Norwegian: Hade!

I wish I had started browsing Norwegian when this project began so my conclusions wouldn’t be so predictably biased. But maybe reviewing it just reaffirmed what I already thought.

I listened to NRK (think NBC or ABC for Norway) for several hours. I was tuned to Rogaland 24, the all-day local station for Norway’s Rogaland county. Amidst watching segments about folk art, protests over a sex shop opened by American women and a children’s special, I couldn’t help but feel extremely placid by listening to it. On several occasions, the broadcast had English speakers with Norwegian subtitles (which gives Norway a gold star), but for the most part it was really interesting listening to the language this way. It was so relaxing and it felt just like I was watching PBS. I don’t know anything about Rogaland, but if it’s as artsy and breezy as it seems, it definitely seems like a cool place to visit. Just look at this interview of an indie pop band I like, Smoosh, on Norwegian TV if you don’t believe me:

I think it’s amazing how Norwegians can just switch between English and Norsk almost unconsciously. It’s no surprise most people in Scandinavia already understand English (they learn it early, starting from primary school), which almost makes studying Norwegian questionable.

Some very basic words I learned along the way:

Jeg – I
dette – this
på – in
av – of/at

SUMMARY: Norwegian’s a North Germanic language that’s pretty similar to its linguistic cousin, English. Because of Norway’s cultural connection (and past annexation) to Denmark and Sweden, Norwegian is almost mutually intelligible with its nearby neighbors. (I also forgot to mention that Norwegian is similar to Icelandic, but because of Iceland’s geographic isolation, Icelandic is not as mutually intelligible and uses a different alphabet.) As mentioned before, some people consider Bokmål just another (written) dialect of Danish, which led to the creation of Nynorsk, although it’s only used by 10 percent of Norway’s population. Its vocabulary is kind of Germanic obviously, but its grammar and sytax are extremely easy for the average English speaker to learn. Dialects, however, are a different story. Take this example from 101 Languages:

Bokmål: Jeg kommer fra Norge.
Nynorsk: Eg kjem frå Noreg.
English: I come from Norway.

While the sentence structure is identical to English, Nynorsk and Bokmål have different words. This could definitely be a challenge for those trying to learn the language.

What I also didn’t mention is that there were several other written dialects called Riksmål and Samnorsk. Riksmål is basically an older version of Bokmål and Samnorsk was a failed attempt to merge Bokmal and Nynorsk. And then there’s Landsmål and Høgnorsk, alternative versions of Nynorsk. This is all confusing and complex, but just know that few people speak these dialects and that Bokmål is your best bet because that is used the most.

FINAL IMPRESSION: I’m not going to lie. I like Norwegian. To me, it sounded a lot like mumbled English, except that people rolled words a lot and pitched their voices (like an American’s surprised, “oh?”). I could tell that words apart in dialogue but many of them sounded like “uh.” This makes me wonder how difficult it would be to become familiar with the vocabulary (and respective dialect). Still, the language gets some very high marks from me (as you might have guessed).


Intelligibility: 3
Complexity: 4
Resonance: 5
Continuation: 5

COMING UP: Bulgarian

2 thoughts on “Norwegian: Hade!

  1. This is a great blog! I’ve followed it the last couple of months, and will continue to do so 🙂

    One little nitpick about Norwegian dialects, though; Bokmål, Nynorsk etc are written languages, and are as such not spoken by anyone. Different dialects are closer to one or the other of the written varieties (or pretty far from all of them), but none of the dialects match exactly. Or should I say, none of the written languages represent any one dialect.

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