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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 24  Next >>
1e4e6
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 Message 17 of 29
20 December 2013 at 11:57pm | IP Logged 
Mistake, I meant <dig>; to pronounce it like the English word "dig" like in "The gophers
dig a hole in the yard" or with an Italian alphabet would sound strange.

Edited by 1e4e6 on 20 December 2013 at 11:59pm

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eyðimörk
Triglot
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 Message 18 of 29
21 December 2013 at 12:05am | IP Logged 
1e4e6 wrote:
Mistake, I meant <dig>; to pronounce it like the English word "dig" like in "The gophers dig a hole in the yard" or with an Italian alphabet would sound strange.

Yes it would, because those are not Swedish sounds. It doesn't have much to do with the word in particular. There are several situations in which you'll hear "dig" pronounced exactly like it's spelled, very formal situations and verse recitals come to mind. But, yes, even in those situations pronouncing it like it was an English word would sound strange because that's not how Swedish letters are pronounced.
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Emme
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 Message 19 of 29
21 December 2013 at 4:05pm | IP Logged 
albysky wrote:
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 . [...]


As a fellow native Italian speaker learning Swedish I hope I can offer some insight on your experience.

I don’t think the problem has anything to do with orthography (like someone suggested), as both Italian and Swedish have fairly 1-to-1 correspondence between sound and how it’s written. You just need to learn that some consonant clusters are pronounced differently from what you’d expect (like skj-, kj-, sj- etc.) and that some consonants change if followed by a frontal vowel (Ex: ger vs gav) but those are not different phenomena from what happens in Italian (Ex: gn-, gl-; sc- for the first and ce/ci vs ca-/co- for the second).

What may confuse you is something called isochrony which deals with the “rhythmic division of time into equal portions by a language”. From this point of view, Swedish and Italian belong to different categories. In syllable-timed languages (like Italian and Spanish) every syllable is pronounced with roughly the same clarity and duration. In stress-timed languages (like English and Swedish) only the stressed syllables are pronounced clearly and there’s a “fairly constant amount of time (on average) between consecutive stressed syllables”. This leads to vowel reduction in unstressed syllables in many languages like English (unstressed vowels tend to be pronounced with a “schwa”) but in Swedish it also leads to some consonant dropping.

For speakers of Italian like us, it may be perplexing when we can’t hear most syllables (ie. the unstressed ones) because we are used to perceive every syllable very clearly in our native language. But it's just a question of time and exposure before you get the hang of it (and here I speak from experience).

As someone already wrote, consonants are dropped in daily (standard / informal) speech, but are still pronounced in very formal speech or when words are pronounced in isolation, but what is important for you as a beginner is that the consonant elision happens in standard speech only in a handful of high frequency words that you’ll learn really quickly (because they recur all the time) as long as your learning materials have a half-decent audio component.

If you’re particularly interested in this aspect of the language, I think that Rivstart by Paula Levy Scherrer and Karl Lindemalm is the beginner’s textbook (at least among the ones I know) that deals with this phenomenon more in depth.

Anyway, here’s what to look out for when you start learning Swedish (as you see these are just a handful of words but they are really common):
det – de
är – e
och – å
jag – ja
de/dem – dom
mig – mej
dig – dej
sig – sej
dag – da
vad – va
god – go
med – me
mycket – mycke
nej – nä
någon/något/några – nån/nåt/nåra
sådan – sån
sedan – sen
sade – sa
morgon – morron


EDIT: typos and an awkward phrasing.


Edited by Emme on 21 December 2013 at 11:50pm

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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Denmark
berejst.dk
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 Message 20 of 29
21 December 2013 at 4:06pm | IP Logged 
I would like to mention a study based on forms distributed to high school (Gymnasium) students in Copenhagen and Malmo.

Basically it showed a very low rate of contact across Öresund: 88% of the younsters from Copenhagen visited Sweden once a year or less, and 77% of the Swedes visited Denmark once a year or less. However here you have to take into account that Malmö is much smaller than Copenhagen - to get a more realistic picture you would have to imagine something the size of Stockholm vis-à-vis Copenhagen across Öresund. Actually it is hard even to get people from Copenhagen to Jutland, which experiences from my travel club have shown - it is easier to lure them to Tirana than it is to drag them to Ålborg. Even in this light it is however surprising that 77% of the Swedes might see themselves working or studying in Denmark, while only 13% of the Danes could see themselves moving in the opposite direction. OK, in practice both parts stay where they are so it doesn't matter much - and the different size of Malmö and Copenhagen is clearly the hidden factor behind the apparent discrepancy.

According to the study young Danes don't read books in Swedish and young Swedes definitely don't read books in Danish (97% says once a year or less), and the figures for reciprocal TV watching are only slightly better. This almost complete absence of actual contact may explain some curious numbers: 59% of the young Danes believe that the Swedes understand Danish 'well' or even 'very well'. Really?? Actually 92% of the young Swedes find Danish hard or very hard to understand. Well, Danish has a sinister reputation for being difficult to understand, but the situation the other way round is also fairly gloomy: 47% of the Swedes say "neither nor" when asked whether Danes understand Swedish (which must be close to 'dunno'), while 34% think we understand them (2% say even 'very well'). In fact a third of the youngsters from Copenhagen say 'so so' ('in the middle'), 42% find Swedish hard or very hard and only 20% say it is easy or very easy.

So much for the comprehension between young Danes and young Swedes in two towns which are connected by a bridge and have train sonnections at least every 20 minutes or so. And which language profits from this sad situation? I don't think you need three guesses this time ... English of course! As a matter of fact I have written a Swedish version of this message in my log thread, but if the study above holds water then those youngsters from Copenhagen would probably stick to the English version.

Edited by Iversen on 21 December 2013 at 10:43pm

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eyðimörk
Triglot
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 Message 21 of 29
21 December 2013 at 5:12pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
So much for the comprehension between young Danes and young Swedes in two towns which are connected by a bridge and have train sonnections at least every 20 minutes or so.

Teenagers in Copenhagen are notoriously bad at Nordic languages, though. Scroll down to page 78 of this study! ;)
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Medulin
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 Message 22 of 29
21 December 2013 at 5:50pm | IP Logged 
I find Swedish much easier to understand than Norwegian,
it's because Norwegian has more silent consonants:

landet
/lɑn:e/ in Norwegian
/lan:det/ in Swedish.

Overall, I'm quite satisfied with my oral comprehension of Swedish.
Most Swedes seem to speak the standard language in public,
although with a local accent, and no weird dialects
(in which vocabulary and morphology is different,
as frequent in Norwegian) are heard.

Comparing the Oslo and the Stockholm pitch accents,
the latter is easier on my ear (although I prefer southern Swedish and western Norwegian pitch accents):

2kvinnen in Oslo Norwegian is pronounced as: kvìnnén (kvínnèn in Bergen)
2kvinnan in Stockholm Swedish is realized as: kvìnnàn. (kvínnàn in Malmö)


Edited by Medulin on 21 December 2013 at 6:00pm

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montmorency
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 Message 23 of 29
21 December 2013 at 7:23pm | IP Logged 
1e4e6 wrote:
I guess that what I mean is that the speaker might accidentally,
subconsciously utilise
the alphabet of their own language into the other language to pronounce and listen to
speech. "H" in "hola" for English speakers happens in the beginning stages, because "h"
is in English and they try to use the English "h" for other languages, with the result
that "hola" with the English alphabet sounding quite gross. Likewise, pronouncing "g" in
<deg> in Swedish would probably sound very strange, in any dialect.


This is the danger of tacking the written language as a beginner, and one advantage of
all-audio courses is that there is no temptation to do that.

Edited by montmorency on 21 December 2013 at 7:24pm

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montmorency
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 Message 24 of 29
21 December 2013 at 7:34pm | IP Logged 
What Iversen calls the sad story regarding Denmark and Sweden may be more to do with
people not perceiving a neighbouring country which seems to be very similar, as being
exotic enough to be worth spending much time and effort over, than a question of
language.

I know north Germans who live near the Dutch border who never travel to Holland except
en route to catch a ferry. Many English people have never been to Ireland, and rarely go to Wales (and of course even fewer learn Welsh).

I guess if people have only limited time and money to travel, they go somewhere distant, exotic or warm, or all three.

Edited by montmorency on 22 December 2013 at 6:49pm



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