Norwegian phrasebook

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Norwegian (norsk) is the language spoken in Norway. It's closely related to Danish and Swedish, and most speakers of the three languages can understand each other without much difficulty. Norwegian is historically closely related to Icelandic and Faroese, but is no longer mutually intelligible with them as it has diverged too much during the last millennium. Norwegian is also related to Dutch and German, and Old Norse had quite a lot of influence on English.
Written Norwegian is very close to Danish and phrasebooks for the two languages can largely be used interchangeably (noting some systematic differences in spelling). Almost all of Norway's 5 million citizens speak Norwegian, while most Norwegians also speak reasonably good English; and some know languages like French, German and Spanish from school or ones like Polish, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Somali because of immigrant roots. Norwegian is written with the "standard Latin alphabet" (identical to the English alphabet) and three additional vowels ("Æ"/"æ", "Ø"/"ø" and "Å"/"å"; respectively added in that order to the end of the other 26 letters; the alphabet is identical to that of Danish). Some of these letters are used very rarely, often because they may only be found in loanwords, or that they are disfavoured in comparison to more archaic or newer spellings. Like in English, diacritic marks are relatively rare (traits like the dot over the "i" and the circle above the "å" aren't considered diacritics, but as parts of distinct letters); the most common occurrence of them is the use of an acute accent with the final "e" in words of French origin where stress is to be put on that "e", such as in "idé" (idea), allé (avenue) and kafé (café).
Because Norwegian is a Germanic language, getting a grasp of some basics shouldn't be too hard if you already speak English, German and/or Dutch. Norwegian grammar is similar to English and relatively easy compared to German. For example, the role of a word is determined by its place in the syntax, rather than by morphology. Norwegian basically only has two grammatical cases: nominative and genitive. Genitive differs from nominative by an "s" at the end of the noun – like in English, but without the apostrophe. Verbs are not conjugated according to person. Adjectives are (like in English) placed before the noun. Norwegian has three grammatical genders, and nouns are inflected according to their grammatical gender, though many Norwegians use only two genders, both in speech and writing. Regular plural forms of nouns are formed with the suffix "-er", or just "-r" if the noun ends in an "e" (examples: "en katt, katter" = "a cat, cats"; "et bilde, bilder" = "a picture, pictures") and instead of using a definite article like English "the", Norwegian uses suffixes for this as well, along the same lines as how plurals are made (examples: "katten, kattene" = "the cat, the cats"; "bildet, bildene" = "the picture, the pictures").
Although modern Norwegian is relatively easy to understand and practice at a superficial level, learning perfect fluent Norwegian is exceptionally difficult, for several reasons. The most important one is that there is a wide range of dialects in Norwegian, which could differ significantly to the standard written form. Due to the country's geography, being extremely long and narrow and sparsely populated with mountains and other obstacles, these dialects have had the opportunity to develop over time. There is no standard spoken Norwegian, and it is fully socially accepted (even highly regarded) to use your local dialect whatever the context or situation. Politicians and news reporters all do this. Norwegian has a number of idioms, many of which are used regularly but hardly make any sense to an outsider (they just have to be learned). Many idioms originate from playwright Henrik Ibsen, from the ancient sagas (compiled by Icelander Snorre Sturlason), or from the Bible, as well as from popular culture. The weak Norwegian verbs could also have one of five different endings.
There are two official variations of written Norwegian: Bokmål and Nynorsk. The differences are small, but important to a lot of Norwegians. Bokmål is by far the most common, and evolved from Danish. Nynorsk is a reconstructed standard written form, developed by Ivar Aasen, a teacher and linguist. Aasen travelled through most of the country, except for the eastern parts, because he felt those parts had been too heavily influenced by the Danish language and, in some border areas, by Swedish. Between 1848 and 1855, Aasen published grammar, lexicon, dialect samples, and a set of readings as he developed Nynorsk (then called landsmål). A summary of the language situation can be found at The language issue is touchy because of its connections with different partly historical political stances.
In 2003, approximately 15% of primary school pupils were in school districts that taught Nynorsk as the primary written standard.
Numbers, time and dates:
Norwegian uses comma as the decimal sign, for instance 12,000 means 12 (specified with three decimal places) not 12 thousand, whereas 12.000 means 12 thousand. Norwegians use both the 24 and 12 hour time system, the former finding more use in writing, the latter in spoken context. Norwegians do not use PM/AM to indicate morning or afternoon. Dates can be abbreviated in a number of ways, but the order is always DAY-MONTH-YEAR, for instance 12.07.08 is July 12, 2008.
Notable features:
As most adult Norwegians are able to speak English, don't be surprised if you are replied to in English even if you attempt to start a conversation in Norwegian. If you really wish to practise your Norwegian, simply let the other person know, and they will usually oblige and be encouraging about it.

Pronunciation Guide

Phrase list