Saturday, 1 September 2012

The thing about Norwegian

I wonder if he miaows in Nynorsk or Bokmal
So, Norwegian! Just in case you forgot: in Norway they have two official languages. They are called Bokmal (the book language) and Nynorsk (New Norse). Since Norway had belonged to other countries for so long, especially Denmark, the official language was Danish. After their independence (from Sweden by the way) in 1905, they needed a radical change in language and they decided to keep the Danish, but adapt it to Bokmal (mostly spoken in the Oslo region). Even today it is quite easy to read Danish if you know Norwegian, because apart from some of the spelling, it's largely the same. Until you start talking that is and that's where it differs a great deal. Danish sounds like a sort of lazy Norwegian, at least that is the best I can explain.
Nynorsk is the other official language of the country. It is based on the dialects of the countryside. Most of the grammar is similar to bokmal and most of the spelling as well, with a few notable differences. If in bokmal a word ends in -er, it will most likely end in -ar in nynorsk. Not always though, because that would be too easy. But, since the country is so long and especially in the olden days, villages would be so remote, basically every village has their own version of nynorsk. Spelling, pronounciation, the lot. Which makes it very difficult for an unsuspecting blue eyed girl from the Netherlands. I must admit though: it became quite a sport for me to read the subtitles for English/American series and even Danish and Swedish documentaries. Would I understand?
Well, I am glad to say, I did manage to understand quite a bit. Especially if it was written down. But even when it was spoken I did get it. Not straight from the start admittedly, I would need a couple of minutes to just get used to the accent and the dialect and the intonation and so forth. And I will not claim to then having understood everything either, perhaps about 75%, but I think that is still fairly okay.
The thing to do now is learn more words and incorporate them into my language. And hopefully I will get the chance to speak again soon and try and try and learn and learn.
PS: there is a third official language in Norway which is Sami, a language spoken in the North of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia by the Sami (or Laps), however, there is no way I am going to be learning that!


  1. It's a pity that you don't live in Waterloo, there are enough Norvegians ! Apparently Swedish and Norvegian still "hate" each other and get into loud discussions and they are famous for their heavy drinking ! They don't have a very good reputation here ! But ... Never generalize !

  2. Very interesting - and very confusing for the student! It sounds as though you're getting on very well with the language(s).
    Hope your interview went well:-)

  3. You should be very proud of yourself. You took on a challenge and conquered it pretty well. 75% is a great accomplishment. Way to go!

  4. This is interesting stuff, and I'm happy for you that you're doing so well with language. Sometimes, I think I'd like to have a go at learning Canada's other official language, but since my ears often refuse to pick up nuances, I don't think it would work very well.


Any weighty (and not so weighty) comments are welcome!