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  5. Is danish worth it?

Is danish worth it?

[deactivated user]


    I’m assuming that this question has been asked a lot, and I apologise if it has been. The reason I’m asking is getting responses which are not based off of an outdated version of the course.

    Anyways, I am very keen on studying a new language on Duolingo and am struggling between choosing either Swedish or Danish. From what I’ve read, Danish is much harder in terms of pronounciations, which often make no sense when compared to what is written, Swedish on the other hand has been described as melodic and easy to learn. I am visiting Malmö and Copenhagen in early August and would like your input as to whether or not learning Danish would be more useful (putting into consideration the time and effort) than Swedish.

    Responses from all types of Swedish/Danish learners and native speakers would be highly appreciated! :)

    July 11, 2018



    Both, of course!

    [deactivated user]

      Haha, if I ever find the time to do both simultaneously, I certainly will!


      Loving learning the Danish language, but I have to agree with the other poster - I think that nearly all Danes, at least around Copenhagen, speak English. I've been to Copenhagen three times before I started learning Danish and I can't remember any places where English was not spoken and I think a lot of signs seemed to be in English (?) Also, I'm not sure you would get the same patient reaction trying to speak Danish to a Dane that you might receive say trying to speak Japanese in Japan but that may depend on where you are. I can't comment on what it might be like in Sweden in this regard. Also, many individuals you might encounter, for example working in restaurants, may not be a native Dane and may actually speak English better than Danish. I feel like if/when I return to Denmark, I will probably use more English than Danish even if I know how to say it in Danish!

      That being said, I love learning Danish and it has definitely helped me be able to read some in Norwegian (my grandmother is of Norwegian descent and I recently joined a Norwegian-American organization in DC). The pronunciation is often different between Danish and Norwegian of course. Some of that makes it interesting for me though. I also watch Danish films so I wanted to learn Danish because of that. I think you should pick whichever language seems more exciting to you as that will keep you practicing!


      If you're just visiting and not planning to live in Denmark (which I assume you don't), you're probably better off learning Swedish because of the easier pronunciation. Not kidding, I don't know a single Dane who doesn't speak English, and especially in Copenhagen, we are used to people not knowing our language. I think both languages are beautiful in their own ways, but you're visiting in under a month and to be honest, I don't think anyone can learn Danish in that amount of time. I'd say that Swedish is easier in some ways, so maybe go for that. Once you are fluent in Swedish, learning the other Nordic languages will be a lot easier as well.

      But of course, it's 100% your decision, and I think you should do whatever feels right for you. Good luck :)

      [deactivated user]

        Yeah, I see what you mean, s Swedish would probably be the better option to begin with. Thank you for the response!


        I love Denmark it is so beautiful with its old buildings and every thing about it. After I went to Denmark 2 years ago I decided I liked Denmark more then England. I myself personally speaking just want to learn Danish because in America it isn't really thought of a worthy language to study and I like your culture. So yeah. Sorry


        Danish is very worthwhile! it is pretty easy to learn and the pronunciations get easy once you get to listen to the language a bit. It was confusing for the first few days but I got the hang of it pretty quick. Also Danish and Swedish are very similar so if you chose Danish it would be easier to understand Swedish as it is an easier language and is derived from Danish. If you chose Swedish it would be harder to understand Danish as it is a harder language. If you choose danish with it being a very slight bit harder you will feel much more accomplished and people will be more impressed with a very tiny bit more work.


        I really enjoy your saying that swedish derives from danish. It doesn't. The nordic languages split up hundreds of years before the vikings. English on the other hand largely derives from danish/norwegian.

        However choosing between danish and swedish you should choose danish because it will enable you to be understood in Norway as well. Up until the beginning of the 20th century the written norwegian language was danish, and it is still the basis of norwegian "bokmål", spoken widely in the south of Norway.

        Besides - as you know - danes and norwegians compete to be the happiest people in the world. This derives from the fact that we can all - norwegians and danes alike - go to our eastern borders, look into Sweden an realise how happy we are, not to live there :-).


        I choose Danish because I’d heard the same thing about Norwegian (I’m Norwegian-American and the only one in my Sons of Norway lodge learning Danish. Even our Japanese member is learning Norwegian!) I’d say it’s not necessarily true you’ll be understood when speaking Danish in Norway. And I’ve heard from Danes it doesn’t mean they necessarily understand Norwegian. This is because of slight differences in words or big differences in pronunciation. But written Danish/Norwegian, yes. But I just went to to Swedish Allsång and because we had printed song sheets I could mostly understand what the songs were about because I could read the song sheet in Swedish as close enough to Danish (but would have been lost with most of the spoken Swedish). Although I do agree- I’d be happiest living amongst the Danes or Norwegians vice living in Sweden!


        I totally agree that we danes can have difficulties understanding spoken norwegian. This is not different from the problem, a dane from Copenhagen would experience, if he went to the island Bornholm or to the west coast of Jutland and spoke to elderly people. Some danish dialects are quite difficult to understand. Likewise in Norway. However if you go to Oslo (or Christiania as I prefer to call it ;) )or other areas in the south of Norway, which are not too rural, you should be able to understand most of what is said, if you know danish.


        Ok I just reread this comment! Plus 10 for a Dane telling it like it is on this forum regarding dialects in Denmark. So many posters try to pretend this isn’t so (although Danes I speak to in real life acknowledge it...weird?!!)

        Also- ha ha “elderly people” in Jutland. I think I speak and understand “nursing home/elderly people’s” Danish. I’m not even that old!!!!

        Also, Americans in my Nordic language club have a hard time understanding a Dane from Odense. Is this normally a difficult dialect in Denmark (like Geordie in UK) or its just us?


        Axel, your last paragraph (roughly:...Danes and Norwegians can look over their borders into Sweden and be happy not to live there...) had me rolling around on the floor, chortling!! My Danish mother (born in Ødense) had the exact same attitude, as did all her Danish friends and relatives.

        When her grandson married a Swedish girl, she was so conflicted :):):). We encouraged her to try to understand the bride's speech but she either could not or perversly would not!

        Her attitude was: she is a very nice girl; it's not her fault being Swedish.


        She would appreciate the old saying in Copenhagen: keep Denmark clean, escort a swede to the ferry.


        Simply not correct, I have been living in Scandinavia for 40 years. I started learning Norwegian and then moved on to Denmark where I now live, I have several Swedish friends and have been to Sweden (south) in several occasions. I speak fluent Danish and can easily understand Norwegian especially south Norway. I can also easily understand the southern (Skåne, Halland og Blekinge) swedish dialect. The three languages are very much interrelated and have there origin from tribes who wandered north as the ice age cap melted. From a learning perspective Danish is the more difficult because it is very gutteral or troaty as compared with Norwegian and Swedish.
        Regarding english being derived from Norwegian/Danish again not true, The Germanic languages have three branches the Northern Germanic languages (also known as Scandinavian or Nordic languages) include Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic and Faroese. This whole branch descended from Old Norse, and still enjoys quite a bit of mutual intelligibility between the languages today. English is part of the western Germanic branch.


        It’s unclear from the way Duolingo arranges comments which comment you mean to reply to. In any case, please refrain from speaking for all Danes (and it appears you aren’t even Danish). To say someone’s comment about such a variable thing like language and dialect is “simply not correct” is misleading. Your experience and level of understanding applies to you alone. It’s impressive you can utilize the languages so readily. But many Danes have repeatedly referenced that assuming ALL Danes automatically and fully understand spoken Norwegian is not correct- it’s a myth (their words not mine). I see you mentioned Southern Norway is where you understand the best- which the unspoken implication is that there are parts of Norway that differ in dialect that are less understood. Additionally, you are someone who has studied both languages, so your experience may necessarily differ from Danish learners and even native Danes. That said, I agree there is a lot of understanding going on between Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish speakers in groups where they get together (I am part of one such group) and it’s absolutely wonderful. You can freely speak in your language of choice with no pressure to switch or corrections when words differ (have only encountered this a few times with a few unknowing Norwegian Americans and a Swede trying to correct Danish to their word in other settings). It’s great to get together and communicate and people are mostly understanding but may often be getting the gist not the finer points- which is why our group breaks out into subgroups by language often. The bottom line in terms of language/dialect/understanding is that it depends and your experience may not be that of others. For example, I recently met a half Danish guy who lived in Denmark as a child and visits his relatives there frequently. He’s fluent in Danish (verbally) and apparently spoke to his Danish mother in Danish every day til she passed away. Now he cannot write simple Danish in texts (to me or to his relatives in Denmark). It’s a little frustrating for him but he’s improving. So his experience, even as a Danish person differs from other Danes.

        Your comments about factual things like derivations of language may be correct. I don’t know enough about that subject so at this point I’ll take your word for it about where the Scandinavian languages (excluding Finnish as Nordic for this example only relating to language) derived from.


        Just to be clear I in no way speak for all Danes. You are correct I am not Danish, I was merely correcting some misleading comments.


        As this was essentially an opinion piece on which language to learn, if it was worth it, and why people chose which one, your “corrections” are not really needed- unless it’s something where they’ve gotten a word entirely misspelled maybe. It’s not clear why, if you are fluent in Danish, you feel the need to come into the Danish forums, which are intended for individuals learning Danish to discuss language topics with other learners. Some comments from native speakers of their mother tongue may be useful, but usually it’s non-native speakers causing arguments- particularly in this forum with Americans and Swedes who learned (or feel entitled to comment) on Danish and Norwegian. I really think Duolingo needs to address this problem of people attempting to use language learning sites to stroke their own egos and harass others trying to learn with their “knowledge”. I have recently seen that my local community college has now banned native speakers from taking language classes with them, and I can only assume this is due to the disruption caused by some people using language classes as a way to (cause angst for learners? Feel superior? Be the teacher? I don’t know why people do this??)

        • 1136

        Considering the shortness of time, I’d go with Swedish. The Danish pronunciation is definitely more difficult than the Swedish one. With Swedish, you can concentrate more on the grammar and vocabulary right from the start.

        But apart from that, I enjoy Danish very much because of its pronunciation and I love the way it sounds. Maybe after your trip, you will have had enough exposure to both languages to decide if you want to continue learning one or the other.

        [deactivated user]

          Great idea, it would be easier to determine which language to study after my trip, thank you!


          I suggest danish


          Danish is pretty easy to learn regarding grammar. It's even simpler than English, but the pronunciation is a nightmare. I lived there for a year and studied it hard. I got the level where I could read books and magazines, but no one, and I mean no one, could understand me when I spoke. I struggle with some vowels in English when the word ends in 'l', for example, 'bull' and ball' and 'cool' and 'call'. The difference between these sounds is one of the mainstays of the language so I was sunk before I even started. The Danes like to get you to sat 'red porridge with cream' for sport as it has a lot of difficult sounds in, but it was their vowels in general I simply couldn't pronounce properly.

          Plus most Danes speak English, and they are kind of intolerant of any variations of bad Danish accents and even most shop assistants will invariably reply to you with cutting, perfect English if you try to speak Danish to them. There are some lovely Danes, of course, (I married one!) but some seem to take pride in speaking as obtusely as possible so you can't understand them.

          I know nothing of Swedish, so can't help you there. But I found Danish easy to learn thanks to its simple structure. It's a very minimalist language, with relatively few words. I've been told I'm not alone in being unable to speak it. I live in France now, and although the language is arguably more complex and is taking me longer than Danish to get to grips with, the folk here are a lot more tolerant of my dodgy accent and generally make a huge effort to understand me. I think it's because they are used to hearing bad accents, but the Danes aren't. If you're prepared to go all out, then do it, but I think 'a little bit of Danish' is generally useless


          "If you're prepared to go all out, then do it, but I think 'a little bit of Danish' is generally useless"

          I totally agree! Danish (and I believe the other scandinavian langauges, Dutch and probably a few more) isn't strictly needed, as very many people in these contries are comfortable talking in English. Obviously if you want to stay, if you want to work close with people, if theres is 'a special someone' who you want to impress etc. Then by all means, - go for it. If not, probably your time is spend better in other places.

          As my name suggest (The DK part) my native tongue is Danish - and I live in Denmark.


          Perhaps you should try both, since you are going to Malmö and Copenhagen.


          Swedish for easier pronunciation.


          The Danish language is a north Germanic language. It has many cognates from English, like menu, taxi and chocolate. But the pronunciation may be a little more challenging for English speakers. I personally love this language.


          Unfortunately, none of the examples you give are of Germanic origin. The first two are of French origin while the last is from Nahuatl via Spanish. Some more illustrative examples might be the nouns vindue window, sten stone, søster sister and the verbs have to have, komme to come and gå "to go, walk. There are many other common words including indtil until, igen again, allerede already, under under, nær near*.


          I quite agree. In general many english words describing things and actions connected to upper class living would derive from french (the normans) whereas the names of things and actions connected to everyday rural life derive from danish: stool : stol : chair. A chair for milking is danish. A chair for being posh is french. Window : vindue but mirror : mirroir (danish : spejl). The danish words in english are numerous : over : over, skib : ship, båd: boat, food : føde, mand : man, hest : horse (in older danish hors), dyr : deer ( those viking poachers!) But "dyr" in general : animal where the french/latin word is used.


          If you learn Norwegian, which was strongly influenced by Danish for several centuries and looks almost the same on paper, you will gain an understanding of both Swedish and Danish. But if you want to quickly become confident about pronunciation and understanding what you hear, Swedish (and Norwegian) are much less challenging. I like all three languages a lot, so I'm thinking purely in terms of ease and usefulness in your situation. If you want to see long discussions about the relative merits of the three languages you will find them on Quora. Good luck!

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