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Express Yourself in Norwegian

Express Yourself in Norwegian

An important step on the road to learning Norwegian is learning those expressions that are truly unique to the language and culture.

Expressions. We have them in every language, ones that are centuries old, new trends, cultural references, the lists are endless. But expressions in my mind are the ultimate goal towards mastery of a language. Expressions are the garnish to a meal, in fact they are more than that, they are the salt and pepper. They add flavour and depth. Without them language is bland.

When it comes to Norwegian expressions I am still a beginner – there is no mastery here. I am still identifying which ones are the same in both English and Norwegian, for example, “new blood” and “I take my hat off to you”. I also find those that are not the same but have the same meaning.

Eating cake or bagging it?

For example, in English you “can’t have your cake and eat it” whilst in Norwegian you “can’t have (it) in a bag and in a rucksack”. There are also those that just do not translate at all and I am not sure have an equivalent, like frisk som en fisk – or “healthy like a fish” – it just doesn’t have the same impact.

I spend a great deal of time talking about expressions. I am forever having conversations about what they mean, where they come from, trying to find the English equivalent. To be honest, I spend a lot of time these days talking about language in general. It has become my icebreaker with new people, my version of weather chat. It fills the awkward silences and makes for great office lunch time chat. People love to tell me all about Norwegian expressions and I entertain it, I even enjoy it. I confess. I am a word nerd.

Those language discovery moments

It is not just moving to Norway that has sparked my word nerdiness. I have always loved words. It is just that this trilingual gig of mine is giving my love fuel. I have language discovery moments that blow my mind. Like when I first heard the Norwegian word for space, as in outer space. It is verdensrommet. Literally translated to mean “the world’s room”. Pause and re-read. Let the greatness of that translation sink in… ahhhh! Magic.

Brilliant language discovery moments like this make learning a new language fun and make me smile from the inside out.

Of all my language discovery moments in the journey to mastery, the ones I enjoy most are when English words are integrated into the Norwegian language, as is. Just add a Norwegian accent and bob’s your uncle. Jeans are jeans, if something is crazy in English it is crazy in Norwegian too. I opened the newspaper one day and saw the title ikke bare bullshit – not just bullshit.

Mastering Norwegian

Why try find the appropriate word in Norwegian when the English one says exactly what you mean? Scandis have exceptional English skills so there is very little risk of misunderstanding. I make a mental note every time this happens. One less word/expression for me to learn, one step closer to mastery.

Expression mastery in Norwegian is still a distant goal for me. I am currently still riding the “yes I have been here a year” wave. This means, despite my mistakes, I can still impress people because I haven’t been here that long. I know this wave is soon to wane though. The months are racking up. I am now in the process of trying to wean myself off expecting people to be impressed with my language skills.

I have to admit it’s not easy. I have become addicted.

This post was originally published on Eleni's personal blog A Worldly Wannabe.

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About the Author: Eleni Simeou

Eleni Simeou moved to Norway from London in 2014. She has worked in non-profit organisations for most of her career and is now breaking in to Norwegian work life. She is British by birth, Cypriot by culture, has lived in the USA and is now giving Scandinavia a try. She has something to say about most topics but loves a bit of global affairs, outdoorsy living (running plus), yoga and a bit of music and the arts thrown in for good measure.

5 Comments

    1. It startet in the westcoast because those that came because of oilbuisness was from Texas. Mostly Huston. They was here to teach us. They didnt mind law and rules to much. They was not to occupied about safty. Thats why we call it “helt Twxas”. Its kind of wild west… like if we do a shortcut partly unleagal we say “jeg tar en spansk en”…

  1. Love this article!
    I’m Amy, from Shanghai. I’ve been learning Norwegian for… 2 weeks so far. I’m a brand new beginner yet. But I love learning foreign language too. My mother tongue is Chinese but I speak English too. And I found that it helps a lot when one is learning Norwegian if he/she speaks English. I love discussing learning foreign language too. It’s fun!
    I’ve been looking for people who are learning Norwegian cause it’s fun to learn together. 😉
    Again, it’s a great great article!

    1. Hey Amy thanks for the kind words. Good luck with the learning. I always think that if you are already multi-lingual you have the upper hand. There is something about using the same parts of your brain even though the languages may not be similar.
      Good luck with everything.
      If you are based I Oslo you may want to check out language cafes. I know there are a few of these around. Språk kafé. I totally agree that talking with people is the best way to learn.
      Lykke til!

  2. Thank you for en interesting post.

    Also note that “rom” (as in “verdensromme”) may also mean “volume, space, extent”

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