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Lesson Transcript

JESPER: Is Swedish similar to Norwegian? What other languages is it close to?
MICHAEL: At SwedishPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, a language learner finds himself confused between Swedish and Norwegian. Ben Lee, a college student, picks up the Swedish Classic, Trollvinter, but finds it surprisingly hard to read. He turns to his friend, Sandra Strom, who is shopping with him, and asks,
"Is this in Swedish?"
BEN LEE: Är det här på svenska?
BEN LEE: Är det här på svenska?
SANDRA STROM: Nej, det är på norska.
MICHAEL: Once more with the English translation.
Ben LEE: Är det här på svenska?
MICHAEL: Is this in Swedish?
SANDRA STROM: Nej, det är på norska.
MICHAEL: No, it's in Norwegian.

Lesson focus

MICHAEL: Trollvinter, which usually translates into English as Moominland Midwinter, is a famous entry in Tove Jannson's series of books about a family of fairy-tale creatures called Moomins, or
JESPER: Mumintrollen.
MICHAEL: In Norwegian, the title is essentially the same as the title in Swedish, only the pronunciation has changed.
JESPER: Trollvinter
MICHAEL: requires so little changing because, in fact, Nowegian and Swedish are closely related, as are Danish or
JESPER: Danska
MICHAEL: and, to a lesser degree, Icelandic or
JESPER: Isländska.
MICHAEL: Actually, this book title looks exactly the same in all four of these languages. However, the pronunciation is different in each.
Swedish belongs to the Northern Germanic language group or
JESPER: Nordiska språk.
MICHAEL: along with Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic. These languages, which are also sometimes called "Nordic," form a subgroup of the Germanic language group, to which English, German, and Dutch also belong. While not as closely related to Swedish as Norwegian or Danish, they do share common grammar patterns and many common words.
The Germanic languages, in turn, are a branch of the Indo-European language family, which includes a diverse range of languages from Sanskrit to Spanish.
Swedish originally comes from Old Norse or
JESPER: Fornnordiska
MICHAEL: which was spoken in Scandinavia during the 8th Century. During the 9th Century, Old Norse started to separate into Old West Norse
JESPER: Fornvästnordiska
MICHAEL: in Norway and Iceland, and Old East Norse
JESPER: Fornöstnordiska
MICHAEL: in Sweden and Denmark. The Swedish spoken today developed from this Old East Norse with further influences from German.
Swedish is now the official language, or
JESPER: Officiellt språk
MICHAEL: of Sweden, and it's also one of two official languages of Finland. Swedish is also spoken by Swedish citizens living abroad.
MICHAEL: There's another question we sometimes hear at SwedishPod101.com.
JESPER: Does knowing Swedish make it easier to learn other Northern Germanic languages?
MICHAEL: To some extent, yes. Norwegian is the easiest language for Swedish speakers to understand. It's very closely related to Swedish and sounds more like a dialect or
JESPER: dialekt
MICHAEL: of Swedish than a different language. Danish is very similar to Swedish, but the pronunciation or
JESPER: uttal
MICHAEL: is closer to German than Swedish, which makes it difficult to understand. Most Swedes can read Danish and understand most of what they read, but listening to the language is much more challenging.
Other languages related to Swedish have many common words, but without practice or some knowledge of the language, it's almost impossible to understand them. Dutch and German, for example, are quite similar to Swedish due to their common origin. Many Swedish words come from German and English, and so many common words can be found throughout these languages. This can make it easier to acquire a large vocabulary in German or Dutch if you already know Swedish, but learning these languages still requires intensive study.
Speakers of English often find Swedish an easier foreign language or
JESPER: Utländskt språk
MICHAEL: to learn because Swedish vocabulary looks quite similar to English vocabulary. The two share many similar words.
However, while some of the words have the same meaning, others do not. For example, the word dog in Swedish actually means "died" in English!


MICHAEL: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
JESPER: Vi ses!
MICHAEL: "See you!"