Let’s learn about Norway!–Norwegian language

Since I’ve been a bum as of late and have done nothing interesting (which will be explained at the end of this post), I’m going to tell you interesting things about Norwegian language.

First of all, the rules concerning punctuation are different. I never thought this would be the case since I never experienced this while learning Spanish, so my mind was blown when we learned this in class.

For example, if you want to say “Rachel’s house” in Norwegian, you write it as “Rachels hus.” NO APOSTROPHE. It’s the same with possessive pronouns–“his car” is “hans bil.”

When we first learned this, my grammar-obsessed brain was so blown by this that I couldn’t process that this was correct. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I could only stare at the board in shock as my whole world was turned upside-down.

While I was having my nerd freak-out, everybody else was just sitting there calmly, unconcerned. I’m not sure whether this is to differences in punctuation in their own native language or whether I’m just really that big of a nerd that I was so upset over this.

That’s why, in one of my earliest posts, I wrote “Karl Johans gate,” not “Karl Johan’s gate.” You all thought I made a mistake, didn’t you? BUT I DIDN’T.

So far this has been the only pronunciation difference we’ve experienced, but I know there are more concerning quotation marks. As for now, however, my brain has stopped crying every time I don’t use an apostrophe for possessive nouns/pronouns, so I take that as an early sign of acceptance.

Also, periods and commas tend to be flipped. This actually might just be a European thing in general; I’m not quite sure yet. It doesn’t affect writing sentences–periods still end sentences and commas still separate parts of a sentence. The difference comes when you’re looking at numbers. In the US, what we would write as $9.50 is written as 9,50 here in Norway.

I almost had a heart attack when I came here to Norway and saw that, because of course in my English mind I tried to read it as being 950. Then I figured out that commas and periods are switched and it was much better.

I’ve mentioned before that there are two official written forms of Norwegian, bokmål and nynorsk. All Norwegians are required to learn both in school, although most use bokmål in every day life. Basically the difference between the two is that nynorsk is closer to spoken Norwegian and includes elements of Old Norse, whereas bokmål is closer to Danish and includes more European influences.

The two forms are quite similar, however. There are some important grammatical differences, but if you read a text in bokmål and a text in nynorsk side-by-side, you can see that most of the words are the same.

Then you get into spoken Norwegian, and it just gets crazy. There are a ton of spoken Norwegian dialects, and a standard spoken language is not taught in school. The dialects are so strong that Norwegians can tell where people come from just by hearing them speak. Luckily the differences between dialects are not so great, so Norwegians can all understand each other.

The differences can be really odd, though. I was talking to my Norwegian friend one day who is from Finnmark, which is the northernmost county in Norway. In her spoken dialect, she apparently doesn’t use the definite plural form of nouns.

Or maybe it was the indefinite plural form. Whichever, she doesn’t use one of them.

How can you just not use that?! I can understand words being different by dialect, but not using the (in)definite plural form of nouns?!

So, that’s crazy. But it’s actually really cool in that all of the Scandinavian languages are so similar that Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes can understand each other when speaking in their native languages. So in other words, a Norwegian can speak Norwegian to a Swedish-speaker and they can understand each other, and vice versa for all those combinations. When I went to Sweden, I was able to understand quite a lot of words since they were very similar, if not the same, to Norwegian.

Learn one language, be able to understand two other languages. Not too shabby.

Like all other languages (as far as I’m aware), Norwegian can be annoying in that there are exceptions to rules.

Sometimes there are no rules at all, which is even more fun.

Take, for example, “i” versus “på.” Both can be used to mean “in.” However, it’s kind of arbitrary which one you use, and a lot of them are expressions that you just have to memorize since logic won’t win in that situation.

Also, something that I think is kind of odd but funny. First off, “til” means “to” in Norwegian. However, if you want to say “I am going to the library” in Norwegian, you can’t say “Jeg går til biblioteket.” If you say that, you mean that you went to the library and didn’t go inside it. Instead, you have to say, “Jeg går på biblioteket.” Why? Who knows, just one of those weird language things.

Since I’m talking about language, this is the perfect opportunity for me to discuss why I’ve been a bum as of late. I have my final exam for Norwegian language on March 30th. A final which counts for 100% of my grade. So, I’ve taken the past few weekends off to study my butt off for the exam so I don’t fail it. Once March 30th is done, however, I’m just going to go travel crazy, so you’ll have that to look forward to.

I also have to give a presentation in Norwegian on Tuesday. I’m going on the day that the German speakers (who are all amazing at Norwegian) are going, so I’m going to be owned by them.

Random facts time:

1. Daylight savings time changed over for the US last Sunday. It hasn’t changed here in Europe yet, and doesn’t change until next Sunday. This means that I’m just really screwed up as to what time it is in the US since I regularly talk to people in three different time zones. It’s annoying.

That’s actually it; I just wanted to bring your attention to the fact that I’m confused about times nowadays.

I’m off to go learn Norwegian now.


2 responses to “Let’s learn about Norway!–Norwegian language

  1. First of all, I wish you good luck with your test!
    Did you know that in Turkish there are no articles at all? We have quite some troubles here with Turkish people when we have to teach about the articles in Dutch. And prepositions are difficult in any language. I know 5 languages and in every one of them I struggle with prepositions.

    • Thank you 🙂 I’m quite worried about it, especially after trying the practice tests, but I’ve been studying a lot lately so hopefully I should be prepared by Friday.
      That would be so hard to learn articles when they don’t exist in your native language! I’m glad I don’t have to do that.

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