How to learn the Norwegian language
Language learning is one of the main and most important steps in adapting to the environment and achieve familiarity with the culture of the inhabitants of a country. In this article, I intend to provide a brief description of the Norwegian language, its history and ways to learn it. I highly recommend you not to bypass this article.
Language learning is important for people who want to stay in a country for a short or long period of time. Language is an important part of the culture of a country. By learning the language, in addition to bettered communication with the people therein, adaptation to culture is achieved quickly. In this article, I, therefore, have compiled useful ways to learn Norwegian from physical presence at the institutions and language academies in Norway, online, or a combination thereof.
A short history of the Norwegian language
Norwegian is a language of the Scandinavian language group (Swedish, Danish and Norwegian). It is of the North German language family, stemming from old Norse. The official language of Norway is called Norwegian.
According to the latest official statistics, more than 67 per cent of Norwegian can speak English adequately. The Norwegian language is, however, the key to entry into the Norwegian job market, and life for any immigrant who intends to live in Norway for a long or short period of time. There is virtually no escape from learning it!
Across the world, well over 5,2 million persons speak Norwegian. There are two main types of written language (three, if you add Samí, which is a Finnish-Ugri language) in Norway. The largest official version is Bokmål (lit. “Book language”). More than 90% of Norwegian speakers use this daily.
The other written language, Nynorsk (New Norwegian), is based on some Norwegian dialects. Nynorsk considered as more “pure” than Bokmål, which is an amalgam influenced by Danish. Nynorsk is mostly used in specific and limited parts of Norway, such as on the West Coast and parts of Telemark.
The counties decide which one of them is the main form, but individual municipalities can overrule, mostly after a local referendum (Bergen, Stavanger). There is in fact also a third (unofficial) form called Riksmål, which is a slightly modified version of Danish.
Norwegian language Levels and tests
- Level A1 is equivalent to the old Norskprøve 1
- Level A2 is equivalent to the old Norskprøve 2
- Level B1 is equivalent to the old Norskprøve 3
- Level B2 provides a basis for admission to higher education (aka the Bergen test)
You do not need to pass all of the tests. For example, if you pass Norsk Prøve 3, you do not need to pass the Norsk Prøve 2 test.
The Norwegian Tests
Norsk Prøve 1 (Level A1)
The Norsk Prøve 1 is the beginner’s level test. Usually, there is a written test and an oral test. You need to score around 65 per cent in the written test and 90 per cent in the oral test to pass. At this level of proficiency, you should be able to state several Norwegian words. This level, known as A1 Norwegian, is the most important level of Norwegian language learning since levels above this are based on it. If the language is not well-understood at this level, a person attending a higher level will face difficulties.
Norsk Prøve 2 (Level A2)
The Norsk Prøve 2 is the intermediate level test. At this level, one is expected to express Norwegian middle-level sentences, or to understand everyday conversations and read Norwegian average texts. There is a written test and an oral test. Usually, the written and oral tests are not held on the same day.
Norsk Prøve 3 (Level B1)
The Norsk Prøve 3 is the advanced intermediate level test. At this level of language, one should be able to watch a film or read a newspaper in Norwegian and speak fluently in Norwegian. There is a written test and an oral test. Usually, the written and oral tests are not held on the same day.
The written test is divided into three parts: a comprehension test, a listening test, and an essay test. The written test lasts for around 3 hours.
In the comprehension test, you are faced with a few paragraphs – dealing with advertisements, brochures, personal and public letters, menus, user manuals, announcements, newspaper articles, timetables or other simple written material.
In the listening test, you are given a sheaf of questions to answer. Audio is played with some short sentences on topics such as personal relationships, work, shopping, transport, home, the immediate environment etc.
In the essay test, there are two tasks to tackle. One is to write a short summary (for example, an advertisement to sell your bicycle). The other is to write a short story consisting of around 200 words (for example, how you celebrate Christmas).
You need to score at least 65 per cent in each of the three parts of the written test. If you fail in any one of those (comprehension, listening, essay), you fail the entire test.
The oral test lasts for around 15 minutes. Usually, it is held a day before (or after) the written tests. In the oral test, you are paired with another student who is also taking the test. A teacher will provide questions coupled with an observer who will assess you.
There are three questions to be answered in the oral test.
Tell something about yourself.
The teacher provides a topic, which the two students need to discuss (e.g. How do you stay in shape?).
The teacher comes up with a topic, which each student has to tell something about (e.g. what did you do during your vacation?)
The Bergen Test (Level B2)
The Test i Norsk – høyere nivå (aka “Bergenstesten“, the Bergen Test) is an examination of the Norwegian language carried out by the Norwegian adult education centres (Studieforbundet, Folkeuniversitetet). Passing this exam is a precondition for studying at Norwegian Universities and colleges.
The test consists of a written and an oral exam. Both parts can be taken three times a year.
Oral and written exams are held on different days.
There is a fee for taking part in the written part. The fee is currently at NOK 1,850 or 3,500 (if the test is taken abroad). The oral part currently costs NOK 900.
In order to pass this test, your current level of Norwegian language should correspond to B2, according to the European framework.
You will be required, among other things, to discuss several topics with your examiner, and to describe an image. In the written part, a major component is rewriting given sentences, thus testing your grammar and vocabulary skills.
Some of the most important Norwegian language training institutions
The first three institutes listed below are the most important Norwegian language training institutions in Norway. Some of these institutions are not free and you need to pay an average of NOK 2,000 to 3,000 per semester to partake. The number of classes and terminology can vary depending on the institution.
Find more information on the website of each institution listed below.
If you are already a student in Norway, or if you will be one in the future, please note that many Norwegian schools and universities offer international students Norwegian classes at their premises (and/or online) – generally for free, or at a much lower cost.
Norwegian Language Learning Sites on the Internet
- Skapago This site is purely net-based (monthly subscription). Also contains material to be able to pass the Bergen Test.
The best known and popular Norwegian language teaching books
- På Vei, https://pavei.cappelendamm.no/
- Stein På Stein, https://steinpastein.cappelendamm.no/
- Her På Berget, https://herpaberget.cappelendamm.no/
- Ny i Norge, https://nyinorge.portfolio.no/
- Enkel Norsk Grammatikk (grammar book), https://norskgrammatikk.cappelendamm.no/
Norwegian Language Training Videos Collection on YouTube
There are Norwegian language lessons available on YouTube. Following are the most attractive that I have found.
Related articles published on Norway Today.
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