Are Scandinavian Languages Similar to German?

Have you ever been confused between Scandinavian languages and the German language similarity?

You’re probably thinking that these languages are mutually intelligible and that Scandinavians and Germans can understand each other. Even though they are both belong in the Germanic languages, however, they are not similar and not intelligible languages.

Are Scandinavian languages similar to German? Scandinavian languages are not similar to the German language. Not similar at all. Though they shared some words, the grammar structure and the grammatical rules of Scandinavian languages and German are fully different.

Additionally, German is more difficult to learn than the Scandinavian languages.

To strengthen the facts here are the main reasons why Scandinavian languages are not similar to the German language;

The Scandinavian languages have SVO (subject-verb-object) while the German language has SOV (subject-object-verb). Scandinavian languages have “split infinitives” that enable a preposition placed at the end of the sentence, which is not possible in German.

Another factor is that – they are not similar in a reason that Scandinavian languages or North Germanic languages are spoken languages in Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish and Faroese. Whereas, German language is a West Germanic language that is basically spoken in Central Europe. It is entirely spoken or an official language (also co-official language) mainly in Germany, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, Austria and the German-speaking society of Belgium and Liechtenstein.

Earlier, Norwegians learned the German language for European language trade, literature, and science purposes only. This might point people to conclude that these languages are similar. But, after the Nazi invasion, the German language was deserted by Norwegian and engaged them in the English language.

Norwegians discerned that English is very functional and become the world language biggest marketing and much applicable outside Norway than German.

Over 90% of Scandinavians learn and speak English since it was taught in school, particularly in Norway.

Well, Scandinavian languages are not similar to German language. So, if they are not similar, they have a variety of language differences. Let’s take a look at their differences between these two languages.

Are Scandinavian languages the same?

The Scandinavian languages belong to a subgroup of the North Germanic languages.

The languages that composed the Scandinavian language group are Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. The Scandinavian languages are mainly spoken in these three Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

Some people perceived that the North Germanic languages and the Scandinavian languages are the same, but they are wrong. The Scandinavian languages are primarily spoken in the three previously mentioned countries, meaning the Scandinavian languages would also be the official languages of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark not a spoken language in Iceland country and Faroese Island.

What are the differences between the Scandinavian languages and German?

Nobody thought that Germans can comprehend any Scandinavian language, or Scandinavian speakers understood German. Of many differences, these languages are far apart for many reasons;

Sound Shift

German sound has the “High German Sound Shift” in which, ‘k, p, t,’ modified into this (“z”), \”p or pf, and ch.’ none of these Scandinavian languages bear the high Germanic consonant shift. This connotes an element of difference, unrecognized, over the language.

For example:

“pipe” became “pfeife” 

“tongue” became “zunge” (pronounced “tsunge”)

The Scandinavian languages don’t have these changes, simply it showed the difference between German and the Scandinavian languages and it influences an extensive scale of words.

Word Order and Inflections

German has a considerable number of inflections than the Scandinavian languages. Also, German has a different word order, particularly in subordinate clauses.

German has a Standard vocabulary today

In the past, the Scandinavian languages loaned many words during the middle Ages as an outcome of the North German Hanseatic League. These low sound German consonants seemed suitable with that of the Scandinavian sound system and they borrowed some fewer High German consonants too. Meaning, the standard German vocabulary today would be quite strange to them.

German isn’t mutually intelligible with German Low sound consonants

Scandinavian languages are all closer to English, Franconia languages; and to Low German than to High German.

All the Scandinavian languages are mutually understandable, their official languages such as; Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. German isn’t mutually intelligible with that of the Low German, so it definitely even difficult to understand the Scandinavian languages.

Grammatically different

German grammar has SOV (subject-object-verb) while the Scandinavian languages grammar has SVO (subject-verb-object).

Enable regular communication

The distinction is obvious when it comes to German. They have some common words, or nearly similar, as in Scandinavian languages, however insufficient to allow efficient communication.

Let’s say a Scandinavian person reading a German simple text most likely understand the primary topic to which the text is referring to, but isn’t good enough to understand the information.

Not inherent closeness of the languages

Many Scandinavians have learned German in school since before for many decades whilst a few Germans studied Scandinavian language. If you meet a Scandinavian with a better grasp of speaking German it is an outcome of a great effort in learning the language not inherits from the commonality of these two languages.

The above details clearly defined that Scandinavian and German languages are not similar and not mutually intelligible from each other. Honestly, there are a few similar words, but they are grammatically different. The sentence structure is fairly jumbled up and the German language is profoundly difficult and complicated.

Important Things to Know about North Germanic and West Germanic languages

The North Germanic language is a cluster of languages that was formed from a branch of the Germanic languages. You will find North Germanic languages spoken in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

Enlisted here some important facts about North Germanic and West Germanic languages;

North Germanic Languages

The North Germanic languages of the Nordic Nations:


Not all North Germanic languages can be called Nordic languages

The North Germanic languages are sometimes called the Nordic languages because the word Nordic is a common word used in Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish. However, not all North Germanic languages can be called Nordic languages, particularly in Iceland at Faroese Island because these two countries spoke different languages.

Finnish is not belong in the North Germanic languages

The truth is Finland is not part in Scandinavian countries and the Finnish language which is the spoken language in Finland is classified as the Finnish language that belongs in the Uralic language group, which includes Hungarian and Estonian.

In other words, Finnish is more similar to Hungarian or Estonian than Swedish or other North Germanic languages. If you analyze it, it makes sense because Finland is geographically near to Estonia and it is close to Sweden too. But Finland is more similar to Estonia and they shared more culture than with Sweden.

English was classified as a North Germanic language not a West Germanic language

Isn’t it surprising? This may sound insane for those linguists who knew that English is a West Germanic language.

However, some Norwegian language professors recently did in-depth study and discovered that Middle English is fairly a blend of Old English and some Scandinavian languages. For a reason that Modern English is a descendant of Middle English, that it would make Modern English a Scandinavian, and concluded that it belongs to the North Germanic languages.

Other evidence, such as vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of the Scandinavian languages is nearly similar to that of English compared to other West Germanic languages. This is the reason why Scandinavians are dumb good in speaking English.

For me, these contraries may not officially be approved and it needs a wide explanation to confirm, as Scandinavian languages are greatly influenced by English that’s why they are closely related.

The classification or the division of the language groups history vary on the origin of the said language not the modern results or how they were invaded nor influenced by a particular country. If that is the case, all languages with similarities may be classified as one language group which may lead a great diversion in the language family and sub-groups.

The Scandinavian languages are closely intelligible

The Scandinavian languages, perhaps the most known of the North Germanic languages, and they are mutually intelligible. However, it is inclined to be one-sided because most of the Norwegian speakers have the best of understanding Swedish and Danish, whilst Swedish people have significant issues in comprehending the Danish language.

Danish and Norwegian are more related than Swedish and other Scandinavian languages. With these inconsistencies, many linguists have suggested that there is only one Scandinavian language and that Danish, Norwegian and Swedish served as dialects of that language.

Scandinavian languages are quite similar and mutually intelligible, but in the past centuries, there was a political border, which prevented them from being classified as dialects of one language.

All North Germanic languages are associated with Old Norse

Even though Swedish and Icelandic are fairly different languages, but they both shared the same language ancestor which is Old Norse.

From the 9th to 13th centuries Old Norse is the language mainly used by the people in Scandinavia. It was divided into three primary dialects such as Old West Norse, Old East Norse, and Old Gut Nish. Geographically, there were no boundaries for the three dialect means you can find people using these dialects in different areas.

The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic family of languages (the others being the North Germanic and the extinct East Germanic languages).

West Germanic Languages

The German Language:


The largest branch of the Germanic family

The West Germanic languages comprise the largest of the three branches of the Germanic family of languages – the North Germanic branch and the extinct East Germanic languages. It has three most widespread spoken West Germanic languages such as; English, German, and Dutch.

Has many lexemes not existing to other branches

The West Germanic languages are the only branch that shares a lot of lexemes in which it has a unit of morphological analysis that commensurate a set of forms derived from a single root word, and it doesn’t prevail in North Germanic and/or East Germanic.

The West Germanic languages were divided between Old and Middle English

The West Germanic languages were split by the development of the Old and Middle English during the ancient middle ages and via High German consonant shift on the mainland on the other.

The High German consonant shift determined the High German languages from the other West Germanic languages. Of modern German variations, Low German signifies of modern English.

The range had widened into substantial differences, scaling from Highest Alemannic in the South, which is the southernmost living German dialect until Northern Low Saxon in the North.

Although both are contrary and are considered German, they are not mutually intelligible. The southernmost variations have ended the second sound shift, while the northern dialects still unchanged by the consonant shift.

The vowel system and the consonant system was the same as the Proto-Germanic

The original vowel system of West Germanic and the consonant system were the same as that of Proto-Germanic however the long front vowels were lowering sound and the consonant system has specific changes and the West Germanic germination as well.

Related Questions:

Are Scandinavian languages easy to learn?

Let’s take insight from the point of view of an English speaker. An English speaker can fairly say that Scandinavian languages are quite easy to learn. But it has much inflection than English and some specific issues;


For the reason that Bokmål is mainly a Norwegian and Danish, learning one makes is like learning the other mistakes much easier. In writing, it’s always a matter of simple shifting some letters while the hardest part with Danish is its pronunciation which sounds ‘whispered’ in non-native ears and frequently showed glottal stops which cannot be readily deduced from writing.


The biggest problem that you encounter in learning Norwegian would be its variety of dialects.

Norway is a part of either Denmark or Sweden for a very long time and it didn’t have its own official language. When independent came, they yield on two written, standards – Bokmål and Nynorsk. Each country has its own pronunciation and dialect, but significantly they embraced either of those written standards or both.


Swedish pronunciation Characterized tones, which is commonly hard for Western Europeans.

In other words English speakers find Scandinavian languages easy to learn because they shared many similarities, although they have certain difficulties, but among other foreign learners’ English speakers have the head start.

What are the closest languages, Danish, Norwegian or Swedish?

Many people assumed that if they learn one Scandinavian language they basically learn the other Scandinavian languages at the same time. To clear these controversies, let’s find the utmost details and answer the question – What are the closest languages, Danish, Norwegian or Swedish?

Among the Scandinavian languages the closest languages are Danish and Norwegian.

As cited, the two most similar languages are Danish and Norwegian. Norway was once invaded by Denmark, and this is the main reason why these two languages are so similar. Though Swedish is a bit similar, there are some Swedish words that a Dane and Norwegian person cannot speak and understand except they both knew each other.

The differences between Danish and Norwegian are the spelling and pronunciation of words. The words are similar, but spelled a bit differently. In most cases, a particular word can be used in Norwegian and another in Danish. But, in closely all cases, both words were unchanged and have strongly much the same meaning.

Learning one of the Scandinavian languages is extremely an advantage, in any forms in business life, and for traveling. If you are finding a way to learn a new language, there are many free online resources, paid live lessons and may be language classes near you.


Scandinavian languages and the German are not mutually intelligible and not similar as well in spite of being Germanic languages. These languages have similarities in vocabulary too.

The advantage of the answer also relies on why you like to know. Do you want to learn a new language closely similar to your first language? Or you are interested in academic and scholarly language out of your curiosity.

Every language is not a single limited thing. You can’t define a certain language with its standardization and popularity. But, languages are more than standardization as it’s only prevail in writing. The people who spoke a language may alter at any time without knowing or some people have different ways in producing the sound like slang or a native speaker do.

Each person has a unique ‘idiolect’ that conceives with the dialects of the people next to them or the people in the community, which gradually become a dialect. Dialects naturally changed in due time or in different circumstances and who speaks with it. That’s the facts why there are different dialects around the world that everyone has a problem in understanding each other until these languages are not mutually intelligible.

Whatever language you are opted to learn, bear in mind that learning a language takes a great sacrifice, more time, commitment and dedication in order to succeed. At the end, it’s a rewarding experience that is very beneficial skills that can’t be stolen from you.

Similar Posts