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'Swedish is the world’s richest language': Swede

Oliver Gee · 9 Mar 2012, 15:35

Published: 09 Mar 2012 15:35 GMT+01:00

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Nothing new here, perhaps, until the Swede said:

“Swedish is the world’s richest language, in fact it’s infinite – and it’s all thanks to compounding.

“This is where you plug any old words together to make a new one, like 'dishwasher' in English. We thrive on this in Swedish, and even words invented on the spot are completely legitimate.

“Look at this menu," he said. “'Shrimp sandwich', two separate things and two words, but one word in Swedish – räksmörgås”.

He opened his bag, and began excitedly pulling things out.

“Nail polish remover – one word: nagellackborttagningsmedel. “The Half Blood Prince,” he said, waving a Harry Potter book in the air –“Also just one word – halvblodsprinsen. These are all singular words, and I’m just getting started.”

I was about to tell him that he needn’t pull out anything else, as the bag’s contents were even more dubious than his claims, but he changed tack.

“Every single number from one upwards is just one word. 125 is one word: etthundratjugifem. 253,125 is one word too: tvåhundrafemtitretusenetthundratjugifem. Think of all those words for a start!”

“You can’t count those!” I exclaimed, but the pun was lost in the heat of the moment.

“Swedish is the most comprehensive language by far. It is factually unlimited. Case closed."

This is a common argument, I later learnt, that ‘compounding’ languages are often considered the richest due to their potential word count. In this group you can find mostly Germanic based languages, such as Danish and Dutch – but also Turkish, and even many of the Indian languages. But is this really an indication of anything other than spacebar laziness?

I talked to a Swedish Professor at Uppsala University, Lillemor Aronsson.

“There are those who say that Swedish is a poor language compared with English, for example, if you count the total of individual words. You can see that Swedish-English dictionaries are often thinner than English-Swedish ones,” she said.

“But then you’ve not considered the infinite number of words that aren’t in the dictionary: subway, subwaytrain, subwaytrainproblems [she said these in Swedish]. In theory these can be indefinite lengths, but are 3-4 words long max in practice. And we take in loan words and make them Swedish, for example “surfar, chattar and messar”.

When pushed for a straight up yes or no answer, she admitted that Swedish (and other similarly built languages) has unlimited possibilities, and in those terms is the richest language.

So while my Swedish barroom friend was on the right track, he may have gotten off at the wrong stop. Surely a person needs to be fluent in all the languages of the world before passing judgment. I talked to other people of different nationalities, and tried to find how they measured language “richness”.

A Greek masters student told me that he thought Greek was far richer than Swedish and English, in fact, the richest and oldest language in existence. Not only is it the language of Plato and Aristotle, he said, but we have words that are untranslatable – such as 'filotimo' which means a person who is willing to do things in a nice way.

Greek is influential in naming things too, he pointed out, especially in science and medicine, and you can find traces of it everywhere.

Slavic languages often operate on separate alphabets, with Cyrillic or Latin letters depending on the occasion. Japanese utilizes three different ‘scripts’ when written.

Mandarin is spoken by over a billion people and is perhaps the most valuable to learn in today’s economic climate, but does this make the language rich, or the speaker?

So is it alphabets that define richness? Untranslatable words? Or is it the language’s worth in the global market? Is it the most pages in the dictionary?

Back in the bar, the Russian shared his thoughts on the matter.

“It's not about the size of your dict," he said, shortening his own words as usual, "It's about how you use it.

“Think of Russian. Without such a limitless language, how could Tolstoy, Chekov, and Bulgakov have created their world masterpieces? In fact, many Russians sneer upon even Dostoevsky as sub par.

“There’s no limit to creativity and no rules in our expression – it’s a completely different way of thinking.

“If you can translate the beauty and aching sadness of a word like toska or poshlost into English or Swedish - words that Vladamir Nabokov himself called untranslatable - then I can accept that Russian is not the richest."

Story continues below…

I said nothing, resisting the urge to ask if “Toska” was a brand of vodka. (I checked Google later, it was).

But all this got me thinking. From my own perspective, I knew that English has its advantages – its eagerness to adopt foreign words, its constant evolution, its rich history and famous wordsmiths. But I didn’t say anything.

The fact that our conversation in an Uppsala bar was being held in English was a testament to the accessibility of the language. While it may not be the richest – it certainly must be the most user-friendly on a global level. Just look at the three of us; a Swede, a Russian and your resident Aussie – chattering away in English.

In fact, I was about to comment on this when a Rabbi, a Norwegian and a kangaroo walked up to our table and interrupted my train of thought.

“Are you guys done here, we’ve got a routine coming up,” one of them said.

In English, I should add.

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Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:54 March 9, 2012 by Saxifraga

Being a language enthusiast, this article got me thinking right away. Indeed, what criteria should be applied in passing judgement on languages? Take Esperanto or Ido or even Volapük (horribile dictu) which so easily can create new words using a cornucopia of affixes. Or German with its Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänshut (not unlike Swedish). It has to be admitted, though, that Swedish is superior to German due to its added advantage of being quite a bit more easily to learn. Many thanks for this article!
16:07 March 9, 2012 by felineface
What a brilliant picture. However, judging the richness of the Russian language by the untranslatable word toska is like riding a cycle upside down.
16:19 March 9, 2012 by nar klockan klamtar
I have often thought Swedish must be the richest language.
16:20 March 9, 2012 by karex
Many languages have untranslatable words, even Swedish. That doesn't make them rich. A rich language in my eyes is one which has distinct word, i.e., one which has an individual word for each and every thing: not like English where one word can have 1-4 different meanings (even with the same spelling!) A rich language is one that is totally precise and you cannot misunderstand anything.

Perfect languages for writing laws: no chance of misinterpreting or having "creative" interpretations of anything.

My definition of course.

These types of languages however, are famous for being a "nightmare" to learn... That's the downside.
16:27 March 9, 2012 by cospgsmark
In America we often use the word "rich" to describe a food that has an overabundance of an ingredient. If a language gets the job done of communication, I guess it's as good as any other.
16:33 March 9, 2012 by colombianska_tjej
Well, enter spanish

Not only one word can have 4 different meanings, but there can be 4 different words for a single thing. And that inside a single country, for not comparing differences between, let's say, colombian spanish and argentinian spanish. And the grammar is really complex, there are many different tenses and ways to conjugate verbs. All this things make spanish a difficult language, but at the same time give to it an amazing flexibility and richness.
16:53 March 9, 2012 by SmåGrodorna
Just counting words doesn't really cut it in deciding the richness of a language. As the article mentions, there's a virtually infinite range of possibilities in Swedish (and German), but apart from the lack of spaces how exactly does, for example, 'vuxenutbildningsförvaltningen' differ from 'the adult education authority'? One new word vs. four old ones doesn't equal richness.

English is often cited as a rich language, partly because of its tendency to incorporate words for new concepts directly from other languages and partly because it often has two words for essentially the same concept which derive from either the Anglo-Saxon/Norse substrate or the Norman French/Latin input after the Norman Conquest. 'Begin' and 'commence' basically mean the same thing but evoke different emotions in the reader because they are generally used in different contexts and registers. English verbs are extremely expressive in tense, habit, whether the action is complete or not, and how emphatic we want to be.

Then there's Russian with its virtually infinite possible combinations of prefixes on verbs to denote the extent to which something is complete, and suffixes on nouns showing diminutives, niceness or nastiness and so on.

Finally, every language has its pet concepts that have particular resonance in that language and seem to attract far more words than seem strictly necessary from outsiders' perspectives. Inuit languages are well known for having many words for snow. On that basis, it would seem that Swedes do more than the usual amount of thinking: where the English just 'think', the Swedes tänkar, tror eller tycker depending on context.
17:10 March 9, 2012 by tendance
This is perharps the most fun filled report i have read on the local. It is a great educative report which is at the same time so relaxing. This is just perfect for friday reading.

I think the swedes have just tricked themselves to believing that they have such a rich language just because they have managed to use the language compounding function (Lol). Swedish is a derivative language and therefore lacks originality unlike Greek. The example given by the swede in the report is just a lousy one. Consider the 253,125, which is one word in swedish tvåhundrafemtitretusenetthundratjugifem. If decomposed i think it was arrived at so easily. U want to see the richness in a language i invite u to research African languages. I am not a language student but i am convinced that there originality, thickness in dictionary in many African languages,
18:06 March 9, 2012 by Åskar
Professor Lars-Gunnar Andersson of radio program Språket fame was once asked which language had the biggest vocabulary, English or Swedish. His answer was that it is impossible to know.
20:23 March 9, 2012 by Beavis
If Swedish is such a rich language.. then why do most Swedes feel the need o constantly use English words along with the Swedish.. It rarely (almost never) happens the other way around!
21:08 March 9, 2012 by OUIJA
The Greek language is the richest in the world with 5 million words and 70 million word types, according to the 1990 Guinness Book of Records, ...
21:54 March 9, 2012 by Daveo
It is not learnt. It is learned!!

Haven't You learned that by now?
22:34 March 9, 2012 by acidcritic
I believe rating languages for their apprent "richess" in words or false words is absurd. The function - the "duty"- of any tongue is to serve as a communication channel for the people who speaks it, nothing more, nothing less. Take the eskimos. Their language may be relatively poor by occidental standards, but the eskimos enjoy talking it and that is enough. If you want words, you can programme a computer to invent billions of words or expressions every day, but nobody will have any interest in learning that tongue. Lacking history that language has no appeal to humans. On the other hand, the language of a 3 or 4 months bebe even if is poor in words, it is full of meaning, it sounds beatifull and it produces a highly positive reaction on us. I agree with OUIJa that greek must be the most interesting languages. I ask myself if occidental civilization could have existed separated of greek language. I think not.
23:02 March 9, 2012 by NataBee
What a laughable claim and article.
23:20 March 9, 2012 by sparc
One more point for the Greek language is that all those millions of words are derived from a minuscule set of just a few hundred axiomatic words. By that I mean words whose meaning was simply decided. These words are the building blocks for every other word. It is not just compounding though as these axiomatic set is philosophical in nature and was once created to describe the completely unexplainable. That is the reason why most of these words consist of just 2-4 letters.

What I mean is that, if one knows just a few hundred small words in "ancient" greek, he can understand the meaning of most of the 5 million greek words without looking in a dictionary. But even by knowing less than a hundred, one can understand the real meaning behind almost every word that is used in modern greek today. How's that for user-friendliness?

Furthermore, Greek is one of the easiest languages to read. There is only one unique sound for each letter and all letters are pronounced. Given that there are plenty of letters for each sound it is probably one of the hardest to write, but with specific unambiguous rules governing most cases, it's still easier to write than english, french, german and in my opinion swedish.

Grammar? Yes that is a pain... not unlike many other languages though! However, the variety of suffixes makes the language highly unambiguous. The only requirement for a greek phrase is the verb since if it is properly formed it can enclose almost every other "necessary" part of the syntax.

When one word means 5 different things you end up with miscommunication. When 4 different forms of a word give you 4 different meanings, then you have richness. However, greek and spanish syntax is almost identical.

It is my personal opinion that the only reason why Greek got "lost" through the centuries was the Ottoman ruling that tried to extinguish and squash every sign of the Greek culture, plus the "exotic" alphabet might be kind of intimidating! It is a fact that during most of the roman and byzantine times, it was one of the commonly used languages everywhere in Europe.
23:50 March 9, 2012 by derf
It's not just about the vocabulary, it's also about all the mechanisms the language offers you to assemble words into nuanced structures... subtelty, colour, emotion, humour often do not depend on vocabulary!

Disclaimer : native french speaker ;)
03:55 March 10, 2012 by Dijondel
@ derf

for a native French speaker, that is more fluent and more expressive than many native English speakers, especially those from the western suburbs of Sydney.

@ natabee

you could equally have used 'risible', adding to the richness of the English language

At least English has the longest word ever - SMILES. There's a mile between the first and last letters!!
07:02 March 10, 2012 by Saxifraga
Daveo wrote: "It is not learnt. It is learned!! Haven't You learned that by now?"

Note quite true. To be very correct, it should be:

"I later learned, that ..." (past tense)


"Haven't you learnt that by now" (past participle).
18:30 March 10, 2012 by tgolan
language was invented to help stupid people try and be smart
04:33 March 11, 2012 by Saxifraga
Ahem, I tried to be smart, too. A closer look at my English grammar tells me, that 'learned' and 'learnt' are actually used both for the past tense and past participle with 'learned' being preferred in America while 'learnt' is mostly used in Britain. My wise distinction does not exist. I have no idea what made me think so. Sorry for that!
08:56 March 11, 2012 by Freelife
The purpose of a language to communicate. Swedish grammar is very complicated and has too many exception which makes it very hard to learn as a second language.

However if you take Indian languages such as Tamil or Sanskrit which have abundant literature from BC.

08:59 March 11, 2012 by Ballcocks
Sorry, but Swedish, a language that omits a present continuous verb tense can hardly be described as complete never mind rich.
09:25 March 11, 2012 by philster61
Sorry but that title belongs to the English language... Swedish lacks so much
11:33 March 11, 2012 by zooeden
That´s the same argument Hitler said about German!!!
12:39 March 11, 2012 by underskyofsweden
Big claim more seems as language propaganda!
12:57 March 11, 2012 by D. ane
Many Greek words can be made up from a few words by just changing the prefix (or suffix) . Here are some examples that make up some scientifc words - you might find it useful!


prefix Meaning Examples

en inside endocrine, endosperm, endoplasmic

reticulum, endoskeleton

iso equal isomer, isotonic, isotope

ecto/exo out ectoderm, exoskeleton, exocytosis,


syn with, build synthesis, synapse, symbiosis

pros add prosthetic, prostrate,

pro first protein, protozoa, prophase, prokaryotic


ana up anaphase, anabolism, anatomy, anathema

cata down catabolism, catalase, cataclysm, catechism

dia through diaphragm, dialysis, diastema, diameter

meta after metaphase, metamorphosis, metabolism

para side parathyroid, parasympathetic

anti against antibody, antibiotic, anticodon, antipathy

amphi both amphibian, amphoteric,

epi above epithelium, epidermis, epiglottis,

peri around peristalsis, peripheral, pericarp

apo after/late apoplast, apocalypse, apostasis

hypo less hypotonic, hypothalamus, hypothyroidism, hypothesis

hyper more hypertonic, hyperthyroidism, hyperactive

bio life biology, biosynthesis, biochemistry, biodegradable, biomass

cyto cell cytoplasmic, cytology, cytokinesis

eco house ecology, ecosystem, economy

haem blood haemoglobin, haemolytic, haemophilia

photo light photosynthesis, photolysis, photograph

micro small microscope, microtubule, microvilli

auto self autolysis, autosomes, automobile

Sory it's a bit of a mess but the original was tabulated. Yes I know there is one or 2 mistatakes! E.g 'prostrate' probably means in front rather than add!
13:31 March 11, 2012 by Marc the Texan
Wouldn't conjugations of verbs and declensions of nouns be a better measure of richness?

If so, that would probably put some romance languages way out ahead. Sweden has eliminated most tenses and genders along with many other nuances of written and spoken language. That makes Swedish a very blunt and ham-fisted language that requires the excessive verbiage of compound word proliferation. So many subtleties, like mood that other languages can capture more adequately. English falls behind by this measure as well, but Swedish is even more stripped down.
13:52 March 11, 2012 by Emerentia
Why did a man have nail polish remover in his bag?
17:32 March 11, 2012 by acidcritic
Ancient greeks called "barbarian" to anyone who did not spoke greek. The word "barbarìan" was extremly derogatory. Nowadays, must be call "barbarian" to people who do not speak swedish? To rate cultures or other human traits is a very dangerous exercise, just becouse we humans are a dangerous lot.
18:53 March 11, 2012 by Gjeebes
Here we go again, Sweden tooting its own horn about how great it "thinks" it is. Ever notice that the headlines often try to make Sweden the best at this and that? But then again, that is what you paid for right, as a customer of one of the largest US PR firms? Kind of reminds me of 120cm person wearing platform shoes to appear a bit taller. The "Swede" buys into this way of thinking quite readily, easily achieved in the mono-culture welfare state. I cannot count how many times I have heard from a Swede, that "Swedish is [such] a complex language". Really? Try studying Finnish if you want complex, or, maybe give German a go. If compound words make a language complex (and I'm not convinced it does) then, way to go Sweden! But I doubt you ever convince the Chinese, or, Japanese of this, nor anyone else really, since no one really speaks the language outside of Sweden, right?. You know, in some cultures, one is rather suspicious of the one going around telling everyone how "great" they are. It's usually just a projection to cover over rather deep deficiencies.
21:53 March 11, 2012 by medicinem4n
Actually you can't count compound words when measuring the number of words in a language. As the author correctly points out, this would give languages which treat compound words as single words (such as Swedish, German, Dutch) an infinite number of words.

The correct way is to count only the number of roots; that is, you count 'sub', 'way' and 'train', but not 'subwaytrain'. Counted this way, the Dutch language is one of the worlds richest, being among the languages with the highest number of unique word roots. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_language#Vocabulary
22:40 March 11, 2012 by muscle
hmmm chinese isnt the richest language on earth?
23:18 March 11, 2012 by bcarroll
When I studied linguistics in college, the text defined language as "An arbitrary symbol system used to denote meaning." I like that. I think that asking which is the "richest" language is a lot like asking which language is purest, or which one is the most "correct." These are all foolish questions. Every language is as rich as another because the words used are just expressions of human creativity matched with need. In an Eskimo language there are between 11-13 different words for snow, but this doesn't mean the language is "richer." It means that for this issue their culture has saw fit to expound more... that is all.
10:07 March 12, 2012 by skogsbo
surely the best language (not richest) would be one where you could convey every possible message, with the least number of words needed to be known. Which is it's overall purpose. I'm not suggesting we talk in morse code though!
10:33 March 12, 2012 by Skaperen
If you want a language without use of spacebar, try Japanese

20:28 March 12, 2012 by shuaib85
Interesting article. Unfortunately this article missed the most spoken languages in the world i.e. Spanish and Arabic. Not only the article missed them, but 98% of the replies.

I believe the richness of the language could be measured by its ability to deliver more meanings in less words. Also, number of words and its poetry abilities.

There is a great competition amongst Arabic, English and Spanish (ordered alphabetically and not richness) when it comes to richness.

Perhaps Chinese is a rich language, but it is too difficult to learn and it has no alphabets. Usually a chinese would know around 3000 symbols to be able to read the news paper. However, in other languages you would need 20000 to do the same.
20:41 March 12, 2012 by swedejane
Yeah, it's so rich and expressive and the best ever...which is why a population smaller than the city of L.A. speak it.
09:53 March 13, 2012 by ameribrit
skogsbo @34.

That is a really interesting idea. Probably more interesting than anything I have read on here in a while. Possibly only to me though. I don't know if you realize that what you are referring to is a principle in physics (although not just physics) known as "Algorithmic Information Content"

Sorry but you have just triggered my inner geek :-))
20:26 March 13, 2012 by BritVik
If Swedish is such a rich language, how come they have to use so much that originates in the gutter? Or is foul language regarded as being rich?
23:09 March 13, 2012 by lovebobu
for Thai,

we have 30 different words for first pronouns (I/Jag/Je)

we have 45 different words for second pronouns (you/du/tu,vous)

is it considered rich-language?
23:45 March 14, 2012 by BritVik
That's rich ! ! !
06:01 March 15, 2012 by skatty
For me personally; the richness of the language is not really important, but the usefulness of the language is important, when it comes to learn a second language.

I prefer English language, because it's more useful; I can communicate with many people around the world by English, there are many literature in many different field in English, music, films, vast different ideas, and ….. are all in English.

It's why I prefer English; if I could communicate by Swedish language with many people around the world, then I would prefer Swedish!

There is no market for Swedish language, and we live in a market economy world!
13:53 March 15, 2012 by NataBee
For me, a language is only considered "Rich" when it gives so much freedom to the ones who use it. By "freedom", I mean it provides various options of words, phrases, ways to build sentences, etc. to describe the same things with many different manners and expressions.

I don't care how linguists define "a rich language" and why some people think Swedish is "rich". For me, Swedish just plays the role of a adequate means of communication among its speakers. There's absolutely no arts in it, compared to many other languages.

I love English with all my heart. However, English, too, is not quite as rich and expressive as Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and many other.
11:52 March 16, 2012 by Prestonrobsun
I am English.

I use the word 'lagom' but find bankers do not understand it.......
21:57 March 17, 2012 by pietschka liika
Sorry folks, but when it comes to humor + joke telling, anglo leaves all other languages in the dust. I give an example of what I mean, a bar scenario as a spring board for a gazillion other jokes that I spin off from it.

3 guys cry in their beer when they got made redundant. The bartender asked what happened, 1st guy said. I used to work in a clothing factory where I placed socks into gift packages, I was an expert sock tucker, the best that factory had. 2nd guy sighed, I use to work at a winery that used real cork to seal the bottles, I was in charge of ensuring the corks were properly treated. I was the best cork soaker that firm ever had. I got replaced by a machine that inserted plastic corks. 3rd guy said, yeah automation sucks. I used to work at a beverage sales outlet which sold in bulk. That meant I had to open various cartons and place customer orders in paper sacks with carry handles, I was the best coke sacker that place had. The owner switched over to pre-wrap packs and customers had to tote their own purchases.

Since this is an international forum I won't give the punch line due to the nature of using a pun on a pun. To me this ability to use puns in anglo is sorely lacking in other languages. Yes puns do exist but the joke above loses its zing once it gets translated. I translate from German and Swedish 'cuz I am fluent in both into English and I get extra humor mileage out of them due to built in deficits in Swedish and German.

When it comes to humor EU countries rely on grotesque bodily manipulations, grimaces, gestures, pantomime, to make their point, the so-called humor bite said so quickly whatever the humor point gets lost in all of these non-verbal machinations. Imagine an Italian telling a joke with his hands tied behind his back.
17:09 March 18, 2012 by Swati
for a layman like me ,there is a different way to measure richness. Try to travel around the globe and communicate in swedish and than try english.u will get the answer. Its such a big big difference. Swedish comes almost no where,not even in sweden.lol Sorry for being rude
14:08 March 19, 2012 by cogito
@pietschke liike (#45)

Clearly you don't know French.

As for the richest languages, after English, Greek, Spanish and Thai.
19:45 March 20, 2012 by Youen
Definitely, The richest language in the world is CHINESE!!! :D
21:15 March 20, 2012 by jameslouder
This is article is delightful, but a little misleading, especially as regards compounds.

English too is a compounding language, true to its Germanic origin. Take these four words used by the author in this article: spacebar, barroom, masterpiece, wordsmith. English has thousands of such words and is generating more all the time as the culture of the day may require.

In written English the process usually begins by adding a hyphen, as in the author's writing of "user-friendly." This will surely , in due course, cement itself into one word, "userfriendly," The author also uses the expression "straight up," which I have already seen as "straight-up" and expect to see as "straightup" before the world gets much older.

Notice that both these expressions compound nouns with parts of speech other than adjectives or other nouns: the first with an adverb, the second with a preposition. Much of English's enormous vocabulary arises from the chameleon nature of its parts of speech. Verbs and adjectives become nouns, nouns become verbs, prepositions become adjectives, etc. ad infinitum. English speakers make up such expressions on the spot, just as Swedes do with compounds. Let us also admit that, in spoken language, it is impossible (and irrelevant) to determine whether one is saying "subway train problems," "subway-train problems," or "subwaytrainproblems."

When it comes to loan words (loan-words? loanwords?) English is second to none. More than half its vocabulary consists of foreign words grafted onto the native Germanic stock over the space of almost a thousand years.

Does this not therefore vindicate English as the world's richest language? Of course not! Nothing could be more absurd. The world's richest language is, beyond all doubt...


Just ask any Frenchman.
22:25 March 23, 2012 by Youen
The world's richest language is no doubt...


just ask any Chinese!
23:43 March 23, 2012 by pietschka liika
14:08 March 19, 2012 by cogito

@pietschke liike (#45)

Clearly you don't know French.

Sorry to rain on your parade cognito, but I certainly do. Its impossible to state anything concisely, directly in an active tense, in French, without recourse to roundabout machinations and linguistic gyrations. France is a language obviously designed by eels , for eels. The passive tense dominates and everything is evasively done by or of something, as if that object really doesn't exist, and is just a construct for sake of convenience.

The expression... French ain't a language, its a disease foisted on us by barnyard animals. Why else do the French emulate every barnyard animal they can? Asiatics did the same thing. They listened to chattering sounds of the jungle and emulated them, just like the French used a barnyard, since there are no jungles in France.

Its the case of a froggy straight from Paris reeking of his dried donkey droppings called Gauloise cigarettes and was told to stop smoking. The restaurant owner pointed to a no smoking sign, and the froggy sez, who is Nosmo King?

The French are appalling when it comes to attempting to speak another language. They are tone deaf linguistic dolts. Asiatics don't fare any better, the proliferation of I speek ingrish yet websites attests to that.
11:00 April 29, 2012 by BritVik
Swedish is a rich language and you have to fajt to learn it, and it costs a fortune. End of . . . :-)
17:30 May 13, 2012 by Mbenzi
Well, any language is "rich" or "poor", dependent of who you are and, more important, how compatible you are to the one you are communicating with.

Any language becomes "a group of languages" because of this.

If I say "snow" to an inuit, or "grass" to a Masai, I would have to add a number of explanations before it would give any meaning to it. I would be stupid if I said that a Masai has 50 equivalent words for "grass", because I know that they mean different things to him. In that situation, English is poor and his language is rich. And when we say that one Swedish word often has several English translations, maybe we have more to learn about English.

I am old enough to remember when you could almost tell the parents' income by listening to somebody in England. USA is different.

We have an expression when it comes to Art - "In the eyes of the beholder" - where we accept that the receiver can decide how to interpret an object.

Unfortunately enough, it works the same way with a language expression - one of the reason for most conflicts, from domestic arguing to world wars. You know what you are saying, but you don't know what the receiver is hearing.

A rich language in terms of glossary, between compatible communicators, will not need so many of the words to be spoken in each chat. Should the language be poor in terms of glossary, much of it will have to be replaced by body language and explanations.
03:08 June 7, 2013 by pasikiskiazemuogiautojiskas
Lithuanian has about 17 million words as opposed to 250000 words in English language or 500000 words in Russian. A good example is: "pasikiskiazemuogiautojiskas" which means: "someone like an occasional wild-strawberry-picking hare" which is a quality.
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At least according to this global ranking, which picks 12 Swedish universities among the top-1000.

Swedish pharmacies restrict paracetamol sales for teens
The move is intended to cut paracetamol overdoses. Photo: Nora Lorek/TT

Sweden's pharmacies are banning teens under 18 from buying more than one pack of pills at a time.

The Local List
12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations
A filthy-minded lobster, i.e. a snuskhummer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

One of our favourite things about the Swedish language is its wonderful compound words, which range from being utterly bizarre to making perfect sense.

Rwandan genocide suspect held in Sweden
A memorial centre in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

A man has been arrested in Sweden suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.

Sweden can extend border controls, EU says
A police officer carrying out a check at Sweden's border with Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

EU countries including Sweden should be granted permission to extend temporary border controls by a period of a further three months, the European Commission has decided.

Nobel Prizes
'I'd say he's arrogant but I'd be lying': Swedes on Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan performing in France. Photo: David Vincent/AP

Almost two weeks have passed since Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and he has yet to acknowledge the win. The Local asked Swedes what they think of the singer's silence.

Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast by thousands
A Swedish migration authority office in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The country has also slashed its prediction for 2017.

Swedish researchers plan new trucks for women drivers
File photo of trucks in Sweden. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Could vehicles adapted for women attract more female truckers to the profession?

These stats show Swedish driving isn't so gender equal
File photo of a Swedish woman driving a car. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A new survey shows that few Swedish women get behind the wheel when driving with their male partner.

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The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

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