Menu
Search

4 ways Norwegian differs from English Posted by on Aug 31, 2019 in Uncategorized

These are no farmers… In Norwegian, word melody can sometimes alter the meaning of a word… (Free image from Pixabay, no copyright.)

For speakers of English, learning Norwegian isn’t that hard: Both languages belong to the Germanic group and have a lot in common. (You can probably guess the meaning of words such as katt, melk, hus.) Still, there are some eye- (or rather ear!) popping differences:

• Norwegian has grammatical genders. Every noun is either masculine, neuter or feminine (ordered according to frequency). In English, you can simply ”go a(n)”: a man, an orange, a house, a child, a woman, a book. In Norwegian, the a(n) changes according to the noun’s gender (yes, it’s weird – grammatically, even a book has a gender): en mann, en appelsin, et hus, et barn, ei kvinne, ei bok.

Norwegian attaches the ”the” (definite article) at the noun’s end. To use the previous example, you say man-the, orange-the… Pro tip – with masculine and neuter nouns, the ”the” looks identical to the ”a” (indefinite article): mannen, appelsinen, huset, barnetbut kvinna, boka.

• The order of words changes in ways you wouldn’t expect. For example, any yes/no question is made like Are you tired? (a swap of the simple statement You are tired): Liker du sjokolade? (”Like you chocolate?” = Do you like chocolate?) A particular tricky thing is inversion, which basically means that adverbs like always come after the main verb in a main clause, but precede the verb in a subordinate clause (phew!): Det snør alltid. (It always snows). De sier det alltid snør. (They say it always snows.) The good thing is: If you don’t master inversion, you’ll still be understood (but sound like a typical foreigner…)

A bit like Chinese, Norwegian has tones. This is a quite technical thing which you’ll hopefully absorb subconsciously while listening and trying to talk! 🙂 In short, any Norwegian word comes with a little ”speech-pattern melody” – which is probably why some foreigners think Norwegians are singing instead of talking… Don’t worry, a few dialects don’t have tones (so you will be understood if you don’t master this subtlety!) – and the rest only have two different ”melodies”: descending or rising. In the Oslo dialect, the tone of the word bønder (farmers) is going a bit down, while the tone of the word bønner (beans) is on the rise.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Norwegian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


Comments:

  1. martin lader:

    This was really helpful