I'm considering learning Danish, while I am native Swedish speaker. The languages are partially mutually intelligible (and even more so in written form).

Are there any special considerations to be aware of when the languages are so closely related? Or is the process largely the same as when learning other languages?

I'm planning to use the Duolingo app, which I assume is targeting regular learners (such as English-speaking people learning Danish).

  • You just have to be careful to understand and internalize the differences. I personally encountered this issue when, as a Portuguese speaker, I learned Spanish. As an interpreter, I have to be very careful about not mistakenly saying one thing instead of another. This is expecially true in words like democracy: democrácia, in Portuguese, democracia, [the i is the stressed vowel] in Spanish. There are also words like botar in both which mean completely different things. So, start making a list or look on line for differences/similarities on language sites at site:.dk and site:.se
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 20 at 14:15
  • 1
    Not sure if you can call it a special ‘consideration’, but there is the major difference that you’re not learning a new language from scratch – the vast majority of the new language is already intimately familiar to you. Among other things, that means it’s an awful lot easier to learn by immersion alone, foregoing formal training entirely (if you prefer and have the option to do that). And of course devote extra attention to the numbers. :-p Commented Apr 20 at 14:16
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Actually, it can be more difficult since you have to be very careful not to use certain terms and structures incorrectly in the new language. A speaker can "fall back" on the one s/he already knows and be totally wrong. Of course, if you want to read and listen, and you are not interested really in speaking, then yes, prior knowledge of a similar language can help. It doesn't help in speaking because the brain accesses what you know and you have to second guess yourself to avoid a mistake.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 23 at 16:24
  • @Lambie Yes, there are definite downsides too. Another consideration is that even if you do get a word mixed in from your first language (or just don’t know the correct term in the target language), there’s a greater likelihood that the listeners will recognise it from archaic words and be able to understand you. For example, the Danish equivalent to Swedish åka ‘drive’ is køre, which is a completely different word, but Danish will in general understand åka as well (the cognate age exists, but is archaic). This can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your goal. Commented Apr 23 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


If you are native to Danish, then what you should look for are false friends, which are common in closely related languages (such as the wie in Dutch and German, which carries completely opposite meaning). Also be mindful of the interferences you made in Swedish through your Danish knowledge.

Typically, learning two closely related language would be a problem for non-native who are not yet to be advanced in either language. For example, an A2 in Dutch learning A1 German might create mistake through the usage of false friends and swapping each others' lexicon and pronunciation, because those two languages are very closely related to each other. It would be very likely that in this case, one would say "ein" in place of "een" to express the word "one" in Dutch.

  • false friends but also completely different terms for things you might have thought were similar.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 23 at 16:26

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