1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Swedish
  4. >
  5. I just finished my Swedish tr…


I just finished my Swedish tree and now I have to make the hardest decision of my LIFE

Do I continue focusing all my energy on practicing my Swedish...or do I start the Danish tree?!

February 18, 2015



I think anyone who studies one Nordic language should try and learn the others, in fact I think it is even part of the school curriculum in those countries. I can't really give any good advice about not confusing them with each other, but from the taste I have had of them, I think I could fairly say that there are dialects of English that are as far apart from each other as the Nordic languages, they just aren't usually written down! I mean take someone from Alabama and put them in the room with a Glaswegian, and they may speak the same language, but it will be a long while before they tune into each other's frequency...go a step further and try and write down each dialect 'phonetically', and you will find yourself with two brand new written languages that you never even knew existed.

I would wager that if you came from the US to the UK, and were to walk from Land's End to John O'Groats, you would have just as hard a time acclimatising to each local dialect of English as you would travelling through Scandinavia, even though we are supposed to share the same language with the US. People in the UK have wildly different accents, very local slang, and we generally throw grammar to the wolves, in favour of what comes easily out of our mouths. The difference is that we cling very hard to a common written language (with some very minor disagreements), and stubbornly insist that every dialect of English is proper English, as long as it is from an English speaking country.

In contrast, our friends in the north go the whole hog, throw the baby out with the bathwater, label what we usually play down as "small dialectical differences" into "different languages entirely", even though they all sprang from a common language. I think it is really just a fundamental difference in perspective on the definition of the word language itself. Whether they know it or not, the situation parallels the English speaking world very closely, if you were to look a thousand years back, before 'English' was really a recognised identity, there were various rival kingdoms inside the country we know today as England, you'd have seen a similar sort of picture, with the folk speaking languages that were almost, but not quite like each other, having strong separate identities, but sharing enough common language that it would have been trivial to communicate with each other.

And then we were conquered by French speaking Normans, who were actually Viking descendants, as if we weren't already confused enough by the other, other Vikings that were quite intent on the idea of us learning Danish... ( which I only mention just in case anyone is in any doubt as to why English is such a .... special...unique... language )

At the end of the day though, I think you should see it as a bonus, that you can use your Swedish knowledge to 'boss' Danish or Norwegian as well. In fact I see it as a no brainer; you study one language, you get two more at half price.

You can't really know whether you are going to confuse them unless you try, at any rate.

Euhh... did that answer your question? I'm sorry I sort of forgot what the question was...


Haha, great answer. Just one thing: I have never heard of Swedes being taught other Nordic languages in schools. Personally, I think you should teach Danes to speak properly instead. :p


That's just a vague memory of a fragment of a documentary I watched. It might have been Norway or Iceland.


Icelandic children do have to learn another Scandinavian language, which for historic reasons almost always means Danish.


>I think anyone who studies one Nordic language should try and learn the others

I strongly disagree with this statement. The 3 languages (excluding Icelandic, Faroese and... uh, Finnish as well as the variants of Saami) are so close to each other that I can already understand a fair bit of written Norwegian and Danish (spoken is an entirely different matter). If you want to learn all of the languages just for the sake of it, then by all means go for it. But if you only want to have a conversation with a Norwegian, simple exposure to the language for some time should be enough for you to get the hang of it IMHO, you don't need to study the language per se (you will of course not be able to speak the language, but you can just use Swedish in this case since an average Norwegian will almost certainly understand it).


That is sort of another of saying what I mean anyway though. I mean I count everything as 'studying' myself anyway, even watching TV or listening to the music.

I'm sorry if I used the wrong term when I said 'Nordic languages' I am not sure of the correct terminology. I mean it only to refer to the languages derived from Norse, I know Finnish is different of course.


I thought you'd meant taking a textbook and learning from it ;). Doing that would get confusing very quickly I think.

Don't worry about the terminology, it's pretty clear which 3 languages you were talking about. Icelandic and Faroese are too similar to Old Norse to be easily understood by the rest, while Saami and Finnish aren't even Indo-European.


Hah, well I don't think study should feel like punishment ;)

I think I am just set up to think that way. For me there are people that try to get fit by getting a gym membership, I stay fit because I ride a bike every day. On weekdays I ride it to work and back, which is usually something like a 13 hour day full of ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ and if I'm lucky I get to sit down for 15 minutes*, and then on the weekends, to have a break from that, after all it gets a little tiresome, well I ride it in the woods instead, because of course I have all that energy left over and need to burn it :)

I get cold and bruised and muddy, and the poor bike has come home with no tyres, no chain, no brakes, one day I even broke a wheel axle.. but to me, all of that is much less painful than the thought of neon lights. spandex and creatine...

So when I talk about learning... and study... well in my opinion if it isn't fun, then you just aren't doing it right :) I strongly suggest Music, as in learning it rather than just listening to it. Learning the words to music is cathartic...

*incidentally, I usually use those 15 minutes on Duolingo, I think it gets the pleasure of more of my free time than any of my friends of family...and if you're wondering where I find the time to make such long waffling posts, well this is about the time I should be sleeping, but amn't...


I believe the term you're looking for is North Germanic languages.


Are Norwegians more likely to know Swedish, Danish, or English?


It's complicated, and it depends on what you mean by "know". Younger Norwegians are more likely to be proficient in English than in the other two, with the ongoing internationalisation and English being the current lingua franca. Older Norwegians are more likely to be proficient in Danish. But unless they "know" Danish or English, they'll likely find Swedish easier to understand in speech, while Danish is easier to understand when written.

Further, Norwegian dialects actually differ quite a lot, due to coming from a long country with an easily isolated population. This is reflected in written Norwegian, of which there are two variants: Bokmål (lit. "Book Language") and Nynorsk (lit. "New Norwegian". The former is pretty much Danish, owing to historical conquests, which explains why Norwegians can read Danish so easily. The latter, as the name implies, is an attempt to gather dialects together in order to create a somewhat uniform new Norwegian. Which one to use is a political matter of debate, and one which will hardly be solved in the immediate future.

So, yeah... tough question. :)


The results from the study of native youth can give you a hint. The scores are out of 10.0


Wow, chilvence, thanks for the thoughtful response. I had thought of the languages as dialects of each other in some sense before but you put it very well. It's absolutely my intent to learn all three languages (which I don't think I would ever have committed myself to before Duolingo), but I didn't want to do more harm than good by taking on the next language too soon. Maybe I will mix them up, maybe not, but I do already feel like learning Danish is 100% easier than when I first started learning Swedish. I also hope that instead of weakening my Swedish by learning Danish and Norwegian, I can strengthen all three through constant exposure and keeping things fresh.


I had the same internal debate when I finished the Spanish tree: focus all my energy on practising Spanish, or start Portuguese. Well, you can see what I chose! I would say that, given you are level 18 in Swedish, just keep maintaining the tree, but do the bare minimum: focus most of your energy on... Norwegian, when it comes out. Sorry, guys! I just really don't like the stødishness of Danish. Hot potato in the mouth, indeed.

[deactivated user]

    I'll have to agree.. Not that Danish is an ugly language for me, plus I would also love to learn it, but Norwegian is similar to both Danish and Swedish. So if I were you, I would continue revising Swedish until the Norwegian course comes out, and after completing it, then I would move on to Danish. In this way, it will probably take you very little time to finish the courses. But it is completely up to you! Grattis och lycka till med något du bestämmer! :)


    I would go on with swedish. The 3 (4) scandinavian languages are so close to each other that you can read them all and also understand a lot. But its confusing if you try to learn it earnestly. (I wait for norwegian - bokmal - to stop the swedish and go on learning norwegian as I have already started learning it years ago and often mix swedish and norwegian spelling...)


    Maybe both! But it can get a little confusing... :p


    If Sarah.K.Ha doesn't mind, I'd like to develop this point slightly OT, if I may.

    Does anyone have any tips on how to mentally compartmentalise similar languages so that you don't end up with a permanently mushed up soup of, for example, Portuñol or DanskSvensk? Most people I know who learn closely related languages end up maddening mixing the two.


    I would use the known language enough that you know what words belong to it versus the ones that don't. That'll obviously take more time when you want to learn a similar language.


    I'm fluent in Italian, having lived there twenty years. A professor friend told me I should call myself "bilingual." That said, it seems to have taken me forever to stop mixing Italian into my Spanish. At least ten years, I'd say. And you know what? Now I sometimes mix Spanish into my Italian. Or normal Italian words seem weird to me. One simply has to keep actively practicing both languages. Or all if you're a sort of polyglot. Whenever I try to speak Russian I mix in some German. (Sigh...)


    I'm learning Italian and Swedish. I picked up Spanish because of a stupid glitch in the software one day (it wouldn't let me leave the "why don't you pick a new language" screen on my phone until I, well, picked a new language!). I took Spanish in school many years ago, so decided to do the placement test, and did better than I expected. So I started doing Spanish along with the others - and that for me was bad. I wrote a lot of Italian in my Spanish answers (and, surprise! the Spanish course does not like Italian). I am much less likely to get Swedish and Italian mixed up, at least once I get in the "mode" of whatever language it is. (Although I once wrote a complete and sort of lengthy Swedish sentence in response to an Italian prompt!) But what I am starting to notice is both of them infecting my - English.


    Lol... "infecting." Did you mean "affecting?" I like the "infecting" anyway. Use it or lose it, they say. And if we want to be able to speak several languages we have to practice that much more. I usually concentrate and do fine, but every once in awhile a word simply refuses to "come out" of wherever it's stored in my brain. The corresponding words in other languages might come out though. :) Where are you from, pipit?


    I like to paraphrase Douglas Hofstadter, who claims to be pilingual - he speaks 3.14159... languages.


    Haha, I won a pie a few years ago after reciting about 300 digits of pi. I'll definitely call myself pilingual now. Thanks for the joke!


    Jairapetyan - I did mean "infecting" ( a little joke!) . Native US English speaker, currently living in the frigid wasteland of Ohio. Gosh I wish it would get warm.....


    Oh, sorry to hear about the bad weather. We enjoy nice weather on the west coast, but half the world has heard about it and they all moved here. If you can travel at 35 mph on the freeway, it's a lucky day. And there are rumors that we might have to all move out, due to the severe draught...


    I'd like to share my way to go through it. Maybe it will be useful for you.

    I believe you won't be comfortable with any word in the long term unless you let them fade out out of your memory a bit, and then get them back from the back of your brain. That's somewhat how memory works, I suppose. So I let the languages fade out from mine and I go through 4 courses at once.

    So I pick a 'target' (usually it's certain skill, or level - after finishing the tree it's a level) on any language, just to make it reachable and visible, then I run to it taking lessons and practising. Then I switch to another course. After whole cycle (I'm taking 4 courses at once) when I am back to language 1, some of the words fade out of my memory, so I start with revision of all of them using practice and then I'm going with the next target. It helps me move the words to the long-term memory, as it's easier for me when I get the forgot ones back rather than when I repeat them over and over again. As for now, it seems pretty effective and also gives me a little more fun. That way I am going with multiple courses at once.

    Consider also taking a reverse course (Spanish - English), as it may be very useful. And it's not so easy, even if you finished Eng-Spa tree already.

    Congrats on your Owl, by the way!


    Yeah, definitely agree on the reverse tree point. It's also quite funny to see how I as a homeborn English speaker am only level 9 at English! Of course, the reason is because I'm doing the Spa-Eng tree. Genuinely quite a challenge.


    I say begin Danish, but stay intact with the Swedish tree. Don't let your skill bars go down.


    Thanks for all the input, guys. I think I will continue to focus on my swedish and do a little Danish here and there. I would LOVE to do the reverse Swedish tree but I don't think it exists yet. I started the basics for Danish and I must say, the pronunciation is MUCH different than Swedish, but I think each language has its peculiarities (as do all). The Swedish TTS doesn't really capture the sing-songy sound of Swedish, the Danish one sounds a little more human. If the TTS is any way to judge, Danish involves a lot more swallowing of sounds.


    Yes it does! Well spotted. That's the "stødishness" which I referred to earlier. Google "stød". Njuta!

    Learn Swedish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.