Talking about Languages Posted by on Mar 31, 2019 in Language, Norway and the world

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Beklager, jeg snakker ikke engelsk! (Sorry, I don’t speak English!) Although I normally wouldn’t recommend lying, the previous phrase might come handy if you’re a beginner & want to practice your norsk! 🙂 Otherwise there is a certain chance that the Norwegians you meet will answer you in their excellent English… Let’s talk about språk [sprawk] (languages).

In Norwegian, 99 % of language names end in -sk. It’s like –ish or –ch in English, just much more extensively used. Spansk, fransk, italiensk, kinesisk, japansk, tysk = Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, German.

Here are some useful phrases:

Snakker du norsk? (Do you speak Norwegian?)

Hvilket språk foretrekker du? (Which language do you prefer?)

Skal vi skifte språk? (Would you like to change language?)

Jeg lærer norsk. (I’m learning Norwegian.)

Jeg vil helst snakke norsk. (I prefer to talk Norwegian.)

Hva betyr ”grissgrendt”? (What does ”grissgrendt” mean?)

Hva heter ”expensive” på norsk? (What’s ”expensive” in Norwegian?)

Did you know Norwegian is written in two different ways? The two varieties are bokmål [bokmawl] (”book language”) and nynorsk [neenorsk] (”New Norwegian”). Most texts are currently written in bokmål (also on this blog), but you’ll find some places – especially in Western Norway – where nynorsk is the king of e-mails and newspapers. Please note that these two writing systems are quite similar, with only small differences – think American vs British English or something. 🙂 (”I love Norway” is ”Jeg elsker Norge” in bokmål but ”Eg elskar Noreg” in nynorsk.) They’re still the same language – Norwegian.

Most Norwegians speak a dialekt [deeaLEKT]. That means, if you come from Bergen you’d use some different words and endings than if you come from Tromsø or Oslo. Norwegians are used to hearing all these dialects, just like many international English speakers easily adjust their ears to Scottish or Australian English. Of course, the dialects were not invented to make life easy for Norwegian learners! 🙂

In the north of Norway, from Røros and up, a considerable minority speak samisk (Sami languages), which is related to Finnish – and unrelated to Norwegian. A few people also speak kvensk, which is like a Finnish dialect.

At school, lots of Norwegians learn tysk, fransk or spansk. Everybody learns English.

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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.