How to Speak Norwegian
Norwegian (Norsk) is a North Germanic Indo-European language closely related to Danish and Swedish. Norwegian has two written forms, Nynorsk and Bokmål, as well as an array of spoken dialects.Both Bokmål (“book language”) and Nynorsk (“new Norse") use the Latin alphabet and have three letters that don’t exist in English: æ, ø and å. Norwegian is spoken by over 5 million people in Norway and over 63,000 people outside of Norway.It’s a good idea to focus on learning one dialect and the Bokmål spelling and grammar in the beginning, before learning to understand other dialects and Nynorsk later.
Learning the Basics
Learn basic Norwegian pronunciation.In addition to having three letters not used by the English alphabet, Norwegian has several vowel, consonant, and dipthong sounds not used in English.Norwegian pronunciation is largely phonetic—words are pronounced like they are spelled—but there are exceptions and words that will be unfamiliar to English speakers.
- If you’re planning to travel to Norway, look into the regional dialect spoken in the area you’re visiting. Regional dialect and pronunciation vary slightly, and you should practice the pronunciation used in the dialect region you’ll be visiting.
Learn Norwegian greetings.One of the first things you’ll need to do when learning Norwegian is to pick up a few common phrases related to greeting individuals you meet. These are listed below. The English word is on the left, followed by the Norsk word (and its pronunciation) on the right.
- Hello – Hallo. It’s pronounced like: “Hollow”
- Hi – Hei. It’s pronounced like: “Hi”
- My name is – Jeg heter. It’s pronounced like: “Yay hehtter”
- How are you – Hvordan har du det. It’s pronounced like: “Hvorden har doo deh”
- Goodbye – Ha det bra. It’s pronounced like: “Haaduh bra” (Or you can say “Ha det.” That means “bye.” It sounds like: “Hadeh” [you say “ha det” in one word]).
Learn important words in Norwegian.Especially if you are traveling in Norway, you will likely not have time to master the language before you need to speak it. In order to effectively communicate about basic daily needs, focus on first grasping and pronouncing words and phrases such as:
- I come from ... – Jeg kommer fra. It’s pronounced like: “Yay kommur fra”
- I’m sorry – Beklager. It’s pronounced like: “Behk-lah-gerr”
- Excuse me – Unnskyld meg. It’s pronounced like: “Un-shyl mei”
- I love you – Jeg elsker deg. It’s pronounced like: “yay elsker dei.”
Learn a few simple questions.Once you can greet individuals in Norwegian and are able to begin a basic conversation, it’s time to learn some beginning questions. You’ll likely need to develop a specific list of common questions relevant to your pursuits in Norway (whether they’re related to business, tourism, or academic studies).
- Where are you from? – Hvor kommer du fra? It’s pronounced like: “Vor kommur do frah?”
- Do you speak English? – Snakker du engelsk? It’s pronounced like: “Snacker do ehng-ehlsk?”
- I speak English. – Jeg snakker Engelsk. It’s pronounced like: “Yay snacker ehng-ehlsk”
- What did you say? – Hva sa du? It’s pronounced like: “Va saw do?”
- Can you speak more slowly? – Kan du snakke saktere? It’s pronounced like: “Kann do snak-ke sack-tereh?”
- Where is the bathroom – Hvor er toalettet? It’s pronounced like: “Vor er toalette?”
Mastering Norwegian Grammar, Speech, and Text
Purchase a Norwegian grammar book for beginners.Study as much as you can: learn pronunciation, sentence structure, verb conjugations, and as much vocabulary as you can. If you are serious about learning Norsk, buy a dictionary and a phrase book as well.
- A store that specializes in languages should be able to help you to choose a suitable book.
- If you are more interested in learning to speak Norwegian, you should focus on expanding your vocabulary and learning word pronunciation.
- If you are more interested in learning to read, write, and translate Norwegian, you will need a understanding of regular and irregular verbs, noun cases, and other complex grammar rules. Fortunately, Norwegian has relatively simple grammar rules, especially compared with other Germanic languages.
- One of the books series made specifically for foreigners learning Norwegian is “Ta Ordet” by the publishers CappelenDamm.
Use online resources to assist your learning.Look for sites that teach Norwegian, along with pronunciation and tests.Online resources are especially valuable because they will contain audio clips to help you pronounce words correctly.
- Look for websites like: Learn Norwegian Naturally, My Little Norway, or Babbel.
Create a set of flashcards.This is a simple and effective way to learn parts of a language. If you’re struggling to learn a part of Norwegian—for example, if irregular verbs are tripping you up—write the verb on a note card, and all of its conjugations on the back. Then quiz yourself by reciting as many of the conjugations as you can remember, before you flip the card over. You can put a variety of information in Norwegian on various sets of flashcards. Consider creating distinct sets to quiz yourself on:
- Verb conjugation.
- Articles and pronouns.
Put Norwegian phrases on sticky notes around your house.This approach is similar to the flash cards; you will remember more Norwegian vocabulary and grammar rules if you see it regularly throughout your day.
- Coordinate the specific sticky notes with locations in your house. For example, put food vocabulary in your kitchen, and verb conjugations on your writing desk.
Immersing Yourself in the Norwegian Language
Find Norwegian speakers to converse with.You might look for a tutor in your local area, or find online Norwegian friends who are willing to “chat” with you in beginner’s Norwegian. This should be a safe space for you to make mistakes and ask questions about pronunciation and grammar.
- If you know any Norwegians who are trying to learn English, you can help them with English after they help you with Norwegian.
Consider going to Norway.To really test how well you speak Norwegian, consider going on a trip to Norway. This is the most in-depth way to immerse yourself in the language. You will be surrounded by Norwegian language and culture. You’ll also experience Norwegian language in the context of daily life, rather than through online learning exercises.
- If you have some friends who also speak Norwegian, it’s a good idea to bring them along as “translators” of sorts.
- You will need to be intentional about speaking and learning the Norwegian language, as English is commonly spoken in Norway.
Subscribe to a Norwegian magazine.Practice your Norwegian by subscribing to a magazine written in Norwegian. It doesn’t matter what kind of magazine it is: fashion, political, news, celebrity gossip, etc., as long as it’s written in Norwegian.
- Although a magazine will not help you with word pronunciation, it will help you to recognize and read written Norwegian.
- Look for widely distributed Norwegian magazines, includingVi Menn(a men’s lifestyle magazine),Allers(a women’s lifestyle magazine), orHytteliv(a magazine on cabin living).
Watch Norwegian films.This is an easy and entertaining way to immerse yourself in Norwegian, and to pick up elements of Norwegian pronunciation and culture. Watching films allows you to hear the language as it is naturally spoken, in real-life contexts.
- At first, it will be helpful to keep the English subtitles on, so you can follow along. Over time, you should come to rely on the subtitles less and less, until they’re finally off altogether.
- Well known Norwegian films include:Trollhunter(2010),King of Devil’s Island(2010),The Man Who Could Not Laugh(1968), andKon-Tiki(1950).
QuestionI am conversing with someone who speaks English but is heavy on the Norwegian accent and I am having trouble understanding them. Any ideas?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBe patient and try getting used to the accent. It will get better with time. You could also try to learn Norwegian with his/her help and show him/her more English in exchange.Thanks!
- Spoken and written Norwegian is relatively intelligible to both Swedish and Danish speakers. However, there are differences! One thing you could try to remember is that Swedish and Danish languages the letters “ä” and “ö” instead of the Norwegian “æ” and “ø.”
- In Norway, always say “Thanks for the food” to the person who made it, after a meal. Say it like this: “takk for maten.” That sounds like: “takk for maten.” (The word “for” is pronounced almost like the word “for” in English. But you have to say the “r” correctly.)
- Depending on which part of Norway you’re in, pronunciations may change.
- When saying “jeg” and “det” remember that they have silent letters.
Video: Learn Norwegian! Lesson #1
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