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How AI Can Help You Learn Norwegian

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Discover how to speed up your language learning using ChatGPT and other state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology.

For many people, learning Norwegian is a challenge. As I often say to people, you’re not just doing one thing when you learn a language. You’re really learning four different things at once: to write, to read, to listen and to speak.

Learning Norwegian with an AI concept image.

In recent years it’s never been easier to get started with learning a new language thanks to technology.

Language learning apps like Duolingo and Memrise are wonderful tools to accompany formal lessons, while the internet and streaming services has made access to Norwegian TV shows and music easier than ever before.

But now, artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT have taken the ability to learn Norwegian to a whole new level. Here’s how it works, and how you can try it yourself.

The emergence of AI tools

When we look back at 2023, I have no doubt the year will be remembered for one thing. It’s the year AI tools have hit the mainstream.

I use AI on a daily basis to help with idea generation, editing, and headline ideas—and to have a lot of fun, too. The tool I use is called ChatGPT. The recent launch of ChatGPT 4 took things to a while new level.

AI artificial intelligence langauge learning image

I have a few friends who are big AI chat fans too and we spend a lot of time sharing our prompts and the results with each other.

Every day, we learn a little more about what these incredible tools are capable of doing. Recently, we figured out how it could help you learn Norwegian.

Learning Norwegian with AI

You cannot learn Norwegian from start to finish using AI, but it can speed up your learning significantly. Apps can help you revise and practice, but AI can help you understand. It can translate, correct your mistakes and explain those mistakes.

Essentially, it’s like having your own private tutor working with you between your formal language classes. But just like any technology, the output is only as good as your input, so you need to spend some time learning how to use it to get the most benefit.

Learn Norwegian Now: Norwegian Class 101 / The Mystery of Nils

There are many resources for people looking to learn how to use AI tools at a general level, For example, check out this guide on the excellent tech blog, Tom’s Guide.

Because of this, I’m not going to cover the technical side of using an AI tool, or best practice for prompts. Instead, I will focus on showing you the possibilities when it comes to language learning.

For reference, I use the paid premium plan for ChatGPT at OpenAI, which gives me limited access to the new GPT-4 model. It costs $20 per month, but the regular tool is completely free. All the following examples use GPT-4.

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Example 1: A personal tutor

In my personal language learning journey, hiring a personal tutor was the biggest single difference maker. Having significant one-on-one time was the biggest reason I was able to improve my skills enough to be able to get Norwegian citizenship.

Now, I won’t claim that ChatGPT can replace a human tutor. But if you can’t afford one-on-one tuition, AI tools can at least help you out when you get stuck. Here’s an example.

My prompt: I am learning Norwegian. I am trying to write a diary entry about my day. Please can you identify any mistakes and explain why they are mistakes? Here is the entry: “Heisann, i dag jeg reiste til Spania. Jeg skal til en fotballkamp i morgen!”

AI response: Correction: Heisann, i dag reiste jeg til Spania. Jeg skal på en fotballkamp i morgen!

Explanation: There are two small mistakes in the original text:

In the first sentence, the verb “reiste” (traveled) comes after the subject “jeg” (I). In Norwegian, the verb should come in the second position in the sentence, especially in main clauses. Thus, the correct word order is “i dag reiste jeg” (today, I traveled).

In the second sentence, the preposition “til” is used. However, the correct preposition to use when talking about attending an event like a football match is “på”. So, the corrected sentence should be “Jeg skal på en fotballkamp i morgen!” (I am going to a football match tomorrow!).

Pretty good, eh? Now, at this point you can try again or perhaps try a different sentence structure. Or you could ask for clarification if the AI’s response wasn’t clear or you simply didn’t understand.

Learn Norwegian on a chalkboard

My prompt: I don’t understand the first point. Could you explain the rule on word order that applies to that sentence in more detail?

AI response: Sure! In Norwegian, the word order in a sentence generally follows the Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) structure, similar to English. However, there are some rules to consider when constructing sentences in Norwegian, particularly when it comes to main clauses:

V2 (Verb second) rule: In a declarative main clause, the verb must always be in the second position. This means that if an adverb or another element comes first in the sentence, the subject will come after the verb.

Examples:

– “I dag reiste jeg til Spania.” (Today, I traveled to Spain.)
– “I morgen skal jeg på en fotballkamp.” (Tomorrow, I am going to a football match.)

In both examples, the time expression (i dag, i morgen) comes first, the verb (reiste, skal) comes second, and the subject (jeg) comes after the verb.

Now, the AI did continue to explain other points on word order, but I clipped its response there for this post. If you still don’t understand the point, you now know enough about the issue to do your own research and find detailed articles about the V2 word order rule in Norwegian.

Example 2: Understanding Nynorsk

This time, I put myself in the situation of a beginner who has started to read articles on NRK. In this case, I imagined stumbling upon this article and noticing some unusual spellings. Rather than try to figure out what is happening, you could simply ask the AI.

My prompt: Hi, this piece of Norwegian is confusing to me. Words seem to look different and I don’t really understand. I am only just starting to learn Norwegian. Can you explain what is going on?

“Noreg skal verne meir av Noreg. Internasjonal avtale om å verne 30 prosent av naturen aukar presset på norske utbyggingsprosjekt. No startar arbeidet med ein ny naturplan.”

AI response: This piece of text is written in Norwegian Nynorsk, one of the two official written standards of the Norwegian language, the other being Bokmål. Nynorsk is based on rural dialects and has a distinct set of grammar rules and vocabulary compared to Bokmål. It can be more challenging to understand for those who are starting to learn Norwegian and are more familiar with Bokmål.

Here is a brief translation of the text in English:

“Norway shall protect more of Norway. An international agreement to protect 30 percent of nature increases pressure on Norwegian development projects. Now, the work on a new nature plan begins.”

If you are just starting to learn Norwegian, you might find it helpful to initially focus on one of the written standards, usually Bokmål, as it is more widely used and more similar to Danish, which can make it easier for beginners. Once you have a strong foundation in Bokmål, you can then explore Nynorsk and learn to understand and use it as well.

Once again, you now have a choice. You could go away and do some independent research on the Nynorsk variant of Norwegian. Or, you could continue to ask the AI more questions based on what it has already told you.

Nynorsk in Norwegian schools
Nynorsk can confuse beginners.

My prompt: Could you write the Nynorsk text in Bokmål for me?

AI response: Of course! Here is the original Nynorsk text followed by the Bokmål version:

Nynorsk: “Noreg skal verne meir av Noreg. Internasjonal avtale om å verne 30 prosent av naturen aukar presset på norske utbyggingsprosjekt. No startar arbeidet med ein ny naturplan.”

Bokmål: “Norge skal verne mer av Norge. Internasjonal avtale om å verne 30 prosent av naturen øker presset på norske utbyggingsprosjekter. Nå starter arbeidet med en ny naturplan.”

The main differences in this text are in spelling, such as “Noreg” (Nynorsk) vs. “Norge” (Bokmål), “aukar” (Nynorsk) vs. “øker” (Bokmål), and “no” (Nynorsk) vs. “nå” (Bokmål). Additionally, there are differences in some words and grammatical forms, like “ein” (Nynorsk) vs. “en” (Bokmål).

Example 3: Conversation practice

Now, it’s much harder to use the AI to have a spoken conversation at the moment. With voice assistants such as Siri improving all the time, it surely won’t be long until that’s possible.

In the meantime, you can practice conversational Norwegian with the AI chat bot. The way you prompt the AI is important here. Here’s a quick example.

My prompt: Hi! Can we have a chat in Norwegian? I am a beginner so please only write back to me in simple Norwegian. Also don’t correct my mistakes. My name is David. Your name is Hildegunn.

Hildegunn: Hei, David! Selvfølgelig kan vi snakke norsk. Jeg heter Hildegunn. Hvordan går det med deg?

David: Det går fint, takk! Kan vi snakke om familiene våre? Hvor mange søsken har du?

Hildegunn: Som en AI har jeg ikke en ekte familie eller søsken, men vi kan gjerne snakke om din familie. Hvor mange søsken har du, og hva liker de å gjøre?

David: Jeg har tre brødre. De heter Magnus, Pontus og Willie. Men de bor i utenlands så vi se hverandre sjelden.

Hildegunn: Det er fint å ha brødre. Det er trist at dere ikke kan møtes ofte. Hva liker dere å gjøre sammen når dere møtes?

My prompt: Out of character: Thanks! Can you let me know if I made any mistakes?

AI response: Of course! Here are the corrections to your sentences:

“Men de bor i utenlands så vi se hverandre sjelden.” should be “Men de bor i utlandet, så vi ser hverandre sjelden.”

Keep up the good work, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions or need more help!

As you can see, it’s possible to use the AI to practice writing Norwegian, especially conversational Norwegian. Important here is asking it not to correct you. But because it has the capability to “remember” past interactions, you can ask it to correct you afterwards.

You could also ask the AI to act in a more formal way, to mimic a government official for example. Or perhaps ask it to have a much more informal conversation over text message.

Example 4: Motivation

Not feeling like learning Norwegian today? Or perhaps your confidence has been knocked by Norwegians always switching to English. The AI could help here, too!

Norwegian russ cartoon

My prompt: Norwegians have a habit of immediately switching to English when they hear someone struggle in their language. This makes learning and practicing Norwegian difficult for beginners. Do you have any tips to deal with this situation?

AI response: Yes, it can be frustrating when trying to learn and practice a new language, and people keep switching to a language you already know. Here are a few tips that may help you in dealing with this situation:

Be confident: Even if you're struggling to find the right words, try to speak as much Norwegian as possible. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, as making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process.

Ask for help: If you're having trouble understanding something, don't hesitate to ask for clarification. You can say something like, “Can you please explain that in Norwegian?” or “Can you say that again in Norwegian?”

Be persistent: Keep speaking Norwegian even if others switch to English. If you continue speaking Norwegian, they will eventually understand that you want to practice and learn the language.

Find a language exchange partner: A language exchange partner is someone who wants to learn your native language while teaching you theirs. This is an excellent way to practice speaking with someone who is patient and understanding.

Join a language group: Joining a language group can be a great way to meet other people who are also learning Norwegian. You can practice speaking with them, and they can provide you with tips and advice.

These are just four examples of how you could use ChatGPT or any other AI chat bot to help you learn Norwegian. I still recommend starting a formal course (consider this online course for example) but AI tools can help speed up your learning significantly.

An important word of warning

If you begin to use AI tools regularly, you’ll soon learn that not all the responses are to be trusted.

Learn Norwegian Now: Norwegian Class 101 / The Mystery of Nils

At the time of writing, ChatGPT doesn’t have direct internet access in terms of being able to access current information to incorporate into its results. This means that if you are asking any AI tool for facts, you should apply a “sanity check” to the results just as if you were doing a regular Google search.

That being said, when using the tools for language learning I have been thoroughly impressed with the quality of results.

What do you think about learning Norwegian with the help of AI? Have you tried it? Let us know your experience in the comments.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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1 thought on “How AI Can Help You Learn Norwegian”

  1. I actually use ChatGPT for learning Norwegian. I usually ask it to help me with example sentences or simple word explanations and definitions. All of that is in Norwegian, by my choice. The system is very intuitive, and when it struggles to understand what you want, it asks for clarification. It is great! And it has helped me massively to progress in Norwegian!

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