Why Are Scandinavians Good at English?

Although all Scandinavian countries have their own languages, English is prevalent, with many people speaking it fluently from a young age. So, why are Scandanavians so good at English?

Scandinavians are good at English because most hear it from birth. In addition, schools teach English, and children watch English-speaking media.

Also, parents often speak English to their children, as well as their native language, because learning English gives Scandinavians more opportunities.

It’s no secret that Scandinavians speak English exceptionally well, to the point where they often sound American or British. This article will further discuss why they’re so good at it.

Also, see Why Don’t Scandinavians Have Curtains? to learn more.

Reasons Scandinavians Are Fluent in English

You might be wondering how Scandinavians speak such good English. However, this shouldn’t be surprising given the reasons why. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this fluency.

English Is Taught in Schools to a High Standard

One big reason Scandinavians are fluent in English is that they’re taught it in school from a relatively young age.

In Sweden, for example, they start learning English at seven when primary school starts. [1]

Teachers tend to speak English at a fluent or native level, meaning the children are learning from the best.

Plus, lessons are fun and interactive, ensuring kids stay energized and focused. 

And even once they become fluent, they continue to learn the more complex language rules.

Nearly every school in Sweden teaches English to all students because it’s part of the national compulsory curriculum. [2]

The same can be said for other Scandinavian countries.

Learning English Gives Them More Opportunities

While Scandinavians generally use their mother tongue daily and could be successful without knowing a second language, learning English improves personal and professional opportunities.

For example, many multinationals in Scandinavian countries require English skills, so knowing English will help them secure jobs across the countries.

Knowing English also gives them a chance to move and work abroad, gaining experience in countries across the globe.

On a personal level, learning English allows Scandinavians to extend their circle of friends beyond those they grew up with or even those from the same Nordic countries. 

All of these personal and professional opportunities make Scandanavians more likely to want to learn English at a fluent level.

They Consume a Lot of American Media

Another critical thing to note is that Scandinavians consume plenty of American media, especially nowadays, with social media taking off. 

But it’s not just social media–Scandinavians enjoy watching American (and British) films and TV shows.

Over time, they learn to understand English more. Watching American and British media also helps them with their pronunciation.

Scandinavians typically prefer to watch subtitled media rather than dubbed versions, which helps them to become more immersed in the language.

For example, English shows are rarely dubbed in Norway. [3]

This is unlike many other countries worldwide, like Brazil, where dubbing is favored over subtitles. 

Some Scandinavian Children Are Brought Up Multilingual

While Scandinavian children are taught English in school from a young age, they may also begin learning English before starting school if they grow up in a multilingual household.

Even if both parents are Swedish, they may speak English to their children.

Also, some families may be multicultural. For example, the father is Swedish, and the mother is British. In this instance, English is likely to be spoken in the home daily.

Children who grow up listening to and speaking two languages will become fluent in both.

They Like To Travel

Scandinavians are highly educated and often interested in traveling to experience different cultures.

Knowing English when traveling worldwide is helpful because many people globally speak the language (even in countries where English isn’t a primary language).

For example, if a Scandinavian wants to visit Spain, they’ll be able to get by easier if they can speak English.

That’s because barely any Spanish people will understand Scandinavian languages, but many will understand English.

This makes traveling more manageable and less stressful, especially if they need directions.

This is another reason why many Scandinavians think it’s worth it to learn English fluently.

Also, many Scandinavians travel abroad to England, Canada, and the US to live, work, or even study.

While living abroad or traveling for extended periods, they become fully immersed in English and gain excellent speaking and listening skills.

Many English-speaking Tourists Visit the Main Cities

Scandinavian countries, particularly the major cities, get many tourists each year.

As a result, the locals are more likely to meet English-speaking people frequently around towns and in bars and restaurants. 

Plus, the high level of tourism requires most hospitality workers to speak English fluently, another reason Scandinavians are motivated to learn English to a high standard.

Is It Easy for Scandinavians To Learn English?

It is easy for Scandinavians to learn English because they usually learn it when they’re young, during the so-called “critical period.” [4]

Since learning a new language becomes increasingly difficult with age, it’s best if Scandinavians learn English as children rather than teens or adults.

Another reason it’s generally easy for them to learn English is because they consume English-speaking media, as mentioned earlier.

Why Do Scandinavians Sound American When Speaking English?

Scandinavians sound American when speaking English because of the American media they consume.

Most TV shows, films, and songs are in English, so they can easily pick up on the accents. 

That’s why most Scandinavians are more likely to use American terms for things rather than British terms.

For example, they’re more likely to use the words “trash can” rather than “bin” or “vacation” instead of “holiday.”

Sweden ranks among the countries with the highest streaming platform subscriptions worldwide. [5]

Many famous American shows and films are available on Swedish Netflix, so it’s no surprise their English (as well as the English of other Nordics) is so good.

Also, some Scandinavians (like the Swedes) tend to have similar accents to Americans, even when speaking their native language.

Do Scandinavians Like Speaking English?

Scandinavians generally like speaking English. Doing so opens up a lot of doors for them that otherwise wouldn’t be available.

Since most Scandinavians speak it from a young age, they have no issues switching between Swedish and English daily.

How Many Languages Does the Average Scandinavian Speak?

The average Scandinavian speaks two languages. The two languages are usually their native language (Swedish or Norwegian, for example) and English.

However, many Scandinavians speak three or more languages fluently.

For example, a Scandinavian might know two Nordic languages and English, making them fluent in three languages.

It’s easy for Scandinavians to learn specific Nordic languages because some are similar.

[1] Source 
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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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