Are they just as close as English and German? Has Swedish also suffered some phonological influences from German during the Hansatic league?

  • In brief, if you limit yourself to East Nordic (Swedish and Danish, including modern Norwegian which is a mix of Norwegian and Danish), they’re somewhat closer than English and German, but not to the point that normal conversation mutually intelligible without some training and experience. If you’re talking about West Nordic (Icelandic and Faroese), then probably about as mutually intelligible as English and German – that is, with recognisable cognates, but not really mutually intelligible at all. May 8, 2020 at 12:49
  • I believe I've read that the Danish and German varieties spoken in Jutland are, to a degree, mutually intelligible, but that this seems to be due to contact-induced convergence and interborrowing rather than the result of an only-partially differentiated original dialect continuum
    – Tristan
    May 11, 2020 at 9:40

1 Answer 1


“Closeness” and “mutual intelligibility” are two separate issues. German is widely taught in schools in the Scandinavian countries, so most people there can understand German to some extent. A further issue is that Swedish, Norwegian and Danish have lots of loanwords from High and Low German, as well as many international (Latin, Greek, French, English) words shared also by German. None of this has anything to do with genetic closeness.

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    I would say that German was widely taught in schools in Scandinavia – it’s rapidly declined in favour of French, Spanish and even Chinese over the past two or three decades. There’s a close to 100% chance that any Dane over 50-ish will have studied German; that chance is probably more like 25% for under-30s. The many German loan words definitely remain a big help, though, even with no study of the language. May 8, 2020 at 18:04
  • @JanusBahsJacquet. Thank you for the clarification. I am from another generation and tend to misuse the present tense.
    – fdb
    May 8, 2020 at 20:06

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