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Is Swedish difficult to understand ?

  Tags: Swedish
 Language Learning Forum : Questions About Your Target Languages Post Reply
29 messages over 4 pages: 1 2 3 4  Next >>
albysky
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 Message 1 of 29
20 December 2013 at 4:29pm | IP Logged 
I have tried some swedish , and I am under the impression that the way it is pronounced
makes it a difficult language to understand for foreigners . Many consonats are dropped ,
some words are merged together , there is the peculiar pitch accent and of course it is
spoken very fast like every other language . For sure my ears are totally untrained , but
when I began German I was not under this impression , and the same applies to my very
limited experience with russian .

Edited by albysky on 20 December 2013 at 4:30pm

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Julie
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 Message 2 of 29
20 December 2013 at 4:55pm | IP Logged 
Obviously, it's a relative thing but I would not consider Swedish as dififcult to understand (and I generally struggle quite a lot with oral comprehension when I am a beginner). It does seem less clear than Standard German, though.

Consonant dropping is fairly predictable, word merging is not a bigger problem than in most languages I have ever tried to learn, and the pitch accent does not make it significantly more difficult to understand (your own speech production is another thing). Of course, that's only my subjective opinion :).
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eyðimörk
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 Message 3 of 29
20 December 2013 at 5:33pm | IP Logged 
I am a native speaker, so I don't have a personal opinion on the matter, but I'll note that studies show time and again that other Scandinavians often find Swedish easy to understand (EDIT: compared to other Scandinavian languages), although in some studies Danes have a very slight preference for Norwegian. Most Swedish dialects have a very clear pronunciation.

I'm not quite sure what you mean with consonants being dropped. I don't find this a particularly common phenomenon, unless you are referring something like to the endings being different on adjectives depending on the gender? I guess that could affect your understanding of the language, but not very significantly. It's much less of a change than the same phenomenon in French, for example, and the words stay almost exactly the same. Maybe I'm unaware of some highly prevalent consonant dropping I'm doing because I'm a native...? Or maybe it's my lack of standard Swedish creeping in...?

As for "some" words being merged together, it's not a matter of "some" words merging and having to deal with irrational memorisation. It's mostly a matter of multiple nouns creating a single concept being treated like a single concept. This is unfamiliar to English speakers and speakers of Romance languages, for example, and I'm sure it can be difficult to get right in the beginning, but you're dealing some fairly simple grammar rules, wherein you essentially remove all of the ‘de’ (or equivalents) from your Romance languages and push the rest of the nouns together. Composing these words will be harder than understanding them in speech, since the pronunciation of the individual parts stays them same (many natives divide the words, incorrectly, since that's how they hear them), there might be a "binding letter" to get right.

Edited by eyðimörk on 20 December 2013 at 5:34pm

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albysky
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 Message 4 of 29
20 December 2013 at 6:03pm | IP Logged 
eyðimörk wrote:
I am a native speaker, so I don't have a personal opinion on the
matter, but I'll note that studies show time and again that other Scandinavians
often find Swedish easy to understand (EDIT: compared to other Scandinavian
languages), although in some studies Danes have a very slight preference for Norwegian.
Most Swedish dialects have a very clear pronunciation.

I'm not quite sure what you mean with consonants being dropped. I don't find this a
particularly common phenomenon, unless you are referring something like to the endings
being different on adjectives depending on the gender? I guess that could affect your
understanding of the language, but not very significantly. It's much less of a change
than the same phenomenon in French, for example, and the words stay almost exactly the
same. Maybe I'm unaware of some highly prevalent consonant dropping I'm doing because
I'm a native...? Or maybe it's my lack of standard Swedish creeping in...?

As for "some" words being merged together, it's not a matter of "some" words merging
and having to deal with irrational memorisation. It's mostly a matter of multiple nouns
creating a single concept being treated like a single concept. This is unfamiliar
to English speakers and speakers of Romance languages, for example, and I'm sure it can
be difficult to get right in the beginning, but you're dealing some fairly simple
grammar rules, wherein you essentially remove all of the ‘de’ (or equivalents) from
your Romance languages and push the rest of the nouns together. Composing these words
will be harder than understanding them in speech, since the pronunciation of the
individual parts stays them same (many natives divide the words, incorrectly, since
that's how they hear them), there might be a "binding letter" to get right.


By consonants dropping I mean for instance : o instead of och , and many other cases
like this . I was even under the impression that some words are barely pronounced ,
short words like concenctors or prepositions in periphrastic expressions , but again
maybe it is just because of my untrained ears.
1 person has voted this message useful



daegga
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 Message 5 of 29
20 December 2013 at 6:30pm | IP Logged 
Yes, Swedish is difficult to understand as long as you haven't had enough exposure. So
are most other languages I presume.
What you call 'consonant dropping' is just a discrepancy between written and spoken
Swedish, the written Swedish being slightly more conservative. I don't get how this
would impact understanding, it's like you wouldn't understand English just because the
word is not pronounced like the sequence of letters it is composed of, and this is the
case in English far more often than in Swedish.
What makes Swedish (and Norwegian) difficult to understand is in my opinion the
retroflex consonants (r+d/t/n/s). And to a lesser degree different realization of
pitch-accents and sentence melody in different dialects, but as far as I know this
isn't very pronounced in Swedish, it's more of a problem for Norwegian.

Try to understand Danish and then come back to Swedish...it will feel much easier in
comparison. (not a serious suggestion!)
4 persons have voted this message useful





jeff_lindqvist
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 Message 6 of 29
20 December 2013 at 6:55pm | IP Logged 
daegga wrote:
And to a lesser degree different realization of
pitch-accents and sentence melody in different dialects, but as far as I know this
isn't very pronounced in Swedish, it's more of a problem for Norwegian.


Have a look at http://swedia.ling.gu.se/ and listen to how the general prosody and multi-syllable words are manifested in dialects from North to South... Swedish is no less melodic than Norwegian, and just as melodic as Mandarin (I can assign tones if you want, but I'm sure Ari would diasgree;)).
3 persons have voted this message useful



albysky
Triglot
Senior Member
Italy
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 Message 7 of 29
20 December 2013 at 7:04pm | IP Logged 
daegga wrote:
Yes, Swedish is difficult to understand as long as you haven't had
enough exposure. So
are most other languages I presume.
What you call 'consonant dropping' is just a discrepancy between written and spoken
Swedish, the written Swedish being slightly more conservative. I don't get how this
would impact understanding, it's like you wouldn't understand English just because the
word is not pronounced like the sequence of letters it is composed of, and this is the
case in English far more often than in Swedish.
What makes Swedish (and Norwegian) difficult to understand is in my opinion the
retroflex consonants (r+d/t/n/s). And to a lesser degree different realization of
pitch-accents and sentence melody in different dialects, but as far as I know this
isn't very pronounced in Swedish, it's more of a problem for Norwegian.

Try to understand Danish and then come back to Swedish...it will feel much easier in
comparison. (not a serious suggestion!)


Since I notice you have some experience with scandinavian languages ,I would like to
ask you this : is it a problem from abroad to find advanced resources like audiobooks
designed for native speakers ?
1 person has voted this message useful



eyðimörk
Triglot
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 Message 8 of 29
20 December 2013 at 9:57pm | IP Logged 
albysky wrote:
By consonants dropping I mean for instance : o instead of och , and many other cases like this . I was even under the impression that some words are barely pronounced, short words like concenctors or prepositions in periphrastic expressions , but again maybe it is just because of my untrained ears.

Ah, yes. When speaking informally people often drop the consonants of a handful of very specific high frequency words:

och
det
är (the Ä is actually transformed into an E)
nej (the E is transformed into an Ä)

In this respect Swedish isn't very different from other European languages. English is much worse, in fact.

Of course in certain dialects certain letters may be harder for the unaccustomed to pick up on, especially in informal speech. If you're not used to the guttural R of south Swedish dialects you may for example think a rather sloppily pronounced "eller" didn't really contain an R at first, but if you listen carefully you'll hear it as a breathy sound.

Edited by eyðimörk on 20 December 2013 at 9:59pm



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