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I have a question about mutual intelligibility

Hvis man snakker norsk, kan man skjønne dansk? (Du kan svare meg på norsk og engelsk.) Tusen takk, alle!

July 21, 2015



I learned Norwegian as a native English speaker.


For me, Danish is very easy to read, much harder to understand. I completed my Danish tree on Duolingo, however, so since then it's gotten much easier. Danish pronunciation is quite different, but the vast majority of the vocabulary is similar if not the exact same.


Swedish can be tricky to read if you aren't used to Swedish spelling conventions and Swedish-specific vocabulary. I learned some Swedish on my own, and when I speak with Swedes, I tend to speak Norwegian using as much Swedish vocabulary as possible. We can understand one another perfectly. I find it easier to speak with Swedes in Swedwegian than I do speaking to Germans, and I had a minor in German in college.


Swedwegian, AKA svorsk eller svorska :-P

I am also a native English speaker, and my only real experience with the Scandinavian languages so far has been here on Duolingo (plus one brief conversation online with a Norwegian friend). What I have discovered is that I default to Norwegian. All the time. If it's not a word unique to Swedish or Danish, I have to make a conscious effort to not spell it the Norwegian way, and for speaking exercises, I have to make that same conscious effort to not pronounce it the Norwegian way.

And, in answer to Selah's original question, I totally agree with you, Luke. If all I knew was Norwegian, I feel I would still be able to read Danish, but almost definitely not speak it. And I believe I would be able to understand written/spoken Swedish, but there would be more than a few moments where I would think "well, that's an odd way to spell that word."


That's interesting about defaulting to Norwegian. I studied some Norwegian before the Duo course, heavier on the verbal than the written. When Duo Swedish came out, I did that up to level 11. I figured it was going to corrupt my Norwegian spelling. But when I finally started Duo Norwegian, I had almost zero trouble, as if Norwegian spelling was just the most natural way. I can usually spell Norwegian words correctly upon hearing them, even if I have no idea what they mean. Mostly the difference in spelling is just that Swedish uses lots of a's, where Norwegian uses lots of e's.


Danish: Extremely easy to read. Easy to understand when spoken, as long as they don't speak too quickly.

Swedish: Slightly hard to read, depends on the words used. Very easy to understand when they speak, once you learn certain tricky words that don't mean the same in Norwegian.

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