Swedes have the best non-native English skills in the world, according to the eighth edition of the EF English Proficiency Index. Sweden’s Scandinavian siblings Norway and Denmark also place in the top five.
Of course, anyone who’s visited Sweden, Norway or Denmark won’t be surprised by the findings. While there are plenty of problems visiting the region – not least the epic price tags – communication isn’t one of them.
Norwegian, Swedish and Danish all have their roots in Old Norse and a speaker of one has a default capability to at least understand the other two languages. But the Scandinavians’ language ability doesn’t stop there. Virtually all are fluent in English too.
A happy family
To the untrained eye, English and the Scandinavian languages may not seem to have that much in common, yet the truth is quite different. All are members of the Germanic language family, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family spoken natively by more than 500 million people.
While there are significant variations, all the languages share some important linguistic features that results in familiarity. For example, the way verbs are conjugated in English is similar to Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, but very different from the Romance languages like Italian and Spanish that have their roots in Latin.
The use of loan words
Both English and the Scandinavian languages have lent each other many words over the years. We have Old Norse and the Vikings to thank for words such as ski, skull, knife, cake and my personal favorite, berserk.
The English vocabulary is one of the biggest in the world with an estimated 750,000 words. That’s orders of magnitude bigger than the Scandinavian languages. When a Swede, Dane, or Norwegian needs to describe something that a local word won’t cover, chances are they will simply use an English word. Some idioms and phrases have even crept their way into everyday use across Scandinavia, especially in advertising.
They start young
English is taught in Scandinavian schools from a young age. As soon as children have mastered reading and writing their native tongue, English is introduced. The age varies by country and region but generally speaking, every student will have undergone at least a year of formal English language education by the age of ten.
But by the time Scandinavian kids reach that age, most are already quite familiar with English. Young Scandis have always been exposed to a lot of international content, but now the likes of YouTube and Netflix have made English entertainment more accessible than ever before.
Turn on a Norwegian TV channel and the chances are, you'll be hearing an English language show with Norwegian subtitles. Unlike many other countries, English shows are almost never dubbed. Whether a Scandinavian speaks English with a British or American accent has a lot to do with what kind of TV they prefer!
A region of explorers
Ever since the days of the great explorers Roald Amundsen and Thor Heyerdahl, Scandinavians have been great travelers. Today, high salaries and generous vacation allowances allow most locals to take more than one vacation every year while cheap flights tempt many visitors over to London for weekends breaks.
A professional skill
Perhaps it’s that inner-explorer, but even after almost a decade of formal English language education, many Scandinavians take things a step further by studying abroad. Whatever subject they’re studying, it’s highly likely to involve immersion in an English language environment.
As globalization continues at pace, English is seen as a critical skill for business. The British Council reports that by 2020, two billion people will be studying the language. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to “think global first” and buoyed by the success stories of the likes of Spotify, many are doing just that.
This focus on English in business isn’t a new phenomenon. The person behind the wildly successful English language immersion company EF Education First is not British nor American, rather a Swede!
Bertil Hult began sending Swedish students to Brighton way back in 1965 and his company now works with students and adults from all across the globe who want to immerse themselves in English.
出典:Why Scandinavians Are So Good At English
1.Do you think speaking English is a precious skill in Japan? Why? Why not?
2.What languages would you like to be fluent in other than English? Why?
3.When did you start studying English(second language)? When do you think people should start studying English(second language)?
4.How do you watch foregin TV shows, movies, and videos?(dubbing?subtitles?)