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Urban misunderstandings

Jan 14, 2005

The people of Stockholm and Copenhagen have the greatest difficulty in understanding other Nordic languages, according to a study funded by the Nordic Cultural Fund and presented in Copenhagen on Thursday.

Almost two thousand senior secondary school students and their parents took part and the results show that young people are not as good as their parents at understanding the neighbouring languages. The Norwegians and Faroese came out top, the Danes and Swedes bottom.

The Danish Minister of Culture, Brian Mikkelsen, underlined the importance of understanding each other’s languages, which is also listed as a priority in the programme for the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2005.

“The best way of learning another language is to become good at your native tongue,” he said in his introduction.

Lars-Olof Delsing of Lund University, who conducted the study, would like to see more widespread teaching of Scandinavian languages in schools, changes to teacher training and more Scandinavian programmes on TV throughout the Nordic Region.

A survey of loan words in Nordic languages was also presented at the conference on Thursday. It shows that that Iceland has been best at keeping its language free from the impact of English despite the fact that it is the country that uses English most. As a whole, the Scandinavians have doubled the number of English words they use over the last three decades to 1.2&#37 today.