Icelandic: Understanding other Nordic languages

justous

Member
English
Hej alle sammen

I'm learning Danish and from my experience listening to Icelanders talking, I catch about every ten words, but in written form a bit more.

But it seems to me that the reason I can't understand more is because of the lack of foreign loan words from French and so on. (i.e. tálsýn = illusion. I would think this means talk-vision, which makes sense, but that doesn't usually click right away.)

So my question is: can an Icelander with some knowledge of languages *with* these loan words (such as English) understand much more of Danish/Swedish/Norwegian?
 
  • As an Icelander I can say that yes, already knowing a lot of the vocabulary does help.
    But there are still couple of non-loanwords in the Scandinavian languages that they share between them but Icelandic doesn't, and of course pronunciation matters a lot, one might recognize the word written down but that doesn't mean one does when it's said.
    I also guess that somebody with stronger knowledge of f.ex. Dutch than me would also do much better, as while the younger loans are more from French and English, there are a LOT of Low German loanwords in the Scandinavian languages, something I became quite aware when I started learning German and realized that I could use my Danish knowledge to guess the meaning of lot of the words.

    Also tálsýn =/= talk-vision, that would be talsýn (pay attention to that diacritic)
    Tál means trickery or seduction, so perhaps trick-vision or something like that, a decent word for the meaning illusion, should "click" much better for you
     

    justous

    Member
    English
    As an Icelander I can say that yes, already knowing a lot of the vocabulary does help.
    But there are still couple of non-loanwords in the Scandinavian languages that they share between them but Icelandic doesn't, and of course pronunciation matters a lot, one might recognize the word written down but that doesn't mean one does when it's said.
    I also guess that somebody with stronger knowledge of f.ex. Dutch than me would also do much better, as while the younger loans are more from French and English, there are a LOT of Low German loanwords in the Scandinavian languages, something I became quite aware when I started learning German and realized that I could use my Danish knowledge to guess the meaning of lot of the words.

    Also tálsýn =/= talk-vision, that would be talsýn (pay attention to that diacritic)
    Tál means trickery or seduction, so perhaps trick-vision or something like that, a decent word for the meaning illusion, should "click" much better for you
    Ah, okay. I'm not aware of any similar thing to tál in Danish meaning trickery, but perhaps there is one.

    But I learnt a fair share of German before learning Danish are there are a /lot/ of words that that helped with. It seems to me that Swedish, oddly enough, has even more German loan words than Danish.

    But I have heard that Norwegians understand Icelandic best. Would you say that Norwegian is easiest to figure out? It makes sense to me since Norwegian sounds a lot more like Icelandic than the others, probably because Icelandic came from Old Norse in Norway (if I remember correctly)
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I can't answer from an Icelandic perspective, but from the Norwegian side. Norwegians generally don't understand Icelandic. We usually understand Swedish and Danish, but Icelandic is much more different from Norwegian. We understand some words, but not enough to read a text or understand spoken Icelandic.

    It is true that pronunciation creates an extra barrier between Danish and Icelandic (and between Danish and Norwegian). But even though pronunciation is more similar in Norwegian and Icelandic, that does not really help. The words are simply too different.
     

    Rafeind

    Member
    Icelandic - Iceland
    In my experience reading Danish is not impossible without ever learning it (or any other language at all). I mean I didn‘t read books in it or anything like that, but simple directions on sauce packages or Donald Duck comics I definitely could figure out (and well my mom did very much expect me to be able to do so as soon as I could read at all). The thing is we do learn Danish so it is difficult to know how much I would understand today had I never had Danish classes. Having already started English before I started Danish did help with some vocab, but there were only two years between them so in someways it was rather parallel. I did notice that having already learned Danish and English (even if I was nowhere near fluent in either) helped with German (knowing Icelandic grammar did to). But I can say with certainty that having learned Danish I can also read Norwegian and Swedish (of those two Norwegian is easier to read). I am also not sure if Danish is the Scandinavian language I understand best when spoken.
     

    justous

    Member
    English
    In my experience reading Danish is not impossible without ever learning it (or any other language at all). I mean I didn‘t read books in it or anything like that, but simple directions on sauce packages or Donald Duck comics I definitely could figure out (and well my mom did very much expect me to be able to do so as soon as I could read at all). The thing is we do learn Danish so it is difficult to know how much I would understand today had I never had Danish classes. Having already started English before I started Danish did help with some vocab, but there were only two years between them so in someways it was rather parallel. I did notice that having already learned Danish and English (even if I was nowhere near fluent in either) helped with German (knowing Icelandic grammar did to). But I can say with certainty that having learned Danish I can also read Norwegian and Swedish (of those two Norwegian is easier to read). I am also not sure if Danish is the Scandinavian language I understand best when spoken.
    Interesting that Icelanders are still so heavily immersed in Danish even so many years after independence. But Norwegian is certainly easier to read from a Danish prospective. But it seems that's just because they use a lot of the same writing tendencies, while Swedish seems to have been much more independent when developing their writing system.

    But for understanding spoken language, it varies a lot by dialect. Some dialects of Swedish/Norwegian are pretty easy, while others are less so

    Edit: And with Icelandic, I understand "ja" "nei" and "takk" when spoken and slightly more when written haha
     
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