Reflection on language – English in Norway

As I’m staying in Bergen, the national language is obviously Norwegian. But I already knew before coming here that almost all Scandinavian people are fluent in English.

This was one of the main reasons why I chose Norway as my first priority. All of my courses at the University are held in English and all the assignments need to be written in English (or alternatively in Norwegian). I always enjoyed the English language and am happy to be able to improve it here during my stay abroad.  

I attended a Norwegian language course for about three months to learn some basic conversation skills. They also taught us a lot about Norwegian culture. Personally, the cultural part was way more important to me than the language itself: I got the chance to learn a lot about the daily life of Norwegians and their way of interacting. Of course, the basics of everyday conversations were more than helpful as I learned to communicate in supermarkets or how to order a coffee. Norwegian and German are in some ways very similar. Following a conversation might not be easy, but reading a text in Norwegian is quite intuitive! You might not be able to understand every single word but the context is understandable. This makes it a bit easier for German-speakers to find their way through guidelines or menus.

In my opinion, adapting to a foreign language is a must-do. This way, you show your respect to their culture and show your attempts of integrating yourself in new surroundings. For me, as an international student living in a very international environment, English was even more important than Norwegian. Daily life interactions in my flat or  conversations when going hiking with a group of people I had just met were mostly in English. On the other side, a lot of the exchange students were from Germany – so not only English but also German is often heard and spoken here.

Usually, all the movies are shown in their original language with Norwegian subtitles.

All the Norwegians that I have met so far are very polite and helpful. Of course they realize quite quickly that I’m not from here and that my mother tongue isn’t Norwegian. But I made the experience that they are not offended by changing the language and are very open-minded to talk to you in English. Usually, I experience that people don’t like changing the language as soon as they realize that you’re a foreigner. But I never had an interaction where I got the impression that they were annoyed. Their English is excellent and I’m really fascinated that they hardly have an accent.

I was also very impressed when I went to the cinema for the first time here. They don’t synchronize most of the movies. Usually, all the movies are shown in their original language with Norwegian subtitles. I am quite sure that this also helps Norwegians to get used to the English language and adds up to their high English level.

Another interesting aspect about the Norwegian language is the different kind of dialects which reminds me a lot of Switzerland. Almost every part of Norway has their own dialect. The official written language is divided in Bokmål and Nynorsk. Both of them are official forms of Norwegian: whilst Bokmål is based on the Danish language, Nynorsk is more of a form of all the accents in Norway itself. Most common within Norway is Bokmål which is also the form of Norwegian I learned in my course. Overall, I really enjoy the Norwegian language as it is foreign and somehow familiar at the same time. But I am super happy as well that I can manage my studies and almost all of my daily life in English.


Eva Roeren

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