Planning a trip to Norway? Then you need this guide to basic Norwegian phrases with pronunciation tips. Impress the locals with your mad language skills using these common Norwegian phrases that are perfect for travellers.
Norwegian, the language of one of the most beautiful countries you could ever have the pleasure of visiting. With an incredibly dramatic landscape and super friendly locals who probably speak better English than you, I wanted to create a Norwegian travel phrase guide to help put you in good graces with the locals. Slipping in some of these phrases into your conversation with Norwegian will go a long way.
To help me create this new addition to my growing collection of free travel phrase guides, I asked my friend Lisa from Fjords and Beaches to provide accurate Norwegian translations and pronunciation tips. Lisa is a native Norwegian gal and expert on all things Norway.
Learning Norwegian? Don’t miss these hilarious Norwegian idioms and expressions
Let’s take a closer look at the Norwegian language so you’re better informed as to its origin, use, and vocabulary. It’s much simpler than you may think and quite easy to learn.
Table of Contents
- A brief history of Norwegian
- Where is Norwegian Spoken?
- Standard Spoken Norwegian and Norwegian Dialects
- Written Norwegian
- Norwegian Pronunciation
- Norwegian Alphabet
- Basic Norwegian Travel Phrases
The Norwegian language descends from the Proto-Indo-European language which was spoken about 5,500 years ago. As its speakers began to spread and settle across Europe new languages started to evolve.
In the northwest of Europe, the West Germanic languages evolved into what we know today as English, Dutch, German. But it’s from the North Germanic languages that Norwegian descends.
Norwegian is closely related to Swedish and Danish because they each descended from Old Norse which was spoken in the areas of Scandinavia that are now Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
Even today, Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes can communicate with each other, although Norwegians tend to understand Danish and Swedish more readily than Danes and Swedes can understand Norwegian.
Norwegian, (‘norsk’ in Norwegian) is the official language of Norway where it is mainly spoken. According to Ethnologue, there are by 5,189,940 speakers of Norwegian. Norwegian is also spoken in the U.S., Canada, and Sweden.
For all its similarities with English, being a hundred percent fluent in Norwegian is actually quite difficult as there is no standard spoken Norwegian. Why?
Well, there are several reasons, however, the main reason is due to Norway’s geography. That’s right, that gorgeous mountainous landscape acted like a fence between villages and since the country is so sparsely populated this allowed for many dialects to form.
To give you an example, Lisa, who is from Aurland, explained to me that the dialect of her neighbouring village, Lærdal (just thirty minutes away) is very different from her own. This is because the villages were only connected via a mountain road which was snowed over during the winter. This meant there was limited access between the villages. It wasn’t until 2000 that a tunnel was built to keep the villages connected all year round. Crazy right?
Since there is no standard spoken Norwegian, it is totally normal and accepted to use your local dialect whatever the context or situation. Even politicians and news reporters do this.
While there may not be one way of speaking, there are two official variations of written Norwegian. Known as Bokmål (literally “book tongue”) and Nynorsk (“new Norwegian”), the difference between the two is small but still important.
The reason for these two written forms goes back to the 1300s and the 1800s when Norway’s political status declined and came under the control of Denmark. It was during this time that the written form of Norwegian was lost, and Danish came into use.
It wasn’t until the 19th century, when Norway came under Swedish rule, that the country saw a boom in nationalism which led to the creation of two written forms of Norwegian.
Evolving from Danish, Bokmål is by far the most common. It’s used in Oslo and in two thirds of Norway. It is also the form used here in this Norwegian travel phrase guide since this version of Norwegian is used in news broadcasts, on radio and TV, and taught to foreign students.
Nynorsk, on the other hand is a reconstruction of a standard written form. It was developed by Ivar Aasen, a teacher and linguist who travelled extensively around Norway collecting samples of what was left of the original Norwegian language. He collected his findings in Western Norway and in mountainous areas.
Aasen avoided the eastern parts of Norway as he felt those areas were too heavily influenced by the Danish language. Between 1848 and 1855, Aasen published his findings, which at the time was called landsmål.
It is estimated that 85-90% of the Norwegian population write Bokmål as their main written language. At school, everyone has to learn both written forms but all of your classes in your main language and you spend 3-4 hours learning your side language.
Nynorsk is the ‘actual’ Norwegian written language that was used before the political situation change. While Bokmål is practically a version of Danish.
Nynorsk is considered the written language of villages and rural areas while Bokmål is the form used in cities.
It’s important to explain that Bokmål and Nynorsk are only written languages. No one actually speaks them.
However, it is commonly said that people in Oslo ‘speak’ bokmål because their dialect is so close to the written language even though by definition it is not possible to speak it.
This can be quite confusing to understand, so if you have any questions, please ask them in the comments section below and Lisa will happily answer them for you.
While a hundred per cent fluency isn’t our aim here, it’s nice to know that for English speakers, Norwegian is not a difficult language to learn because many words are very similar.
The biggest challenge you’ll encounter when you first start learning Norwegian is the pronunciation. But luckily, there are some basic rules you can follow. The main ones to remember is that stress usually falls on the first syllable and the letter ‘r’ is always rolled.
Below is the Norwegian alphabet. Note that the last three letters in the table are vowels.
Æ – Pronounced like an elongated version of the ‘a’ in ‘lap’.
Ø – Pronounced like the ‘u’ in ‘burn’
Å – Pronounced like ‘ou’ in ‘four’
Y is always a vowel in Norwegian and sounds more like the y in ‘typical’ than in ‘type’.
|a (a)||j (jod)||s (ess)|
|b (beh)||k (kaw)||t (teh)|
|c (seh)||l (el)||u (oo)|
|d (de)||m (em)||v (veh)|
|e (eh)||n (en)||w (dobbletveh)|
|f (ef)||o (o)||x (eks)|
|g (geh)||p (peh)||y (yew)|
|h (haw)||q (koo)||z (set)|
|i (ee)||r (air)||Æ (a) Ø (air) Å (aw)|
P.S. If you’re reading this on your phone and can’t see the pronunciation column, turn it to landscape mode. For some reason, tables aren’t mobile friendly. Sorry!
Want the infographic to take with you? Scroll to the bottom of the page.
|Good morning||God morgen||gooh mor-gehn|
|Good afternoon||God ettermiddag||gooh eh-ter-mee-dahg|
|Good night||God natt||gooh naht|
|How are you?||Hvordan går det?||vor-dahn gor deh|
|I’m well, and you?||Bra, med deg?||brah, meh dye|
|Good, thanks||Bra, takk||brah, tahk|
|Please||Vær så snill||var soh snil|
|You’re welcome||Vær så god||var soh gooh|
|Excuse me (getting attention)|
Excuse me (when you didn’t hear or understand the person)
|Unnskyld meg |
Hæ? (like saying ‘huh?’, but not at all rude)
|een-shool my / hah|
|I don’t understand||Jeg forstår ikke||yaiee for-storh ee-kah|
|Do you speak English?||Snakker du engelsk?||snah-kerh doo en-gelsk|
|How much is…?||Hvor mye koster..?||voor mee-eh koh ster|
|Where is…?||Hvor er…?||voor ehr|
|Can I have…?||Kan jeg få…?||kahn yaiee fah|
|Red wine / white wine)||Rødvin / Hvitvin||ruh-veen / veet-veen|
|I don’t eat…||Jeg spiser ikke||yaiee spee-sir ee-kah|
|I’m a vegetarian||Jeg er vegetarianer||yaiee ehr veh-geh-tah-ree-ah-ner|
|Can we have the bill?||Kan vi få regningen?||kahn vee fo rehh-ning-ehn|
|Straight ahead||Rett fram||rett fram|
|Turn left||Ta til venstre||tah teel vehn-streh|
|Turn right||Ta til høyre||tah teel hoy-reh|
|Bus stop||Busstopp||boos stohp|
|Train station||Togstasjon||tog sta-shon|
|I need a doctor||Jeg trenger lege||yaiee tren-ger leg-geh|
|I don’t feel well||Jeg er dårlig||yaiee ehr door-lee|
|Call the police!||Ring politiet!||reen poh-lee-tee-eht|
I hope you enjoyed this Norwegian travel phrase guide as much as I enjoyed bringing it together. If you have any requests for other languages, let me know in the comments section! In the meantime, check out the rest of my collection of free travel phrase guides.
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Visiting Norway? Check out my Norway posts
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- How to Hike Trolltunga like a Pro: The Ultimate Guide
- 11 Awesome Things to do in Stavanger you won’t forget
- The Best Place to See the Northern Lights You Probably Haven’t Heard of
- How to Choose the Best Whale Watching Tour in Norway and Iceland
Want to know more about learning languages? Start here!
- Top Language Learning Resources You Should Use
- 11 Life-Changing Reasons Why You Should Learn a Language
- 42 beautiful Inspirational Quotes for Language Learners
- Language learning tips: 11 Polyglots Reveal The Secrets of Their Success
- Top 10 Best Ways to Learn a Language Better and Faster
Over to you!
Which of these Norwegian phrases did you find the most useful? Are you planning a trip to Norway or have already been there? Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
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