Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

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Finny
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby Finny » Sat Jun 11, 2016 11:53 am

PeterMollenburg wrote:
Finny wrote:All right, I went and checked this out, comparing a similar language sample about 4 minutes long across Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Finnish (the 5 big Scandinavian languages). I'd never formally studied any of the languages before, and I basically listened to a sample with L2 and L1 (English) subs, and then listened to the same sample again with just L2 subs, and went through all 5 languages. In order of easiest to most difficult, it was...

1. Norwegian (I felt like I was reading / listening to English several times, and started learning basic words)
2. Swedish (very close behind)
3. Danish (significantly less transparent than Norweedish and more difficult to remember what the L2 subs were after removing the L1 subs)
4. Icelandic (much harder than Danish, with very few L2-L1 connections made, although I did get a few)
5. Finnish (almost completely opaque...as far from Icelandic as Icelandic was from Danish in difficulty increase)

So out of the Scandinavian languages, at least, Norwegian was definitely the easiest to learn a few words from through a very short trial with native-speed, adult-level comprehensible input. Comparing it to other languages I've spent relatively little time with that would also be Level 1/5 or 1/4 languages for a native English speaker, it was more difficult than Catalan (which seems almost as comprehensible as Portuguese and about as comprehensible as Italian), but I get the feeling that I'd be able to make quick progress in it (or in Swedish) if I watched TV in it and read a lot of books...which is basically my current strategy for learning French.

So in my experience, at least, I'd definitely rank it as one of the most instinctively familiar languages I've ever looked at as a native English and advanced Spanish speaker. I was surprised at this, as of the Scandinavian languages, I'd spent the most time in the past with Finnish (I used to listen to a band as a child named Varttina despite not understanding a word) and Swedish (looking at a few Swedish words here and there in the Swedish books in IKEA).


Thanks for sharing this Finny. It's not something I had thought about doing nor perhaps would want to 'risk' doing, as I'd be highly likely to add at least one of them to my 'currently learning' sphere and keep on going.


Ha, you're quite welcome Peter! Usually I'd be afraid of doing it too, as I get distracted very easily (e.g., trying to learn French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese in college, and not really getting anywhere), but I was too curious to resist. I definitely get why folks compare learning the close Germanic-type languages to learning the Romance languages.

Off the top of my head, I still remember from last night that Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish all used either "Jag" (I think only in Swedish) or "Jeg" as I, and there were several other words that started popping up as cognates between the three, not to mention the many, many cognates with English. It also became quite clear how different Icelandic was from the main 3, and how Finnish made the main 4 look identical in comparison.

Basically, I found myself really agreeing with the FSI rankings, particularly with the note of how a language like Finnish was typically considered more difficult for an English L1 to learn than a language like Icelandic, despite their both being Level 3/5. For me, the difference was very, very clear. At the same time, within the L1/5 languages, I feel they definitely weren't all exactly the same in difficulty levels.
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby Alphathon » Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:28 pm

Finny wrote:All right, I went and checked this out, comparing a similar language sample about 4 minutes long across Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Finnish
Why did you include Finnish? It's not even Indo-European, let alone North Germanic, so short of a few loans/international words I'd be surprised if there was any intelligibility at all. Was it just for comparison with a different group?
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby Finny » Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:47 pm

Alphathon wrote:
Finny wrote:All right, I went and checked this out, comparing a similar language sample about 4 minutes long across Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Finnish
Why did you include Finnish? It's not even Indo-European, let alone North Germanic, so short of a few loans/international words I'd be surprised if there was any intelligibility at all. Was it just for comparison with a different group?


Because Finland is part of the Nordic countries (and the broader definition of Scandinavian countries), which I was interested in comparing, since the countries are frequently linked to each other and are (generally) geographically adjacent. If I'd only been interested in comparing languages closest to English, I wouldn't have included Icelandic either, and would have included other random Germanic and Romance languages. It was more of a thematic study, with the themes being Norwegian and things Nordic.
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby Soffía » Sat Jun 11, 2016 7:47 pm

Finny wrote:It was more of a thematic study, with the themes being Norwegian and things Nordic.


What, no Faroese? ;)
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby iNate » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:33 pm

Some language are easier to learn for English speakers than others. They may be more similar phonetically, have less physically-unorthodox pronunciation (physically easier to produce speech), use the same writing system, share vocabulary and root words, have similar grammatical structure, etc.

Also, the ease of a language is as much psychological as it is physical or technical.
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby vogeltje » Sun Jun 12, 2016 12:06 am

smallwhite wrote:
vogeltje wrote:also Dutch must be very easy for English speakers.

This is a dangerous thread to read. I borrowed "Hugo Dutch in 3 Months" from the library last night :roll:


haha! :)
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby IronMike » Sun Jun 12, 2016 2:31 am

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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby vogeltje » Sun Jun 12, 2016 11:52 am



Yes, they seem very interesting, but too complicated for example the statistics :shock: In the future I need to study in the uni. I liked the pictures of the distances between the languages in each group.

When the Dutch one compared the nationality of the learners and how well that they have learned Dutch, it's too complicated I think. I mean that a war refugee who is stressed and poor can't learn as well as an immigrant like a German engineer with a beautiful house and lots of money because anxiety and stress prevent the learning. Then the English immigrants in Holland can't learn Ducth becasue they think that to learn a foreign language is too difficult or a waste of time when all the world speak English. The anglophones don't know how to learn a foreign language because they are monolingual (high percentage), it's much easier to learn your 3rd, 4th etc language than the 1st. Then, also many German people and French speakers (Fr and Bel) have heard Dutch before, maybe during all the life, so this is a big advtantage.
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby FyrsteSumarenINoreg » Wed Jun 15, 2016 8:56 pm

I agree New Norwegian is the easiest thing to learn. :mrgreen:
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Re: Is Norwegian the easiest for an EN native speaker?

Postby Tillumadoguenirurm » Wed Jun 15, 2016 11:53 pm

Soffía wrote:
Finny wrote:It was more of a thematic study, with the themes being Norwegian and things Nordic.


What, no Faroese? ;)



And here I was, my simple mind wondering why no one asked about Shetlans. :D I guess the line had to be drawn somewhere.

I don't know if anyone picked it up, but a few years back a Norwegian linguist claimed that English is really a Scandinavian dialect (edit: sorry, language even).

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 094111.htm
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