The Sound of...Swedish

Mulliman

New Member
Sweden
Inspired by this: The sound of English thread.

Hello all,

A question that has always intrigued me is "What does English sound like to a foreigner?" I realise that there are many accents and I'm interested in all of them but I'm primarily interested in the sound of British English.

It's an interesting idea for a native as it is always just going to sound normal for them. I was hoping for answers like for example "to me French sounds very feminine" or "to me German sounds very macho" or something like that.

If possible I'd like to get lots of opinions on this from different nationalities.

Looking forward to your answers as usual,

Hoz
I started thinking and in my own reply, i wrote this:

Your question reminds me quite much of the dilemma i have; that of how Swedish sounds. It's a pain that you understand the language, but cant actually hear it. It's been said that it is melodic, but i seriously cant find how.
Anyone have an answer for this?

Realizing and being reminded that i was actually threadjacking, i decided to open a new thread about the subject.
As my question involves a rather minor issue, this thread could also be used for for example Spaniards, Italians, Chinese and whathaveyou to ask how foreigners perceive their languages. :)
 
  • Mulliman said:
    Your question reminds me quite much of the dilemma i have; that of how Swedish sounds. It's a pain that you understand the language, but cant actually hear it. It's been said that it is melodic, but i seriously cant find how.
    Anyone have an answer for this?
    As you are Swedish you probably know that we Finns think that the Swedes speak "singing" and the Swedes think that Finns speak "singing" (both Finnish and Finlands Swedish). It's all about the different intonation. American intonation is closer to Finnish intonation, and that's why we have more difficulties understanding BE than AE.
     
    Well, do you know the Swedish Chef, from the Muppets?... :D

    I'm kidding. I've heard Swedish a few times, and the Chef is very exaggerated. Real Swedish is spoken slower, and more softly. It sounds quiet, although with some slightly abrupt changes in the intonation (low note, high note; low note, high note...).
    We have a humorist who's imitated Swedish a few times. He did it by speaking very, very slowly, with very long vowels (esp. "ooooo" and "uuuuu") and a low voice, and acting very serious and sombre. Of course, what he was really imitating were Ingmar Bergman's films. ;)
    It does seem to be a bit sung, but, as Hakro said, people often describe any foreign language (and different accents) as being "sung". Still, in this case there may be some truth to that description, since Swedish is one of the few European languages with some tonal features.
     
    Well, I'm more used to hearing Norwegian than Swedish (or I should say Norwegians, since there's so much variety) and I find Swedish a little less sung than Norwegian sometimes is. But nevertheless, Swedish sounds generally pleasant to me, if at times a little slow and careful sounding. Both Norwegian and Swedish are easier on my ears than Danish, which, although it has a certain gentleness at times, seems back-of-the-mouth sounding. I have to work so hard to catch what is being said! Icelandic?--lots of firm character in the sound, it makes me feel like maybe I could endure long, dark, winter nights too if I had such strength in my language! Or at least with a little alcohol to help!
     
    I did my exchange in Norway and lived in Scandinavia for one year. Therefore, I got a chance to compare all these three languages (Swedish, Danish and Norwegian/actually Bokmål because I stayed in Oslo mainly)from an outsider perspectives. I would like to share my experiences here...:) ( and these are only my personal feeling..)

    I found that Norwegian cannot stop singing, and that is actually why I found this language attracting. As some people in this thread pointing out, Swedish is quite low and peaceful, with rather flat intonation. And Danish is kind of strong and rough in a way.

    I guess we Asian languages have quite different pronounciation system compared to Western languages....and it is fun for me during my exchange to be an outsider and just listen to the way people speaks. :D
     
    For me is soft, tranquil, non-articulated, I mean, I don't differenciate the words, the vowels, a soft flow just interrupted by what Outsider pointed out: high note, low note. Listening to it is pleasant.
     
    Thankyou for viewing my post and I have no objection to a bit of threadjacking its such an interesting topic area!
    Anyway I have to admit I completely disagree with Ana Raquel I have always thought it was very up-down up-down like a rollercoaster and generally happy sounding.
    I realise that was a ludicrously appalling reply but there you are. I don't think I've heard it enough and am therefore qualified to make a fuller reply.

    Happy "foruming"!!

    Holly
     
    I heard, one day near the swedish embassy in tunis, a swedish couple speaking and their language looked like the icelandic one, after all my conclusion was the following: i percieved it as a language of macho like german,danish and the slavic languages.
     
    Yes, soft and gentle and "high note, low note". This is almost purely from Sven Goran Eriksson! It sounds lovely to me. The way you might talk softly to a child.
     
    emma42 said:
    Yes, soft and gentle and "high note, low note". This is almost purely from Sven Goran Eriksson! It sounds lovely to me. The way you might talk softly to a child.
    He is as soft as his tactics who led "the three lions" to a defeat against the portuguese.
     
    Hi...

    When I was on a course in Germany years ago, there were a number of Swedes participating amongst other nationalities. I walked into the seminar room one day and heard the Swedish group all speaking Swedish, but momentarily thought they were speaking English until I listened more closely. There is definitely a similarity between the two languages. It is a pleasant-sounding language to anglophone ears.
     
    A long time ago, before the era of the Internet, a local Polish radio station retransmitted Swedish music radio. I understood almost nothing of what the announcers were saying, but I liked to listen to the language itself. For me, it's a prettier "version of English" :)
     
    but momentarily thought they were speaking English until I listened more closely. There is definitely a similarity between the two languages. It is a pleasant-sounding language to anglophone ears.
    but I liked to listen to the language itself. For me, it's a prettier "version of English" :)
    I agree that Swedish is a pleasant-sounding language but I'm surprised it could be seen similar to or even mistaken for English.
    Swedish intonation (or is that the pitch accent?) is really distinctive and it makes the language sound unlike any other.
    Okay, except Norwegian maybe... :)
     
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    When I listen to a Scandinavian language, what gives away it's Swedish is the distinct nasalised /i/, in fact I was watching Vikings Vallhalla recently and I noticed that the female protagonist playing the role of Freydis had a distinct nasalised pronunciation of the vowel although she spoke English. When I first heard it, I remember I immediately thought to myself "she must be Swedish" and she indeed is (Frida Gustavsson)!
     
    Few years ago I started my first contact with Swedish. It was easy to see that Swedish as a Germanic language has similarities with English, German, Dutch etc. The Swedish intonation is something special about this language. Also, the pronunciation of some combinations is unique and something that gave/gives me a hard time, e.g. tj, ke, ki, sj, sk, sk etc. :)
    The thread is about the sound of Swedish but I think Norwegian is similar on this issue. Isn't it true?
     
    When I listen to a Scandinavian language, what gives away it's Swedish is the distinct nasalised /i/, in fact I was watching Vikings Vallhalla recently and I noticed that the female protagonist playing the role of Freydis had a distinct nasalised pronunciation of the vowel although she spoke English. When I first heard it, I remember I immediately thought to myself "she must be Swedish" and she indeed is (Frida Gustavsson)!
    The nasalised /i/ isn't common in all Swedish dialects, but one region where it's typical is Stockholm, especially in what has been considered as a "posh" Stockholm dialect. As the Stockholm dialect/sociolect was considered as being the "correct" way to speak Swedish for a very long time, it means that many people picked up that way of speaking when they moved there. In the case of Frida Gustavsson, she was born in Stockholm.
     
    @AutumnOwl Is the Swedish spoken in the various regions of Sweden very different? For instance, do Stockholm/Malmo/Gothenburg have very distinct dialects? Tak!
    There are differences in the different Swedish dialects, but I'd say they are not as distinct as they once were. Here's a page from Gothenburg University with sound clips from all parts of Sweden, as well as from Swedish-speaking Finland. There are four examples from each place: older woman; older man; younger woman; younger man. You find the places under "Välj ett landskap eller en ort".
    Våra svenska dialekter - SweDia 2000

    There are several videos on YouTube of Swedish dialects, and there is one where a man imitates 50 Swedish dialects, from south to north and over to Finland. You can find him if you search "Gurra Imiterar svenska dialecter". He has also a video with foreign languages, including French, Greek, and British English.
     
    It would make sense that on the border areas between Sweden-Denmark-Norway hybrid dialects could have developed. They are similar languages after all.

    Sweden and Norway formed a union until the beginning of the 20th century. Denmark and Norway also had been linked in the past. This could contribute to mutual influence.

    In deep southern Sweden, Copenhagen is much closer than Stockholm so if they want a taste of urban life they might well go over to Denmark, making the language less foreign, more normal.
     
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    Back in the 90s, one of my Hungarian friends who could speak Swedish said that people in southern Sweden spoke "almost Danish". :)

    Was that an exaggeration?
    Yes, it's exaggeration, even there are some similarities, but the Scanian dialect have also linguistic connections to French and German, see here:
    Därför låter skånskan som den gör
    It would make sense that on the border areas between Sweden-Denmark-Norway hybrid dialects could have developed. They are similar languages after all.

    Sweden and Norway formed a union until the beginning of the 20th century. Denmark and Norway also had been linked in the past. This could contribute to mutual influence.

    In deep southern Sweden, Copenhagen is much closer than Stockholm so if they want a taste of urban life they might well go over to Denmark, making the language less foreign, more normal.
    Well, it's not just "deep southern Sweden" that is closer to Copenhagen than to Stockholm. You can draw a line from Gothenburg on the west coast towards Jönköping at the southern end of Lake Vättern, and then a diagonal line down to Kalmar on the east coast, and Copenhagen is closer than Stockholm in travel time (well, 20 minutes shorter travel time to Stockholm from Jönköping).
    From Gothenburg it's as close to Copenhagen as it is to Oslo, about 3,5 hours to either city, and to Stockholm it takes about 5,5 hours.
     
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    The pronunciation of the letter r can be very different from word to word, sometimes you hear it, in other words it 'disappears', especially in the combinations with -rt and -rs.
    Listen to the r in these words:
    Öre - Uttal för Öre (från Han har inte ett rött öre till ett öre)
    Ört - ört pronunciation: How to pronounce ört in Swedish, Old Turkic
    Kors - Uttal för Kors på svenska (från kors och tvärs till i kors)
    Fors - Uttal för Fors (från Fors Clavigera till Fors Clavigera) This is not the usual pronunciation, it should be similar with the word above, this sounds more like someone speaking Finland Swedish.
     
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