The dilemma of which Nordic language to learn is a tricky one.
As noted in our previous article, web language learning service Duolingo is now offering Scandophiles the chance to learn Danish or Swedish, with Norwegian still in the beta phase.
In the article I mentioned that those learning one Scandinavian language should be careful as they are so similar to be almost interchangeable. I would note at this point that Nordic and Scandinavian are not the same.
Well I would start off by saying that if you have a particularly strong draw to a Nordic nation, you should choose that one for your language learning.
In particular if you have a partner or close friend from one country you are likely to develop many opportunities to learn that language and so should go down that avenue.
However for those looking to do business in the region or looking to live in the future in one of the Nordic nations, some practical advice is necessary. It is hence worth narrowing down the options.
Danish, Swedish and Norwegian fall into the ‘Scandinavian’ family of languages and are largely mutually intelligible. While people joke that Danes sound as if they are talking with a potato in their mouth, they can still be understood by Swedes and Norwegians.
On the other hand Icelandic and Finnish are generally not understood by Scandinavians, making it difficult to justify learning either of them if your purpose is to facilitate cross-border business contacts.
Of the three Scandinavian languages Danish is generally considered the most difficult of the three to learn. Also Swedes and Norwegians sometimes complain that they can’t understand Danish when spoken fast.
This leaves Swedish and Norwegian in the running. Now Sweden may be a cultural powerhouse, however Norway is one of the biggest oil exporters in the world, with a strong demand for both skilled and unskilled work.
In addition Norwegian (which itself is divided into several dialects with Bokmal the most commonly understood) is said to be one of the easiest languages for English speakers.
It appears then that for those looking to learn a Nordic language Norwegian wins the day.
It may not have the glamour of Swedish or the hipster cred of Danish but with billions of pounds of oil and a solid economy it should come in handy some day.