Scandinavia and the World

Comments #9677706:

Cold reality shower 8 9, 3:10pm

@AussiePengwin And American.

To be "fair" - English is by far the dominant world language at present (depending on how you count, about 25% of the world's population either speaks it as a first or second language, or understands at least some), so it's been an easy - if extremely patronising and rude - trap to fall into.

I spent a fortnight in Sweden a few years ago. At the time I hadn't learnt any Swedish (other than maybe numbers, "please", "thank you" and a few simple tourist phrases). Two things were fascinating. Firstly, that there was a distinct generational divide between people who could speak English and people who couldn't. Secondly, that, even so, there were enough words in common that - if I just paid attention and was patient - I could mostly get by without an actual shared language. For example, my wife and I managed to have a long conversation with an elderly lady in a shop somewhere up near Dalarna about the embroidery kits she was selling, despite the fact that none of us spoke a word of the other's language.

We went on to a wedding (the reason we were there); I spent most of the time boring people rigid with all the similarities between Swedish words and Northern English/Lowland Scottish dialects...