Scandinavian Languages - Nearly Three for the Price of One


This post is for you fellow language learning nerds…


Two years ago I wanted to see if I would be able to read Norwegian on the basis of knowing how to read Swedish, and I found that, with a truckload of time, patience, and effort, as well as a good dictionary, I could.


Now I decided to try the same with Danish. It was slow going at first, and I mean I REALLY just crept along. It took me over two hours to read the first twenty pages of this crime novel, but after that it started getting better.


It’s not that I actually want to learn Danish; I was just curious to see if I could read a simple novel in the language. I guess I needed some kind of mini-challenge for my brain.


Vådeskud by Katrine Engberg is a crime novel set in Copenhagen, actually the fourth in a series. I haven’t read the first three, but that didn’t make a difference. It was easy to follow the story and the main characters are interesting and likeable. These novels seem to be quite popular in Denmark at any rate, and they’ve been translated into many languages.


Since I love to read, this opens up a whole new world of books that I could potentially read in the original. One of my favorite novels is by a Danish author (Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg and beautifully translated into English by Tiina Nunnally) and at university I fell in love with the works of Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen), also Danish.


So … if you’re able to read one of the Scandinavian languages and your brain is also hungry for a bit of a challenge, but not an enormous one, try reading something in one of the other languages. You might be surprised at how much you’re able to figure out in a relatively short period of time, which is, of course, pretty motivating and so increases the chances of wanting to continue. It doesn’t have to be a whole book. You could find an article on a subject that interests you online and start off with that. In my case, I would have to print out the article and read it on paper in a quiet place with no other distractions, because I’m better able to focus on an unfamiliar language that way.


I’m not saying that it doesn’t take patience and effort. It does. But it’s not all that much of a struggle, considering how much work it is to learn a completely new language from scratch. You already have quite a lot to work with in this case.


I would recommend getting a better dictionary than the one I had, though. Mine is a bit meager, as you can see in the photo!


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