English language in Norway Posted by kari on Apr 30, 2010 in Culture, Language, Norway and the world, Politics
I have written on this topic before and I imagine I will again; the use of engelsk (English) in Norway continues to rise. Engelsk is used increasingly in høyere utdannelse (higher education), forskning (research), arbeidsplass (work place) and daglig språk (daily language). Requirements for English proficiency are on the rise at schools and in the job market. As a result, kompetanse (competance) in det engelske språket (the English language) has increased. Norwegians want to keep up with their fellow Norwegians and with foreigners who also speak engelsk in order to remain konkurransedyktig (competitive).
To give you an example of just how serious this movement is, the Norwegian company Statoil recently informed all of it’s suppliers that it would no longer use det norske språket (the Norwegian language) when conducting business. All kontrakter (contracts) and fakturaer (invoices) will now be submitted på engelsk. Statoil’s explanation for this bold change is that the company will save money in that they will no longer need to oversette (translate) everything back and forth. Statoil is a global company, so why not use a global language, they say?
For one, there is certainly more room for misforståelse (misunderstanding), as well as an adverse reaction from the Norwegian people. Many fear that norsk er i fare (Norwegian is in danger). Naturally, the more engelsk that is used in alle samfunnsområder (all areas of society) means that norsk is used less and less. Not only has the sheer volume of norsk used in daily life decreased, but the composure has changed as well.
Even inside the Norwegian language, we are finding engelske ord (English words), or engelske ord that have been Norwegianized (I think I may have just made that word up). And even beyond that, the struktur (structure) of words is actually changing! For example, as many of you have gathered, Norwegian, like German, uses many compound words, such as sidevei (side road), nasjonaldag (national day), and vinglass (wine glass), whereas their English counterparts split the words up.
Ok, so where am I going with this? Let’s take a look at another word: sukkerbiter (little bits of sugar). To anglicize the word, Norwegians have started to split the words up, resulting in sukker biter (sugar bites), which is confusing because it seems like the sugar is biting something! Potential for more misforståelser…..even expressions are being directly translated from English to Norwegian. Expressions never sound right when they are directly translated.
I understand the logistics involved in international companies using engelsk to communicate with their business partners and such, but there’s a line to draw somewhere, isn’t there? Is language not a sacred and valuable part of a culture anymore?