Norwegian: Is simultaneous exposure to Danish and Swedish a problem?

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Briareus, Dec 15, 2014.

  1. Briareus New Member


    I have a question especially for Norwegian-speakers but also for speakers of the other Scandinavian languages. I am aware of the existing threads about mutual intelligibility, but my question has to do with how to deal with that intelligibility. I am a bilingual English-French speaker, but this is an attempt to add a third language.

    I am learning Norwegian because of its position between Swedish and Danish, as well as a personal friendship with a Norwegian person. My goal is to have access to the cultural worlds of all three of those languages, not necessarily to the same degree of comfort, but functionally able to understand 80-90% of each when I watch a film or read a book (with a dictionary handy, of course). In terms of speaking, I only expect to speak Norwegian, certainly at first.

    I am currently using Teach Yourself Norwegian and Babbel Norwegian, as well as listening to a lot of radio in Norwegian even when I only understand little bits of it. I'm hoping the radio will be one metric of improving comprehension, and will help me speak with a good accent and intonation.

    The thing is, I am also using Duolingo Danish and reading subtitles of English-language computer games or films in Danish when they don't exist in Norwegian. Similarly, I play a Swedish vocab-learning computer game and watch Swedish-language films with English or French subtitles. The basic point is that I leap at the chance to watch or listen to media in any of the three languages.

    Should I be worried about mixing them up? What would be the reaction if I were to go about in these countries speaking some kind of hybrid of them? My idea is that I would keep on in this way, focusing on expressing myself in Norwegian while having additional exposure to Danish and Swedish. I figure if I'm solid on how Norwegian spells and pronounces the words common to Scandinavian languages, and favor those in my own usage, I should be alright.

    Any advice appreciated.

    Tusen takk,

  2. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Sounds good.

    Scandinavians, when not speaking English, often use some kind of hybrid when communicating with each other.
  3. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Yes, but if your plan is to speak in future a fairly correct Norwegian you should learn Norwegian first. Then you can try to speak a hybrid, knowing what language the singular words or expressions come from. Norwegians use sometimes quotations from Swedish, and I usually recognize them as Swedish, an not a Norwegian dialect.
    Example: "från början".
  4. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    No. These are in essence variants of the same language. There are lexical differences, but few that will lead to major misunderstandings.

    I do not think that will be a problem. You will most likely speak the language with an accent anyway, so you should not worry about mixing them.
  5. Grefsen

    Grefsen Senior Member

    Southern California
    English - United States
    I also listen to Norwegian radio and even though I still don't understand a lot of what is being said, my comprehension of spoken Norwegian seems to be gradually improving. :) I also like to watch a lot of Scandinavian films and feel like listening to spoken Danish or Swedish while reading the English subtitles has if anything actually helped my Norwegian improve because the three languages have so much in common.
  6. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Depends on how you are learning. If you focus on pinpointing the differences while listening, it is totally OK. If you have a problem with simultaneous exposure to Danish and Swedish, stay away from Copenhagen - especially now that they have the bridge/tunnel connection.
  7. verdas gong

    verdas gong Member

    Hindi and Nynorsk
    But it is not too dissimilar to frå byrjing.
  8. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    But distinct anyway.
  9. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Absolutely agree.
    No. They are different languages, but they are similar and have a common origin.
  10. Briareus New Member

    Yeah, I was trying out the new Duolingo Swedish recently, and I found that there were substantial differences. One striking thing is how, although "man" and "woman" are basically the same for all three, each language has unique words for "boy" and "girl": in Danish "dreng" and "pige", in Swedish "pojke" and "flicka", and in Norwegian "gutt" and "jente". Weird, huh? And that's a pretty general characteristic of these languages, from what I've seen so far: one minute they're identical and the next they're clearly distinct.

    I am also getting used to seeing written Swedish. It's substantially different from Danish or Norwegian, so I have to get used to how the sounds line up with the orthography. Some differences in word endings, too.

    Overall, I still feel that I'll be able to handle exposure to all three and practice noticing the differences between them, but it is a substantial task. I sometimes get discouraged that I can't yetunderstand most of what I hear on the radio, but then I remember that my Scandinavian language obsession is fairly recent. It'll probably be at least a year before I am truly comfortable, unless I get over to Norway (doubtful for now). Thanks for your opinions!
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2014
  11. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    The Swedish words piga and dräng are archaic meaning female and male farmworker respectively. Jänta is archaic/dialectal meaning girl. :)
  12. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    The reason of this is that they seldom learn each other's languages in depth, deeming it largely unnecessary, even when living in another Scandinavian country. Strangely enough, they often write much better. i know Swedes living in Norway speaking Svorsk (Swedish-Norwegian), but writing perfect Bokmål.
  13. mexerica feliz

    mexerica feliz Senior Member

    português nordestino
    But many Norwegians find the word kvinne old-fashioned (just as old-fashioned as pike), and use dame instead,
    it's because the female forms of kvinne: ei kvinne - kvinna are inexistant except for Nynorsk usage while female forms of dame: ei dame, dama are extremely common.
    You can hear dama in every Norwegian village and city (except for Bergen which lacks the female gender).

    en mann og ei dame
    mannen og dama

    You don't hear young Swedes avoiding kvinna and preferring dam...
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014
  14. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Indeed. In Swedish the situation is somewhat reversed, which brings us back to the original conclusion. Learning to understand two (or more) Scandinavian languages simultaneously is possible, but the differences in vocabulary usage will more or less force to focus un learning to write/speak one at a time.
  15. Grefsen

    Grefsen Senior Member

    Southern California
    English - United States
    I just noticed that you became a member of WordReference last week so "Welcome to the Nordic Language Forum, Briareus!"

    Velkommen til nordiske språkforumet, Briareus! :)
    Listening and absorbing is how children first start to learn a language before they can actually start speaking. Short of traveling to Norway and totally immersing yourself in the Norwegian language, the internet provides a lot of options for you to create your own immersion environment wherever you are. Along with listening to Norwegian radio (which I'm doing right now :) ), you can also watch Norwegian television, as well as Norwegian films online. You can also use Skype to practice speaking norsk with native Norwegian speakers too. :thumbsup:
  16. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    You should look into the basics of all three when you want to learn one. Simply to be able to distinguish which is which instantly when you read or hear something that sounds familiar. Like, is it some dialect or is it really one of the other languages?
  17. Briareus New Member

    Thanks for the replies. I will focus on Norwegian, while noting differences that I come across in Danish and Swedish. I think it would be really fascinating if someone were to compile a list (or, better, a detailed vocab review) of the most frequently-used words that are common to all three languages. That way I could focus on learning those words first, and then move on to the Norwegian-specific words later. Granted, some basic words are different, but it would be cool nonetheless.

    I'm sorry if this has been discussed elsewhere but, since the Scandinavian languages have a number of dialects, and since Norwegian in particular has no official standard, how do I know which pronunciation to adopt? Is a mishmash okay? I'm curious a) which dialects are best understood throughout Scandinavia and which (other than Danish) are difficult, and b) which dialects or accents have more or less prestige, or evoke particular associations/stereotypes.

    I am sure that I will adopt whatever accent or dialect I encounter when I actually go to Scandinavia, but for now I'll just be picking the features that I find most pleasant to the ear or easy to use. For example, in the word stasjon (station), I will pronounce it sta-shon rather than sta-hoon - that pronunciation of words is less weird to me, and I guess it's mainly a Swedish thing to use the latter pronunciation. I haven't yet decided on whether to use alveolar (tapped) R or uvular (throat) R. I am more used to the R that is similar to the standard French or German R, but tapping the R is fun despite it being a bit harder for me now. I think I was reading that even the same native speaker can vary in their pronunciation of R from case to case, and I guess I go back and forth between those two Rs according to which way I learned it from my language programs. Sometimes it's hardly even pronounced as far as I can tell.

    These are just examples of some of the things I am thinking about. Matters of vocab choice will emerge as I progress further. I'll end in saying that I prefer the look of Norwegian orthography, with just the three vowels not in English and no trema/umlaut. I think I read that it's somewhat more phonetic than Swedish. Norwegian and Danish are written similarly, so they both look nice to me, but I do think Danish overuses the letter æ. This is purely based on how aesthetically pleasant I find the look of the writing, nothing deeper.
  18. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    There is also the word tjej used about women, even middle-aged women use it about themselves and others, we have tjejkväll and tjejmiddag with our female friends, not damkväll or dammiddag (you can't replace dam with kvinna here).
  19. raumar Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    My advice would be to just be pragmatic: adopt the dialect that is used in your textbooks and learning materials, whatever that is. I suppose that it will be some kind of Oslo West dialect/sociolect. Danes will probably understand the dialects of Eastern and Southern Norway best. I am not so sure about the Swedes. Norway and Sweden share a long border, and the difference between the Norwegian and Swedish dialects on each side of the border is often small.

    Traditionally, the Norwegian spoken in Western Oslo has been the most prestigious. Oslo has the advantage of being the capital, and the distinction between the West End and East End is related to social class: middle class in the West, working class in the East. Some dialects are more prestigious than others, but the "ranking" may depend on who you ask. The dialects of Eastern Norway (around Oslo) have traditionally had less prestige. Fortunately (except for foreigners who learn Norwegian!), use of different dialects has become much more accepted over time.

    Don't worry about your R's! Native English speakers often maintain their own R's, even if they otherwise speak almost perfect Norwegian. An English, American or French R will be recognized and understood as an R by Norwegians, and it can't cause any misunderstandings.

    If you try to understand Swedish and Danish in adddition to learning Norwegian, you should be aware of those words that mean different (or even opposite) things in these languages. For example:

    "rolig", which means "calm" in Norwegian and Danish and "funny" in Swedish
    "glass"; "glass" in Norwegian, "ice cream" in Swedish
    "må"; "must" in Norwegian, can also mean "may" in Danish
    "grine"; "cry" in Norwegian, "laugh" in Danish'
    ... and so on ...
  20. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    A language is a dialect with an army and a navy (sait somebody else in this forum.)

    Once I heard a British linguist say that it was only a political think that English wasn't considered a Danish dialect. It is really a matter of opinion, what you call a dialect and what you call a different languag. I would call them different languages. But to me Plattdeutsch is also a languag in its own right and so are all the regional variations of Italian, although they are officially considered dialects in Italy.

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