Want to learn Norwegian? Here are the top 5 tips from a language professor and an ambassador

LofotenPhoto: Ophélie Authier / Unsplash

It’s no secret that the team at Norway Today loves Norway. We want to share that love with our readers – so we’ve decided to collect some tips on how to learn Norwegian. 

We’ve gathered input on learning Norwegian from a (non-native) Norwegian language professor and a native-speaking Norwegian ambassador to help you start.

So, let’s help you get started!

Firstly, we spoke to professor Josip Janeš. 

Josip is a professor of the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish language at the Intellecta language school in Zagreb, Croatia. 

He graduated from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Studies, University of Zagreb, with a teaching degree in English Language and Literature and a translation degree in Swedish Language and Literature. 

Josip has been holding language courses at Intellecta since the summer of 2018. 

Since 2019, he also teaches the course of modern Norwegian language at the Department of Swedish Language and Culture at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, Croatia. 

Here are his five tips on learning Norwegian.

1. Listen to Norwegian shows or watch them on a daily basis

“This method helped me the most in learning all three Scandinavian languages,” Janeš said. 

“It’s important to find a show on nrk.no/tv that has Norwegian subtitles, such as Supernytt (news for children aged 8-12 years). 

It’s not necessarily important to watch the whole show, sometimes one segment is enough. A few minutes a day can help you a lot. 

When you’re beginning, you need to pause from time to time and write down the words you hear/see. You will improve over time. 

Continuity is key, you need to do this every day. In time, you can switch to movies and TV-shows,” Janeš noted.

2. Reading

“It can be frustrating when you can’t understand most words in Norwegian texts. 

“However, there are web pages on simplified Norwegian that you could find interesting. 

“For instance, Klartale is an excellent webpage that contains news in simple Norwegian, and the articles are very short. 

“In time, you can switch to longer formats, such as books. An excellent novel to start is Naïve. Super by Erlend Loe, because it’s written in relatively simple language,” Janeš added.

3. Find a partner to talk to or sing up for a Norwegian language course

“You can read Norwegian articles and listen to Norwegian shows day in and day out, but nothing can replace real conversation. 

“If you manage to find a patient native speaker or an enthusiast that wants to practice with you, great! 

“If not, you can sign up for a Norwegian language course. However, it’s important that the course isn’t overcrowded (at Intellecta, we keep the number of attendees at eight), so you can talk to other people as much as possible.”

4. Change the language on your computer, phone, Facebook account…

“Many Norwegian language course attendees tell me that it helps them when they change the default language on their digital platforms and devices, as it allows them to learn a bunch of useful and practical words that they encounter in everyday conversation.”

5. Delete your language learning app 

“There is no doubt that a language-learning app will help you with the basics at the beginning. 

“However, the problem with apps is that people often believe that they are enough. The truth is the opposite. Progress via aps is actually very slow. 

“If you follow my previous tips, you will learn the language much faster,” Janeš concluded.

Language tips from a Norwegian ambassador

Ambassador Haakon Blankenborg is an experienced Norwegian politician for the Labour Party. 

After years of serving in the Norwegian parliament (Storting), as well as presiding over the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Enlarged Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1993 to 2000, he became the Norwegian Ambassador to Serbia in 2005. 

In 2011, he became the General Director at the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. In September of last year, he was named Norwegian Ambassador to Croatia. 

Ambassador Blankenborg gave us his five tips on learning Norwegian, based on his rich experience in international communication and tireless work on promoting Norway.

1. Ask yourself – why do I want to learn Norwegian?  

“Is it for communication in daily life or for professional matters? That makes a big difference,” Blankenborg noted. 

He also stressed the difference between the two versions of the language: Bokmål and Nynorsk. Norway recognizes both as official and equal languages. 

Blankenborg was hesitant to explain the differences – he jokingly noted that he didn’t want to incur the wrath of linguists. 

However, he noted that “Bokmål is more influenced by Danish, while Nynorsk is more consistent with the Western coast’s Norwegian dialects.” 

“If you are learning Norwegian only for daily communication, then it’s not going to be problematic which version you learn or even if you mix the two. Norwegians will understand you, and many Norwegians mix the two as well. 

“However, in a professional environment, Bokmål is preferred, as well as in administration,” the ambassador explained.

2. Have a dictionary and read newspapers

Owning a dictionary is a great way to memorize words. Along with regularly reading the newspapers, it can help you to get to know the language. 

“Try to read as much as possible without the dictionary and use it only when needed,” the ambassador recommended. 

3. Listen to Norwegian radio, TV, music…

Listening to fluent speakers is crucial in any language, Blankenborg noted, adding that Norweigan was no exception. 

Radio shows, podcasts, music, TV shows – just pick a medium and start listening!

4. Cartoons

Ambassador Blankenborg said his friends recommended cartoons as a means of learning Norwegian. 

With their use of simple language and visuals, cartoons are an excellent way to start learning the language. 

5. Practice and attend classes

“Because of the flexibility of the Norwegian language, practicing is most important,” Blankenborg said. 

“If you decide to learn Norwegian just for communication in daily life, I would say it very simply – just learn by doing.”  

However, in case you want to learn Norwegian for professional reasons, Blankenborg recommends taking up Norwegian language courses. 

Another tip – Norwegians subtitles on foreign movies can be helpful if you already know English, as they can be a good way for people to understand the logic of the language better. 

“I do that from time to time in Croatia, as their television channels also have subtitles for foreign movies. The subtitles aren’t exact, of course, but they do give you the impression of the language,” the ambassador concluded.

Some differences between Bokmål and Nynorsk

Professor Janeš also commented on the difference between Bokmål and Nynorsk, pointing out that they are two written variants of the same language.

“They mostly (but not always) match the speaking language, as neither of these two types was based on one speech. Instead, the goal was to find the middle ground which would unite as much of the shared characteristics as possible,” Janeš explained.

A total of 85% of the Norwegian population uses Bokmål, and most books and grammar guides Janeš encountered are Bokmål-oriented. 

In his lectures, Janeš focuses on Bokmål (although he starts by explaining the differences between Bokmål and Nynorsk). 

In more advanced language courses, he teaches a bit of Nynorsk and then compares the two. 

He also recommends this video to people who want to learn more about the difference between the two standards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyS6qX-gmA4 

Lykke til!

While Norwegian may not be the modern-day lingua franca, it is a beautiful and expressional language. 

Whether you need it for professional reasons or simply want to read critically acclaimed Norwegian literature in its original form, following these tips could be a great way to get started on your journey to reaching fluency.

Good luck, lykke til!

Source: Norway Today


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