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How to Speak Norwegian

Learning Norwegian is not as much of a time commitment (and not as hard) as you might think. With Babbel, learning Norwegian online is easy, intuitive and under your control: learn at your own pace, choose the lessons you want, and review and practice vocabulary on the go. Norwegian is a close cousin to English with thousands of words and grammar rules in common. Although mastering the very different accent and pronunciation can be difficult at first, Babbel’s online courses and mobile apps include speech recognition so you can quickly become comfortable with speaking. Read the guide below and then test your skills with a free Norwegian lesson.

English and the North Germanic Languages

Norwegian is one of the five North Germanic languages – along with Swedish, Danish, Icelandic and Faroese. These languages are sometimes also called Scandinavian, but that is more a geographical distinction than linguistic. All five languages evolved from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. When the Vikings arrived in England in the early middle ages, they encountered the “locals”, who had actually arrived from modern day Germany and Netherlands (the Angles and the Saxons) a few hundred years before.

Because the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons (Old English) came from western Europe, modern English is considered a West Germanic language. But the Vikings influence on England was just as immense. They fought for land and power, and settled most of Scotland and northern England, bringing their language with them. Not surprisingly, there are many Norwegian words that an English speaker can easily recognize. Besides the obvious transplants like fjord and lutefisk, you might be surprised to learn that thousands of English words sound a lot like their Norwegian cousins. For example: anger, big, call, leg, kniven (knife), kutte (cut), okse (ox), søster (sister), tok (took) and vindu (window).

Norwegian is mutually intelligible with Swedish and Danish, making it useful throughout Scandinavia. Anyone planning to live in Norway will find that speaking the language will open doors personally and professionally, letting them into a culture where the people do not speak English among themselves (no matter how well they may speak it to foreigners). Learn how to speak Norwegian and join the 5 million people in Scandinavia who speak it fluently as their native or second language.

Pronunciation and Grammar

Pronunciation is the biggest difference between Norwegian words and their English cousins. For beginners trying to learn Norwegian, correctly pronouncing certain sounds can be a significant challenge, partly because familiar letters have different sounds and partly because letters like å, æ and ø are completely unfamiliar. Mispronunciation can lead to real confusion, but once you recognize the differences in the alphabet it becomes much easier to pronounce words you’ve never seen or heard before. With the help of Babbel’s speech recognition feature you will be able to practice your accent and help ensure that your Norwegian is understandable.

Because it is also a Germanic language, Norwegian grammar is not very different from English. Some even claim that modern English is actually a North Germanic language. But there are some differences: Norwegian has two genders, masculine and neuter (and thus two articles, en and et); the definite and indefinite article are not different words, but have different placement: compare en fisk (a fish) with fisken (the fish); and word order is inverted when asking questions so the verb begins the sentence. Once you have a handle on Norwegian grammar, the rules are effectively unchanged for Swedish and Danish.

Ways to Learn Norwegian

There are several options available when learning how to speak Norwegian: hiring a private tutor, enrolling in a language course (in school or online), studying alone with a CD-ROM or audio course, joining an exchange program, or practicing conversational Norwegian with a native speaker (a so-called tandem partner). All of these strategies can be effective, although some (tutors and CD-ROMS) can be expensive, while classes and exchange programs are also a huge time commitment. The fastest way to pick up Norwegian – and the biggest commitment by far – is still immersion. Moving to Norway requires you to pick up the language in order to live day-to-day. This survival pressure usually produces fluency within a few months. If you do plan to immerse yourself in Norwegian, it’s not a bad idea to prepare beforehand with one of the methods mentioned above. If you don’t have much spare time, an online program like Babbel may be your best bet.

Learn Norwegian the Babbel Way

Babbel’s Norwegian course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. As a Babbel user, you have access to a diverse program of grammar, conjugation, pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing exercises. You can practice online or via your iPhone or Android device. Whether you are too busy for a language class, a complete beginner, needing to brush up before a vacation or business trip, or wanting to re-learn everything you forgot in high school, Babbel can be customized to your needs.

Try your first Norwegian lesson for free and discover Babbel’s easy and intuitive course system which determines your individual level and accommodates different learning styles. You can learn at your own pace, set your own lesson plans and receive helpful hints whenever you need them. You will also be joining an entire community of learners. Babbel users can easily share questions, experiences and advice via message boards and chat, and the Babbel support team is always only a message away.