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Watching a Swedish/Danish TV show while learning Norwegian + mutual intelligibility

I've started watching The Bridge (Bron/Broen) yesterday.

As I'm just a beginner, I was only able to pick up individual words. But the most interesting part is, I was only able to understand the Swedes! I feel like the Swedish phonology is very close to the Norwegian one (at least based on the Duolingo's robotic voice). They seem to speak with such clarity! The tones, stresses and rhythm are very similar to Norwegian, but they slur their words less. On the contrary, the Danes really sound like drunken Germans :D I expected to pick up words more easily in Danish given how close Bokmal and Danish are, but I swear I couldn't even tell vowels from consonants :p

Now on the mutual intelligibility part. I know that most of the written languages are more or less easy to read by native Scandinavians. However, how do they deal with the spoken languages? On this show, half of it is in Swedish, and half in Danish. Do the audiences need subtitles for the foreign part or is it possible to understand everything? What about audiences in Norway?

Tusen takk!

October 2, 2015



Danish is the hardest one to understand. For each Norges and Swedes, Danish requires translation when spoken. Norges and Swedes understand each other pretty well. I think it doesn't need translation, but to understand everything you would need translation. It depends on many factors though: have you ever before listened to the language, have you picked up some grammar etc.

You may find this useful and more practical:

Norwegians understand 88% of the spoken Swedish and 73% of the spoken Danish;

Swedes understand 48% of the spoken Norwegian language and 23% of the spoken Danish language;

Danes understand 69% of the spoken Norwegian language and 43% of the spoken Swedish language.

You said that most part of the written languages is easy to understand. It is the case when Norwegian is in the action, but the Danes-Swedes relation goes less well, since it is both about 60-70%.


I didn't think the Swedes understood Danish so little. So how are the characters (and the audiences) supposed to understand each other?

There was a "joke" at one time when the Danish detective started speaking and none of the Swedish detectives were able to understand him. But they otherwise seem to communicate just fine.


It really depends on where are you from and do you have some experiences with the language you listen to. Since each has many accents, it really is a relevant matter.

I know a guy from Denmark that went to Sweden and was there for like two months. After it he really increased his ability to understand. But before it he understood almost nothing.

The souther in Sweden you are, the understanding of Danish is bigger. I am sure that an average Dane needs translation when watching The Bridge, just like an average Swede. This is what the creators of The Bridge said on this:

"In real life Swedes and Danes can understand each other, but we don't understand each other as well they do in the show."

And here is an interesting link where you literally can get the idea that the mutual understanding is pretty bad - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxZsvlv795M

For both been understood and understand, the best one to start with is Norwegian.


Yes, I eventually found a resource from the BBC that said that the show was subtitled even in Scandinavia. Nice video by the way, I hope for season 2 to come on Netflix soon :)


I think that Saga Norén speaks skåne so I maybe because of that after two episodes Martin could understand her completely. :D Great show, I watch season 3 now.

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I'm watching a version of it as shown on Danish TV. All the Swedish text is subtitled into Danish and I expect the reverse is true when it is shown in Sweden. Thanks to learning Swedish, I find I need the subtitles much less than in the past. (Danish was the first Scandinavian language I learned and the one I know best.)

Since you ask about Norway, I imagine the entire show is subtitled in Norwegian when broadcast in that country. Most Norwegians would have little trouble listening to most Swedish but may need subtitles more for the Danish.


Since you know much of Danish, and you're far in the trees with Scandinavian languages, I'm interested in your opinion which one have you found as the easiest one? And as well which one do you like better and why? Give me like a feedback.

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Honestly Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are all very similar and equally easy/difficult in my opinion. Once you learn one of them, the others are very easy because most of the vocabulary and grammar is the same. My main advice is to pick one and learn that first because you will risk mixing them up if you try to learn them all at the same time.

I have the greatest connection to Denmark because some of my ancestors came from there, so I decided to go to Denmark as an exchange student for a year and began learning Danish many years before Duolingo even existed. I think it is fun knowing a language that is not spoken by so many people because that makes it more special. I enjoy the insight into a culture one gets by reading and watching media in that language (of course these are not things specific to Danish alone.) So Danish is closest to my heart but I really enjoy Norwegian and Swedish also.


Even though they have similar word order as English, there are hard times with word order as well. It is way easier than in German though. If you know, would you share if these three languages share the same word order in every situation?

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For the most part all 3 have the same word order. I have noticed a few instances where Swedish and Danish had a different order.


Hey, you said, 'My main advice is to pick one and learn that first because you will risk mixing them up if you try to learn them all at the same time.' - you can say that again. :) I started the Danish one before the Norwegian one and was mixing everything up when I picked up the Norwegian one today. So, proceed with just one for a while, right? So, just leave one as is for now? I also have a connection to Denmark so I was thinking of going as far as I can and pick up the Norwegian one later - hopefully, I can get to an advanced level. I found the Danish grammar having more of a pattern (i.e. easier) but I like the sound of Norwegian as it's 'smoother' - if I can say that... I think I understand the 'mumbling or having something in your mouth when speaking Danish' description. Or I somewhat do?

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