It is well known that Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are closely related languages with many resemblances. In fact, about 90 % of the vocabulary is the same. So why is a foreign Scandinavian language one of the most common reasons for why many hesitate to apply for a job in another country?

Although Scandinavia are closely linked, both linguistic and cultural, there are several differences and especially in pronunciation, which can create problems in understanding each other. The understanding between Swedish and Danish is often considered the most difficult language combination, in comparison to Swedish and Norwegian or Danish and Norwegian. However, this should not stop you from starting your career in another Scandinavian country. On the contrary, knowing the differences between the languages beforehand is an advantage and you should prepare yourself for misunderstandings in the beginning. After some time, you won't have any problems understanding your colleagues during lunchbreak.


What is expected from me language-wise?

The language requirements might be different depending on what type of profession and industry you are interested in. It is therefore a good idea is to ask during the interview what language is used and if there are differences between the written and oral communication on the workplace. In most cases, the employer is aware that when they recruit from another Scandinavian- or Nordic countries, the employee might not master the language at first. In cases where the role and industry require that the employee master the language, many employers offers language courses for their employees. If your employment is longer than six months and you are under 35, you can receive funding for a language course through “Your First EURES Job”. You can read more about it on our website, Your First EURES Job. 


How can I improve my language skills?

Unfortunately, there are no short cuts when learning a foreign language. The key word is patience and to just throw yourself out there. In other words, you should use the language in your everyday life as much as you can, even though at first you might feel awkward and out of your comfort zone. Besides language courses, which are a good start to understand the linguistic differences and pronunciation, there are other simple tricks to improve your language skills. Listening to radio and watch TV is a good start, but also try to read in the foreign language. Try to get as “exposed” as possible to the foreign language so it becomes part of your daily life and not just your work life.


In the beginning, it might also help to twist and modify words from e.g. danish to Swedish, creating a mix of the languages which will make it easier for people to understand what you are trying to communicate. It is also important to speak up or ask if there is something you don’t understand, in that way you will improve your skills and become more comfortable with the language. People are in general encouraging and happy when you try to learn a new language! You will probably notice that your colleagues will be more than happy to help you improve your language skills and make you feel welcome and included at your new workplace. Besides, you will most likely come across and get to know people who have been in the same situation as you; in a new country with a language you don’t master. These people can help you and give a feeling of comfort since they share the same experience as you.

Starting a job in another country, while learning a new language requires a both effort and patience. However, the experiences and knowledge you will get are unforgettable and something you will not regret.


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