1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Swedish
  4. >
  5. Equivalent of the Norwegian/S…


Equivalent of the Norwegian/Swedish relationship?

Just curious: I know Norwegians can understand Swedes and vice-versa for the most part. Is there any equivalent for English - a language we can pretty much understand but it's considered a different language and not just a dialect? I assume it's a bigger difference than, say, British English vs. American English.

March 26, 2015



From the top of my head, perhaps British English and Scots?


Dutch had a lot of words that I understood right off the bat, but other words were closer to German. I hear that Afrikaans is even easier than Dutch, but I haven't tried it.

[deactivated user]

    From what I have read, West Frisian is very very close to English, even though it is a seperate language.


    Probably not like that. English has a long history of being changed by many languages. Whereas Norwegian and Swedish grow up side by side. Probably the closest thing you could find would be some kind of creole. Maybe you should check out Jamaican Creole, I don't know how similar it is.


    Seconding Zmrzlina: English and Scots. It's considered by linguists to be its own language, but is mutually intelligible with English (UK English has an easier time than American English, but that's most likely due to living closer to it).

    German has several cognates with Dutch and Afrikaans, and Dutch and Afrikaans are supposed to be mutually intelligible.


    Danish, Swedish and Norwegian form a dialect continuum. That means that two people living just across the border from each other can understand each other perfectly even if they technically speak Norwegian and Swedish. If we are talking about something like Stockholm dialect versus the Oslo dialect I concur with Zmrzlina.


    I would hold off on using the word "perfectly". I understand Norwegian for the most part, but Danish is a completely different story. There I really have to make an effort in order to understand what people are saying. Maybe it's easier for people from Skåne, I don't know.


    An anecdote: Some years ago I was hiking in jämtlandsfjällen (close to the Norwegian border). There we met some Norwegians that we hanged out with for a few hours. It was only after talking for an hour that I realized they were not actually Norwegians at all but Swedes. I know that many people from Skåne understand Danish well, of course it could be because of higher exposure to Danish.


    Interesting, I suppose that it's different for everybody. I can almost definitely say that I would always be able to tell Norwegian from Swedish. I come from Värmland, and also spent time in the east of Norway, so to me the differences even in the border region are pretty clear. The impression that I have gotten from friends however is that while most people understand Norwegian well, most people also have trouble understanding Danish. It seems to be a question of age; my parents and many older people appear to understand Danish better (or say they do in any case).


    I am Swedish. I share your view that classification into Norwegian or Swedish is usually simple. Also, I have tried searching youtube for borderline cases but found nothing. The closest thing I found are traditional songs in jamska. I do stand by the idea that Danish/Norwegian/Swedish form a dialect continuum.


    Okay, that might be true for genuine dialects like jämtska, but between standard Danish and standard Swedish I think the continuum is very marginal for the majority of speakers.

    Fun trivia: http://m.thelocal.dk/20150304/not-even-the-danes-can-understand-danish

    Can you understand the movie trailer featured in the article?

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