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Why not just one Scandinavian language?

 Language Learning Forum : Skandinavisk & Nordisk Post Reply
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 Message 17 of 69
02 March 2010 at 2:10am | IP Logged 
ruskivyetr wrote:

Doubt it. Even though many people speak English, a country won't switch it's national
language. Plus, America's economic future is looking quite dim which will allow for
other countries to prosper and allow for world languages that will increasingly become
more important. English isn't even the most spoken language in the EU. German is, and
it's not like monolingual people who don't speak English are going to allow their
country to switch languages. You would be surprised at how nationalistic Europeans
can be.

The threat to many smaller languages goes beyond a desire to draw on America's economic
strength. English is no longer a language that belongs to historically Anglophone
countries and peoples. Much like how Latin survived after the fall of Rome, English may
still be in a position of dominance if America were to shrivel away and become a shadow
of its former self.

German may be the most widely spoken language in Europe, but that probably won't last
very long. On a population pyramid, Europe is very top heavy - meaning that many of the
German speakers come from pre-globalization generations. The sheer number of the pre-
globalization people may be able to hold out for a little while, but for how much

Finally, factor in immigration.

I can't say whether or not European societies will be able to keep their languages, but
if they do, it'll be because of a conscious and well-funded effort to do so.

Edited by Paskwc on 02 March 2010 at 2:11am

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 Message 18 of 69
02 March 2010 at 8:52pm | IP Logged 
Paskwc wrote:
The threat to many smaller languages goes beyond a desire to draw on America's economic strength. English is no longer a language that belongs to historically Anglophone countries and peoples.

[ Warning, this is my favourite ranting topic! ]

Yes this is right, in principle, because of the EU and the need for a common language.
If I (Swedish) go to Poland, Greece, Holland..... (which are part of the EU), then I need a language in which to communicate with people. They obviously can't speak Swedish and I can't speak Dutch or Greek.

So we speak English, and not necessarily always very good English. Not the beautiful English of Wordsworth, Dickens etc... Just survivial English.

The silly thing is, Poland is a neigbhouring country... So why am I speaking the language of the United States, across the globe, with my neighbours?

I imagine people across Asia have the same problem. What language does a Chinese person speak with people in Korea or Japan?

I won't start my rant about "EU should replace English with Esperanto for cross border communication". Replacing with either one of the 3 big languages on the European continent is also a non-starter. So it's down to English or a "neutral" replacement.

In Scandinavia we don't have this problem because we can communicate in our own language to the other Scandinavians. Gets a bit tricky occassionally, but on principle it's what traditionally happens.

But if people get good enough at English.... For example, I sometimes speak English with Danish people here in England, just because I am lazy -- I speak native standard English and so do they if they lived here for a while.... But for most people, it's still easier to make do with DA/SE combination because their English is not strong enough.

Mark my word, MANY Scandinavians who have never lived abroad still use English expressions in daily speech... This is just the beginning... There are plenty of examples from across the globe.

I am not saying it will happen overnight... It will happen gradually and you won't eve notice it until it's fait accompli and irreversible.
Cathryn wrote:

Really, don't change anyone's language or spelling. Just come up with a name -- "Scandinavian Language"?

I am 100% with you --- see other thread on this. Apparently the joint Scandinavian economies would be bigger than Russia's a massive country by every definition imaginable. The difference between our countries are marginal. It's down to spelling and pronounciation of some words -- the people are the same, the politics and religion are the same.... We've got more in common than the peoples of the UK even, not to mention Yugoslavia, Switzerland and others. In my view we've got everything to win and nothing to lose. Norway is on a high at the moment..[oil boom] but that will not last forever. All of our countries have something to gain by joining up to become a European force to be reckoned with instead of some insignificant dot at the outskirts of the map...

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 Message 19 of 69
02 March 2010 at 10:25pm | IP Logged 
It is a nice topic so thanks for bringing it up.

First of all, it would be sad for me if I were never to hear Swedish or Norwegian again, or even lose my own Danish. And secondly, bringing these languages together with a pen on a desktop would be well-nigh impossible without bumping into numerous problems - many of them have allready been mentioned.

However, I do believe that the Nordic countries would benefit from more integration amongst ourselves. We have deep Christian and Norse roots that may seem different to outsiders but thanks to our forefathers' genius - and the sleight of hand by the church - they are often surprisingly similar. And if one looks at international happiness research, the descendants of the vikings, where they settled around the world, are to this day among the happiest people in the world. The material affluency is not the most important reason although it plays a part but since this has "always" been so, what causes this is our way of life, our philosophy, our way of treating each other, our focus on peace and relatively high degrees of social equality, and high levels of trust. We once knew how to fight the battle of life in every breath, and since the battle of life is both an inner spiritual discipline as well as an outer existential societal, the power it unleashed echoes down the ages. Why not build on those strengths? Yes, why not indeed!!!

If we lose our languages, we lose our heritage and our happiness formulas. It will be an unbearable loss. As Natascha, a deceased rap singer says in her wonderful song, "Giv mig Danmark tilbage": "... prøv at fatte det: Danmark har det fint og USA kan ikke erstatte det." (literally: please do understand, Denmark is fine and the US cannot replace it." So true, so true.

In our modern, global world we even have an advantage in dealing with the Chinese - just think of the Norwegian stave churches and the dragonships of the vikings... the Chinese (the dwarfs in the Norse myths) taught us the craft of ship building, so we are milleniums apart but on the same page.

However, in terms of developing our languages, one simple way would be to learn the languages of our neighbours and insist on communicating in Danish, Norwegian or Swedish. And even the icelandic and the people of the Faroe Islands can use Danish, and maybe other nordic languages as well and maybe use that as a bridge to communicate with the others. Finnish through Swedish. Make language resources available at a cheap price, and make Scandinavian multi-lingualism a trend.

I have communicated with people from Norway and Sweden in English, and I have had enough of it. I won't do it again - ever!!! So now that I am learning Swedish - and sometimes soon - Norwegian, I will use that to the best of my ability to bridge any gap there may be, knowing that, at the end of the day, my Danish and their Swedish and Norwegian will most likely help us through.

If a sufficient number of Scandinavians did this, we might develop a Scandinavian lingua franca the only way it will ever happen successfully - through practical use, as a means to communicate in the real world, not at the desk top. So more commerce, more vacations, more artistic exchanges, more friendly visits and an awareness that it matters what language we speak would help - either to develop our languages within a common frame of reference or to keep them close at heart.
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 Message 20 of 69
03 March 2010 at 11:37am | IP Logged 
I think it would be a terrible shame if language in Scandinavia became less diverse and more standardised. It would be a much better solution to have the school systems in Scandinavia put more resources into making sure all students can understand the main language variants in Scandinavia. I know that the Norwegian curriculum states that all students should be able to understand both written and spoken Swedish and Danish by the end of the 10th grade (16 or 17 years old). I don't know how much emphasis is placed on this requirement in practice, but the principle's there at least!
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 Message 21 of 69
03 March 2010 at 12:39pm | IP Logged 
I don't know what they learn in school nowadays, but as far as I remember, we only had to read one short story in Danish and two in Swedish (one from Sweden and one from Finland) in high scool.

Edited by tractor on 03 March 2010 at 4:39pm

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 Message 22 of 69
03 March 2010 at 4:28pm | IP Logged 
Our pan-Scandinavian studies went as "far" as listening to H.C. Andersens "Flickan med svavelstickorna" (in Danish) in an audiolab (and speaking along if we wanted), and having our Swedish teacher reading a few sample sentences to show the differences between Bokmål and Nynorsk. He pronounced them with his normal Swedish accent, so the "Norwegian" feel was close to none.
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 Message 23 of 69
03 March 2010 at 7:27pm | IP Logged 
davidwelsh wrote:
I think it would be a terrible shame if language in Scandinavia
became less diverse and more standardised. It would be a much better solution to have
the school systems in Scandinavia put more resources into making sure all students can
understand the main language variants in Scandinavia.!

Yes, it would be a shame if each national language lost its character. I agree too that
the should perhaps put a higher emphasis on multilingualism.

But it is the "lesser evil" when compared to having English become dominant.
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 Message 24 of 69
03 March 2010 at 10:19pm | IP Logged 
For some reason I remember that we not only had some Swedish and Norwegian reading exercises in school, but I even remember having had an oral exam where I was confronted with a poem of Runeberg (a Finland-Swedish author). But I went to school during the sixties, and I have no idea what the Danish schools are doing now to promote knowledge of other Nordic languages - not much, I guess. The general development in the media has been a steady strengthening of English, and this has hit not only the Nordic languages, but also for instance German and French.

Edited by Iversen on 03 March 2010 at 10:22pm

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