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'Swedes are stupid': Norwegian professor

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 10 Aug 2009, 14:27

Published: 10 Aug 2009 14:27 GMT+02:00

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Finn-Erik Vinje has caused an escalation in what is promising to become an all out language war, by publishing a post on his blog last week asking, "Why are Swedes so stupid?".

The citation, Vinje writes, is taken from a publication written 60 years ago but, he claims, remains a relevant question today.

The basis of Vinje's assertion is that Swedish viewers of Himmelbå, a Norwegian television series based on the British production "Two Thousand Acres of Sky", have complained that the language is too difficult to understand and would prefer to see a series in Swedish, with Swedish actors, in a Swedish setting.

Vinje reacts to a review of the series in the Expressen newspaper in which Norwegian is described as an "incomprehensible and ugly language".

"Line Verndal in the female lead can look as much like (the Swedish actress) Lena Endre as she likes. But she is still speaking that strange double Dutch," Expressen's Nils Schwarts writes.

The retired linguistics professor argues in response that Norwegians have no trouble understanding spoken Swedish.

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"Swedish is child's play for us - in its spoken form anyway. When we have contact with Swedes and realize that they don't understand we simply shift to using the equivalent Swedish word."

Vinje goes on to claim that it is thus unnecessary for Swedish to be subtitled on Norwegian television although adds that perhaps it may be useful to do so for some of the Norwegian dialects.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:58 August 10, 2009 by Puffin
I think that generally Norweigen is pretty well understood by Swedes - however there are a few of the dialects that are hard to understand for Swedish speakers.

However both Swedes and Norweigens have trouble understanding Danes
12:16 August 10, 2009 by peropaco
Finn-Erik. LOL.....ROFLMSAO. (rolling on the floor laughing my sorry azz off)
12:17 August 10, 2009 by DennisJosefsson
Nils Schwartz answers in Expressen today

12:26 August 10, 2009 by Scott in Stockholm
As a Swede, I am embarrassed by the comment from Expressen's Nils Schwarts that started this whole gripe-fest. Why would a *newspaper* print something so baseless and inflammatory as a personal attack on the aesthetics of a foreign language? Any editor worth his salt will see immediately that such a rude comment holds no journalistic value and will serve only to drum up bad feelings all around. Is it any wonder a Norwegian will respond this way? It is simply a return volley shot across the bow. I suppose this is one of the many reasons that Expressen is not considered a real newspaper.

Most non-Swedes I've met consider Swedish to be a pretty awful language. Heck, the Muppets even had the Swedish chef whose entire comedic appeal was his ridiculously incomprehensible locution. So to refer to Norwegian as an ugly language when compared to Swedish is a total joke, one that Mr. Schwarts obviously fails to get.

Of course, Mr. Vinje's blanket assertion is equally ignorant.
13:03 August 10, 2009 by Jan M
The answer is likely to be underlying Swedish insecurity toward Norway which is based on linguistics but is based on economics and the current job situation. 'Little brother' shouldn't have the larger economy by GDP and certainly not on the back of a true social democrat government as opposed to the 'conservative/free enterprise lite' philosophy in Sweden. It offends Swedish sensibilities but they can't bring themselves to discuss it so here's a replacement 'issue'. On the bright side, if Norway wasn't able to employ such large numbers of Swedes then Reinfeldt's career would be over now.
13:16 August 10, 2009 by max79
Most of us do understand quite a bit Norwegian. I have a friend from Norway and he usually writes in Norwegian and me in Swedish. Maybe there are a few words here and there that can be confusing - and sometimes the exact same word has different meaning, like "rolig", which means funny in Swedish and calm/take it easy in Norwegian.

And as I understand it they have been watching Swedish tv for years in Norway, and we don't watch their tv, at least not to the same extent. And Swedish culture has had a bigger impact on the world outside. No wonder they might understand us a bit more.
13:43 August 10, 2009 by Tutu
I think the professor wants to make another living by delibrately creating the controversy. Secondly should we call the English stupid for not learning other languages or not in the least likely want to do so.

it seems to me that swedish is a superior language to Norweigan. I dont think i have ever seen any Norway films or not interested because it was boring.
15:05 August 10, 2009 by eZee.se
Drop both Swedish and Norwegian and switch totally to English... simple.

Just a second... then we would lose more jobs overseas... and the last thing i want is some guy in India or Pakistan in a call center picking up the phone when i need help with a product.

Am confused... ignore this comment.

Oh yeah, someone should bitch slap this professor for being such an idiot.
15:14 August 10, 2009 by Greg in Canada
The relationship between the Scandinavian cousins - Swedes, Norwegians and Danes can get quite humorous at times. Very much like a dysfunctional family.
15:50 August 10, 2009 by byke
Lets bring up the question of who were the real vikings LOL

****gets popcorn out***
16:59 August 10, 2009 by odinmp5
this guy has never been to the border, where people usually understand each other.

both languages share a common ancestor and its evolution gave some kind of advantage to norway in the "understanding" department.

but then i dont see no problem , if they are so smart then switch to swedish while talking to swedes.
17:32 August 10, 2009 by conboy
This thread will go on forever
17:38 August 10, 2009 by I Love it when ...
wow tee hee love it how they put a picture of Uma from the movie the producers ...
17:51 August 10, 2009 by GefleFrequentFlyer
I guess it's hard to make sense of Norwegian when someone asks for a 'yellow bend' they are actually wanting a banana.
19:18 August 10, 2009 by matale
Wtf? Was talking to a Norwegian girl today and she said the exact same thing!! Is this view very common in Norway?
19:36 August 10, 2009 by Kaethar
Swedes and Norwegians both understand each other. Swedes and plenty of Norwegians have trouble understanding Danish though.

Now, Norwegians will on average understand more Swedish than Swedes will understand Norwegian. Why is this? It's because Norwegians are given more foreign texts to read in school and more of their television is in foreign languages. Not many Norwegian shows are shown in Sweden... Now, this man clearly fails as a linguistics professor and it reflects badly on him even if he reacted to an immature piece of writing.

People will always prefer a dialect close to their own. Different dialects in different parts of Sweden can be hard for people to understand (same with Norway). But all you need to do is go and live in a place for some time and you'll pick it up quite easily. "Stupid" indeed. -.-
20:47 August 10, 2009 by Keith #5083
as an englishman who has lived in both countries for some years each I find the Prof's words.....ignorant!

In North Norway they must learn 3 different Norwegian languages by the time they are 15 - their own dialect, NyNorsk and then Bokmal.

My experience had been that there are almost as many Norwegian languages as there are Norwegians! Despite the best efforts of the Norwegian gov in the last 30 (?) years, they still have not managed to get a common Norwegian language throughout the country.

I suggest the Prof gets out and about in Norway a bit more and learns that not every Norwegian understands Norwegian! Try saying 'Ka' in Oslo

I repeat, I am an englishman with no particular flag to wave in this discussion - but I do feel strongly to stand up for intelligent and warmhearted Swedes against unjust and ignorant attacks like this one. Linguistics Prof should be fighting within his own land to stabilise a language instead of blaming others for it's inadequacies.
21:22 August 10, 2009 by DavidLightman
Erm I think you'll find the show is actually called Himmelblå and not 'Himmelbå' as written here, hee hee and talk about Swedes being dumb...I know I know just an innocent typo but I think The Local needs to invest in a spellchecker.
22:09 August 10, 2009 by koded
I think it is quite an ignorant statement. If you check other languages in other parts of the world that look similar you will find out that the minority who has a special dialect is not always understood by others who are in majority as regard to the spoken language.

And I think it is simple, the general spoken language will be easier to be understood my many than the fewer spoken language.

I think more people speak Swedish than Norwegian language and Swedish is more acceptable than Norwegian. Also, Norwegian has a specific local dialect and words that already exist in Swedish which is already acceptable or more well understood by people.
22:15 August 10, 2009 by we-say-polis-too
The English are stupid for not understanding us Scots...
00:17 August 11, 2009 by Kooritze
What the hell is this thread about? An article about nothing does not deserve comment! Lets have some real journalism please.
00:29 August 11, 2009 by gustavIIadolph
What about Swedes and German? How well do Swedish speakers understand German?
01:45 August 11, 2009 by ppk
What about Icelandic ?
02:16 August 11, 2009 by Hedley
Ok, I my POV (not Swedish or Norwegian), a neutral one: Everybody is stupid!

Being a international student, it is not required to speak Swedish, but I am trying to learn it: "Jag talar inte svenska!"

Whenever you are speaking a non native language, you look like a moron for a native!

For instance, I am a Spanish native speaker, I can read Portuguese and Italian but I can not speak neither one. Does it make me stupid? maybe; however you may look as stupid as I look when I say "jag talar inte svenska" whenever you say "I love my little boy or little girl" in my language
02:44 August 11, 2009 by cjsantiago
I think to avoid any misunderstanding between Norwegians and Swedishes should use English languague is the FRANK LANGUAGE around the world.
03:45 August 11, 2009 by wolfen
who cares what they think?I think thier stupid sometimes too.His opinion doesn't make me any less of a man or swede.Hey byke,another dislexict.I'll spell it right one of these days!!!
04:03 August 11, 2009 by Random Guy
@ Hedley

No, that does not make you stupid, but:

"but I can not speak neither one."

that does make you stupid. I would stick with Spanish, as Swedish and English, you can not speak EITHER one!
04:54 August 11, 2009 by Marley420
I lived in Sweden for 4 years, and this last year, in Norway. I have no problem speaking Swedish, but feel quite inferior to Norwegian. More with the dialects, than anything else that I am having trouble.

I have met very smart and not so bright people both in Sweden and Norway. But it all depends on ones denotation of smart.

I think the Professor could of rephrase his words more carefully.
07:07 August 11, 2009 by jolee jones
Ohhh, this is so cute! It's like in America, where people from neighboring & very similar states like to make fun of eachother (e.g. North Dakota, South Dakota, & Minnesota) & they each have many Scandinavians! Being 1/2 Norwegian, 1/4 Swedish (& 1/4 "German from Russia"), I'm curious about subtle differences between Norwegians & Swedes. Could someone tell me why "Ole & Lena" Norwegian jokes are so popular in the USA, but never Swedish jokes??? Tac/kk!
08:03 August 11, 2009 by Aussie_Downunder
Why are Norwegiens so pretentious?
10:18 August 11, 2009 by Serendipitiz
@ Random Guy - a bumptious ignoramus trying to correct a person who admits English is not his native language, but is at least trying.

@ Random - do you really think what you wrote is acceptable? Your grammar is poor, your punctuation irrelevant and inaccurate, and your usage of CAPS completely inappropriate. That makes you far stupider than the person you were trying to correct.

Do us a favor and spare us your enlightenment.
10:32 August 11, 2009 by Keith #5083
@Serendipitiz I am with you in respect of your comments about @Random Guy and wonder if Random Guy is also a Professor as it seems he shares a common desire to feel superior.Neither charitable nor understanding in his elucidations. Ah,ain't education great......
10:44 August 11, 2009 by UKLady
Why the language lesson.

He is not stupid for TRYING to speak another language - fair play to him for trying!

Most Brits are incredibly lazy when it comes to foreign languages because we all automatically assume that everyone else will speak English - which of course they do as not only is English the worlds business language, but language education in England is abysmal when compared to its European counterparts!

I love all the Nordic languages and think that each sound great - the dialects however really stump me - just getting to grips with Värmlandska (only taken 7 years! ) but forget some of the dialects in Norway and nowhere near to speaking Danish yet, though I can understand it enough to read it.

There are ignorant people all over the world so what this Proff. is on about is anyones guess. Mind you, if that is the level of intelligence amongst todays academia then we are all up creek without a paddle.

Orkar inte längre med såna skit.

Ha det bra allihopa!
11:04 August 11, 2009 by ramazama
Hello , there is no such thing as a high or low language , its just people think ,because of their big false ego and pride , that there language is better, ITS ONLY A SOUND THAT COMES OUT OF A HUMAN MOUTH , ONE LANGUAGE , ONE WORLD , JUST PICK ONE , ANY ONE , IT DOSNT MATTER .
11:06 August 11, 2009 by Likvid
Who's laughing now eh?
11:21 August 11, 2009 by skane refugee
Don't think Norwegians need much excuse to engage in a bit of 'Swede bashing' ... my Norwegian friends love it! ...

There seems to be a romanticised fantasy vision of 'Scandinavian Unity' among certain Swedes (who naturally see Sweden as the 'big brother'/de facto leader of the Scandinavian nations because of their population size*) ... ignoring the fact that most Danes, and especially Norwegians can't stand Swedes

Danish friends who work for SAS airline for example say the Danes and Norwegians socialise together quite happily, but the Swedes are regarded as iredeemably boring/incapable of anything other than planned socialising and are 'avoided like the plague' ... I've heard the same thing unprompted on separate occasions from a pilot, cabin crew and a senior maintenance engineer

IMHO it's not the language gaps that divide Norway, Denmark and Sweden ... it's primarily the culture gaps ...

Interestingly enough (it's all relative!!! ;o) ) ... (Norwegian-American) US Senator Karl Rove ... one of the most prominent/powerful Scandinavian-American politicians in US history (please correct this someone! ;o) ) ... is a famously rabid 'Sweden Hater' ... highlighting Swedens alleged 'historical duplicity' vis a vis Norway ...

It was Rove who despised Swede Hans Blix (for no other apparent reason than Blix's nationality) to the extent that the chief UN weapons inspector in Iraqs credibility was fatally undermined in the eyes of the US government at the time with serious geo-political consequences

* ... Swedens population is only larger than Denmarks due to the population of Skåne/Blekinge/Halland being Swedish not Danish ... this was only achieved because the Öresund (unusually) froze at a convenient time for the Swedish army to launch a surprise invasion of Zealand in the 1600's ... and was only maintained because it subsequently suited the larger European powers to have both sides of the strategically important Öresund controlled by different countries
11:28 August 11, 2009 by Alannah
As an English speaker, I gave up a long time ago trying to speak Swedish in Sweden as the Swedes don't understand me ... if I ask for a "Morotskaka och en kaffe" in a cafe, I end up with a blank stare and a slice of cheesecake, if I ask for "en enkel biljett" on the Flygbuss, I get a blank look and a "Vad så du?" reply. Yet, on a trip to Northern Norway where not everyone speaks good English, I was forced to utter a few words in Swedish to communicate in restaurants and cafes ... the Northern Norwegians understood me perfectly. Strange, or are the Norwegians just more willing to make an effort to understand us?
11:40 August 11, 2009 by Puffin
I think that in every country there are some dialects that are harder to understand - I remember when I first learned Swedish I found it very hard to understand the husband of a colleague of Mr Puffin's who spoke with what was described to me as a "special dialect found in a small area of Skåne"

I was at a Nordic conference last year where the conference language was "Scandinavian" - however there were several of the participants in my workshop that had dialect that were difficult to understand - not only for me but also for other Swedes and Danes present - someone explained that this dialect was more difficult to understand (I'm thinking that they said it was a northern Oslo dialect but might be wrong here - by contrast the local dialects in the North of Norway were easy to understand - but boy was the last day tough when we discussed 8 papers - all presented by Norweigens - and mostly in this dialect that was hard to understand.
11:50 August 11, 2009 by UKLady
Have had and still have at times the same problem.

I know I am not fluent and that whenever I speak Swedish there is always that underlying sound in my speech that shows automatically I am not a native Swede BUT my language skills have been good enough for me to pass several utbildning with vg or above including the National Prov test and find work so why do some Swedes always give me the blank look and the rude "vad så du?" - its hardly something that will make immigrants want to try their Swedish and fit in is it!

I know its not everyone that does that but its so hurtful when it happens.

Now I immediately revert to English and when they use their at times bad English I nicely say "I did understand your English but its very poor - just as well I have enough manners not to make fun of you" and walk off.

Its great seeing their faces
11:56 August 11, 2009 by byke
I had a bike shop in stockholm many moons ago and we used to get this one kid from Skåne phone up and order bike parts which was done in English ...

However when it came to asking for his address we could never understand it !

The phone would be literally passed around the whole store to anyone who was in it (swedes, brits ... you name it) at one point we had 7 guys from the stockholm (all swedes) area try to figure out what he was saying was his address... couldnt do it.

Eventually we had him fax the address over.

It was Greturegatan .... but he pronounced it Graavuruuuragaaaachwan (I still remeber it to this day) ... they sound like they are tea bagging when talking at times.
11:58 August 11, 2009 by skane refugee
Love that approach :-) ... well played UK lady!!!
12:03 August 11, 2009 by UKLady

Why thank you!

I try not to be rude if I can help it, but one thing that will get me started (being a gobby Englishwoman its not hard I suppose) is unecessary rudeness and mickey taking.

Give it a try if you ever get the same problem - it really works. They end up with fish mouths (open wide and flapping). class.
12:05 August 11, 2009 by UKLady
Out of all the dialects Skånes has to be THE WORST!

I mean absolutely no offense to anyone from Skåne but it really is dire and terrible to understand.

To me it sounds like a donkey braying who has taken a few downers and gone into slow motion....

I truly don't mean to be insulting so my apologies if this offends anyone.
12:52 August 11, 2009 by Hedley
@ Random guy!

As a native speaker I really can speak in Spanish. I can speak English, but not Swedish or Norwegian language (I hope I can do it within 6 months). Whenever I said that I can not speak "neither one" I meant Italian or Portuguese language, not Spanish one, because that really make me really ultra stupid! I think I did not explained myself!
13:35 August 11, 2009 by diegoveggie
norwegians still use the word 'gay' to say that something is 'fun'. like 'vad rolight!'. they say 'vad gay!'.

so there you go, norway is gay.
14:58 August 11, 2009 by Random Guy
@ Hedley.

I was just kidding anyway. I am very impressed. I speak English and Swedish and wish I could learn Spanish!!!!

Even knowing both, I use "Swinglish" words now and then.

Again people - "it was a joke". .... kind of like Norwegian, just a joke ( Oh, I am going to get it again for that one ).

I do think it is funny how if I change all my USA "blonde jokes" from blonde to Norwegian and then Sweds think they are sooooo funny. Like:

What do you call a Norwegian woman with 2 brain cells? Pregnant! ( I will get it for that on too!)

15:27 August 11, 2009 by Eel
More likely to have something to do with the fact that local dialects have a much higher status in Norway - which means Norwegians are used to hearing loads of different versions of Scandinavian (it´s basically one language isn´t it?). The Swedes still got the nazi "language hygiene" mentality where everyone goes apeshit if someone on TV speaks Skånska or Gotländska. Deviations from Rikssvenska - or is its Reichssvenska? - are barely tolerated. No wonder they can´t understand you.
17:00 August 11, 2009 by tapaninyc
Vinje is not the first to draw attention to perceived stupidity and language.

In discussions elsewhere, it has been pointed out that the Swedish language is lacking the word 'consistent,' and the word 'consequent' is used in its place. It is, if not a reflection, then at least a remarkable coincidence, that the foreigners tend to react to how the Swedes have trouble conceiving of causality.
17:12 August 11, 2009 by randyt
WOW! There are as many comments on this story as there are on some of the articles in the U.S. about healthcare, and as heated!

You would never see this debate in the U.S. because 99.9% of Americans don't even know there are other languages!
17:22 August 11, 2009 by Puffin
Don't people in Swedish mostly use

- konsekvent/ överensstämmelse or even konsistens - to mean consistent ?

Whereas they use

- konsekvens (not exactly the same as konsekvent) or följd/påföljd - when they mean consequent ?

But then again it can be misleading to assume that words that look like an English word have the same meaning in Swedish - for in Swedish eventuellt (which looks like eventually) actually means possibly/maybe

... and people should be wary of Plopp/Kräpp
18:37 August 11, 2009 by tapaninyc
I am not that good in Swedish, but is 'konsekvent' an adjective or adverbial, and 'konsekvens' a substantive?

According to my dictionary,

konsekvens s

överensstämmelse consistency;

[på]följd consequence


I adj consistent

II adv


genomgående throughout
18:45 August 11, 2009 by 2394040
I don't live in Sweden, although I do know a little Swedish. This controversy reminds me of the same situation here in the USA. I live in the southeast part of the country, and there's a considerable difference in accents beween here and the northeast. It's always been quite common for Northerners to pretend that they can't understand Southerners. It's really a difference in accents. However, there has always been a sense of wariness, mostly because of the American Civil War. I suppose there's a certain amount of mutual snobbishness. Even though that war ended in 1865, it often seems as if it never ended at all. I'm not all that versed in Scandanavian history, but I seem to recall that Sweden once was (and perhaps still is) the dominant country in the region.

I think the good professor's comments are more the result of past history than actual fact. Just like the North-South history over here.
18:46 August 11, 2009 by tapaninyc
Sorry, I can't go back and edit. The formatting was lost when I posted.

Here's my question.

If Konsekvens (s) means both consistency and consequence, and

Konsekvent (adj) consistent, and (adv) consistently

How would you then say 'consequently' in swedish since the adverbial of 'consequent' is already taken to mean consistently.

There is an odd discrepancy, where the substantive and adjective/adverbial
19:24 August 11, 2009 by jack sprat
Hardly true in view of the huge Hispanic population amongst many others.

Non Hispanic Whites in the US are expected to form a less than 50% minority by the year 2050.
21:40 August 11, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
I guess you haven't watched any TV the last decade then...
21:43 August 11, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
consequently = följaktligen
22:05 August 11, 2009 by Kaethar
Skånska rocks! It's like an improved version of Danish. I think we may have to invade Denmark once again and Swedisize them a bit...

I'm actually from Stockholm but Skånska is definitely one of my favourite Swedish dialects.

How can you not love this?!



Peps Persson


22:22 August 11, 2009 by Kaethar
True. I find they try to squeeze as many accents in there as possible. They even show plenty of Finnish Swedish (which is not spoken in Sweden).

The best one though is that ad for Media Markt where he speaks Swedish with a thick German accent and ads in random German phrases. Mediamarkt usually has such ads but this one is the best one.
22:34 August 11, 2009 by coheniye
throughout history shows us that understanding your neighbor had always been related to power and influence. small ones understand the big ones easier, not the other way around. example can be seen from portugal/spain, malaysia/indonesia, dutch/german,serbian/russian, korean/japanese, cambodian/thai. you can find throughout this planet earth. this doesn't imply that the small ones are poorer or weaker today, but its a process of a long history. this also works with norway/sweden.
23:43 August 11, 2009 by Visitant
It wasn't a polite comment from the Norwegian professor. The ability of understanding another language depends on how phonetically enriched is your own mother tongue: Danes understand Swedish much better than Swedes do with Danish. Portuguese speakers understand almost 100% of Spanish, but for Spanish speakers Portuguese is almost unintelligible (without study it); that is because Spanish has only 5 vowels and Portuguese has 25!!! Of course, when your are reading Latin languages, they are almost the same. It doesn't mean that Danes and Portuguese are more intelligent than Swedes and Spaniards, but foreign languages are easier for the former than for the latter.
23:54 August 11, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
Nah, not really. Younger Danes do not understand much Swedish at all. It has more to do with generations. For the older generation there was more cultural unity between the Scandinavian countries, and older Scandinavians thus understand each other better. The younger generation have more focus toward mainland Europe.

Also, Norwegians watch Swedish TV to a great extent (due to the proximity to the Swedish border). Swedes do not usually receive Norwegian TV at all.
12:31 August 12, 2009 by millionmileman
I used to live in Sunderland, northeast England, and I am amazed how I have a grasp of at least written Swedish!
12:37 August 12, 2009 by Random Guy
"You would never see this debate in the U.S. because 99.9% of Americans don't even know there are other languages!"

Aren't you embarrassed of running down your countrymen in front of foreigners? Don't worry. I'll do it for you.

BTW, 88.2% of all stats blurted out to support an argument are made up.
12:57 August 12, 2009 by justagurlfromSeattle
I have lived here for 2 years.. and I am VERY a shamed to say, I don't know one freaking work in Swedish.... Whenever I try to say something to my daughter or husband they laugh... and as for saying a street name.... Hell I get a blank look when I was asking how to get to Telefongatan..... it is pretty freaking hard to not understand that street name... But I am not good at saying stuff with the accent in the right place.... so I get a blank look all the time when asking for directions... this is why I am not too eager to try to learn the language....

As for what this idiot professor said... My husband works in Norway, and he says it is because most TV was in Swedish in Norway for many years....

I have found that almost all Swedes speak English... however when I lived in Oslo, NOT all or even most there speak English...

So it is actually easier for me here speaking English... BUT, I think Norwegian is an easier language to learn....
13:20 August 12, 2009 by Petalpusher
Love this article! A personal blog post becomes the fodder for a "news article" in TL. Wow, we really must not have any real news to dicuss in Sweden.
14:39 August 12, 2009 by tpmm
Really interesting!

I think it is easier to understand a language - of course also the ones considered to be mutually intelligible - if you hear it often. So perhaps the Swedes don't really watch Norwegian television. It won't help if they don't understand it and switch channel.

I am a Dutchman, living in Denmark. I am fluent in Danish. Even though Norwegian is considered to be a lot like Danish, I can read it very well, but I am having a hard time understanding it all. It is different with Swedish. Even though way different in spelling, pronunciation and loads of words, it is easier for me to understand it. I guess that is because I hear more Swedish than Norwegian in the South of Denmark and try to listen to Swedish ljudböcker for fun. It is such a beautiful language! Yes, especially in compare to farmer Danish, haha!

I am confident enough to say that a bit of effort will make me understand Norwegian as well. Sometimes it is just getting used to the different way of placing the accent, and if you know how it is done, you might be able to recognize one language in the other.

I had a funny experience in Sweden with my Danish collegues. I, as a forreigner, could communicate with the Swedes, as the Danes couldn't understand what they were saying, looking at me for help. For me it proves that it can be done, by just offering a bit of time and effort. Swedes are certainly not stupid. I think they are great. :-D Their English is at least way better than the Danes'.
14:47 August 12, 2009 by Streja
Only some Swedes that live very near the Norwegian border can actually get Norwegian television whereas Norwegians get Swedish telly everywhere.
18:06 August 12, 2009 by jack sprat
I would be surprised if the respective satellite system coverage or footprint doesnt overlap both countries fairly well.
18:14 August 12, 2009 by Streja
The Norwegians, like the Swedes, have digital TV and apparently the two different countries have opted for different systems, making border populations angry as they have to buy two diferent digital boxes.

My sister lives in Norway, awwight?
18:40 August 12, 2009 by Luke35711
I don't think that Swedes are silly. But there is definitely some cultural virus doing its rounds here: Swedes are megalomaniacs, convinced of their cultural superiority. As ever. the reason for over-confidence is taking past performance as the prognostic of future success. Whereas, the reality is that both successes and failures happen mostly by chance. I just wonder how many more decades of slow but steady decline will it take to change the collective mentality?
18:49 August 12, 2009 by Streja
Decline where, how and why?
20:09 August 12, 2009 by AR Studio
Perhaps the comment Nils Schwartz made was not the most diplomatic of one, but for a linguistics professor to write: why are Swedes so stupid is more indicative of stupidity than the former.

I would expect a linguistics professor to pick his words more wisely.

Why do I percieve some Swedes to be stupid? perhaps more befitting.
20:18 August 12, 2009 by Gwrhyr
It's funny how many people act like the Norwegian professor is an idiot for saying this when Swedes are also prone to saying the same thing... after all the professor was reacting to the Swedish comment: "Vinje reacts to a review of the series in the Expressen newspaper in which Norwegian is described as an "incomprehensible and ugly language". Why aren't people calling Swedes and/or Expressen stupid for that?

Danes have also been known to say similar things. It's part of the love/hate relationship that these three countries have. On the one hand, they realize they are extremely similar in language and history compared to the world outside, on the other hand they have a history of fighting each other from the moment Old Norse diverged into different dialects, and once they put the warfare behind them to join modernity, they haven't just left all suspicion behind to join in some non-Scandinavian's ideal orgy of nude blonde inter-Scandinavian free love.

The funny part about this all is that all three countries seem to share in saying things like this professor has about the other countries... in a way that shows how similar and connected they really are, deep down.
20:23 August 12, 2009 by AR Studio
He is a LIGUISTICS PROFESSOR we have to hold him to a higher standard than a bloody reporter of Aftonbladet. I expect this from them, but this man studies the use a language and its meanings. HELLO...
21:08 August 12, 2009 by DidiE
I don't find a thread about language differences trivial at all- what is more frustrating than living in a country where no-one even tries to understand you- when trying to speak a language, one risks only getting rudeness, or quizzical stares, in return? While the original writing that sparked this thread might have been trivial, the need to communicate is part of being human, and language differences really do affect a lot of us living in Sweden.

While the jury's still out, I don't THINK I'm that stupid, and I came to Sweden speaking three languages proficiently, and reading several others at varying levels of fluency. Still, after five years here, and ongoing, speaking Swedish at least half the time immersion approach to the language, I still get people drawing blank looks, even when I am taking great care to pronounce carefully. The problem with Swedes is that while they are capable of instantly recognising regional differences in Swedish, they absolutely cannot understand non-Swedish, foreign accents from people speaking Swedish. Their brains short circuit- they simply cannot process that a nonSwede would be able to speak Swedish, but in a non-Swedish accent. I have seen this implosion of brain cells happen over and over, and not just when I'm speaking, but when other invandrare speak. The best Swedish conversations I have ever had, have been in all Swedish, but with other non-native speakers. When 'real' native speakers are in the room, they simply cannot understand us at all.

It's too bad that native Swedish speakers can't adapt so easily to non-native accents. The language is a pretty small one, in terms of speakers, and many of the speakers are also fluent, in varying degrees, in English, so that doesn't necessarily bode well. Adaptable languages, like English, which allows for 'non-native' accents, are much easier to learn, since the learners aren't discouraged from trying to speak with native speakers. I do like Swedish- it's an interesting language and challenging enough that learning it has kept me happily engaged for years now. Still, the attitude that one must speak PERFECT Swedish, in a PERFECT Swedish accent, is frustrating. Very few adults coming to Swedish will ever be able to master all the sounds that a native speaker has at her use.
04:40 August 13, 2009 by Hedley
@Random Guy

Check out my video my utube account: hedleypanama (It looks like Spanglish), and use the "lexin" online dictionary it have a lot of languages including Spanska just for vocabulary!

I really want to make Spanish like English, since they both the same useful in USA.

However, I can not say the same about Nordic languages. Except, they are very important in developing of English language and their "Grimm laws" (I hope you know what I am writing about).
10:34 August 13, 2009 by si
DidiE - hit the nail on the head - I'm continually frustrated by conversations with Swedes who insist on speaking basic broken English instead of putting in the effort to understand swedish spoken with a foriegn accent. - These conversations are about as intresting as mud - like watching paint dry .. yawn yawn
12:01 August 13, 2009 by jack sprat
For those with a Spanish nanny something quite useful,(a good laugh anyway).

14:22 August 14, 2009 by thisisspain
I am a native English language speaker. I live in Spain permanently but am currently convalescing in Sweden on the Swedish/Norwegian border with a Norwegian family. I speak good Swedish from when I studied it at university. The mother speaks nynorsk as her mother tongue and Norwegian. The daughter is bilingual English/Norwegian and the daughters can flip at ease from Swedish/Norwegian/English. Around the table Norwegian is spoken as it is unnatural for the mother to speak Swedish. The whole language issue is therefore interesting to me.

I have zero problems understanding written Norwegian, Danish or nynorsk. I DO have problems understanding spoken Danish and nynorsk in exactly the same way I can read Catalan, Italian, Galician and Portuguese but make no claim to speak them. I suppose the more interest one has in languages the more attempts one will make to understand or make oneself understood.

To those learning ANY language, I wish you "Lycka Till"
15:14 August 14, 2009 by barryberry
I am a Swedish learner from Hong Kong.

I've been learning Swedish for almost a year. I can understand written Swedish. But I don't know how Norwegian sounds like. But I know Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are mutually intelligible. Some Swedes don't have difficulty understanding written and spoken Norwegian.

In that case, I think the professor may have some misunderstanding about Swedes. Nobody is good at all languages. I think what I should do now is to learn my favourite lanuage, Swedish!:))
15:43 August 14, 2009 by bufflo

16:20 August 14, 2009 by Baroness_Fredericks
I am part Norwegian as well. So, I say to you each, do not allow such comments to bother you so. We are "all" Nordic peoples and should be so very proud of our similarities and of our differences. We are each a most marvelous mix. Extend a warm embrace to one another and be proud of who you are. From our Crowned Heads of States, our languages, our cultures, our foods, our beliefs, our nations "all" are akin to one another through many centuries of devotion and strife. Lets not look at each other, as cousins, and see flaws. Lets see the beauty and similarities instead and may God grant you each compassion, kindness, wisdom and prosperity all to be enjoyed in the very best of health.
17:50 August 14, 2009 by ChrisPDX
I told an Swedish SAS flight attendant that I love Denmark, but I would never be able to learn Danish as easily as I had learned Swedish. Eye eyes got VERY big and she said to me: "Danish is not a language!!!! It is a throat disease!!!!!" hehehehe

I can understand the Norwegians from Oslo and Bergen. Of course just the basic words, since I forgot most of the Swedish words now after 27 years of not being there!
23:58 August 14, 2009 by conboy
Are you not a wee bit confused about Nordic history? Finland is a Republic dearie as for Your "shared beliefs, devotions etc." I think a Norwegian musket ball put the kybosh on that bollox in the case of Karl the twelfth. Sorry for bursting you bubble but there it is... Sorry!
13:42 August 15, 2009 by preddo53
I just love what Tutu said. " We call the English stupid because they don't learn any other language". Thats a cracker. So the Brits are thick, well not that thick if the rest of the world speaks my language because I can't be arsed to learn theirs. I can go anywhere in the world and I'm understood, yet if a Swede went to the same places no one would know what the hell he was talking about. Oh yes the British are stupid, but it seems not as stupid as the rest of the world, hahaha.
16:24 August 15, 2009 by Nordland88
These comments on language are always fascinating to read. Intolerance of less than perfect Swedish is frequently mentioned. Here in the US only one Accent is acceptable in the main stream media, a flattened out dumbed down non-regional kind of American English. People who speak "Southern" seldom portray any kind of serious character, they are either a silly moron kind of clown, or an evil sherif. To add insult to injury the actors do very poor imitations of the real southern accent.

A lot of the problem is the simple fact that it becomes very difficult to really learn a new language beyond a certain early age, perhaps 11 or 12. I like the Norsk word morspråk. It would be a good thing if people could get over the feelings of indignation at the less than perfect efforts of foreign language learners, and if the learners would simply accept that, lacking real genius at language, very rare, that they will never quite get it right. Oh well, human nature...try to cure that!
20:08 August 15, 2009 by Wanna be Good
Isnt because of Swedes tell so many jokes about Norwegian?? that might pissed off the Professor.
23:24 August 15, 2009 by conboy
You sir are a knob! Oiche mhaith!
03:09 August 16, 2009 by Lipp
Even the norwegians share our trouble with deciphering the danish language. I can't help myself but grin whenever I hear it.

10:28 August 16, 2009 by Likvid
Yeah they are all Norrbaggar in Sweden
16:58 September 8, 2009 by danielsundt
ryr #25 : no and again no. no language imperialism...

we''d rather learned latin classical or simplified.
09:00 October 26, 2011 by sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset
@Alannah, #37: I had the exact same experience as you. I travelled by rail from Stockholm to Narvik and spent an entire summer up there. Every single Swede I met made like they never understood a word of my Swedish. Like you said, very few North Norwegians understand English, and it seemed only the young North Norwegians had little or no trouble with English. However, I am an older American and prefer to socialize with others my age. Every single older Norwegian in Narvik & Tromsø understood EVERY BIT of my Swedish, to the point that I once even thought of moving to North Norway (I made many friends there that summer, more than I ever did with Swedes during the entire 2 years that I lived in Sweden during the '70s), but I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and North Norway's around-the-clock darkness of autumn and winter would kill me. They never once were rude to me, can't say the same about Swedes. And if they spoke Bokmål or Nynorsk slowly, I had little, if any trouble, understanding them. A far better language and international relations success story than what I could ever say about Swedes.
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