Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish-mutually intelligible Posted by kari on Nov 30, 2010 in Language
Most people give me a very strange look when I tell them that I speak Norwegian. They give me an even stranger look when I say that one of my majors was Norwegian. After the look sets in for a few seconds, they typically ask, “why?” A simple, straight-forward and fair question, although I get quite sick of explaining myself because I think most people still wonder “why” even after hearing my answer. Why learn German if you are not going to live in Germany or be in business, or the literature or history field, for example? Why learn French if none of the above apply to you? We can always ask each other why we learn the languages that we do. Most of my classmates in high school learned Spanish (which I regret not doing-I took French), which makes perfect sense considering we had to learn a foreign language and the MN (and the U.S. in general), has a very large number of hispanics. Still, I would be willing to bet the the large majority of my classmates that took Spanish do not currently use it in their personal lives or in business.
My theory on learning foreign languages is that no matter what, it is a good thing. I believe children should be required to start learning a foreign language at a very early age. It is scientifically proven that the processes and the skills involved in second language acquisition are highly beneficial to a child’s brain development and communication skills, to name a couple. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you are going to use the second language on a daily basis or once a year on vacation. It’s simply healthy and advantageous to learn a second (third, or perhaps eighth language…).
This topic came to my mind now because last night at a business dinner party, I had a fantastic experience involving my ability to speak Norwegian. This is my first business trip with my current company and so the night was filled with new names and faces. I met a number of Dutch colleagues, as well as folks from the U.K., Belgium, Finland, and Denmark. When I was introduced to the Danish man, someone whispered in my ear that I should speak Norwegian to him. So I did, and we had a great conversation that no one in the vicinity could understand. The Danish man was so pleased that he could communicate with me in his own language because for the 20 years that he has worked for this company, it has always been him that could not understand the Dutch people when they would speak amongst themselves. Finally, someone who could speak a Scandinavian language!
Later on in the taxi ride back to our hotel, the Danish man, myself, and a Finnish woman were sitting in the back of the van together. The Finnish woman piped up in Swedish (most Finns can speak Swedish because there is an area of Finland that is Swedish-speaking), so we were having a mutually intelligble conversation in Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. They are all very similar that most people from the three countries can understand each other.
Needless to say, it was a lot of fun to be having this private, very interesting conversation. And…it just goes to show that even an obscure language like Norwegian can be extremely relevant at times:)
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