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Having a little over 5 million speakers worldwide makes Norwegian a language for which courses are generally scarce. Most solutions focus only on high-demand languages leaving hidden gems such as the Scandinavian languages out. So if you are wondering how to learn Norwegian, you’ve come to the right place.
The Norwegian language in a nutshell
Norwegian (known as Norsk to Norwegians) is a North Germanic language and the official language of Norway (along with Sámi). More or less mutually intelligible with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the people living in the Scandinavian Peninsula during the Viking Age.
To become the language it is today, Norwegian went through a lot over the course of centuries. Its rich history started when Indo-Europeans began to spread across Europe. Due to their isolation, new languages (such as the North Germanic branch) were developed.
At that point in time, the Scandinavian languages were not really considered to be separate languages although today they are identified as Old Icelandic, Old Norwegian, Old Gutnish, Old Danish, and Old Swedish. They were written using the runic alphabets until the end of the Viking era in 1050 and started to diverge more as Christianity and the Latin alphabet arrived.
Then, written Old Norwegian gradually died out in the 15th century after the union of Norway with Denmark that lasted from 1380 to 1814. During this time the spoken dialects of Norwegian persisted and after Norway gained its independence, the question of a new written language arose.
Norwegian vs Swedish – how similar are they?
To put it simply, written Norwegian is closer to Danish than it is to Swedish, but spoken Norwegian is closer to Swedish than it is to Danish. Due to Norway having had access to Sweden’s two national TV channels since the early 1980s, Norwegians generally understand Swedish better than Swedes do Norwegian.
Generally, speakers of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish can read and speak each other’s languages without great difficulty. Considering their joint history, this is especially true of Danish and Norwegian. However, misunderstandings can happen. For example, artig means ‘fun’ in Norwegian and ‘polite’ in Swedish. Moreover, glass refers to ‘a glass’ in Norwegian and to ‘ice cream’ in Swedish.
All things considered, if you already speak Norwegian and want to learn Swedish (or vice-versa), you’ll certainly learn faster. Lucky for you, Mondly doesn’t limit you to English. Instead, it offers the possibility to learn from either Swedish or Norwegian.
Bokmål vs Nynorsk – which one should you learn?
It’s very important to know that today, written Norwegian has two official forms: Bokmål (literally ‘book tongue’) and Nynorsk (‘new Norwegian’), each with its own variants.
To understand the difference between Bokmål and Nynorsk, we have to look back in time once again. In 1814, after Norway became independent from Denmark, Norwegians had to make a decision about their language. One was to adapt the Danish spelling and grammar to bring it closer to the upper class Norwegian that was already was based on Danish (this was Bokmål). And the other was Ivar Aasen’s proposal, a self-taught linguist that constructed a new language norm that continued the Old Norwegian tradition and was meant to eventually replace Danish. Also known as New Norwegian, this is what we earlier called Nynorsk.
Today, all Norwegians are educated in both Bokmål and Nynorsk. However, only about 20 percent of them use Nynorsk or New Norwegian as their primary written language. Thus, if you want to learn Norwegian, you should go with Bokmål.
Is Norwegian easy to learn?
Due to being a Germanic language, Norwegian is one of the easiest languages to learn by native English speakers.
In fact, according to the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) of the US government, an English speaker would need about 575 hours or 23 weeks of practice to become fluent in Norwegian. That makes Norwegian even easier to learn than popular languages such as Spanish, French or Italian.
Here’s a glimpse of how basic Norwegian sounds:
Did you recognize the sound of any of the words?
How to learn Norwegian fast with Mondly
Now let’s discuss the real reason why you’re here: how to learn Norwegian fast.
The answer is simple: learn Norwegian with Mondly.
Say goodbye to dry memorization techniques and notebook pages full of verb conjugations that lack context. Mondly replaces tutors, dictionaries and textbooks. The award-winning app uses a fast and highly efficient learning method that will almost literally glue the Norwegian language into your brain.
It can be really tricky to master the real Norwegian pronunciation if you don’t actively live in Norway. But with Mondly you will learn Norwegian naturally with:
- practical topics;
- hands-on, interactive language lessons;
- real-life conversations and so much more.
Start using Mondly for free on your computer or download the app and learn Norwegian anytime, anywhere.