The Scandinavian language community among young people in the Nordic countries thrives, and the dominance from English is far less than assumed. This is shown by a fresh study from the Nordic Language Coordination on inter-Nordic communication. The survey paints a completely new picture of how young people in the Nordic countries talk to each other.

Young northerners are far better than expected at understanding and talking to each other across the Nordic countries. This is one of the conclusions in a new joint Nordic study of how young people communicate with each other in the Nordic region. The survey was conducted with interviews of young people under the age of 30 from all the Nordic countries.

The study is the first to take a closer look at how successful neighboring language communication works in practice. Through qualitative interviews, young employees in workplaces throughout the Nordic region have been asked to explain what it takes for communication to succeed.

And something could indicate that you just have to throw yourself into it:

– The study shows that young people do really well in their own mother tongue, and that with a very small effort they understand their colleagues in the workplace, whether they speak Danish, Swedish or Norwegian. Roughly speaking, it does not take more than a couple of months before they understand each other, says linguist Eva Theilgaard Brink.

In connection with the survey, Eva Theilgaard Brink interviewed 31 young people under the age of 30 who live and work in one of the Nordic countries.

According to the report, a third of the young people had an immediate understanding of the neighboring language, and the rest say that after just a few months they understood most of it. Where the neighboring languages ​​are used in practice, it does not take very long to get used to the neighboring language, the study concludes.

The study also indicates that young people very quickly start adapting their own language so that they are better understood by their interlocutors. With this adjustment, English becomes more and more redundant because young people understand each other in their respective Scandinavian languages.

– It turns out that English in the vast majority of cases is the last resort. Some communicate with their Scandinavian mother tongue, while others make use of the Scandinavian foreign language that they have learned in school. You could say that English actually works more as an aid, says Eva Theilgaard Brink.

The study was initiated by Jørn Lund, a member of the Expert Group Nordic Language Council and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Culture and Nordic Language Coordination. The purpose has been to map young northerners’ experiences and strategies of committing themselves in one of the three neighboring languages.