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Frode H

I was just listening to two different Swedish speakers. One with a dialect, and he did not change his ways, as Norwegians and Swedes understand each other. One of them did not change because he was talking to a crowd that easily should understand him.

And here is something all Swedes should learn: Norwegians, have since always been able to watch Swedish television, and Swedish television programs like Pippi Longstockings, not translated to Norwegian. My generation grew up with Swedish children TV, as it was more fun than the Norwegian one. But this does not go for all Norwegians. This goes for those that lived in the eastern part of Norway (Like Oslo). So I did not have so much Swedish words in my upbringing, so I do not understand Swedish as well as many others. And since the 80’s satellite TV brought us MTV and other English speaking TV-channels. Even if my family got to access Swedish TV in 1987, they did not get attention as the English speaking channels where more fun. So the younger generations, born at the end of the 1970’s and later tend to understand less of our neighbors than those born earlier.

So we had two Swedes one that did not change to his audience and one that translated his presentation into Norwegian, even if he spoke in Swedish, his point was adapted to Norwegian culture. The first one had the most energy and was more fun, but he had some great points that crash landed because only a few people in the audience really knew what he meant, all others laughed not to look stupid...

This illustrates that the cultural difference does not have to be huge! Norway and Sweden could just as well be one country. And even in the states there are probably cultural differences? Can you hold the same speech all over the USA? English and American as well is quite different. And all the way down to dialect. I speak rather different than they do here where I live in the southern part of Norway. I talk fast, I use different words, and I have learned that a lot of the words I can use in the north-western parts of Norway are not understandable to the people in the southern parts.

I think this is a very interesting topic. Maybe because I live in a country with a lot of different dialects in the same language, and since I have lived at different places I know that words like on my dialect “Inkvart” (Something like that) and “Baent” (In line) does not match with “Eller noe sånt” (Something like that) and “Rett (In line)” The two latter examples are standard written Norwegian.

So be aware that even a travel around in one single country could give you trouble :)

Steve Roesler

Frode, well put.

And indeed, we have the same situation here. I was raised in the Philadelphia area and then went to Louisiana for basic training in the Army where I was in constant difficulty for the first few weeks.


I couldn't understand a word that the sergeants were saying who were from that local area. They could have been speaking French. Which, in fact, they were part of the time since the nearby dialect was Cajun.

Most people are very gracious and understanding toward people from other areas. But if you are the speaker--like the one you mentioned--you can have great material but no one will "get it".

BTW: I'm not sure that MTV is the best place to learn proper English. But if you can understand everyone on MTV, you're ahead of most of us here.

Becky Robinson

Hi Steve,
Great points. Here is another idea:
Be aware and sensitive to different cultural values and how they may affect your listeners. An example: time orientation. Many other cultures are much less monochronic than we are in the US. Instead of getting frustrated about your audience's seeming indifference to schedules, remember that your listeners may have other values, like relationship building, that take precedence over sticking to a strict time schedule.

Steve Roesler


Ah, good one. Certainly have experienced it.

Now all I have to do is use the word "monochronic" three times today. . .


I agree, it is always good to get another set of eyes over your speech, be it for a different location or next weeks sales meeting.

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