Whether you're already in Norway or you're thinking about a move, your journey to learn Norwegian in 2018 starts here.
Are you ready to learn Norwegian? Modern tools and technologies have transformed language learning the world over, but the fundamentals still remain.
Here's our top tips for getting stuck into the language over the coming months.
Yes, really. This is especially relevant if you haven't ever studied a foreign language, or haven't learned one for years. Understanding the structure of English makes it so much easier to take on board the unique aspects of other languages.
So if you don't know your past participles from your subject-verb agreements, take a moment to brush up on your native tongue. It will be time well spent!
It's also a useful exercise for non-native speakers as you'll almost always need to learn Norwegian through English, no matter your native language.
Understand the history and the basics
Before you dive in, it's helpful to understand a little about how norsk has developed over the years in order to better understand how to approach your studies.
Norwegian is a North Germanic language, and one of the three Scandinavian languages that are more or less mutually intelligible. That's because they are direct descendants of the same family of Old Norse languages.
While sharing a similar history, Icelandic looks very different when printed on paper or written on the screen, yet when spoken the similarities to the Scandinavian language family become clear.
Norwegian is said to be one of the easiest languages in the world for a native English speaker to learn. The reason is that from a linguistic perspective, the languages share a huge amount: the way verbs work, word order (in many but not all cases), and a large amount of shared vocabulary.
On that point, Norwegian has a very small vocabulary. Composite words are commonplace, whereby two words are stitched together to make a new one.
It's a common practice in English too (think week + day = weekday) but it's much more prevalent in Norway. Also, because of the high English proficiency, English loan words are easily and commonly absorbed into the language.
When is Norwegian not Norwegian?
Another important point to understand is that there are two written forms of Norwegian: bokmål and nynorsk. I won't get into the reasons why here, but just understand that if you're struggling to understood a written article or see some spelling differences, this could be the explanation.
Most new students learn bokmål as it's the most commonly used variant, and is also used in most towns and cities. Nynorsk is more popular in more rural areas, particular along the west coast and in the fjord regions.
Find a study partner
Learning on your own is inefficient. You may make great progress with reading comprehension, but you'll find your listening and speaking abilities will quickly fall behind.
We've found the best tactic for keeping your skill levels up across the board, not to mention keeping yourself motivated, is to find a study partner. Thanks to the internet, this is easy to do even if you're not in Norway.
If you're lucky enough to speak a language other than English, you'll have no problem finding a Norwegian study partner who is desperate to practice their Spanish, German or Italian.
If English is your only language things may be trickier, but if you find a Norwegian student working at university level, you can always offer to proofread their English assignments in return for some conversational practice in Norwegian.
In most Norwegian towns and cities, you'll find language cafes. These are designed for new arrivals to practice speaking and listening in Norwegian, and are often run by Norwegians only too willing to help out a newcomer.
Look for groups on Facebook, Meetup.com, your local college/university, or seek out advertisements for a ‘språkkafé' at your local library or cafe.
If you live in a smaller town and can't find one, why not start your own?
Keep a language diary
Not only is a language diary a huge help when it comes to revising what you've learned, it's also a great motivational tool. Having something you've produced yourself that documents your progress (beyond finished chapters in a book) can help to overcome that feeling that you're not making any progress.
There are a number of approaches to keeping such a diary. You can use it as a vocabulary builder, recording a new word or phrase every time you learn one. Or you can keep a journal, where you challenge yourself at the end of every day to write in Norwegian.
The advantage of keeping a journal is that it can help get you out of the present tense, which is a common roadblock for new language learners!
Simply ask yourself two questions: What did I do today? What am I going to do tomorrow? Even if you only manage a sentence or two, you'll be getting daily practice in both past tenses and future tenses.
Most of all remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint. Language learning is a ‘step' process.
You'll make little breakthroughs along the way, such as your first conversation in a coffee bar, the first time you complete a conversation with a Norwegian who doesn't feel the need to switch to English, the first time you understand a newspaper story, the first time you complete a phone conversation in Norwegian, and so on.
Celebrate these small achievements! The road to fluency is peppered with these small victories, and every step is a step closer to your ultimate goal.
That said, making these in-between steps can be tough going. It can often feel like you're making no progress until you achieve one of these breakthroughs, but in reality you're making progress every time you study.
Online courses & apps
Online courses are springing up to help beginners learn Norwegian. These are especially useful for people living outside Norway and/or find attending regular classes in-person difficult.
The two I've personally used in the past are the more traditional lessons of Norwegian Class 101 and the story-based approach of The Mystery of Nils. Studying online can also be a great accompaniment to in-person classes, which brings me on to…
Apps such as Duolingo and Memrise are a great way to reinforce what you've learned in the online courses, every single day. Both apps are free and offer paid versions with more features, but we've found the free apps to be really useful.
Vary your approach
Don't just rely on one book or one course. The best way to learn any language is to absorb as much material as you can in as many forms as possible. Remember that a language isn't just about reading!
Think back to your early years at school. Remember all those colourful paintings you made and rhymes and songs you learned? There was a good reason for that!
Norwegian TV, YouTubers, NRK podcasts, online newspapers, apps, and films are all great ways to mix up your language learning. If you're starting out, try the Klar Tale online newspaper and podcast, written and spoken in simple Norwegian.
Don't ignore dialects!
Norwegian has a rich variety of regional dialects. Most Norwegian learners will be learning to speak and hear the Oslo dialect, sometimes referred to as standard Norwegian, or eastern Norwegian.
That's fine if you'll be living in Oslo or are just learning for fun, but if you plan to live in Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, rural Norway, or the Arctic region, you must include some local language resources into the mix!
If you're not already living in Norway, visiting the country is a great way to put the theory into practice.
We've heard from many people who've learned Norwegian from books in the USA only to have come to Norway and not understood a word. There's many reasons why, from dialects to differing vocabulary, or simply not being prepared for unexpected responses.
Start planning your trip using our Norway travel guides and give yourself a hard deadline for your language learning journey!