While the majority of Norwegians speak excellent English, learning Norwegian offers a number of advantages.
Norway has two official written languages, Bokmål ("book tongue") and Nynorsk ("new Norwegian"). Bokmål is used by 85-90% of Norwegians. It closely related to Danish, as Denmark governed Norway for hundreds of years and during that time (16th-19th century) Danish was Norway's standard written language. Nynorsk has been chosen as the official written language in Hordaland in all but Bergen and two other municipalties. It was developed in the middle of the 19th century to be based on Norwegian dialects, in order to more accurately reflect how Norwegian is spoken. However, there is no one standard spoken language, and Norwegian has many regional dialects that differ in accent, vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Understanding unfamiliar dialects can be challenging, especially for those learning Norwegian as a foreign language.
Why learn Norwegian?
Learning Norwegian allows international students to participate more fully in Norwegian culture, events and activities. It allows for a deeper understanding and appreciation of Norway. Learning Norwegian may also increase the chances of building friendships with native Norwegians.
Ways to learn Norwegian:
There is a wide range of opportunities to increase your Norwegian language skills as an international student. Some of these are free, while others have fees.
Learn Norwegian through your university
Norwegian courses for international students may be offered at your university. If available, Norwegian courses can generally be taken as electives. This means they are included with the standard student semester fees for students enrolled as an exchange student or in a study programme at that institution. Below are some examples of Institutions in Bergen that offer Norwegian courses:
- University of Bergen (UiB)
- Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL)
- Norwegian School of Economics (NHH)
Remember that admission to some Norwegian courses may need to be requested in advance, this is true of courses at UiB, for example. If you are interested in learning Norwegian while studying in Bergen, make sure to explore the available courses well in advance.
Free Resources for learning Norwegian
There are many resources for studying Norwegian available free of charge.
Opportunities to practice Norwegian in person
- Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek: Bergen’s Public Library offers Språkkafé (language café), Norsktrening (Norwegian training) and other opportunities to practice Norwegian (the library’s website is in Norwegian, but there is a google translate option on the page). The main branch (located in the city centre) and satellite branches of the library host these language practice options, check the website for schedules. All levels, even absolute beginners, are welcome. Remember, the library also has a large collection of Norwegian learning materials available to borrow.
- Bergen Røde Kors: The Red Cross offers Norsktrening, a semi-structured language practice group, several times a week either at the Public Library, or at their office in the city centre (Vetrlidsallmenningen 9). All levels are welcome.
- Norsk øving i Bergen - Norwegian language practice in Bergen: a local Facebook group that hosts informal meet-ups to practice Norwegian.
- Introduction to Norwegian: a beginners' course from the University of Oslo.
- NOW (Norwegian on the web): a Norwegian language resource hosted by NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
- På vei: beginning level exercises.
- Stein på stein: intermediate level exercises.
- På gang: intermediate level exercises.
- UiO tekstlab (University of Olso textlab): grammar exercises for levels 1-3.
- Exploring Norwegian Grammar: online grammar exercises.
- Duolingo: a free app/online language-learning tool.
There are many channels on you tube that offer help learning Norwegian. Below are a few examples.
- Audio files for Norwegian school children.
- Norwegian A/V archive from the University of Minnesota.
- NRK, the national broadcasting corporation in Norway, is a great resource for Norwegian TV, radio or Podcasts.
- Bergen’s student radio is available streaming online or as podcasts.
Newspapers or Print Media:
- Ordbok (dictionary): a Norwegian/English dictionary.
- Norsk Ordbok app (google play), (iTunes): a Norwegian dictionary app.
- Google translate (but be careful, google translate is not always accurate).
There are many resources available online—be sure to search around to find the ones that work best for you.
Resources for learning Norwegian that charge fees
You can also choose to pay for a norskkurs (Norwegian course). Here are some options in Bergen or online.
- Nygård skole: one of the largest schools for adult learners; offers a range of levels for Norwegian language study.
- Folkeuniversitetet: offers a variety of Norwegian language courses.
- Nygård skole also has an online course option.
- Folkeuniversitetet: offers several online courses.
- Campus Online: paid self-study or supervised options.
- Practice Norwegian: private online tutoring.
- Skapago: stream for free or pay to download 111 exercises to train comprehension, pronunciation, and fluency. Book is not free.
- Norwegian ABC: offers free online lessons, but charges for downloadable materials.
- Babbel: a paid app/language learning resource.