I am, at the present, living in Denmark and actively studying Danish on the state-funded courses, using Duolingo, and other means like reading, following a lecture course and conversations.

I will be moving to Norway in three to ten months. I have never studied Norwegian.

My goals are to be able to read fluently, to eventually (in three or four years would be optimal) be able give a lecture course in my discipline and interact with university students. I am not yet there with Danish, where my conversational skills are around level A2 (European framework), and reading is at around B level. My Swedish is slightly weaker.

For me, it is fine to be able to speak either Danish or Norwegian, and accent is not an issue, either. That is, I am willing to neglect Danish while living in Norway, with the assumption that if I come back, I will be able to pick it up again fairly fast.

What are the pros and cons of replacing some of my self-study of Danish with Norwegian? I am well aware that asking strangers on the internet to make life choices for me is a bad idea, which is why I am asking for the pros and cons, so that I will be able to make a more informed decision. (The government-funded courses in Denmark are at the moment free, so I will continue those for as long as possible. In Norway the similar courses cost around 3000 kroner for half a year, I think, and taking them is not an obvious choice, though it is a likely one.)

  • 1
    Do we have specific policy here on LL about providing such personal advice? Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 17:52
  • Just to make sure I understand your question correctly: when you say, "My goals are to be able to read fluently, to eventually be able give a lecture course in my discipline and interact with university students," does that apply to Danish and Norwegian? And in how much time do you want to achieve this?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 18:23
  • @PeterMasiar Note the actual bold question in the question body. It does not ask for personal advice. The question title is a summary of the question proper.
    – Tommi
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 19:21
  • @ChristopheStrobbe The goals are long-term ones, with the reason that such proficiency would increase my chances of later getting a permanent position in any Nordic country. Typical wording for language requirements is "master a Nordic language" or similar. Norwegian or Danish would either be fine.
    – Tommi
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 19:24

2 Answers 2


Cost is one of the obvious differences. But again, for some people (time-rich and money-poor) 3000 for such course is a significant expense. For others, it might be a smart investment to be able to earn more in the near future.

It depends on

  • how much you make per hour in Denmark now,
  • if additional time spend making money in Denmark (as compared to spending that time to learn Norwegian) will pay for the 3000 course in Norway,
  • how much more you enjoy the work you have in Denmark as compared to learning Norwegian
  • how the work-skills you learn during making money in Denmark are transferable to your future jobs in Norway, both entry-level job in 10 months and "dream job" 3 years later
  • how much you will make in Norway without the Norwegian skills, or just the level you get in Norwegian by learning Danish
  • Norwegian, Danish and Swedish languages are supposed to be mutually intelligible for native speakers, but how much will be able Norwegians to understand your current/future level of Danish
  • how faster you learn Norway language to the level required for your dream job with the 3000 kronen course as compared by simple immersion/talking to your Norway friends (and presumably doing some other job, which will pay less
  • and again, how much less that less-than-dream job in Norway will pay,
  • how much is important the difference in income to you, and how much you saved to bridge the difference
  • your profile says you are from Finland, so possibly you learned so Swedish, which might help with Norwegian?
  • how much the 3000 course increases your chance to get your dream job 4 years from now, as compared with doing some other jobs in Norway and learning the language by immersion
  • and many more.

So basically, there are too many criteria with fuzzy pro/con that it is nearly impossible to provide single objective answer, which would be valuable/useable by others, and consequently such questions are not a good format for this forum.

  • My bjos in Denmark and Norway are similar, and probably have similar pay. (Postdoc positions.) The aspiration would be a tenure-track position (assistant professorship or similar), which does significantly and equally benefit from the postdocs in both countries. The question is about language learning: Should I slowly start transitioning to learning Norwegian, or rather focus on only Danish while I stay in Denmark? What would be the pros and cons of this for learning one or both of those languages well?
    – Tommi
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 9:30
  • Swedish is addressed in the question.
    – Tommi
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 9:30

The roots are the same, Old Norse, so vocabularies are quite close. Just some very slight different ways of spelling, and much larger difference of pronunciation. Also there is an active language policy in Scandinavia for mutual "understanding."

So yes, start already to learn Danish in preparation of Norwegian. Danishisms in your Norwegian will not have a negative influence, and you'll find yourself faster integrated in Norway.

About the theoretical mental "overhead" of one language more: there does not seem to be any, indeed the reverse seems to be the case.

However: I am not from Scandinavian origin; Dutch living in Germany.

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