Yeah, Norway used to be a Danish dependency for hundreds of years - and then in personal union with Sweden in the 19th century (the same kings), but by then nationalism had woken up so the country was never culturally or economically overrun by Sweden. In the Danish-dominated era, the educated classes, even the Church, became half-Danish in speech and habits. They really have two varieties of their language now, clearly separate but still mutually intelligible: Danefied Norwegian (bokmål
, "book tongue") and landsmål
("country tongue"), a revived and partly invented form of the countryside dialects that hadn't been used a great deal in writing before the 19th century. Bokmål
is 90% like Danish, except a slightly different, softer pronunciation. Landsmål has lots of words distinct from it, but it's still recognizably the same language. So book tongue is easier if one is from another Nordic country but the country spech goes down too without too much trouble - at least if you like languages, and I do.
I love French, and I've worked professionally in it, even done translation work, but it's not easy. I didn't really get along in it until I was able to spend some time in France in the summers, and I remember how frustrated I felt the first time I went because it seemed (to me) that my way of speaking and acting shouted "tourist, foreigner". It didn't matter that there was a whole class of Swedes around and that there were thousands of tourists from other countries in town too. Bewildered, of course: stage fright or something. At that point i had studied it for three years at school, with top grades, but arriving in France made me feel both fascinated and a bit cowed. I badly wanted to grow into that country and that language, but it took years of hard efforts and of cutting loose on some things. It's probably the same with Japan or Russia.
I knew a girl on another forum, a Norwegian studying in Denmark, who used to say that Danish sounded like Norwegian with a potato stuck into her cheek. I know better than ask other people to verify that, though
It's not a bad characterization actually. Danish does sound a bit slurred, lots of diphtongs, and theý have this throaty "thump" sound that's a regular below some vowels; it produces that funny kind of potato effect. The sound quality of Danish doesn't work great in rock music, but it works excellently in hardboiled, gritty police thrillers. With Swedish it's the opposite: good musical language, sturdy, savoury, clear and melodic, works for both classical, folk and rock, but not that great for crime fiction. At least not often on tv and in the movies.