How do I speak Norwegian fluently

Learn Norwegian - my experiences and tips

In this post I'll tell you about my experiences and give you tips on learning Norwegian. I was obviously inspired by learning a new language - the article has gotten really long! These links take you directly to the part that interests you:

  1. Why learn Norwegian?
  2. Is Norwegian a Difficult Language?
  3. My tips for learning Norwegian
  4. Learn Norwegian with the app
  5. My experiences with Babbel

When I moved to Norway a year ago, one thing was of course at the top of my agenda: learning Norwegian! As soon as possible! In the meantime I have integrated myself pretty well into village life and have actually spoken to everyone in my 200-soul village - in Norwegian!

So my balance is positive so far: I wouldn't call my Norwegian fluent yet, but then very passable. To be honest, I'm a little proud too. And because I know that there are also some big Norway fans reading along here, I am now reporting here how it went while learning Norwegian. What techniques, tools and aids I used, what my experience was like and what tips I can give people who want to do the same and also want to learn Norwegian.

Good reasons to learn Norwegian

For me, the reason to learn Norwegian is obvious: After all, I moved here, emigrated to Norway, so to speak. There is no question that you should be able to speak the language as quickly as possible.

But of course it can also be very useful for travelers to have at least a basic knowledge of the language: Reading menus and signs always helps and placing orders in Norwegian just comes across as personable.

Of course, it is generally easier to come into contact with the - sometimes more reserved - Norwegians if you speak their language.

Although there are only a few native speakers of around five million Norwegians, whoever speaks Norwegian can communicate with a lot more people: Norwegian, Swedish and Danish are really very similar.

Norwegian, Swedish, Danish - three languages ​​in one?

Just one example: It is often unnecessary to list all three languages ​​on instructions for use or package inserts. Instead there is a text preceded by "N / SE / DK" - enough.

I even go so far that I actually refer to the three as three dialects of a language. The proud Norwegians do not like to hear this at all (and I assume that the Danes and Swedes feel the same way), but of course they take the advantages with them: They read Danish books or talk to Swedes - and everyone speaks their own Language.

Linguists have to clarify whether I am really right with this thesis, but I am certainly not wrong when I say: Norwegian and Swedish or Danish are no further apart than High German and Swiss-German or Saxon and Bavarian.

I think an example shows quite well what I want to say: "My name is Timo and I come from Germany" means on ...

… Norwegian: Jeg heter Timo and kommer from Tyskland.
… Swedish: Jag heter Timo och kommer från Tyskland.
… Danish: Jeg hedder Timo and Kommer from Tyskland.

So: Anyone who speaks Norwegian will get along well with it in all of Scandinavia (except Iceland) and will in any case be quick to “learn” Swedish or Danish.

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Is it hard to learn Norwegian?

Under the stitch, it was relatively easy for me to learn Norwegian. You can tell that Norwegian, like German, is a Germanic language. There are many words that sound similar to German or English. I myself also speak Low German, which also has many parallels to Norwegian.

These example words give a very good impression:

Nose - neseView / face - ansiktMouth - munn
Tooth-tannLeg - legStrange - strange
Color - fargered - rødblack - svart
Book - bokForeign - foreign medShoe - sko

If you have developed a feeling for the language, you have a very good chance of simply guessing a word!

It is also nice that in Norwegian, in contrast to the German language, there are no four cases - nominative, genitive and co. Can simply be forgotten when learning Norwegian.

Difficulty learning Norwegian

But there are also a few things that make learning Norwegian more difficult. At the very beginning I have to say that there is actually no one Norwegian language: There are two official languages ​​in Norway, Bokmål and Nynorsk.

About 85% of Norwegians use Bokmål, the rest Nynorsk. The reasons for this are historical. However: The two “languages” only differ in their written form and then not very much.

At first, someone who is still learning Norwegian usually does not even notice that they are dealing with two languages. I'm just starting to realize the differences on occasion. This is also due to the fact that the country is already littered with different dialects.

Norwegians can tell very precisely where someone is coming from if they have only heard them speak for a moment. This means that as a learner you are constantly confronted with different dialects - depending on where you are and with whom you are speaking.

Actually all Norwegian courses teach Bokmål, so of course I also learned Bokmål. It's a bit funny for me that I live in a Nynorsk area and of course also adopt the dialect here in my village (Sunnfjord dialect) to a certain extent. So I'm talking a fun mix. As long as people understand me, I think that's perfectly fine 😉

Another difficulty is almost greater: Norway has a significantly better education system than Germany, plus the fact that all films are shown in their original language, i.e. mostly English, and are only subtitled. As a result, almost every Norwegian speaks English very well and likes to do so.

Especially at the beginning of my time in Norway, this often meant that I spoke far too much English and far too little Norwegian. Meanwhile, at least everyone in the village knows that I like to speak Norwegian with them.

If you want to learn the language and are in Norway, you should be brave and ask the Norwegians to only switch to English when nothing else works - that's the only way to learn!

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Tips for learning Norwegian

Following my first tip was pretty easy for me. But I have to admit that I had a big advantage because I learned the language on site in Norway:

Surround yourself with people who speak the language!

In the supermarket, in bars and in the neighborhood: everyone around me speaks Norwegian. A huge advantage when learning a language! I always fondly remember how I learned Spanish back then: I had almost completely forgotten my two years of school Spanish when I was traveling alone in South America for four months.

During this time, I suddenly learned so quickly and effectively that I still get along pretty well with my Spanish. I just noticed that again when I was recently in Costa Rica - I hardly spoke English there, my Spanish was completely sufficient.

So there is nothing that helps you learn Norwegian more than a trip to Norway! So you can combine the pleasant with the useful 😉

Organize a tandem partner!

If you don't emigrate completely, you can look for a tandem partner to study together in Germany for the time between all your trips to Norway. There are some Norwegians who come to Norway to study or work, for example. They are most likely to be found in university towns. You learn Norwegian and your tandem partner learns German - perfect!

After I had learned Spanish at the time, I met regularly in Hamburg with Spaniards, South Americans and Germans who were learning Spanish for a regular Spanish get-together. Back then we organized ourselves through couch surfing and mainly drank beer and tequila together, had a lot of fun and spoke Spanish pretty consistently - that was really, really good!

Vocabulary slip

At the very beginning of my time in Norway, I worked with vocabulary slips. That means: A note with the Norwegian name was stuck to almost every object in my apartment. "Kjøkkenbord" on the kitchen table, "speil" on the mirror in the bathroom, "datamaskin" on the computer - and so on.

Almost unconsciously, you read the same vocabulary over and over again and you memorize it really well: When I stand in front of the refrigerator, I can still see the note with the word "kjøleskap" in my mind's eye - even if the note is long gone!

Consume Norwegian Media!

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For the feeling of language and for the passive vocabulary it is extremely important to surround yourself with language as much as possible - even if it is only on the side and with half an ear listening.

That's why for a year now I've had days when the radio is on all the time. At the very beginning of my time in Norway it was still the children's radio of the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK (there's a live stream here), now my favorite channel is P13 (live stream).

"Klartale" is the name of a Norwegian newspaper that appears in "simple language". Simple language is intended for people who find it difficult to read and understand complex texts - including people who want to learn a language. I also thought it was good to slowly get an insight into current Norwegian topics.

In the meantime I read my local newspaper Firda and, as a national daily newspaper, Bergens Tidene.

Also pretty awesome, especially for beginners: The Netflix series “Lillehammer”! The story: An American mafia member (played by Steven van Zandt, known from “The Sopranos”) goes into the witness protection program and chooses Lillehammer as his place of residence for his new life. But even in the tranquil mountain village, he cannot completely suppress his criminal energy.

Logically, "Frank" is also a beginner in Norway, so he still speaks a lot of English, but also Norwegian - so the series is quite a mix of English and Norwegian (you have to watch the original for that, of course).

The Norwegian dialogues can be understood through the context. For me, “Lillehammer” was great fun, pure binge-watching and only half-fun I keep saying that my entire Norwegian knowledge is based on the series 😉

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Learn Norwegian with the app

In my first few months in Norway, I still had the illusion that I was just learning the language. Learning by doing. That worked really well at first! In order to be able to make yourself understood, you really only need a few words and phrases in which you exchange the words as needed.

But then at some point I had to learn that the learning-by-doing principle would eventually reach its limits. Different tenses, the subjunctive - you don't learn such things (unfortunately!) Just like that.

So I had to get used to the idea of ​​a language course. A real language school was out of the question for me: I've never been a fan of "real" lessons in school, with frontal teaching, homework, obligations and high costs. In addition, the next school where I could learn Norwegian is just too far away here in the Norwegian province.

So: Learn Norwegian online - preferably with an app, so that I can really learn whenever it suits me. Because now I really have my phone with me almost always.

I quickly came across Babbel's language learning program, which you can use to learn Norwegian on your laptop as well as on the go via an app.

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My experience with the Babbel foreign language app

First of all: Babbel's language learning app gave me the decisive kick a good six months ago. I used it pretty intensely. By the way, this is always a strong sign for me that I also had fun doing it - I don't like self-discipline if I don't enjoy things.

Babbel's language course runs on all devices - from PCs to tablets and smartphones. The current personal learning status is automatically played online so that you can switch back and forth between the devices during the language course.

A really good idea is that the structure of the course is a bit reminiscent of a game: The lessons feel like game levels that you click through and you collect points for the overall course at each "level".

At the end of each lesson you get a display of how many points of how many possible you have got. And the opportunity to catch up with the full number of points - by repeating and correcting your mistakes.Every now and then I had to smile at myself at how much such a small, psychological trick affects me: I couldn't help but repeat every single lesson until I got the full score.

Reps are at the heart of the Babbel app. The app lets you learn the vocabulary on a regular basis. A team of linguists has developed the right frequency of repetition - individual vocabulary is queried differently depending on how often you have made mistakes.

New vocabulary or new grammar is introduced at the beginning of each lesson. The new content is usually illustrated with pictures and spoken by speakers at the same time.

Again and again you can practice your own pronunciation using the microphone of your laptop or smartphone. I get feedback on whether the pronunciation was correct or incorrect - unfortunately no additional tip, but at least.

Of course, you have to realize that an app for learning languages ​​cannot completely replace a teacher or - as in my case, and even better - contact with native speakers.

For people who want to learn Norwegian in Germany, I think the Babbel app is a good way to lay the foundations and to deal with the language for yourself.

This makes sense especially if there are no Norwegian language courses in the area or if you prefer to decide when to study yourself.

There are different price options for the Babbel Norwegian language course: One month costs 9.95 euros, if you opt for a longer period of time (which makes sense if you want to learn a language), it becomes cheaper.

By the way, Babbel confidently gives a money-back guarantee within the first 20 days, which I did not make use of.

If you don't know whether learning Norwegian online is really something for you, you can test the app here for free.

Are you planning to learn Norwegian or do you already speak it? What is your experience of learning other languages ​​like? Let's share tips - in the comments below!

I am the founder and chief adventurer at bruderleichtfuss.com. I spend most of my time traveling and enjoy all kinds of adventures. I like to be outdoors: I hike through the wilderness in my tent on land, and on sailboats at sea. I also have a passion for hitchhiking travel. Here you can find more information about me and this blog.