Norwegian Language Blog

How Hard Is Norwegian? Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Language

(Free image from OpenClipart.)

(Free image from OpenClipart.)

How hard is Norwegian actually? I’d say it depends a lot on your native language. If you’re an English-speaker – lucky you. Both languages come from the same Germanic roots, and there are loads of similarities, grammar-wise and vocabulary-wise:

Vi liker egg! (We like eggs!)
Naboen har små vinduer. (The neighbour has small windows.)

Some things are even easier than in English, such as the present tense of verbs:

Jeg springer. (I’m running.)
Du springer. (You’re running.)
Hun springer hver torsdag. (She runs every Thursday.)

…or such as the way you make questions:

Springer du? (Are you running?)
Springer du alltid? (Do you always run?)
Kommer du på torsdag? (Will you come on Thursday?)

Other things, of course, are harder. First and foremost, Norwegian nouns have got three different genders, and for each new noun you learn you have to remember whether it’s an en, ei or et word – and modify any adjective accordingly:

Huset er rart. (The house is strange.)
Boka er rar. (The book is strange.)
Gutten er rar. (The boy is strange.)

Here are a couple of things that Norwegians themselves struggle with:

å versus og. These are often mixed up in writing, since both are pronounced like ”aw” in awful. og means and (du og jegyou and I), while å is used to highlight infinitives, just like the English word to: å være eller ikke være (to be or not to be).

da versus når. Both translate as ”when”, and are not always distinguished in the spoken language. In writing, the rule of thumb is ”Den gang da, hver gang når (On that particular occasion – da. On each occasion – når.):

Da jeg kom hjem, ventet katten i vinduet. (When I got home, the cat was waiting in the window.)
Når jeg kommer hjem, venter katten i vinduet. (Each time I get home, the cat waits in the window.)

During the next couple of months, I’d like to help you overcome some of your Norwegian struggles. To that end, this blog needs your help! 🙂 So, please take some time to drop a comment answering the following: In your experience, what is the most difficult part of learning Norwegian? What really makes YOU fret, sweat and despair?

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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.


  1. Mona Randem:

    Jeg ville tro at i dette tilfelle ville jeg bruke ‘løpe’, ikke ‘springe’. Ellers er det norske språket veldig lett. Særlig hvis man er født med det….. Og vokst opp der.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Mona Randem Hei Mona! Takk for tilbakemeldinga. Jeg vokste opp på Vestlandet på et sted hvor ordet ”løpe” slett ikke er i bruk (Sauda). Men du har selvsagt helt rett.

  2. Iain Bush:

    The most difficult part of learning Norwegian? Understanding what people say! I have no problem understanding French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish or German. These are much much easier languages to lean than Norwegian. Written and spoken Norwegian are the totally different. I struggle to understand 5% of what Norwegians say and find that I understand non-native Norwegian speakers better.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Iain Bush @Iain. Thanks for your feedback! Of course, a blog is a written medium, but I’ll see what I can do.

  3. Trang:

    What makes me fret, sweat and despair? Haha, well, I wouldn’t even know where to begin with! I guess I could say that up to this point (reads: I haven’t learned much Norwegian yet) I’m most concerned with the many rules for adjectives. There are already a lot of rules, and then there are particular cases too…!

    I’ve also noticed that subject inversion (i.e. subject and verb switch places) is much more common in Norwegian than in English, as in not only in questions, but not very often touched in grammar guides. There seems to be a certain rule to it, of which I’m not aware. Sometimes I’m told to switch places for the subject and verb after a conjunction – is that the case?

    Ah, and sometimes Norwegian pronunciation is pretty much a tongue twisting mess for me – especially when ‘r’s are involved (the SJ sounds turn out to be fairly okay, with the help of a tutoring friend, although I do seriously question whether it’s because I am actually able to pronounce them correctly or just because I’m not yet at a level advanced enough to realize I’m pronouncing it wrong…). I have special problems with ‘dr’ and ‘tr’ – me trying to say ‘brødrene’ usually results in a disaster.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Trang @Trang. Thank you very much for your comments! They are really useful for the development of this blog. Takk! 🙂

  4. Ellen:

    Veldig nyttig blog! Jeg sliter meg med “da” vs “så”. As in “then”. First….. Then. Takk!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Ellen Thanks for the feedback, Ellen! 🙂

  5. Elena:

    Maaange hjertelig takk for bloggen din! I always struggle with “-e” endings (min storE hund, den sterkE mann, etc) and perfektum (don’t understand when to use it).

  6. Ivette Calistri:

    As a Spanish speaker and after 4 years living in Norway, I still struggles with Listening. So many different dialects ! Impossible to follow!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Ivette Calistri @Ivette. Thanks for your feedback! Of course, a blog is a written medium, but I’ll see what I can do.

  7. Maggie:

    da vs. når was new to me. I’ve seen da also be “then” – a little google search found me your blog from 2009 with more examples of this. So thanks! I don’t comment much, but I always study your blog. It’s really useful. Tusen takk!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Maggie @Maggie. Thank you for your feedback! It helps me finding a direction for the blog.

  8. Margarita:

    The nouns, (the articles bok, boka, etc and the adjectives stort, store, etc). And the pronunciation.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Margarita @Margarita. Thanks for your feedback. I’ll look into it!

  9. Christina:

    ‘Da’ & ‘når’ both means ‘when’ in English, except that da is used in the past tense while når is present/future. Most native speakers mix them up – similarly for ‘ennå’ & ‘enda’ (meaning yet in English) and ‘overfor’ & ‘ovenfor’ (opposite vs above).

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Christina Hei Christina,
      thanks for these useful additions. 🙂

  10. Christina:

    P.S. ‘ennå’ is the correct word for yet, but many use ‘enda’ which is a superlative word that roughly translates as ‘even’ as in even more.