9 Norwegian in thirty seconds
Brief comments on the language
A very, very simple guide to the language, its alphabet and pronunciations, placenames etc.

Which Norwegian?
There are actually two Norwegian languages, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål is used by the majority of Norwegians and is the language of most printed matter. Nynorsk was formed from a number of rural dialects. Norwegians learn both. NRK, the state broadcaster, is obliged to transmit 25% of its output in Nynorsk.

Alphabet: A to Z +3
Norwegian has three 'extra' letters: Æ, Ø, Å in that order after Z. (AA is an obsolete form of Å, for example Håkonshallen may be seen as Haakonshallen.)

If you are looking for Ålesund in an index it will be right at the end. You soon get used to this, but you can easily forget the same applies to letters within words, so Molde comes before Måløy.

Æ is like a in cat or ire in fire. Ø is like uh. Å is like aw in awl. A lot of placenames contain øy; dont say oy as in boy, but more of a uh-ee sound.

Placenames on Hurtigruten should present few problems if you use the above and remember final vowels are sounded (eg Molde is Molder). However Rørvik is Rur-veek, Bodø is Boo-duh, Skjervøy is Shurr-vuh-ee, Honningsvåg is Honningsvoe, and Kirkenes something like Here-ken-ess.

Placename elements
Many placename elements reflect coastal features. Nes means headland. Vik and våg are creek and bay, while sund means strait. Øy or ø refer to an island.

Phrase book and dictionary
English is spoken widely and well, but we found some knowledge of the language helped in reading signs, looking at weather forecasts/news on teletext and so on. Norwegians also seemed pleased (and surprised) if visitors showed the courtesy of knowing a few words of their language. We liked the phrase book in the Eyewitness series by Dorling Kindersley (£2.99). The Berlitz Dictionary is useful (£3.95). Both are about 4" x 5".

A very few words
First three words we hope no one needs. Lege (lay-ger) is doctor, tannleger (tarn-lay-ger) is dentist, and apotek is chemist/pharmacy.

In shops salg, tilbud and rabatt mean sale, special offer and reduced (but don't expect too much when you see them). If you always push doors you should have pulled you will find Norwegian unhelpful - trykke means push and trekke means pull!

Ikke is the negative, so 'jeg snakker ikke norsk' (yI snakker ikker norshk) means I don't speak Norwegian. Some other words are:

Ja/nei (yah/nI) = yes/no
Takk = thankyou
Unnskyld (oonshool) = excuse me
Om forlatelse (om forlartelsuh) = sorry

You will often hear 'vær så god' (varshergo) when being given something. Literally it means 'be so good', but in modern colloquial English 'there you go' is the nearest, if inelegant, equivalent.

Keep your eyes open for nødutgang - it means emergency exit. You will see ingen as a negative on signs meaning none, nobody; 'ingen adgang' means no entry.



Norway index



Bergen & other towns

Norway in a Nutshell


Our experience index


External links index


Pictures, problems etc
Index  Next>