History of Scandinavian Languages
- Swedish. More than 10 million people speak Swedish. ...
- Icelandic. With an estimated 350,000 Icelandic speakers in the world, It is the official language of Iceland. ...
- Faroese. It is the official language of the Faroe Islands. ...
- Norwegian. There are around 5 million native Norwegian speakers, and it is the official language of Norway. ...
- Danish. ...
- Finnish. ...
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Approximately 20 million people in the Nordic countries speak a Scandinavian language as their native language, including an approximately 5% minority in Finland. Languages belonging to the North Germanic language tree are also commonly spoken in Greenland and, to a lesser extent, by immigrants in North America.
Scandinavian languages, group of Germanic languages consisting of modern standard Danish, Swedish, Norwegian (Dano-Norwegian and New Norwegian), Icelandic, and Faroese. These languages are usually divided into East Scandinavian (Danish and Swedish) and West Scandinavian (Norwegian, Icelandic, and
Scandinavia (/ ˌ s k æ n d ɪ ˈ n eɪ v i ə / SKAN-di-NAY-vee-ə) is a subregion in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties.. In English usage, Scandinavia can refer to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, sometimes more narrowly to the Scandinavian Peninsula, or more broadly to include the Åland Islands, the Faroe Islands, Finland, and Iceland.
- Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Sometimes also:, Åland Islands, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Nordic territories that are not part of Scandinavia:, Bouvet Island, Greenland, Jan Mayen, Svalbard
- .dk, .no, .se, .ax, .fi, .fo, .gl, .is, .sj
- A Happy Family of Languages
- The Use of Loan Words
- They Start Young
- Cultural Immersion in The English World
- A Region of Explorers and Travellers
- A Professional Skill
- Is English A Threat?
Norwegian, Swedish and Danish all have their roots in Old Norse and a speaker of one has a default capability to at least understand the other two languages. But the Scandinavians’ language ability doesn’t stop there. The vast majority are fluent in English too. To the untrained eye, English and the Nordic languagesmay not seem to have that much in common, yet the truth is quite different. All are members of the Germanic language family, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family spoken natively by more than 500 million people. While there are significant variations, all the languages share some important linguistic features that results in familiarity. For example, the way verbs are conjugated in English is similar to Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. Verb conjugation works very differently in the Romance languages like Italian and Spanish that have their roots in Latin.
Both English and the Scandinavian languages have lent each other many words over the years. We have Old Norse and the Vikings to thank for words such as ski, skull, knife and cake. Not forgetting my personal favourite, berserk. Read more: The Languages of Norway The English vocabulary is one of the biggest in the world with an estimated 750,000 words. That’s orders of magnitude bigger than the Scandinavian languages. When a Swede, Dane, or Norwegian needs to describe something that a local word won’t cover, chances are they will simply use an English word. Some idioms and phrases have even crept their way into everyday use across Scandinavia, especially in advertising. It's not uncommon to see a Scandinavian brand use an English tag line.
English is taught in Scandinavian schoolsfrom a young age. As soon as children have mastered reading and writing their native tongue, English is introduced. The age varies by country and region but generally speaking, every student will have undergone at least a year of formal English language education by the age of ten.
But by the time Scandinavian kids reach that age, most are already quite familiar with English. Young Scandis have always been exposed to a lot of international content, but now the likes of YouTube and Netflix have made English entertainment more accessible than ever before. Sure, there are plenty of big Norwegian YouTubers. But if you stumble upon a group of young Norwegians watching YouTube, chances are the video will be in English. English slang–including swear words–is also commonly heard. Read more: Learn Norwegian Though a Story Turn on a Norwegian TV channel and the chances are, you'll be hearing an English language show with Norwegian subtitles. Unlike many other countries, English shows are almost never dubbed. Whether a Scandinavian speaks English with a British or American accent has a lot to do with what kind of TV they prefer!
Ever since the days of the great explorersRoald Amundsen and Thor Heyerdahl, Scandinavians have been great travellers. Today, high salaries and generous vacation allowances allow most locals to take more than one vacation every year. That's certainly the case in Norway. In addition, the growth of Norwegian Air, Ryanair and WizzAir has meant weekend breaks are more accessible and cheaper than ever before. Someone who ten years ago couldn't afford international travel can now easily spend a weekend break in London, where they'll put their English skills to the test.
Perhaps it’s that inner-explorer, but even after almost a decade of formal English language education, many Scandinavians take things a step further by studying abroad. Whatever subject they’re studying, it’s highly likely to involve immersion in an English language environment. As globalization continues at pace, English is seen as a critical skill for business. The British Council reports that by 2020, two billion people will be studying the language. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to “think global first” and buoyed by the success stories of the likes of Spotify, many are doing just that. This focus on English in business isn’t a new phenomenon. The person behind the wildly successful English language immersion company EF Education First is not British nor American, rather a Swede! Bertil Hultbegan sending Swedish students to Brighton way back in 1965 and his company now works with students and adults from all across the globe who want to immerse themselves in English.
What impact has English had on Scandinavian culture as a whole? That's a politically-charged question that is often asked in Denmark, Norway and Sweden these days. With English becoming the working language of many companies, some worry that Danish, Norwegian and Sweden are under threat. However, in a recent report, Sweden's Language Council (Språkrådet) said that the overall language system remains “highly stable.” Olle Josephson is Professor Emeritus in Scandinavian Languages and former head of Språkrådet. In an interview with The Local, he agrees that English isn't as big a threat as some believe: “Compared to the influence of Low German around the 14th and 15th centuries, English influence is fairly weak. That German influence really transformed the way Swedish worked. There is no threat to the Swedish language in that it could be successively consumed by English, word for word.” Some point to immigration as a reason for the increased use of English. However, in order to gain ci...
Sweden is the most populous of the Nordic countries and, out of the 3 Scandinavian languages, Swedish is the most widely spoken. The country has a wider range of business opportunities and high-profile companies, thus making it the ideal choice if eventual employment or business is your aim. Apart from that, Sweden is also an EU member.
Its true that the three Scandinavian languages have so much in common that they could almost be seen as dialects. Those of us who speak one of them are able to understand speakers of the other two, at least to some extent. All of them evolved from Old Norse, better known to non-Scandinavians as the Viking language. They make up the North-Eastern branch of the Germanic language tree, in which the North-Western branch consists of Icelandic and Faroese. (Finnish, in case you were wondering, is related to Hungarian, Sami and Estonian, and is not even an Indo-European language.) Swedish boasts the biggest language community of the three, with 10 million speakers. The other two have about 5 million speakers each. I like to think of the Scandinavian languages like three sisters. Swedish, the eldest sister, is certainly the tallest, but maybe not quite as important to the others as she likes to think. Norwegian, the middle child, understands both her siblings and plays the role of mediator. Danish, the young rebel, is smoking indoors and no one gets her. Despite some differences in vocabulary, written Danish and written Norwegian are almost identical. This is because Norway belonged to Denmark between the 14th and 19th centuries, and with the kingdoms royal, intellectual, and administrative power centered in Copenhagen, everything official had to be written in Danish. Danish never really found its way into the spoken language, however the geographical proximity to Sweden played a larger role. So a conversation between a Norwegian and a Dane is often accompanied by a lot of hva?, but if they would just pick up their phones and text each other instead, the communication would flow perfectly well. As it turns out, the middle child is actually the most understanding one in this family (as in many families) Norwegians are the clear winners when it comes to understanding their language neighbors. There are three main reasons for this. First, Norwegian is quite simply the middle child written like Danish but sounding like Swedish. Second is that theyre used to hearing Swedish and Danish on TV and radio. Thirdly, even in Norway itself, there is a very wide range of dialects, each of them with a relatively high status. So Norwegians have to understand people who dont speak like they do, otherwise they wont be able to travel within their own country!
Danish and Norwegian are very similar, or indeed almost identical when it comes to vocabulary, but they sound very different from one another. Norwegian and Swedish are closer in terms of pronunciation, but the words differ.
This metaphor is not that far away from the reality. A study by Delsing and Åkesson from 2005 has shown that Danes have the most difficulties understanding their neighbors and their neighbors also have the most difficulties understanding them. Conversations between Swedes and Danes in particular are known to be a bit awkward. As a Swedish native, I myself have come to a point where I can understand most of what I hear in Danish, but it takes a lot of concentration. And Im sure that the feeling is mutual for my Danish conversation partner.
The clichés are many: They sound like theyre drunk all the time!, Its as if they had a potato in their throat!, Raging drunk Norwegians speak perfect Danish!, or Why dont they articulate? Yes, we like to tease each other in Scandinavia, but these sayings are actually quite ignorant. Danish, for example, isnt a sloppy or particularly inarticulate language its supposed to sound like that! Let me clarify.
- History of Scandinavian Languages
- Why Not Study Scandinavian Languages?
- Why Learn Scandinavian Languages?
- Why Learn The Swedish Language?
- Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish Courses in India
In some distant time, people in North-Central Europe speak some variants of the Germanic group. That is why it is called North Germanic or Nordic language. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Faroe Islands) are referred to as Nordic countries, whereas “Scandinavia” is commonly used for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Thus, Scandinavia can be considered a subset of the Nordic countries. They share enough standard lexical, grammatical features, and phonetics to prove a common origin. Over several centuries, It was divided between west and east Scandinavian. The division was started in the 8th century during the period of Viking. Initially, the difference between West and East Scandinavian languages or dialects was relatively slight but later, by the 16th century. The difference was considerably noticeable. Nowadays, East and West Scandinavian languages are now reconfigured into: 1. Insular Scandinavian(Icelandic and Faroese), and 2. Continental Scandinavian(Swedish, Danish, and No...
1. English is everywhere in the Scandinavia region
English is not a rare commodity in the north of Europe (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands). And not only do they speak English exceptionally well, but they love it too. If they feel you cannot speak their language, they often switch to English to enable smoother conversations. Like Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian, English is also a Germanic language. Since all share many similar aspects, it makes the learning process more comfortable. It is one of the main reason...
2. Not very popular beyond North Central Europe
Approximately 20 million people speak all the Nordic and Scandinavian languages combined in the world. However, it is only about 0.3% of the global population. If your Job or Business tends to require a knowledge of the Nordic language, that would be a completely different ball game. Otherwise, the practical use and benefits you get out of it are not as high as, say, French, Spanish, or German.
3. Limited resources to learn
We can acknowledge that it is not very common to find someone teaching Finnish, Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian who isn’t from Nordic countries. One main reason is the lack of professional teachers and learning materials. You might find various online lessons, language apps, and interactive courses. Still, not many good books or language teachersare available beyond the Nordic countries.
An essential ingredient in language learning is the learner’s motivation, which can come in different forms like needs, interests, and desires. Here are a few reasons why to learn.With more than 10 million native speakers, Swedish is the most widely spoken among the North Germanic family. Once you learn Swedish, it will open the Danish and Norwegian doors, thanks to a high l...Sweden’s economy is the largest and most diversified economy in the Nordics. Fourteen of the 25most valuable Nordic brands are from Sweden.Sweden is the best in almost everything. Not only is it the highest-ranking Nordic nation, but it was named the best country for women. And for raising children, for doing business, the most compet...Sweden is the birthplace of many successful innovative companies. Plus, there are many big Swedish companies with global footprints, such as AstraZeneca, Electrolux, Ericsson, Volvo, H&M, IKEA, to...
The Bengaluru Central Universityoffers an eight-month certificate course in Finnish and Swedish through the Center For Global Studies. There are few institutes in various cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore with Scandinavian languages programs. However, due to limited demand – there are no regular batches at these centers. I will keep you updated. There are many language learning websiteswhere you can study.
For clarity, Scandinavian (North Germanic) languages are Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese. But! Iceland and Faroe Islands, as nations, aren’t Scandinavian. The Sámi language spoken in Northern Norway and Sweden has completely different origins and isn’t mutually intelligible with the Scandinavian languages.
- How History Influenced Nordic Language
- Nordic Language Families
- Old Norse
- The Scandinavian Languages
- Can Scandinavians Understand Each other?
- Sami Languages
- Other Nordic Languages
Historically, many people living in the Nordic countrieswere able to understand each other. This shared linguistic ability has helped to bind the region together through shared literature and mutual understanding. While Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are today all independent states, that's not always been the case. For many centuries, Norway was part of political unions with Denmark and Sweden, which heavily influenced the development of what we today call the Norwegian language.
Most people know that Old Norse was used by the Vikings and spread across Northern Europethrough raids, trades and exploration. Old Norse has since developed into the modern North Germanic languages Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish. Among those, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish retain considerable mutual intelligibility and are known as the Scandinavian languages. But the story doesn't end there. Finnish and the Sami languages are unrelated to the Scandinavian languages. Danish, Finnish and Swedish are also official languages of the European Union.
Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Iceland, Scandinavia and many of their overseas settlements throughout much of the Middle Ages. It is generally accepted to have transitioned into the North Germanic languages in the 14th and 15th centuries. If there's one word that can be used to describe Old Norse, it's diverse. It could be written in Younger Futhark runesand then later using the Latin alphabet. There were also two distinct dialects, west and east. The eastern dialect led to the Swedish and Danish we know today. The western variety eventually became Icelandic, Faroese and Norwegian, although the latter two are today heavily influenced by modern Danish.
Spoken only in Iceland, modern Icelandic is the closest language to Old Norse still in use today. Although elements of the language have developed and no-one is quite sure how Old Norse would have sounded, the grammar and vocabulary remains similar. So much so that Iceland Magazine said modern Icelanders can read the medieval manuscripts “with little difficulty.” Linguistic experts have previously warned that the Icelandic language is at risk of dying outin modern society. The widespread use of English in the country, both for tourism and for voice-controlled electronic devices, has slowly reduced the numbers of Icelandic-speakers to less than 400,000.
An estimated 72,000 Faroe Islanders speak Faroese, which is related to Icelandic yet not mutually intelligible in speech. However, the written languages have much in common.
While they descended from two different dialects of Old Norse, the languages of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are mutually intelligible to a large extent. Some linguists argue they can be regarded as three strong dialects of a single Scandinavian language. Each language was heavily influenced by the long periods of political union, such as the Kalmar Unionand the Denmark-Norway era. This is especially true for Norwegian, which strongly resembles written Danish. Read more: The Languages of Norway It's also the reason for the creation of the Nynorsk (New Norwegian) language once Norway emerged from centuries of Danish rule. A nationalist movement resulted in the development of a “new” written languagebased on spoken dialects that more closely resembled pre-Danish Norwegian. According to the Norwegian Language Council, approximately 10% of Norwegians write in Nynorsk, predominantly in rural parts of western Norway.
This is a tricky question! Recent researchshows that Norwegian is the easiest of the Nordic languages for other Nordic citizens to understand. 62% of young people from other Nordic countries find it “easy” to understand Norwegian, compared with just 26% for Danish. Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are the working languages of official Nordic co-operation. For meetings of the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers, an interpretation service is offered between Finnish, Icelandic and Scandinavian, but not between the three Scandinavian languages. English is the working language of official Nordic-Baltic co-operation.
Now to throw a little curveball at you. Finnish (suomi in Finnish) is spoken by approximately 5.8 million people in Finlandand parts of Sweden, but it has nothing in common with the Scandinavian languages. Finnish comes from the Finnic group of the Uralic languages. Its closest relation is Estonian, while Finnish also shares morphology with Hungarian, another Uralic language. Finnish is considered significantly more difficult for native English speakers to learn than the Scandinavian languages.
Also a member of the Uralic family, the Sami languages are spoken natively by less than 50,000 Sami people in Norway. Despite this, Sami does have official minority language status. The Sami languages are divided into two groups—western and eastern—but there are many further subdivisions. Mutual intelligibility varies considerably as many of the languages likely emerged in isolated communities. Many are now extinct with many others threatened. Since the creation of the Sami Parliamentin 1989, Sami languages have enjoyed a renewed focus. For example, financial support is available to writers and other creatives actively using the language. Of course, whether this results in increased native use over the long-term remains to be seen.
The Kven languageis spoken by the Kven people, a minority group in northern Norway with strong Finnish heritage. The language is at great risk of extinction with just 10,000 native speakers, the majority of retired age. Kven can best be described as a strong dialect of Finnish with a lot of Norwegian loan words plus some archaic Finnish terms. Greenlandic (or Kalaallisut) belongs to the Inuit branch of the Eskimo-Aleut language family. It is related to a number of languages spoken in northern Canada and Alaska, but not understood by speakers of other Nordic languages. Other minority languages include Karelian in Finland and Meänkieliin Sweden. Of course, while not an official language in any of the Nordic countries, Englishenjoys a special status throughout the region. In Norway, English is taught in school from a young age. Thanks to YouTube and social media, most kids become fluent in English extremely quickly. Read more: The English language in Scandinavia English is also increas...