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Which Scandinavian language to study?

 Language Learning Forum : Skandinavisk & Nordisk Post Reply
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LanguageSponge
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 Message 9 of 169
03 November 2009 at 12:08am | IP Logged 
At some point in the future, I will learn one of the Scandinavian languages. My reasons for being drawn them are not even particularly clear to me. I guess that I like the way they are written, and my father did business in Sweden a few years back. From what I can see, at least some of them are fairly similar to English and German - I am a native speaker of English and I did German at A level which just continues to get better, so if that would help in learning any of them, that'd be great. I guess that ultimately I have two questions

Firstly, as once you have learned one of the Scandinavian languages it is supposedly easy enough to understand and pick up the others, which of these would be helped most by my knowledge of English and German in picking it up as fast as possible? I suppose that they are written fairly similarly, although to me Swedish seems to have a lot more diacritics than the others, but perhaps this is just my imagination, so perhaps I am mostly talking about pronunciation? I am indeed one of these people who has spent so long trying to decide which one he wants to learn that I could have been done with at least one by now :]

Secondly, which of the Scandinavian languages is understood most widely across all of the Scandinavian countries? I have heard that the pronunciation of Danish is quite different from that of Norwegian or Swedish, but does that necessarily mean that it is less comprehensible? I'd love to read your opinions on this.

Thanks.
Jack

Edited by LanguageSponge on 03 November 2009 at 12:44am

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jeff_lindqvist
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 Message 10 of 169
03 November 2009 at 2:16am | IP Logged 
Speak "standard" Swedish or Norwegian and you will be understood in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Swedish-speaking parts of Finland, and possible the Faroe islands and Iceland too.

Edited by jeff_lindqvist on 03 November 2009 at 2:16am

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LanguageSponge
Triglot
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 Message 11 of 169
03 November 2009 at 4:55am | IP Logged 
In terms of "standard" Norwegian I assume this means bokmål, right? In terms of Swedish, I have no idea what that means. In the seemingly minor differences which exist between the Scandinavian languages, would English and German be more helpful for one over another? Also, when visiting, say, Sweden or Denmark, would people from either of those countries be bothered that I would be speaking Norwegian and not Swedish/Danish?

Thanks

Jack
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jeff_lindqvist
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 Message 12 of 169
03 November 2009 at 5:00pm | IP Logged 
With "standard" I mean a somewhat neutral accent, without any particular pronunciation deviations.

Whether this is Bokmål for Norwegian, I cannot say, since I don't know how Bokmål sounds, only how it looks in writing. To me, Norwegian is Norwegian is Norwegian... but people have regional accents and very local vocabulary (as in every language). Standard Swedish is (to me) any accent you can hear on radio and television, including "neutral" regional ones.

Nobody will be bothered if you speak any of the languages in any of the other countries, as long as you speak clearly.
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LanguageSponge
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 Message 13 of 169
03 November 2009 at 7:04pm | IP Logged 
Quote:
Nobody will be bothered if you speak any of the languages in any of the other countries, as long as you speak clearly.


In which case, my choice will just be a question of which will be easier to learn considering I am a native English speaker and speak German more or less fluently. I imagine that the grammar of the Scandinavian languages is largely the same, at least in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish and perhaps Icelandic? I assume that Finnish grammar is very different? I assume that the vast majority of vocabulary is related to German and English?

Thanks

Jack
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cordelia0507
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 Message 14 of 169
03 November 2009 at 7:27pm | IP Logged 
Jack - In order to find out more about the different spellings of Norwegian, see the thread by Lizzern in this lounge.

I totally second what Jeff said, just pick whichever one of the languages you think sounds the best, or which has a culture / business / history that interests you.

Finnish is a completely different language, the grammar is from another planet! Finnish can not be understood by other Scandinavians. It sounds beautiful, but it is one of the weirdest languages in Europe and it is not useful anywhere other than in Finland. Some people are attracked to it as a curiousity due to how different it sounds and looks. However everything in Finland is dual-signed in Swedish. Most people can speak English and Swedisht too.




Edited by cordelia0507 on 03 November 2009 at 7:43pm

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Chung
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 Message 15 of 169
04 November 2009 at 12:48am | IP Logged 
LanguageSponge wrote:
Quote:
Nobody will be bothered if you speak any of the languages in any of the other countries, as long as you speak clearly.


In which case, my choice will just be a question of which will be easier to learn considering I am a native English speaker and speak German more or less fluently. I imagine that the grammar of the Scandinavian languages is largely the same, at least in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish and perhaps Icelandic? I assume that Finnish grammar is very different? I assume that the vast majority of vocabulary is related to German and English?

Thanks

Jack


As Cordelia posted Finnish is different (but contrary to popular imagination, it's not THAT mind-boggling). In fact Finnish grammar has a few features that should be familiar to you with your background in English and German. For example, Finnish uses auxiliary verbs when constructing some tenses.

e.g. "Olen nähnyt" = "I have seen" / "Ich habe gesehen" (compound past, "Perfekt")
The Finnish phrase literally translates as "I am seen" since Finns use "to be" as the auxiliary rather than "to have" / "haben" as we do in English / German.

If you're referring to modern Finnish vocabulary, there are quite a few loanwords from the Germanic languages (usually Old Norse or its predecessor). Yet linguists believe that these words entered the language so long ago that the Germanic origin of many of these words is obscured by all of the changes in sound and meaning that have occurred over the last 2,000-odd years among the Finns. Your knowledge of English or German may help here and there with recognizing some Finnish words, but you'd more likely need to use your imagination or a background in comparative Germanic linguistics (not to mention a Finnish etymological dictionary) to see the links more clearly.
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cordelia0507
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 Message 16 of 169
04 November 2009 at 7:27pm | IP Logged 
For example: Here is song which is sung in both Norwegian and Swedish at the same time.
The male voice is Norwegian and the female voice is Swedish.
Nobody has any trouble understanding any of it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbZXlq5N5xw ("Trøstevise")
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sYf7oi6O94 ("Lilla Vackra Anna")

Edited by cordelia0507 on 04 November 2009 at 7:36pm



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