also: as a Dutch native speaker, I can't distinguish Swedish from Norwegian, but I can distinguish Danish. To put it in Lord of the Rings terms: to me, Danish sounds like how the minions of Sauron would speak Swedish/Norwegian :p
     
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    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    I recently saw the Bron/Broen series (season 1 and 2) and I was curious: does the level of mutual intelligibility between Swedes and Danes depicted in it reflect reality (keeping in mind that Martin is a Copenhagen Dane and the Swedes are (mostly) from Scania) or have a lot of potential misunderstandings been 'smoothed out' for television?
    Even when speaking the same language people sometimes go "What did you say?" or "Pardon me?". This happens a bit more when we speak to our Scandinavian neighbors, but movies don't show this - as they don't when the movie is in one language. And they don't put all the 'eh's, 'hmm's, coughs etc. of natural conversation in either. And the reason is the same, I guess: It holds up the plot progression for no good reason.

    Apart from that, the conversation is realistic. Scandinavians can - and often do - have conversations like that. Some people may need a bit of exposure before they understand some dialects, but no language classes or dictionaries are necessary. If you have a colleague (like in the Bro(e)n series) from another Scandinavian country, and you don't understand that person immediately, you will get it after a few days of working with him or her.
    Scandinavian, in my opinion, is one language with three different regional norms. Understanding other Scandinavian languages is only slightly more challenging than understanding the rural dialects of one's own language (which also, in some cases, may take a few days of getting used to).

    Also, to contribute something to this thread: Dutch (my language) really isn't mutually intelligible with the Scandinavian languages to any significant degree, as has been previously established. Regarding the Bron/Broen series, I could understand only a few words and phrases directly (and they were mostly Swedish ones uttered by Saga; I guess she has a pretty clear articulation). Written Swedish I can understand a lot better, without having any formal training, provided I know the context. This is probably not due to to the common Germanic source from which both Dutch and Swedish (and the other Scandinavian languages) evolved, but has more to do with the massive influence of Low German/Dutch on Scandinavian, starting from the High Middle Ages (the time of the Hanseatic League).
    I have never studied Dutch, but I can read a Dutch text without much trouble. It's when you people speak, I have trouble. ;)

    And also: as a Dutch native speaker, I can't distinguish Swedish from Norwegian, but I can distinguish Danish. To put it in Lord of the Rings terms: to me, Danish sounds like how the minions of Sauron would speak Swedish/Norwegian :p
    As a Dane, I can easily tell standard Norwegian from standard Swedish, but some of the dialects along the linguistic border (which, btw, runs far inside Sweden) can be hard to distinguish even for us. Sometimes I think the speakers of those dialects themselves can't even tell. And they don't need to. It's all Scandinavian. ;)

    And finally...

    According to the Swedes, Danish is just Swedish with a German accent. ;)

    Greetings,
    MindBoggle :D
     

    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    As a bit of extra info on this topic, let me add this from my own perspective:

    When at work, speaking to a Swedish client, I speak Swedish. The situation - usually I'm offering him something - indicates for me to come to him rather than the other way round.
    When I meet a Swedish person privately (i.e. on even terms) I speak Danish but 'swedify' my pronounciation a bit in order to make it easier for him to understand, and I expect him to do the same (i.e. I expect him to 'danify' his Swedish a bit, not that it's necessary, but just to be polite).

    Here in Copenhagen, as Sweden is just across the bridge and Norway is quite far, we meet 50 Swedes for each Norwegian, so the Danish-Norwegian conversation is much more rare. Still, it happens relatively often, and when I'm in one, my attitude is the same: When with a client, I speak proper Norwegian (sometimes), and in private I 'norwegify' my pronounciation a bit and expect my conversation partner to 'danify' a bit.

    I have to say, though, that with Norwegians I've always felt a bit silly when I switch. Standard Norwegian is very, very close to Danish, and since I don't switch to the Jutland dialect of Danish when speaking to a Jute, I feel no need to switch to the Norwegian dialect of Danish when speaking to a Norwegian.

    - but recognizing that he will regard Danish as a dialect of Norwegian rather than vice versa, sometimes (when at work) I switch just to be polite.:p

    Finally, let me add that (spoken) insular Scandinavian (Icelandic and Faroese) isn't really mutually intelligible with mainland Scandinavian (Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian).
    Still, I have an Icelandic friend who has developed his own 'interscandinavian', which sits somewhere between Icelandic, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish (and it sounds something like Norwegian with an Icelandic accent). He speaks this all over Scandinavia - insular and mainland - and everybody understands.:p
     

    Varis

    New Member
    Dutch
    Great info! And a bit contrary to what some Scandinavians were claiming before in this thread. I guess your linguistic situation is similar to the Dutch/Flemish/Afrikaans situation.
     

    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    Great info! And a bit contrary to what some Scandinavians were claiming before in this thread. I guess your linguistic situation is similar to the Dutch/Flemish/Afrikaans situation.
    A recent survey showed that Norwegians (in general) understand both Danish and Swedish quite well AND that Danes and Swedes understand Norwegian quite well. It also showed that the general population of Danes and Swedes (depending on dialect and previous exposure) sometimes do have some trouble understanding one another.
    This suggests that Norwegian sits somewhere in the middle, half way between Danish and Swedish, which fits quite well with the observation of my Icelandic friend who has found an Icelandyfied Norwegian to be the most universally understandable and therefore the 'linguistic center' of the Scandinavian language(s).

    This is somewhat surprising given the fact that Danish and Swedish are both classified at 'east Nordic' while Norwegian (and insular) are 'west Nordic'. One would think, therefore, that Danish and Swedish were closest to one another, but for some reason this is not the case. Not in terms of mutual intelligibility of the spoken language, at least. Maybe this is due to Norway and Denmark having been united in one country for longer time and much more recently (200 years ago) than Denmark and Sweden have (500 years ago).

    I don't know how this compares to the Dutch/Flemish/Afrikaans-situation. To me they all sound like Dutch. :p
    I think I may be able to distinguish Afrikaans from the other two, but I wouldn't put money on it.
    If I had to learn one of the three, which one, in your opinion Varis, would be most intelligible by everybody in that language continuum?
     

    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    Do Danish people understand standard vestnorsk / nynorsk, for example as used in the news: http://tv.nrk.no/serie/distriktsnyheter-rogaland/DKRO98090114/01-09-2014
    Yes, I often watch Norwegian TV. The vocabulary is virtually identical to Danish, they just pronounce the words differently (as if with a Swedish accent). I have no more difficulty than with Jutland Danish. Most people in Denmark feel the same way.

    Let me quote from earlier in this thread:

    "Norwegian is Danish spoken in Swedish" :)
     

    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    A friend of mine is Norwegian. He has been living in Copenhagen for 25 years and still just speaks Norwegian. His pronounciation hasn't changed one bit since he moved here all those years ago.
    We, his friends, keep telling him that after 25 years he really should be able to speak Danish, but he keeps replying that it's never been necessary.
     

    verdas gong

    Member
    Hindi and Nynorsk
    This does not sound/look like Danish:

    Den avstand som skil oss to no skapar eit sakn hjå meg som berre du kan forstå; Kvart minutt så tenkjer eg på deg, eg drøymer om den dag du kjem hit til meg; Men tida går og alt eg har er bilete og minne frå ei tid der; Me...alltid var saman der, me... hadde fri; Aldri trudde eg det ville verta så tøft å væra frå deg, men det viser seg; Folk seier at det aldri vil gå at me held saman og eg tvilar no; Men tida går og alt eg har er bilete og minne frå ei tid der...
    eg saknar deg
     

    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    This does not sound/look like Danish:


    Yes it does. Every single word, save one, is the same in Danish (we just spell them diffently). Compare the translation I've added below:


    Den avstand som skil oss to no skapar eit sakn hjå meg som berre du kan forstå
    Den afstand som skiller os to nu, skaber et savn hos mig som bare du kan forstå.

    Kvart minutt så tenkjer eg på deg, eg drøymer om den dag du kjem hit til meg;
    Hvert minut så tænker jeg på dig, jeg drømmer om den dag du kom hid til mig

    Men tida går og alt eg har er bilete og minne frå ei tid der;
    Men tiden går og alt jeg har er billedet og mindet fra en tid hvor

    Me...alltid var saman der, me... hadde fri;
    Vi...altid var sammen hvor, vi... havde fri

    Aldri trudde eg det ville verta så tøft å væra frå deg,
    men det viser seg;
    Aldrig troede jeg det ville blive så hårdt at være fra dig, men det viser sig

    Folk seier at det aldri vil gå at me held saman og eg tvilar no;
    Folk siger at det aldrig vil gå at vi holder sammen og jeg tvivler nu

    Men tida går og alt eg har er bilete og minne frå ei tid der...
    Men tiden går og alt jeg har er billedet og mindet fra en tid hvor

    eg saknar deg
    jeg savner dig.

    Further: Where the Norwegian text has verta, it is possible to translate to vorde, but in Danish this sounds archaic, and where the Norwegian has der, again it is possible to use the same word in the translation, der, but that would be unusual usage in Danish, and where the Norwegian has tøft, it's possible to translate by the English loan tough, which we use in Danish too.
    Summa summarum: The only word which is not the same in Danish is the pronoun me.

    Several Norwegian pronouns are different from their Danish equivalent for some reason, but that's about it when it comes to the diffence in lexicon between the two languages.

    In short: It takes half an hour of exposure (to the weird pronounciation and the unusual pronouns) to turn an average Dane into a Norwegian (with dyslexia and a German accent!).

    It's the same language - Scandinavian. Norwegians just base their spelling on how they speak it in Oslo rather than in Copenhagen. :p
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    [/I]

    It's the same language - Scandinavian. Norwegians just base their spelling on how they speak it in Oslo rather than in Copenhagen. :p
    You have to define the term "the same language".
    It seems that this term is used very freely by different individuals.
    With a mutual speech understanding of less then 50% it's hard to call Danish and Norwegian one language.
    Besides, spoken language and written language are two different things. The similarity in spelling does not correspond to similarity im pronounciation.
    Write both texts in phonetic alphabet, and the impression will be completely different.
     

    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    You have to define the term "the same language".
    That's true. Everything depends on definition.

    It seems that this term is used very freely by different individuals.
    Also true.

    With a mutual speech understanding of less then 50% it's hard to call Danish and Norwegian one language.
    That does depend on the definition, as you say. :)

    My view is this:

    According to the numbers quoted earlier in this thread by GoranBCN, Norwegians understand 73% of spoken Danish, and Danes 69% of spoken Norwegian. On average. For the written language, the percentage is higher still. On average. And for competent speakers, like those in this forum, the percentage in both categories is even higher.
    This suggests that the mutual understanding is way more than 50%. My friend would testify to that. As indicated, he lives in Copenhagen and is speaking Norwegian here and has done so for 25 years with hardly any problems.

    Does that make the two languages one? That still depends on your definition. A language, the old joke goes, is a dialect with an army. If this is our definition, Danish and Norwegian are distinct. But that's more of a joke than a definition. In my opinion the two are the same. If pressed for reasons, I would give:

    1. The vocabulary is 95% identical. Practically every word in the Norwegian poem quoted above is the same in Danish. I've never seen a Norwegian text where this was not so. The pronounciation is somewhat different, it's true, but understandability is very high.
    2. But mutual understandability is not 100%? True, but if mutual understandability was the only criterion, then several dialects of Danish, which are further away from Copenhagen Danish than Norwegian is, would have to be called languages in their own right, too.
    3. Although mutual understanding is not 100%, among competent speakers with just a little bit of exposure it's not far off - at least for the standard versions of the languages (Oslo Norwegian and Copenhagen Danish).

    Besides, spoken language and written language are two different things.
    Yes, in writing, as Goran quotes, mutual understanding is 89 and 93% - on average, for any speakers. That's easily 100% for competent, native speakers.

    The similarity in spelling does not correspond to similarity im pronounciation.
    Write both texts in phonetic alphabet, and the impression will be completely different.
    I don't agree with that. The pronounciation is not sufficiently different to hide the fact that the words are the same, as Goran's numbers indicate. Spoken understanding is over 70%.

    In short:
    In my opinion...

    Danish is just Norwegian with a German accent, and
    Norwegian is just Danish with a Swedish accent.

    We can choose to focus on the differences if we want to, but the similarities are far greater.
    In my opinion.

    Have a nice day. :)
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    If you think that 70% of intelligibility is enough to call to langauges one, it is your own personal meaning, and many will disagree with you. By the way, there is the question of how old this research is. There are reports that say that the mutual intelligibility between Scandinavian languages are rapidly declining, especially among young people. So if for example the figure of 70% is valid for an average of all ages, then the figure is much lower among people under 30. My daughter, who is a native Norwegian speaker, went to Denmark with her two friends 9 years ago. They tried to communicate with the Danes at the street speaking Norwegian, and the Danes did not understand them, they had to switch to English.

    Another aspect of the question is that a person with some linguistic talent can learn another Scandinavian language very quickly, enough to raise the intelligibility to 90%, but this is not the same as the communication between two completely unaccustomed persons. We should differentiate between apples and bananas.
     

    MindBoggle

    Senior Member
    Danish. English from childhood
    I agree that two people, a Dane and a Norwegian, who have both never heard the other language spoken in their lives, will have some trouble - but this is true of dialects too. You need a bit of exposure to get used to the alien pronounciation.
    When I went to Jutland as a child and heard Jutish for the first time, I didn't understand a word. And this was Danish. I think this is normal for a young person who is exposed to dialects for the first time. Yes, you say, young people have trouble. Maybe. I have no idea how the development in mutual understanding is, but in general young people have trouble understanding a lot of things. I would put that down to the fact that they are young.

    My friend has no trouble, and although it's true that he is not a young person anymore, he's 45, he has been speaking Norwegian in Denmark basically all his adult life, and he has never had any trouble, not even when he was young. Nobody ever switches to English with him, and I've never heard a Norwegian switch to English with a Dane. I have heard some Swedes do so, though - some of them have trouble with spoken Danish, as Gorans numbers show, but we understand them better than they understand us.

    At least, from my personal experience, I can say this:

    At my workplace we have a lot of Scandinavian clients. Many of my colleagues simply speak Danish to them. They answer in Norwegian or Swedish, and it's never a problem. Ever. It's true that our clients are generally mature, educated natives, but none of them are educated in Scandinavian languages, and neither are we.

    Based on my extensive experience with this demographic, I would say that any native Scandinavian, who is of mature age (40+) and has any interest in intellectual pursuits of any kind, will understand close to 100% of his fellow Scandinavians - or at the very least enough to have a normal, everyday conversation. I see this happening every day. :cool:

    Anyway - it's not important. If you want to separate the Scandianvian languages, it's fine with me. :)
    But in that case, in my opinion, we have at least 10 Scandinavian languages in Denmark alone: Vendelbo, West Jutish, East Jutish, South Jutish, Funish, Langelandian, West Zealandian, Lollandic, Bornholmian, and Copenhagenish. And more. And I'm sure this is the case in the other Scandinavian countries too. :cool:
     
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    såsom_smultron

    New Member
    dutch netherlands
    A recent survey showed that Norwegians (in general) understand both Danish and Swedish quite well AND that Danes and Swedes understand Norwegian quite well. It also showed that the general population of Danes and Swedes (depending on dialect and previous exposure) sometimes do have some trouble understanding one another.
    This suggests that Norwegian sits somewhere in the middle, half way between Danish and Swedish, which fits quite well with the observation of my Icelandic friend who has found an Icelandyfied Norwegian to be the most universally understandable and therefore the 'linguistic center' of the Scandinavian language(s).

    This is somewhat surprising given the fact that Danish and Swedish are both classified at 'east Nordic' while Norwegian (and insular) are 'west Nordic'. One would think, therefore, that Danish and Swedish were closest to one another, but for some reason this is not the case. Not in terms of mutual intelligibility of the spoken language, at least. Maybe this is due to Norway and Denmark having been united in one country for longer time and much more recently (200 years ago) than Denmark and Sweden have (500 years ago).

    I don't know how this compares to the Dutch/Flemish/Afrikaans-situation. To me they all sound like Dutch. :p
    I think I may be able to distinguish Afrikaans from the other two, but I wouldn't put money on it.
    If I had to learn one of the three, which one, in your opinion Varis, would be most intelligible by everybody in that language continuum?
     

    Thorz

    New Member
    Spanish - Colombia
    This is based on the experience I have observed.

    For most native Norwegian speakers, specially adults under 50, it is quite easy to understand Swedish. This is because the phonetic similarity of both languages and maybe because there was a lot of TV in Swedish broadcasted in Norway before the 2000s. It is a little more difficult for the native speakers, but still happens all the time, to understand Danish. I have seen this because I work at a place where you find the 3 nationalities.

    As a foreign person that has learned to speak Norwegian (bokmål) I can tell you that it has really helped me to understand Swedish. It is not easy but you can definitely train your ear for achieving this. I do not speak Swedish when I am in Sweden, I use Norwegian, and it works quite well. As for Danish, as pointed before on this thread, it is very easy to read it if you can bokmål, both are really alike in written form, but it very difficult to understand it in spoken form. I almost always change to English when I am speaking with a Danish person.

    So I support what has been said here before. Norwegian (bokmål) is located more in the middle of the scale between the 3 of them, specially from a foreign speaker's point of view.
     

    razukin

    New Member
    English - United States
    I speak Norwegian as a foreign language. I started out learning bokmål, switched to my wife's (Western Norwegian/Sunnhordlandsk) dialect, switched back to bokmål, and switched back to dialect again before we moved. I've been learning and speaking it for around 10 years.

    I have also studied Swedish and Danish a little. Maybe 1 or 2 chapters of some edition of Teach Yourself Swedish and a few units of online material from the Danish government or a university or something. I've also been to both countries. I didn't talk to many native Swedes in Sweden, but I did talk to some in Denmark.

    Having done that, I have no trouble conversing with Swedes. I was just at a conference in France to which some Swedes also went, and I only used Norwegian with them. They understood me fine (I often ask to make sure). And they were relatively "young." I think it somewhat depends on the person. My wife understands Swedish quite well because she grew up with a television program called Emil (as someone mentioned earlier when they talked about Swedish programs being shown on Norwegian TV in the past).

    It's a little harder with Danes sometimes, but since I've put in a little bit of work, I can usually understand them. Maybe 60-80%, depending. I was at a different conference in November that some Danes came too. They often quickly switched to English with the Norwegians who weren't used to Danish, but I spoke with one of them in Norwegian and understood the important parts of what he said, to the point that I could ask clarifying questions, etc. It wasn't the first time. Some Danes even understand me speaking dialect! Granted, they were from a company that has a Norwegian branch, so it's possible they were somewhat used to Norwegian.

    It's pretty interesting, in any case. I wouldn't say it's as easy for English speakers to acclimate to other languages (e.g. Spanish in the US) as it is for Scandinavian speakers. I've also heard that Norwegians start making sense of Icelandic after around two weeks in Iceland.

    I've also heard about the trend towards mutual intelligibility going down among younger people. I hope the trend reverses, and I kind of think it will at some point. Well, either that, or the entire populations will just switch to English :p — and then mutual intelligibility will be restored anyway!
     

    cocuyo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Stockholm
    This is based on the experience I have observed.

    For most native Norwegian speakers, specially adults under 50, it is quite easy to understand Swedish. This is because the phonetic similarity of both languages and maybe because there was a lot of TV in Swedish broadcasted in Norway before the 2000s. It is a little more difficult for the native speakers, but still happens all the time, to understand Danish. I have seen this because I work at a place where you find the 3 nationalities.

    As a foreign person that has learned to speak Norwegian (bokmål) I can tell you that it has really helped me to understand Swedish. It is not easy but you can definitely train your ear for achieving this. I do not speak Swedish when I am in Sweden, I use Norwegian, and it works quite well. As for Danish, as pointed before on this thread, it is very easy to read it if you can bokmål, both are really alike in written form, but it very difficult to understand it in spoken form. I almost always change to English when I am speaking with a Danish person.

    So I support what has been said here before. Norwegian (bokmål) is located more in the middle of the scale between the 3 of them, specially from a foreign speaker's point of view.
    I have a similar experience with a few Spanish variants, as well as mutual intelligibility between Spanish and Portuguese. I learned Spanish mostly with South Americans, most of them from Chile, but also other countries, as Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. When I first heard Spanish from Castilla Real, I thought it might be another language, although I understood everything. The phonetics were quite different from what I was used to. But I also understood Portuguese rather well, and some Italian as well. When in Galicia, I couldn't distinguish Galego from Portuguese, but I find Brazilian Portuguese easier to understand. One thing that puzzles me a bit is that my Cuban wife, knowing no other language than Spanish, cannot understand a word of Portuguese. To my ears, it seems as it should have better intelligibility than Danish to a Swede. The differences are mainly in the pronunciation.

    So it seems that "intelligibility" is the key word. If you are tuned to understand, you do, but if not, you won't. I have had many conversations with Brazilians, I speaking Spanish, they Portuguese, and there is mutual understanding. Most Brazilians I met have no problem at all in understanding Spanish, although the opposite is not true. It seems as Italians have a lot harder to understand Spanish, and my wife does not understand Italian, although I understand it rather well. Maybe the training in mutual understanding of the Nordic languages makes it easier to understand nearly related other languages, when one of them is known? I have been working in Norway for some time, and I have no problem at all in understanding Norwegian, most dialects. However, Danish is really challenging, except when written.

    We do have some false friends, but so does Spanish - in itself. For example, in Argentina, I would use "templar la viola" for tuning the guitar, and in Cuba "coger la guagua" for taking the bus, but not the other way around. To me, Spanish differs in different countries just as much as Swedish and Norwegian.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    I have a similar experience with a few Spanish variants, as well as mutual intelligibility between Spanish and Portuguese. I learned Spanish mostly with South Americans, most of them from Chile, but also other countries, as Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. When I first heard Spanish from Castilla Real, I thought it might be another language, although I understood everything. The phonetics were quite different from what I was used to. But I also understood Portuguese rather well, and some Italian as well. When in Galicia, I couldn't distinguish Galego from Portuguese, but I find Brazilian Portuguese easier to understand. One thing that puzzles me a bit is that my Cuban wife, knowing no other language than Spanish, cannot understand a word of Portuguese. To my ears, it seems as it should have better intelligibility than Danish to a Swede. The differences are mainly in the pronunciation.

    So it seems that "intelligibility" is the key word. If you are tuned to understand, you do, but if not, you won't. I have had many conversations with Brazilians, I speaking Spanish, they Portuguese, and there is mutual understanding. Most Brazilians I met have no problem at all in understanding Spanish, although the opposite is not true. It seems as Italians have a lot harder to understand Spanish, and my wife does not understand Italian, although I understand it rather well. Maybe the training in mutual understanding of the Nordic languages makes it easier to understand nearly related other languages, when one of them is known? I have been working in Norway for some time, and I have no problem at all in understanding Norwegian, most dialects. However, Danish is really challenging, except when written.

    We do have some false friends, but so does Spanish - in itself. For example, in Argentina, I would use "templar la viola" for tuning the guitar, and in Cuba "coger la guagua" for taking the bus, but not the other way around. To me, Spanish differs in different countries just as much as Swedish and Norwegian.
    If you are tuned to understand, you do, but if not, you won't.

    Exactly - while many Swedes understand Danish relatively well and vice versa, somebody who learned either Danish or Swedish but is native in a non-Scandinavian language usually does not or has a really hard time understanding the other language. And Swedes usually do not understand the southern Jutland version of Danish - just as little as Danes who have not learned Swedish understand Skånska. (A dialect that lots of Swedes hate, by the way. I find it quite nice.)
     

    Svensk-Hongkongare

    New Member
    Engelska - Kina
    Hej, och jag är en Hongkongare.
    Jag lär mig svenska från mig själv. Nu kan jag handla uttalen av Svenska Språket, även 7-ljudet som är svår till er kan uttalas riktigt av mig.

    I would recommend that you start with Swedish (I promise that I'm not bias :D ). Here are my reasons:
    1. Swedish is the biggest/most spoken language of all of the Scandinavian languages (spoken by over 9 million people in Sweden and appr. 1 million in Finland).
    2. I've been to Norway and Denmark and Swedish has helped me countless times (Norwegian is easier to learn if you know Swedish, Danish is much harder but if you speak Swedish in my dialect [“Skånska”] it’s much easier!).
    3. Last but not least, Swedish grammar isn't that hard as people think that it is. The verbs are very easy to learn, because they only have one form in the present (and all other forms too by the way ;) ). But pronunciation is hard!!! That will take you a while to learn, you may even have to live here :) .
    So, that's my opinion. Hoppas ingen från Norge eller Danmark tar illa upp!!!:D
    GOOD LUCK WITH WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE!!!

    :) robbie
    (Why do you say Swedish Pronunciation is hard? Do you mean the sj-sound? I live a lot of miles far away from Scandinavia in East Asia but I can sound the sj-sound properly!)
     

    cocuyo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Stockholm
    Hej, och jag är en Hongkongare.
    Jag lär mig svenska från mig själv. Nu kan jag handla uttalen av Svenska Språket, även 7-ljudet som är svår till er kan uttalas riktigt av mig.

    /.../ But pronunciation is hard!!! That will take you a while to learn, you may even have to live here /.../
    (Why do you say Swedish Pronunciation is hard? Do you mean the sj-sound? I live a lot of miles far away from Scandinavia in East Asia but I can sound the sj-sound properly!)
    Of course I don't know exactly why robbie_SWE states that Swedish pronunciation is hard, but it is not only that some particular sounds are difficult for many speakers, but it is the melody as well, the intonation, accents. But also what's difficult for someone may be less difficult for another. Chinese people often get both pronunciation of the various sounds and the intonation correct, while both seem to be impossible to learn for most Spanish speakers unless they learn it at young age. People who speak closely related languages, as German or Dutch seem to get it rather easy, although English speakers tend to have more difficulty.

    So it can indeed be difficult for many people, even if you find it easy, and the pronunciation quirks are different depending on where you start, what language or languages you already know. People who speak three languages or more mostly have greater facility to learn another, even when its pronunciation is a bit more intricate.

    There is also not a definitely "correct" way to pronounce the sj-sound, but there are two main ways, one often referred to as Swedish, akin to the Spanish pronunciation of j and the other the "French" pronunciation. We call it French here, although German might be more descriptive - like sch in German. In some dialects, the sj-sound is closer to the German Ach-Laut, or even as Dutch g or ch. So pronunciation of the sj-sound differs greatly.

    I would say that the pronunciation that takes more time to acquire, and which many foreign people never get, is the particular "song", the intonation that is typical for native speakers.
     

    2RANbit

    New Member
    English - Canada
    Hmm... Difficult to say...
    Anyway, the one who started this whole thread, alexandro, did it way back in 2006. Since nine years have past since then, I think that continuing this thread is probably pointless by now.:(
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Hmm... Difficult to say...
    Anyway, the one who started this whole thread, alexandro, did it way back in 2006. Since nine years have past since then, I think that continuing this thread is probably pointless by now.:(
    Yes, he should be fluent by now…in all three languages ;)

    Bic.
     

    2RANbit

    New Member
    English - Canada
    Being a fan of the “mutual intelligibility discussions” on this forum I’d like to bring to the fore some remarks. They come in two parts.

    :)
    "The Germanic group of languages, according to linguistic conventions, is split into a Northern and a Southern group." Not quite right. While it is true that there is a northern branch, when I did my own research, I found no evidence that in terms of systematics, there was or is a southern branch. Instead, what I found by means of scientific terminology is that there are an eastern and a western branch of germanic languages. It might be true that the eastern branch originated in the north, but at least later on in history, it was designated as its own seperate branch. It is to this branch which languages like gothic, vandalic and burgundian are grouped to. However, later on in history, the eastern branch vanished from use completely. The other two branches have remained to this day.
    My personal opinion is that if this system has been in use for decades, if not for centuries, and has already been recognised for this time in germanistics worldwide as the standard, there is no need to deviate from it.
     
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