Pronunciation

PRONUNCIATION FOR READERS OF NORDIC NOIR

(only Swedish for now!)

     I am of the mind that if you are reading a translated work in English, you should be able to Anglicize (or slaughter) any difficult words without serious reprisal from well-meaning friends and acquaintances.  In general, you shouldn’t have to say Hercule Poirot the way a Parisian would.  Nor should you hesitate to pronounce Henning Mankell as you see fit (most likely, you’ll do fine with that one).

     But what do you do with something like Sjöwall & Wahlöö?  Some lucky people can just slur the names together and move right along.  Good for you!  If you’re like me, on the other hand, you will obsessively roll the exotic words back and forth on your tongue as you cook dinner, pick up the house, drive, work, read, or try to sleep–even if you’ve never taken a course on the language in question.

     This drives me crazy.  But sometimes people help me out.  I was much relieved, for instance, when Slate posted an audio file with the pronunciation of that Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull (http://www.slate.com/id/2250998).  So I am offering to help anyone who suffers from the same affliction.  For now, I can only help with Swedish (I live with a native speaker and can verify my answers!) and I only have a few audio files up (more coming soon).  But you can email me any Swedish word (nordicnoir@gmail.com), and I’ll try to help as soon as possible.  

     And if any native speakers of the other Scandinavian languages wish to offer some help–let me know!

Responses

  1. Hi-

    I’m a big fan of Nordic police procedural books.

    I think it’s great that you’re offering help for pronouncing Swedish names.

    I’ve pronounced the same names throughout a book a 100 different ways until I finally settle on one to use.

    I finally got some relief when I listened to Henning Mankell’s One Step Behind audio book.

    I enjoyed your blog and am looking forward to more about Nordie crime novels.

    Thank you,
    Susie

  2. I enjoy the site and find it very informative.

  3. I am so frustrated when reading a book with Swedish or Danish or Finnish… names and places and not knowing how they should sound. Thanks (Tak, Tack Kiitos,,, etc) so much for your site! The films and TV series go some way to help,

    By the way, I am depressed to hear that Jo Nesbo has officially become anglicised in pronunciation by book and film promoters! Not that I am particularly a Jo Nesbo fan as it happens, I just prefer to know the original pronunciation of names and places 🙂

    • So it’s ‘Joe Nesboe’ here, huh? …Sigh. Anyway, you’re welcome!

  4. If it were phonetically anglicized for proper pronunciation, I guess it would be Nesbuh…

  5. I am 3rd generation Danish here in U.S. I have gotten hooked on Nordic Noir which started with “The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.” I love all of it. I really want to learn Danish or Swedish. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to learn for someone who has been out of college almost 40 years?? I love language. I really want to do it! Thank you, Dianne

    • I’m sorry to say I don’t know Danish at all. So I can’t point you in the best direction there. I’ll say something about Swedish below, but first, generally speaking, if you are a little extroverted, you’ll enjoy taking classes locally and learning to speak it–this will help you if you travel to the country too. But if you are simply fascinated by the language and culture, check out CDs such as the Rosetta Stone, buy a good basic ‘first year Danish’ grammar book, do all the exercises in it, and then focus on vocabulary. You’ll never be fluent that way, but you might get a lot out of learning the root words etc. It would be fun then to watch something like Forbrydelsen with the subtitles on–you’d probably catch a number of simple words and expressions after a small amount of study. Also see: http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/video/2012/nov/16/danish-the-killing-video . For other forms of practice, reading a bit of the online newspapers is a good idea. You can also buy a Nordic Noir novel in Danish and just try to read a paragraph a day, keeping a vocab list as you go (pick a slim novel!). Crime fiction is usually straightforward enough that you’ll be able to follow the plot. But you do need that solid foundation of ‘first year grammar’ before you do that.
      As for learning Swedish specifically, have a look at lingq.com . Also see http://folkets-lexikon.csc.kth.se/folkets/folkets.en.html . Klartext ( http://sverigesradio.se/sida/default.aspx?programid=493 ) also has ‘easy news’ written in Swedish especially for beginners. It’s great!
      Good luck!


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