Learning Norwegian

SDC14565After struggling (still struggling) with the fact that I am now a housewife, a spell of believing I would find a career in the entertainment business as a choreographer (this mainly involved making up dance routines in my kitchen) and saying roof to people instead of thank you for the past six months. I decided I needed to do something more productive with my time so I enrolled on a Norwegian language course.

It has been four weeks and this is what I have learned to date:

  1. My accent is not made to speak anything other than brummie.
  2. I am the only person who is unable to say ‘English’ in Norwegian. (This is a tad embarrassing as I am also the only English person)
  3. I have no idea how old I am.
  4. The Norwegian language needs to be reevaluated.

The first week was a bit of a shock to my system. My arrogant English self really believed that I would be taught Norwegian in English, this wasn’t the case. The lessons are completely taught in Norwegian, which means at least 60% of what is being said to me is lost in translation. I then had the embarrassing problem of being the only person not to master the art of saying ‘Engelsk’ (English). This is how most of my first day went:

‘Jeg snakker engelsk’. I said quietly to the class.

‘Nei, kan du si engelsk?’

‘Engelsk’ I repeated.

‘Nei, engelsk’.


‘Nei, Engelsk’.

I think you get the picture. This went on for what felt like forever until the tutor realised I was completely incapable of saying it.

Just before this though I was asked to come to the front of the class, introduce myself and write my name, age and where I’m from on the board. So with my heart racing and face bright red I walked up and said, ‘Jeg heter Emma’, wrote on the board and quickly walked back to my desk and sat down. As I could feel my face resuming back to a more human colour, I looked at what I had wrote:

Emma, 38, England

For those of you that know me will know I am not 38, I am in fact 34. So why I felt the need to add four years onto my age is beyond me. As I sat there I started to panic. What if they ask for my date of birth? Do I lie and give them a false one as not to look stupid? Or do I come clean and tell the class I momentarily forgot how old I was? Nope, I had a better idea. I decided that the way to go would be to reduce my age by one year every time I was asked. Looking back now the simple thing would have been to jump straight to 34, but my brain didn’t come up with this little gem of intellect at the time. So, for the first day I had to stay 38. This was because it was written in big white chalk under my name. Thankfully on the second day this had been rubbed out so I proceeded with gradually reducing my age until I got to age 34. To my surprise no one picked me up on this but there did seem to be quite a few puzzled faces. But thankfully I am 34 again.

Being on this course has made me realise how simple my own language is. I don’t role my rrrrrrrrr’s or make a funny throat clearing noises at the end of words, my sentences don’t go up then down then up again and I certainly don’t feel the need to hold my nose to get the right sound when saying numbers 13 – 19. Which brings me to the subject of why I believe the Norwegian language could be made so much simpler.

  1. If you have to hold your nose when teaching how the numbers 13 -19 are said I think its a pretty good indicator that maybe Norwegian people have been saying them incorrectly. For instance, 18 is spelt ‘atten’ – just pronounce the e, it makes it so much easier.
  2. If you’re not going to pronounce a letter, then why is it there? e.g. ‘gjenta’, not only is the g silent but further confusion comes when the J is said as though it were a Y.
  3. Other words that confuse the shit out of me: Brød is said as brur, og as oo, jeg as yay, under as unner, gjør as your and so on.
  4. But the hardest thing for me to remember is the pronunciation of the three extra letters in the alphabet Æ, Ø & Å. Why oh why are these even needed?!

But of course I am only moaning about any of this because my plain, slow english voice prohibits me from saying anything Norwegian without sounding like a brummie Del Boy.

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24 Responses to Learning Norwegian

  1. Cindi says:

    Oh wow, do I ever understand this post! I think it’s more difficult for us native English (excuse me, engelsk!) speakers, since when out and about and attempting our limited Norwegian, many Norwegians answer us in English because they want to practice THEIR skills. Where are you taking language classes? Good luck/lykke til!

    • There was so much more that I could of/wanted to write about regarding this but I would have gone on forever. Its an adult learning centre in Knarvik (North of Bergen). In 4 weeks I have learnt so much, but as you say the biggest battle is trying to use it in the outside world as everyone speaks perfect English. And thank you for the good luck… I definitely need it. ; )

      • Cindi says:

        I was in classes in Knarvik for almost a school year (September 2007 – March 2008)! My husband and I lived in Modalen, a kommune so small they don’t offer the required classes for immigrants, so I drove the 90 minutes 2 or 3 days a week to classes at Lindås Kommune Vaksenopplæring in the shopping center there … shopped at the ICA and Remi 1000 after class … then schlepped back to Modalen. Who is/are your teachers?

      • Yeah that’s where I am….. I have Odin, Arver and ailin. (Not sure if I have spelt names correctly)

      • Cindi says:

        I had Stine and Dagun, but it’s been so many years they might not be there anymore.

      • I haven’t come across them. The 3 I have are all very nice and most importantly patient.

  2. xfalsefacex says:

    Thanks for your comment! The expat life is awesome and miserable in so many ways, but it’s NEVER boring!

  3. Great post, Emma. I learnt some Norsk for my visits to Norway. I too struggled with the word ‘Engelsk’ – it’s all to do with where to stress the syllables and getting caught up on that ‘g’ as I recall.

  4. Anne says:

    You should tell them to let you off concerning the ‘r’s. We have two r’s in Norwegian, and the guttural r is far more easy than the rolling r. They use the guttural r in and around Bergen, so they shouldn’t try and have you learn the rolling one.
    But, hey, Norwegian spelling? You are not allowed to complain there! 😛 English is a world language and still you write through, thorough and tough? Even native English speakers struggle!
    It’s difficult learning a new language, but apparently that are number’s of benefits to it as well. Hang in there and you’ll suddenly be speaking fluently 🙂

    • ha ha…. even I struggle with some English. Yep, I’m gonna hang on in there, I just need to start practicing more when out and about. Its so hard though as everyone speaks perfect English. Thank you for the encouragement!! : )

  5. tinyardbird says:

    This is so funny to read, as someone who’s in the other boat… Though not Norweigan, but Danish in England, trying to figure out how be a housewife! (When it doesn’t come naturally!)

  6. MiaMusings says:

    The experience is so so similar to the time I was trying to learn Afrikaans, not that I needed to because in South Africa everyone speaks ‘Engels’ but out of sheer boredom and in order to do something productive. Well, it did keep me from getting bored in the initial months of my move to SA but sadly, I didn’t seem to learn much – lack of practice after the classes finished. So I know where you are combing from!

  7. Joe Smith says:

    “The Norwegian language needs to be reevaluated.” By the people or by you? It looks excruciatingly difficult. But I thought the same of German. Carry on. And your dilemma about the age thing? This too shall pass. (I hope) Love your posts!

  8. Liz B says:

    Lol… Oh Em, you’re brave to even tackle a new language! This reminds me of my uncle who thought he was asking for the exit in a Spanish car park, it turned out he was shouting ‘salad’ at the locals! You’re also not the only one to forget their age, I got number dyslexia once when I was 32 & said I was 23… in front of my Mum who loudly corrected me 😀

  9. English spelling ?!?!?!?

    Dearest creature in creation
    Studying English pronunciation,
    I will teach you in my verse

    Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

    I will keep you, Susy, busy,
    Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
    Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;

    Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

    Pray, console your loving poet,
    Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! 10
    Just compare heart, hear and heard,

    Dies and diet, lord and word.

    Sword and sward, retain and Britain
    (Mind the latter how it’s written).
    Made has not the sound of bade,

    Say – said, pay – paid, laid but plaid.

    Now I surely will not plague you
    With such words as vague and ague,
    But be careful how you speak,

    Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak, 20

    Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
    Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
    Woven, oven, how and low,

    Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

    Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
    Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
    Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,

    Missiles, similes, reviles.

    Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
    Same, examining, but mining, 30
    Scholar, vicar, and cigar,

    Solar, mica, war and far.

    From “desire”: desirable – admirable from “admire”,
    Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
    Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,

    Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

    One, anemone, Balmoral,
    Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
    Gertrude, German, wind and wind,

    Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind, 40

    Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
    Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
    This phonetic labyrinth

    Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

    Have you ever yet endeavoured
    To pronounce revered and severed,
    Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,

    Peter, petrol and patrol?

    Billet does not end like ballet;
    Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet. 50
    Blood and flood are not like food,

    Nor is mould like should and would.

    Banquet is not nearly parquet,
    Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
    Discount, viscount, load and broad,

    Toward, to forward, to reward,

    Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
    Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
    Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,

    Friend and fiend, alive and live. 60

    Is your R correct in higher?
    Keats asserts it rhymes with Thalia.
    Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,

    Buoyant, minute, but minute.

    Say abscission with precision,
    Now: position and transition;
    Would it tally with my rhyme

    If I mentioned paradigm?

    Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
    But cease, crease, grease and greasy? 70
    Cornice, nice, valise, revise,

    Rabies, but lullabies.

    Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
    Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
    You’ll envelop lists, I hope,

    In a linen envelope.

    Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
    Affidavit, David, davit.
    To abjure, to perjure. Sheik

    Does not sound like Czech but ache. 80

    Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
    Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
    We say hallowed, but allowed,

    People, leopard, towed but vowed.

    Mark the difference, moreover,
    Between mover, plover, Dover.
    Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,

    Chalice, but police and lice,

    Camel, constable, unstable,
    Principle, disciple, label. 90
    Petal, penal, and canal,

    Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

    Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
    Rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,
    But it is not hard to tell

    Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

    Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
    Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
    Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,

    Senator, spectator, mayor, 100

    Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
    Has the A of drachm and hammer.
    Pussy, hussy and possess,

    Desert, but desert, address.

    Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
    Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
    Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,

    Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

    “Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker”,
    Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor”, 110
    Making, it is sad but true,

    In bravado, much ado.

    Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
    Neither does devour with clangour.
    Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,

    Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

    Arsenic, specific, scenic,
    Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
    Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,

    Paradise, rise, rose, and dose. 120

    Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
    Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
    Mind! Meandering but mean,

    Valentine and magazine.

    And I bet you, dear, a penny,
    You say mani-(fold) like many,
    Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,

    Tier (one who ties), but tier.

    Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
    Rhyme with herring or with stirring? 130
    Prison, bison, treasure trove,

    Treason, hover, cover, cove,

    Perseverance, severance. Ribald
    Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
    Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,

    Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

    Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
    And distinguish buffet, buffet;
    Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,

    Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn. 140

    Say in sounds correct and sterling
    Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
    Evil, devil, mezzotint,

    Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

    Now you need not pay attention
    To such sounds as I don’t mention,
    Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,

    Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

    Nor are proper names included,
    Though I often heard, as you did, 150
    Funny rhymes to unicorn,

    Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

    No, my maiden, coy and comely,
    I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
    No. Yet Froude compared with proud

    Is no better than McLeod.

    But mind trivial and vial,
    Tripod, menial, denial,
    Troll and trolley, realm and ream,

    Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme. 160

    Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
    May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
    But you’re not supposed to say

    Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

    Had this invalid invalid
    Worthless documents? How pallid,
    How uncouth he, couchant, looked,

    When for Portsmouth I had booked!

    Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
    Paramour, enamoured, flighty, 170
    Episodes, antipodes,

    Acquiesce, and obsequies.

    Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
    Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
    Rather say in accents pure:

    Nature, stature and mature.

    Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
    Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
    Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,

    Wan, sedan and artisan. 180

    The TH will surely trouble you
    More than R, CH or W.
    Say then these phonetic gems:

    Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

    Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
    There are more but I forget ’em –
    Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,

    Lighten your anxiety.

    The archaic word albeit
    Does not rhyme with eight – you see it; 190
    With and forthwith, one has voice,

    One has not, you make your choice.

    Shoes, goes, does [1]. Now first say: finger;
    Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
    Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,

    Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

    Hero, heron, query, very,
    Parry, tarry, fury, bury,
    Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,

    Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath. 200

    Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
    Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
    Holm you know, but noes, canoes,

    Puisne, truism, use, to use?

    Though the difference seems little,
    We say actual, but victual,
    Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,

    Put, nut, granite, and unite

    Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
    Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer. 210
    Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,

    Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

    Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
    Science, conscience, scientific;
    Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,

    Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

    Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
    Next omit, which differs from it
    Bona fide, alibi

    Gyrate, dowry and awry. 220

    Sea, idea, guinea, area,
    Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
    Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,

    Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

    Compare alien with Italian,
    Dandelion with battalion,
    Rally with ally; yea, ye,

    Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

    Say aver, but ever, fever,
    Neither, leisure, skein, receiver. 230
    Never guess – it is not safe,

    We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

    Starry, granary, canary,
    Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
    Face, but preface, then grimace,

    Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

    Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
    Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
    Ear, but earn; and ere and tear

    Do not rhyme with here but heir. 240

    Mind the O of off and often
    Which may be pronounced as orphan,
    With the sound of saw and sauce;

    Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

    Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
    Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
    Respite, spite, consent, resent.

    Liable, but Parliament.

    Seven is right, but so is even,
    Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen, 250
    Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,

    Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

    A of valour, vapid, vapour,
    S of news (compare newspaper),
    G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,

    I of antichrist and grist,

    Differ like diverse and divers,
    Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
    Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,

    Polish, Polish, poll and poll. 260

    Pronunciation – think of Psyche! –
    Is a paling, stout and spiky.
    Won’t it make you lose your wits

    Writing groats and saying ‘grits’?

    It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
    Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
    Islington, and Isle of Wight,

    Housewife, verdict and indict.

    Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
    Saying lather, bather, father? 270
    Finally, which rhymes with enough,

    Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

    Hiccough has the sound of sup…
    My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

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