The bridge - mutual intelligibility

I’m currently watching the TV series The Bridge (Broen/Bron), a Danish-Swedish co-production. A dead body is found on the Øresund Bridge that connects Sweden and Denmark. The Swedish and Danish police have to work together to solve this crime. It’s interesting that everyone just speaks their own language. At first I thought that the Danish inspector could speak Swedish but in fact he just pronounces Danish very clearly when speaking to Swedish people and they answer back in Swedish. There’s a scene at the beginning when Martin, the Danish inspector, speaks to his Swedish colleagues and they all look dumbfounded. He then starts speaking more clearly. But in fact, Swedes would not understand Danish that easily. In Sweden they subtitled all Danish dialogues. This is what the director says:

”In real life Swedes and Danes can understand each other, but we don’t understand each other as well they do in the show.  The co-creators and I decided early in the process not to make anything of it. So every Dane speaks Danish and every Swede speaks Swedish.”

If there was a German-Dutch version of this, the police would either speak in English or in German because Dutch are more likely to understand German than Germans Dutch. Even if a Dutch person would speak very slowly, I doubt that a German would understand them. 

There are several remakes of this series: The Tunnel, a British-French version, then there’s an American-Mexican version, a Russian-Estonian, a Malaysian-Singaporean and a German-Austrian one. Germans and Austrians both speak German, and the Bavarian dialect of Southern Germany is very close to Austrian German, so there aren’t any linguistic surprises there. 

But have you watched any of the other remakes? What languages do the protagonists speak? Russian and Estonian aren’t even related. I think maybe Finnish and Estonian people can understand each other but Russians and Estonians? Have you watched the original series and if you only know one of the languages, could you understand the other without subtitles?

Apr 23, 2019 7:02 AM
Comments · 7


That‘s interesting! For me, it’s always easier to read similar languages.

Here is a behind the scenes take, where the cast of „the Bridge“ talk about the differences between Danish and Swedish: <a href="https://youtu.be/RxZsvlv795M" style="-webkit-text-size-adjust: 100%; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent;">https://youtu.be/RxZsvlv795M</a>;

April 28, 2019

I didn't know there was a Russian/Estonian version of this show. As I am studying Estonian, this intrigued me. I searched a bit and found a short trailer of the show on Youtube. Result: It's completely in Russian. The actress who plays the Estonian main character is actually Lithuanian, and I didn't find any information that she has any knowledge of the Estonian language. But of course, as she was born in the Soviet Union, the Russian language still works as a "lingua franca" between these countries. She might have a certain accent, but that's all.

More interesting: In the Estonian Wikipedia, there is a page about the original (Danish/Swedish) show, but no mention whatsoever of the Russian/Estonian one. I guess it's a completely Russian production which happens to be located on the border to a random neighboring country.

April 25, 2019
That seems interesting but I haven’t watched this series.
April 23, 2019
Hi Miriam. If we are talking about listening those three languages I haven't any problem with it even if I've never learned it. I heard it many times and as I said In my opinion there are only few differencies between them and Polish. Reading is other thing cause Belarusian and Ukrainian are mostly written with use of Cyrylic script which I don't know. But with Slovak this problem isn't exist. :-) 
April 26, 2019

That is indeed disappointing that it's only in Russian. But it's situated in Narwa, right? Wikipedia says that Narwa is the centre of the Russian minority in Estonia and that 95% of Narwa's citizens are Russian speakers. But it's strange that they cast a Lithuanian actress for the Estonian part.


Wow, that's great! But do you understand that much when hearing Slovak, Belarusian and Ukrainian as well or just reading? For me as German, it's not too difficult to read Dutch, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish but I'm completely lost when I hear those languages (especially Danish).

April 26, 2019
Show more