Help needed ! Which Scandinavian language to learn?
I am determined to learn a Scandinavian language as my 5th language. I know that they're close to each other in some cases, but I have no idea for which one to go for: Norwegian, Swedish or Danish ?? I already know English, French, Arabic and learning German.
I have to take into account the following: - How easy the language is (I know there is nothing as "easy language", but easier in pronunciation, grammar...) - How interchangeable it is with other Scandinavian languages, as in which language is the mot "middle ground" language and its speakers are able to understand the other languages?
Any help ?
Of course it's completely up to you which language you learn. Maybe you plan to visit one of those countries?
But if in doubt, I'd suggest you'd learn Norwegian. The Scandinavian languages are to a certain degree mutually understandable, but there exist statistics showing that not all the directions are equally "strong". In effect Norwegian is by far better understood by Danes and Swedes than any other direction. The reason for this is that at least some Norwegian dialects share a common ancestry with Swedish, but the Norwegian orthography is more related to Danish for historical reasons.
Another argument is that Danish pronunciation is more complicated than the other two.
btw.: if you know English grammar and German vocabulary you have an excellent starting point!
This is certainly the best explanation. I also recommend Norwegian. That language is the easiest for people in the English speaking world. Bearing in mind that most of us speak English, it is understandable that Norwegian is recommended for learning. If you speak Norwegian, Swedes will understand you, and Danes will be able to read what you write.
I suspect you're going to find most people here would recommend Norwegian.
That said - Norwegian is the 'middle ground' among the three main Scandinavian languages. Beyond the fact that (standard) spoken Norwegian has some commonalities with Swedish, and that Bokmål strongly resembles Danish - even amongst natives the comprehension between Danish/Swedish to Norwegian is higher than to each other.
That said, Norwegian does have at least slightly more difficult grammar than Danish. And possibly Swedish, though I have had less exposure to it. But I do mean slightly. All three languages are considered equally 'difficult' in most cases.
I'd say Swedish,because I am the only guy who learns Swedish instead of Norwegian(In this comment section). I'm the hipster here.
Hi Rudy, I have looked a lot in this topic too, like you it would be my 4th language. German and English are both mother tongues for me, I find this really makes picking up the language fairly "easy", when I say easy I a mean when I read words, I can often have a good guess as to what it is. Not as easy as Dutch though ;)
I came across your dilemma when choosing, currently studying Spanish and almost finish with this I would say. Do I do Danish (the company I work for is Danish), Swedish (Most Native Scandinavian speakers come from this land and often Fins know this language too). Or Norwegian, that elusive middle ground.
After research I mostly found the following...
The Swedes can understand the Norwegians but not the Danish (Something about potatoes in mouths?) The Danish can understand the Norwegians but not the Swedes. The Norwegians can understand both.
From a little more research it seems Norwegian (Bokmal), is the very similar to written Danish but pronounced in a more Swedish accent.
Danish is the hardest one to understand verbally, Norwegian and Swedish are easier for English speakers, in my opinion.
Since learning Norwegian I find that I can understand written Danish (not word for word but enough to follow what is being said) and to a lesser extent Swedish. It was also quite interesting when my sister spoke to me in (basic) Swedish that I could pick out words I knew from Norwegian.
I've never learnt Danish or Swedish (I keep glancing flirtatiously at the Danish course) so I don't know how well that might work in reverse. I do know that learning Norwegian and German together has helped me with both.If I see a new word it helps to be able to think "it looks similar to x in German/Norwegian so I'll try that as an answer", and also the similarity helps me to remember words in both languages.
I am Norwegian and it is a fact that Norwegians understand Swedish and Dansih better than they understand us and each other. So maybe Norwegian? If you choose Norwegian you might recognise words from German, at least I do all the time when I have German at school. But that might be the same with Swedish and Danish. Danish probably looks (is written) the most like German, but it doesn't sound like it at all when they speak.
I think Norwegian as it is a middle situation between the other two languages. Once was told that if you know Norwegian you can understand spoken Swedish and written Danish. I 've also heard Danish is harder to pronounce.
Ok, sorry for rambling reply, but anyway...
I guess most people, myself included, learn Norwegian because they've got some connection to the country. Maybe they live in Minnesota and they've got Norwegian heritage. Maybe they're doing business in Norway or are going on student exchange there. Maybe their partner/son-in-law/whatever is Norwegian and they want to better understand their new relatives.
Without that connection, it's not the most obvious language to learn from a practical point of view. Five million native speakers doesn't hold a candle to the number of native Mandarin or Spanish speakers. And not only that, but most Norwegians speak English anyway. When I started learning Norsk, my Norwegian girlfriend didn't say, "Oh, what a romantic gesture." She said, "Why bother?"
But I guess there's also indirect or non-so-practical reasons to learn a language. You might have a general interest in linguistics. You might think a language is aesthetically pleasing, that it sounds nice. Or you might want to read a particular author in the original, or listen to a band in the original, seeing that there are always subtle things that can't be translated.
And there's also the consideration that a language is a doorway into another culture, and maybe you can't really understand that culture until you know its language.
That said, just for fun, here are Nietzsche's thoughts on the topic: "Learning many languages. To learn many languages fills the memory with words instead of with facts and ideas, even though in every man, memory is a vessel that can take in only a certain limited amount of content. Also, learning many languages is harmful in that it makes a man believe he is accomplished, and actually does lend a certain seductive prestige in social ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤; it also does harm indirectly by undermining his acquisition of well-founded knowledge and his intention to earn men's respect in an honest way. Finally, it is the axe laid to the root of any finer feeling for language within the native tongue; that is irreparably damaged and destroyed. The two peoples who produced the greatest stylists, the Greeks and the French, did not learn any foreign languages.
But because the commerce of men must become increasingly cosmopolitan and, for example, a proper merchant in London must be able to make himself a necessary evil. When it finally reaches an extreme, it will force mankind to find a remedy for it, and in some far-off future time everyone will know a new language, a language of commerce at first, then a language of intellectual ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ generally, and this as surely as there will one day be aerial navigation. Why else would the science of linguistics have studied the laws of language for a century and assessed what is necessary, valuable, and successful about each separate language!"
I'm currently learning Norwegian and for some reason, I had the same thought you did. At the very least, I plan on a future, extended stay in a Scandinavian country and after extensively researching the languages, I decided to learn Norwegian for a few reasons:
-From everything I read, there seemed to be more of an ability to understand the spoken language between Swedish and Norwegian than other languages. I started looking into it more.
-Using it as what I perceived as the more basic of the languages, I assumed it would be easier to learn Swedish and possibly Danish later.
-The ability to further my quest to learn Norwegian was taught in universities where I had a possibility of moving in the near future.
-If I did move to a Scandinavian country in the future, why not move to the country that has been deemed the happiest country in the world, year after many years?
For what it's worth, I took 2 years of Spanish and 1 year of French in school and was always told they were similar. French was much harder than Spanish. Spanish was a lot of memorization and verb conjugation but it was easy. When I got on this site, I thought about brushing up on Spanish because it had been years but I had finally decided to learn a language... and actually try. I wanted something new and put Spanish on hold.
I am on day 26 and I am immersed. I spend an hour and a half to two hours a day on the site and use a lot of my time trying to recite words, point things out in Norwegian, etc driving throughout the day. I figured I’d spend a couple days on it and go back to Spanish, expecting it to be too difficult. To me, it’s the easiest of the languages I’ve studied. A lot of people say the pronunciation is difficult but I don’t think so. Perhaps it has something to do with tapping letters and the use of r, vowel sounds, etc. in Spanish. However, I do find myself trying to emphasize words as if I were speaking French from time to time but it’s a subtle correction. I don’t know how to explain it other than to obtain certain sounds, I find myself holding my mouth like I would in French but it isn’t overwhelming.
I’m not sure how the other languages are but after having jumped in this, there is a lot of similarity to English and the verbs are easy. It makes me sick thinking back to how many times I had to conjugate and write verbs as Spanish homework then. Once you begin, I think you’ll find this almost exciting to continue because it's almost a relief, in comparison to the languages you've learned.