If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve embarked upon a new journey of late. It’s a strange, yet also strangely familiar one. I’ve skipped across the Norwegian frontier and am learning Swedish.
Learning a language so closely related to one you already speak is a very particular kind of language learning. Uniquely, you’re not starting from scratch. In fact, you most likely already have a decent degree of passive comprehension, either in reading, listening, or both. It’s what made annual Melfest viewing so much more rewarding, despite never having studied a jot of Swedish formally!
Because of that passive comprehension, though, beginners’ resources are much less useful when you hop across to sibling languages. For one thing, they’re boring; you feel like you already know the basics, as everything is so familiar. Instead of step-by-step textbooks, a better tactic is systematic exposure to higher-level media like podcasts, TV shows and current affairs apps, with a mindful eye on learning the features that distinguish the two languages.
Swedish ≠ NOrwegian in Disguise
Naively, I thought that might be almost entirely tonal, before I started out on my language family hopping. But no – Swedish isn’t just Norwegian with a cutesy accent. There are a lot more vocabulary differences than I’d expected.
Sometimes these are due to borrowing from different sources. Swedish, once the language of an expansive European great power, might have a Middle German loan (like fråga, question) where Norwegian has a North Germanic root (spørsmål). Other times, it’s Swedish that preserves the Norse root (bjuda, invite), while Norwegian has an international interloper (invitere). And then there are times they both go native in different ways (Swedish jämföra and Norwegian sammenligne, to compare).
In any case, my Swedish vocab strategy is to audit the mismatches I find, rather than make a record of all the vocabulary I come across. It’s fascinating watching it come together, like a tale of two siblings who were thick as thieves before going their separate ways. You can see the results so far below, a rather random hotchpotch of items I’ve spotted my recent listening and reading. It’s still early days, and it’s impossible ever to make this exhaustive, of course.
But that said, I hope other double-Scandi learners find it interesting and/or useful!
The Great Norwegian – Swedish Mismatch List
|en avis||en tidning||a newspaper|
|en bedrift, et selskap||ett företag, ett bolag||a company|
|en edderkopp||en spindel||a spider|
|en flamme||en låga||a flame|
|en forskjell||en skillnad||a difference|
|en lommebok||en plånbok||a wallet|
|lykke, flaks||tur||(good) luck|
|ei pute||en kudde||a pillow|
|et samfunn||ett samhälle||a society|
|en sang||en låt||a song|
|en sky||ett moln||a cloud|
|en ting||en sak||a thing|
|en ulv||en varg||a wolf|
|en utfordring||en utmaning||a challenge|
|like||gilla, tycker om||like|
|pleie å gjøre||bruka göra||to usually do|
|snakke||prata, tala||speak, talk|
|stole på||lita på||rely on|
|den eneste||den enda||the only one|
|en om gangen||en i taget||one at a time|
|en slags …||en sorters …||a kind of …|
|fordi||eftersom, för att||because|
|… igjen||… kvar||… left (over)|
|nettopp (gjort)||precis (gjort)||just (done)|
|nå for tiden||numera||these days|
Are there any biggies you’d add to this nascent list? Please share in the comments!