If you speak a Scandinavian language, could you answer some questions?

That includes Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic and some others.

1) Are you able to understand other Scandinavian languages? Which ones?

2) Are you able to converse in your language with someone that speaks another Scandinavian language?

3) Would you say that English is a language of prestige in your country?

4) What % of the citizens of your country are fluent in English?

5) Besides English, do you speak other languages? Which ones?

6) Do most foreigners that live and work in your country learn the language quickly, or do they tend to spend several years using just English?

7) Are you comfortable using your language in your country most of the time? Do they understand you (almost) everywhere, or do you have to switch to English frequently?

8) Are you able to understand German without having studied it?

1 Answer

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago
    Favourite answer

    1) There's a difference between reading a speaking.  For example, as a native Swedish speaker I can read Danish and "book Norwegian" fluently, but this is also because I had to learn about them in high school and read literature in those languages in high school as assigned reading and then carried on as an adult to stay in the habit.  These were conscious descisions on my part.  Without care and attention you can easily both get the gist and get the wrong end of the stick at the same time!  There are many "false friends," words we share in common that have come to mean different things and have differing values attached to them.  

    In terms of listening, I really struggle to understand Danish, but to be fair I can't follow the far northern dialect of Swedish either!  I find Norwegian, well, the most widely spoken dialects easier to understand, even in animated conversation.  I'm told by Norwegian friends that they find Danish easier than Swedish.

    Icelandic - let's not go there. They have real grammar and stuff....

    2) Yes, when everyone wants to, but it does take an effort to pronounce words properly, like in Swedish, sometimes "d" can be pronounced as "r" in an unstressed position, or a word like "hon" can come as "na," so it's important not to do that, and to be alert for "false friends" setting the conversation down the wrong path.  To be honest, I think Swedes get the best deal here because there are so many more Swedish speakers that other languages absorb more Swedish.  You'll usually find that unless someone has a parent from two languages people will speak their own language and switch to English if clarification is needed.  The exception is that in the last 10 years or so I've made a private, conscious decision to speak English with Finns unless they move the convo into Swedish because there's a lot of baggage with Swedish being a mandatory subject at school for people my generation and older.  If they're ethnically Swedish Finns they'll let you know without prompting.  Previously I would just assume that we'd speak Swedish, why wouldn't we?  I also let them lead on place names and not presume to use either Helsinki or Helsingfors.

    3) No, or not like somewhere like the Indian subcontinent.  Maybe for my grandparents?  They were born in the 1920s, but then again, that generation used German as an academic language and that's really rare now even if you're technically still allowed to submit a university thesis in German.  English is considered a means to reach the largest possible (international) audience and is considered so essential that it's taught from primary school, but Swedish isn't considered lesser.  In the 1990s many Swedish international companies changed their corporate language to English.  A kind of "Swenglish" has evolved.  Personally, it drives me crazy because so many Swedes are completely unaware that it contains words usages, phrases and idioms that make no sense in any other dialect of English!  The sad consequence is that the Swedish language has stagnated in some fields such as pharmaceuticals because all the research is done through the medium of Swenglish.

    4) No idea, most officially, see my point about Swenglish.  

    5) To what degree of fluency?  When it comes to speaking aloud, English.  I am the product of the international school system.  There was a time I had pretty fluent spoken French but it's decades out of practice.  It comes back when I immerse myself in a francophone environment after a few weeks, just in time to go home and I can finally make off the cuff jokes that other people genuinely find funny!  I can read and understand what's being said in about half a dozen languages, some better than others, likewise for writing and speaking which is harder.  My bar for fluent is very high though.

    6) Because English is so widely spoken many incomers complain that it's hard to get any practice speaking Swedish and tbh, the standard of teaching it is pretty low both as a second language and in formal education.  Many learners eventually shift their English into Swedish, but it has an eroding effect on the language because of the poor formal teaching of grammar and correct usage.  It just so happens that due to historical forces English and Swedish suffered similar grammatical collapses so they have a similar structure even though they belong to different branches of the Germanic linguistic tree.  This means that you can fairly successfully just move English words across into Swedish and still be understood even if it's not entirely correct.  The erosion I referred to are things like the suffix -ing replacing -ning in the spoken language.  Even my cousins' children in the deep countryside do it, and they use words like "shopping" instead of "handla" and don't get me started on "krispig" instead "knaprig."  I have to bite my tongue not to correct them.

    7) No, I very seldom switch to English, but when I do it's because I want to disguise the "posh" accent I'm saddled with.  It's not frequently encountered and people get a little strange with me when they hear it, like they're expecting an inquest or something.  It's harder for me to change my accent than it is to switch language.

    8) I don't know because I did study it!  Thinking about it, there are a lot of nouns and verbal roots in common, but without studying it the grammar and word order are just so different, and that's before getting to divergent meanings, that if I'd never studied it there's no way I could have asked for directions or even follow road signs that aren't self-explanatory pictographs.  I find spoken Dutch easier to understand but that's because it's closer to English, you just need to not get hung up on the guttural noises.

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