Are Swedish and Dutch Similar?


If a person has heard both the Swedish language and the Dutch language, they may have noticed that they sound quite similar despite being considered two different languages. But are they as similar as they initially seem?

Swedish and Dutch are similar languages because they both have Germanic roots, however they have key differences that set them apart. For English speakers trying to learn a new language, Dutch is closer to English. However, once a person learns one language, they can more easily learn others, so perhaps both are within reach.

This article will provide an overview of the similarities and differences between Swedish and Dutch, which most people should learn first, and how difficult it is to pick up each one.

Swedish, Dutch, and English: Similarities and Differences

Both Swedish and Dutch are not only similar to each other, but they are also similar to English. This is one reason why Dutch and Swedish speaking people are generally proficient in English. But what are the real differences between the two languages?

Swedish

Swedish is a North Germanic language and is spoken in Sweden, Finland, Canada, and Norway. [1] It belongs to the East Scandinavian group of North Germanic languages.

Overall, there are over 10 million Swedish speakers worldwide, with 9 million of those residing in Sweden. 

The language itself has a similar sound to English and is further from German than Dutch. 

This doesn’t mean a person can pick up Swedish in a few days as an English speaker, but they will come across many familiar words.

The more difficult parts of Swedish, as an English speaker, are the complex compounds and the melodic rhythm. In nature, the language is more complex than Dutch overall, which is more closely related to English. 

Dutch

Dutch is a West Germanic language and is spoken primarily in the Netherlands but also Suriname, Aruba, and Dutch Antilles. [2]

The Dutch language is sometimes referred to as a form of “simplified German,” and that isn’t too far off. 

The main difference between German and Dutch is grammar, which is simpler in Dutch, making it one of the easier languages to learn as an English speaker – similarly to Swedish. 

In terms of the similarities to Swedish, the differences also come down to vocabulary. 

A person will find similar words across both languages, which is great for reading signs and simple writing if you are a speaker of either language. 

In many cases, a person will get the gist of what is being said. 

Overall

Both languages are distant relatives to English since all three are Germanic languages (including English), there are plenty of similarities to be found. A person will find some of the same words in both Swedish and Dutch.

In terms of which one is more difficult to learn, there are different opinions on the matter. 

A person may find many people saying that Dutch is easier than Swedish and vice versa. It comes down to how well the grammar structure and words are memorized and comprehended.

In summary, both languages borrow from both English and German but have their own structure. But which one should you learn?

Should You Learn Swedish or Dutch?

The question of what language a person should learn is subjective; after all, it depends where they will be residing/visiting and what application they have in mind for their knowledge.

If quantity is a factor, Dutch speakers outnumber Swedish speakers by over 13 million.

Therefore, in terms of learning a more common language, Dutch is the winner but don’t dismiss Swedish entirely. If a person wants to learn more about the Swedish culture, decipher Norwegian and Danish, or even move to Sweden, they should consider Swedish. [3] 

Additionally, some people have found Swedish more pleasant to learn overall because they enjoy the way it sounds.

“Many people who have heard the Swedish language being spoken have commented that it sounds very song-like, very melodic, with high tones and low tones, giving a “singing” effect.” [4]

That’s also a deciding factor when learning a language – how comfortable a person is speaking it and if it is something they are truly passionate about. 

Alternatively, Dutch can open the doors to understanding German, which is a language spoken by 230 million people worldwide. [5]

If a person is still undecided, they should think about what they would like to use a new language for:

  • Expanding their knowledge about the world
  • Visiting or moving to a different country
  • Obtaining a potential job
  • Learning a new culture
  • Being able to speak the language of a friend/relative/partner

One suggestion is for a person to learn a little of both languages to determine which one is best. A person can always go back and learn the other language as well. 

Being multilingual is a very useful and impressive skill to have, and the sky’s the limit to how many languages a person can study. 

What Other Languages Are Similar to Dutch and Swedish?

As previously stated, both Dutch and Swedish are Germanic languages, which is why they are quite similar to each other. But these aren’t the only germanic languages – in fact, there are 58 of them. Below are some widely known Germanic languages.

  • Norwegian. One of the two languages of Norway. Norwegian is also compared to Swedish and Dutch and is also one of the easier languages to learn for English speakers. Currently, the number of people that speak Norwegian is over 4.6 million.
  • Danish. The official language of Denmark. Danish is said to be tricky when it comes to pronunciation. It is spoken softly and quickly, which can make it difficult to understand for those who are starting to learn. Over 6 million people speak the language currently. 
  • Afrikaans. The language of South Africa. Afrikaans is considered one of the easiest languages to learn in the world because they simplify things such as addressing different genders – there is only one gender in the Afrikaans language. 

How to Best Learn Swedish and Dutch?

If a person is interested in starting learn either language, they can’t go wrong with Babbel to get an understanding of how a language works. The starting price is reasonable at only $12.95 for one month.

Book recommendations include 2000 Most Common Dutch Words in Context and Shortcut to Swedish. Live online courses and textbooks are also great options.

After a person has learned some of the foundation aspects of a new language, it is recommend that they watch YoutTube, listen to podcasts, and start to have conversations in the language they are learning.

It is helpful to listen to a language when it is naturally spoken, so a person can learn how words and phrases sound in a “real” environment. They will start picking up on phrases they have learned, which will help them understand what is being said when someone is talking.

Conclusion

While Swedish and Dutch are similar in a lot of ways, they are still their own language, and it will take time to learn and practice for someone speaking either language to go to the other.

For English speakers, both languages are considered to be easier than some other languages due to them being Germanic languages that share some English words. 

However, determination and commitment is still needed to invest time on learning these wonderful languages.

Sources

References

[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Germanic-languages/The-emergence-of-Germanic-languages

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_language

[3] https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/about-lund-university/visit-lund-university/swedish-culture-and-traditions

[4] https://blogs.transparent.com/swedish/why-is-the-swedish-language-so-melodic/

[5] https://blog.lingoda.com/en/how-many-people-speak-german

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