As a language, Norwegian can be hard to classify. Though all Scandinavian languages originated from Old Norse, Norwegian, thanks to a 400 year union with Denmark, developed closely with Danish until the early 1800’s.
Since then, in many ways, the language has charted a very diverse course: there’s Bokmål (the official literature language), Nynorsk (New Norwegian), Riksmal (the national language) and Hognorsk (High Norwegian). Of course, this doesn’t take into account all the differing dialects, which can vary from town to town, even those which are just a few kilometres apart! And take a special note here, as opposed to most other cultures, Norwegians take pride in their dialects.
The good news for English-speakers are that Norwegian is almost English.
Not only are both Germanic languages, but they share the same word order. This means that, to the English speaker, a percentage of words will be obvious and relatable, and the sentence structure will be familiar and easy to understand.
And while some languages involve a verb conjugation that can actually produce tears, thankfully, Norwegian isn’t one of them. For example, most infinitives can be turned into present tense verbs simply by adding the letter “r” to the end of them, and if you want to make a verb past tense, it mostly involves adding “te” to the end. Furthermore, subject-verb agreement involves changing the subject, while the verb stays the same! Take note of this, other languages.
Some of the most prominent words to enter the English vocabulary are: steak, ombudsman and ski. And though all languages have a concept of tone for expressing emotion or showing a particular emphasis, Norwegian, in using tonal variations to differentiate homonyms, makes tone integral to understanding the language. When spoken, this gives the language a melodious quality that almost all other European languages – with the exception of Swedish, to an extent – never fully developed.
Going back to the melody of the language, there is actually a specific word for weekend and holiday binge drinking: Helgefylla. And the language holds a good further selection of untranslatable words, whether melodic or not. Just think of pålegg, which can be used to describe all the stuff that you put on top of an open sandwich.
Norwegian might be a melodic language, and while Norwegians are taught to be respectful and well-mannered, following the Law of Jante as a pillar to value people for their honesty and goodness; it boggles the minds of many that there is no actual word for “please”. So, if you are going to ask for something in Norway, you will need to do it using some polite phrase, such as venglest (“most friend-ily”) or ver så venleg (“very kind”).
And the Jante Law has a serious impact on business relations in the country, where Norwegians respect openness and correctness and do not judge their business partners on their professional or social status standing.
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey ranks Norway 9th out of 189 countries for 2016. And if your business is looking to consolidate business opportunities in the Norwegian-speaking market, EVS Translations could be your ideal partner for all your corporate Norwegian language needs. At your request, we can assemble specialist Norwegian translator teams for your industry sector and thereby produce high-quality Norwegian translations in line with international standards.
→ Click here to contact our Norwegian translation department.