Swedish & Norwegian similarities

Moorland

Member
English - England
By chance I found a web page a couple of days ago called "My Languages dot org slash norwegian" about practising reading Norwegian and was very pleasantly surprised to be able to understand about 60-70% of it straight off, as I'd always had problems understanding spoken Norwegian. Is it the same for Norwegians listening to Swedish ?

Anyway I'm now very interested in learning Norwegian as well and would like to listen to Bokmal which apparently is the easiest, also would welcome any tips and what to do and not to do. I suppose it's the same as listening to a very strong and broad Scottish accent....?
 
  • MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Some words are false friends though, so just make sure you keep context in mind if something looks as if it doesn't make sense. The word "rolig" for example means "fun" in Swedish but "calm" in Norwegian. Prime candidate to slow my brain down while deciphering context.

    Sad to say I find Norwegians are better at Swedish than vice versa. I attribute that to me and my peers being lazy in school. :-(
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    Thanks will take heed, as for Scottish it just reminded me of "och aye the nu bairn" whatever that means....:D
     
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    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Sad to say I find Norwegians are better at Swedish than vice versa. I attribute that to me and my peers being lazy in school. :-(
    Also, historically Swedish TV was more exciting and plentiful than Norwegian. So many Norwegians in the regions close to the Swedish border used to watch Swedish TV. A lot of the more popular stuff was in English with local subtitles anyway. The incentives were not so great for Swedes to watch Norwegian TV, and I don't think it was so easy for the more densely populated Swedish regions to pick it up.

    Typically Norwegians speak with their local accents and dialects, which may be closer or further away from one of the written norms - bokmål or nynorsk. I am not sure that any form of Norwegian is intrinsically easier or more difficult than another, but when learning it certainly helps to focus on one written norm, and one way of speaking. Bokmål, and the spoken language Norwegian of educated Oslo speakers, would be a sensible choice for most learners.
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    Yes I've heard about the TV reasons before but what's the difference between bokmål and nynorsk ? Also can you understand Swedish and/or Norwegian ?
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Yes I've heard about the TV reasons before but what's the difference between bokmål and nynorsk ?
    That cannot be answered quickly from scratch. I suggest you try google first, and come back here if you have more detailed questions.
    Also can you understand Swedish and/or Norwegian ?
    I understand Norwegian pretty well. And, despite not ever having studied Swedish I can understand a little Swedish. But I would not be able to speak or write it - not in proper sentences at least.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I'm now very interested in learning Norwegian as well
    Do you mean that you want to learn to speak and write Norwegian? I imagine that it is difficult to learn Norwegian and Swedish at the same time. Because the languages are so similar, I suppose that you will easily mix them up. If your aim is to learn to understand written and spoken Norwegian, that will probably be a much easier task.

    what's the difference between bokmål and nynorsk ?
    Both are standards for written Norwegian. Very short and simplified: Danish was the written language in Norway after 400 years of Danish rule. There were two competing strategies for creating a written Norwegian language after independence from Denmark. One was to Norwegianize the existing Danish written language. That resulted in Bokmål. The other strategy was to create a completely new written standard on the basis of Norwegian dialects. That resulted in Nynorsk.

    I am not sure that any form of Norwegian is intrinsically easier or more difficult than another,
    I agree. Regarding written standards: From a Swedish starting point, Nynorsk are in some ways more similar to Swedish, maybe because it is less influenced by Danish. But on the other hand, Nynorsk is mainly based on Western dialects, which probably are more different from Swedish than Eastern or Northern dialects are (because of the geographical distance). In any case, Bokmål is the majority language (used by around 85-90 %) so you will come across Bokmål more often.

    Spoken Norwegian: Yes, it makes sense to focus on the Oslo dialect, also because Oslo is near the Swedish border and therefore probably more similar to Swedish, compared with many other dialects.

    Sad to say I find Norwegians are better at Swedish than vice versa.
    That's my impression, too.

    I attribute that to me and my peers being lazy in school. :-(
    No, not really. I agree with winenous about the TV situation. In addition, Norwegians are probably more exposed to Swedish through Swedish music (with Swedish lyrics), movies and TV series, than the other way around. So I suppose we should blame Swedish cultural imperialism.:)

    the spoken language Norwegian of educated Oslo speakers
    I agree with everything you say, winenous, except this. The concept of "educated speakers" sounds odd from a Norwegian point of view, or even condescending (it looks like you assume that people from the eastern part of Oslo are "uneducated").
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England




    I'm now very interested in learning Norwegian as well.
    Do you mean that you want to learn to speak and write Norwegian? I imagine that it is difficult to learn Norwegian and Swedish at the same time. Because the languages are so similar, I suppose that you will easily mix them up. If your aim is to learn to understand written and spoken Norwegian, that will probably be a much easier task.
    Firstly and in answer to your quoted question I didn't fully realise to begin with as in my first post, that Bokmål and Nynorsk applied only to writing thinking they were spoken variants instead, so now things are a lot clearer and straighforwards.

    Since then it's been getting much easier because having already lived in Stockholm (Jakobsberg) for a few years and since spent the last 3 or 4 years improving it on line I'm now able to read Swedish quite easily, and well into for example a very interesting Swedish book by Jan Bergman called "Sekretererarklubben" about life in Stockholm roughly between 1940 and 1945 dealing mainly with Swedish women acting as spies.

    This is why I was so surprised to suddenly be able to understand about 60% - 70% of Norwegian out of the blue as up till then I'd never been able to understand a word and why naturally I now really want to improve it. The object to be able to firstly understand the written and spoken word with the help of the many useful learning Norwegian websites at the same time as watching lots of Norwegian films and chat shows etc., so I guess having absorbed Swedish for so many years learning Norwegian should'nt be too much of problem providing I stick to the Oslo area....?
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I agree with everything you say, winenous, except this. The concept of "educated speakers" sounds odd from a Norwegian point of view, or even condescending (it looks like you assume that people from the eastern part of Oslo are "uneducated").
    It was a (misquoted) phrase from a Norwegian course by Einar Haugen and Kenneth Chapman, which dates back to the 1940s, and was old even when I used it!

    In fact the introduction to the book says that the written form in the book reflects "the speech of the more educated segments of the Norwegian population", and "an approximation to the informal speech of cultivated but not fussy people in Oslo". I am not sure if that makes it any better, and in any case many things have changed since then, including education.

    I did pause before committing to the phrase "educated speaker", and my intention was certainly not to be condescending. But on reflection I am still not sure what I could use as a better alternative. I am not convinced that east or west Oslo is the important factor in determining what foreigners should use as a model for speaking Norwegian. What would you suggest as an alternative?
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    The object to be able to firstly understand the written and spoken word with the help of the many useful learning Norwegian websites at the same time as watching lots of Norwegian films and chat shows etc., so I guess having absorbed Swedish for so many years learning Norwegian should'nt be too much of problem providing I stick to the Oslo area....?
    Yes, that should work. And there is no contradiction between learning to understand Oslo dialects and other dialects. If you understand the Norwegian spoken in Oslo, it will also be easier to understand other dialects.

    The problem with using films to learn Norwegian is that actors try to avoid speaking "theatrical". They want to speak natural, and sometimes they mumble so that even native speakers have problems understanding them. So if you watch films and TV series, subtitles will be very useful, or even necessary.

    You could also watch Norwegian TV news. The news anchors are instructed to speak clearly, and keep their spoken language close to either written Bokmål or Nynorsk. You find the main daily TV news from the public service broadcaster NRK here, and you can even switch on Norwegian subtitles:
    NRK TV – Dagsrevyen

    "the speech of the more educated segments of the Norwegian population", and "an approximation to the informal speech of cultivated but not fussy people in Oslo"
    This is hilarious! Today these phrases are comical, but this was probably the standard approach to Norwegian language up to the 1970s. At that time, people who moved to Oslo to study at the university were supposed to get rid of their dialects. This changed around the 1970s, and the use of dialects is now accepted and encouraged. But not completely - some dialects are still looked down on, while others are more prestigious.

    Of course, I understand that you did not mean to be condescending. But the problem with the concept "educated speech" seems to presume:
    - a) that there is a standard norm for spoken Norwegian, and that those who have higher education follow that norm
    - b) that those who don't follow this norm are "uneducated".

    That is simply not the case in Norway today.

    I am not convinced that east or west Oslo is the important factor in determining what foreigners should use as a model for speaking Norwegian. What would you suggest as an alternative?
    The difference between east and west Oslo is not as strong as it used to be. Anyway, I am not really sure if there is a single model. That depends on your situation. If you move to Norway from abroad, and learn Norwegian somewhere in Norway, the local dialect will come natural because you are surrounded by people who speak that dialect. Your teacher will probably also speak that dialect. If you learn Norwegian outside of Norway, you just have to follow the model used by your teacher or in your teaching materials.
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    You could also watch Norwegian TV news. The news anchors are instructed to speak clearly, and keep their spoken language close to either written Bokmål or Nynorsk. You find the main daily TV news from the public service broadcaster NRK here, and you can even switch on Norwegian subtitles:

    Yes quite easy to follow what they were saying as you said, also finding it very helpful to combine the spoken word with the Norwegian text simultaneously, sounding a little like Skånske in places too. Looking forwards to finding some good films next thanks a lot ! :)
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    @raumer - I'd love to continue this discussion with you, but I feel we are talking past each other and are unlikely to reach agreement online. I think it would be a lot easier to discuss face-to-face. Anyway, I send my best wishes for now, and thank you for your contributions here
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    You could also watch Norwegian TV news. The news anchors are instructed to speak clearly, and keep their spoken language close to either written Bokmål or Nynorsk. You find the main daily TV news from the public service broadcaster NRK here, and you can even switch on Norwegian subtitles:

    Yes quite easy to follow what they were saying as you said, also finding it very helpful to combine the spoken word with the Norwegian text simultaneously, sounding a little like Skånske in places too. Looking forwards to finding some good films next thanks a lot ! :)
    Yes, I agree about the news. Not only the anchors, but many of the people interviewed also often speak a very clear Norwegian - however you might want to describe it ;)
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    Yes, I agree about the news. Not only the anchors, but many of the people interviewed also often speak a very clear Norwegian - however you might want to describe it ;)
    I can't remember what you once said about your Swedish other than I think you hadn't gone into it much, either way it sounds as though we might both be in the same experience boat ? If so then you might be able to understand some of the following....?

    "Envar har rätt till undervisning. Undervisningen skall vara kostnadsfri, åtminstone på de elementära och grundläggande stadierna. Den elementära undervisningen skall vara obligatorisk. Yrkesundervisning och teknisk undervisning skall vara allmänt tillgänglig. Den högre undervisningen skall stå öppen i lika mån för alla på grundval av deras duglighet.

    Undervisningen skall syfta till personlighetens fulla utveckling och till att stärka respekten för människans grundläggande fri- och rättigheter. Undervisningen skall främja förståelse, tolerans och vänskap mellan alla nationer, rasgrupper och religiösa grupper samt befordra Förenta Nationernas verksamhet för fredens bevarande.

    Rätten att välja den undervisning, som skall ges åt barnen, tillkommer i främsta rummet deras föräldrar."

    ______________

    Finally having problems on how to pronounce the last 3 letters in the Norwegian alphabet å ø æ. Are they in the same order and have the same pronounciation as in Swedish å ä ö ?
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Finally having problems on how to pronounce the last 3 letters in the Norwegian alphabet å ø æ. Are they in the same order and have the same pronounciation as in Swedish å ä ö ?
    The alphabetical order is different - in Norwegian it is "æ ø å". But if you rearrange the order, you will find that it is more or less the same letters.

    You can pronounce the Norwegian "å" as the Swedish "å", and the Norwegian "ø" almost as the Swedish "ö".

    Æ/ä is a bit more complicated. I am sure that a Swedish speaker can explain this better than me, and there may be variations between dialects, but the Swedish letter ä is pronounced differently in different words. In some words, for example "rätt", "ä" is pronounced almost like a Norwegian/Swedish "e". (Many of these words are actually spelt with an "e" in Norwegian; Swedish "rätt" = Norwegian "rett"). In some other words, such as "här" and "när", "ä" has a more distinct sound - more similar to the "a" in English "bad". The Norwegian æ is usually pronounced more like in English "bad", with only a few exceptions.
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Hi @Moorland

    I have never studied Swedish, but some of my best friends in Norway were Swedish, and I have travelled there a fair amount.

    I feel I can get most of the sentences in your text, but can never be absolutely sure, and a few words I definitely do not understand. The general purpose of the text is clear
     
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    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Sad to say I find Norwegians are better at Swedish than vice versa. I attribute that to me and my peers being lazy in school. :-(
    No, not really. I agree with winenous about the TV situation. In addition, Norwegians are probably more exposed to Swedish through Swedish music (with Swedish lyrics), movies and TV series, than the other way around. So I suppose we should blame Swedish cultural imperialism.:)
    I suppose one thing doesn't exclude the other, but my main point was really that me and my peers really were lazy in school. Norwegian was mandatory for at least some amount of time and none of us cared. Silly and dumb.
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    Hi Winenous do you still have problems understanding a lot of accents, as whilst I'm OK now with the Oslo accent nearly all of the rest are still almost unintelligible....
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    I think many people struggle with heavier accents in general actually. To me it's a matter of having a musical ear (for lack of better wording), paying attention, but also being exposed to some relatively neutral form of the language to a pretty large degree. I definitely feel like it's easier to pick up on differences between accents the better you are at the more neutral one, if there is such a thing. So it almost feels like the difference shrink a bit as you hear more of a language whereas in the beginning they seem pretty large. With more experience you more easily pick up on the patterns and infer meaning and get more correct interpretations.

    So for context I'll just say that there was a time when I had some problems understanding people from the south of Sweden simply because their accent was fairly heavy, and they sometimes used words I wouldn't use. I mean, some of the sounds they produce feel like they are closer to Danish than... "neutral" Swedish, which would be understandable. And by extension I find Danish very hard to understand mostly because I can't understand which words they are using, whereas if I read Danish I get much further.

    PS: Don't take offense at my choice of words above, I'm just trying to come up with a way of getting my point across.
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    Thanks a lot Matthias no problem at all that's fine and can follow your idea, rather like ripples in a pond each time becoming a bit clearer as time passes using the News readers as the base line. Watching sit coms at the moment however when they laugh I have to go back a few times just to get the joke ! :)
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Hi Winenous do you still have problems understanding a lot of accents, as whilst I'm OK now with the Oslo accent nearly all of the rest are still almost unintelligible....
    Absolutely, but it depends on the speaker and the region too.

    Actually a colleague from Finnmark, and a TV newsreader from Ålesund, were two of the first people I understood reasonably well.

    But on another occasion when travelling around on a trip from the UK I once feared my Norwegian was going downhill, only to discover it "magically improved" on reaching Oslo.
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    Lol....:)

    I remember when I was in a restaurant in Bergen in the Eighties I ordered a steak and chips but couldn't understand a word the ancient waiter said until I pointed to a picture of it on the menu whereupon he started gurgling angrily, so I kept politely nodding yes to everything until fortunately a waitress who spoke excellent English told him what we wanted. Then as I was leaving he mumbled something angrily to me under his breath and shuffled off in a real huff, so seeing the same waitress asked her what he was saying. She said she wasn't sure either but giggling said we all call him "The Strangled Gurgles" as he would either immediately fly off the handle or start singing to whoever was playing that night, as this was the period when amateur rock bands with weird names were everywhere.
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    Definitely see what is meant by so many Norwegian dialects the subtitles are no help at all, so by contrast is it much easier for Norwegians to understand every day Swedish ? Or is it just easier to speak in English...?
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    No, not really. I agree with winenous about the TV situation. In addition, Norwegians are probably more exposed to Swedish through Swedish music (with Swedish lyrics), movies and TV series, than the other way around. So I suppose we should blame Swedish cultural imperialism.:)
    I think the Norwegian series Skam is pretty popular in Sweden.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    so by contrast is it much easier for Norwegians to understand every day Swedish ?
    I think it is. One argument is that because we have all those dialects in Norway, we are more used to hearing and understanding people who speak differently. In this perspective, Swedish is like just another Norwegian dialect.

    Se also this news story:
    Nordmenn best på nabospråkene

    I also think that Norwegians have less problems with Swedish dialects (except the Skåne dialect). Stockholm is actually further away from Norway, geographically, than most other parts of Sweden (except Skåne) are. Therefore, many Swedish dialects are somewhere between Stckholm Swedish and Norwegian. For me (and probably for other people from the Oslo area), the Göteborg dialect, for example, sounds more familiar than Stockholm Swedish.

    I think the Norwegian series Skam is pretty popular in Sweden.
    I meant to say that Norwegians have been exposed to Swedish popular culture more or less continously, through many decades, Skam is very recent, from 2015-2017. It remains to be seen whether that series created some kind of permanent breakthrough for Norwegian popular culture in Sweden, but I don't really think so.
     

    Moorland

    Member
    English - England
    Interesting article, including Icelandic and possibly the Faroes and Greenland as well....?

    In fact when you think about it this probably has to be the case down the centuries with most languages in adjacent countries as well, for example Scottish, Irish, and Welsh probably just the same as the Nordic countries.

    On the other hand you can get big disparities such as the ancient Cornish language probably Celtic in west Cornwall, which managed to survive right up until about the early 19th Century before almost dying out with a strong revival of interest in it again today. Ditto the Basque countries and so on….?

    I often refer to interesting lectures on all these old languages on you tube, in particular by world expert Professor Barry Cunliffe who in fact illustrates this particular centuries old Celtic survival in a detailed lecture entering “Barry Cunliffe: Who Were the Celts?”
     
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