Moving to Bergen, which Norwegian dialect should I learn?

I to move to Bergen, for an Erasmus year, I'd like to learn Norwegian. But I'm confused by Bokmal, Nynorsk (which are written systems if I understood well) and the several dialects. I saw that Bergen speaks the Bergensk dialect.

Thus, would other norwegians understand me if I speak Bergensk?

Are dialects mutually intelligible?

Which dialect is taught in the Bokmal course of Duolingo (is it the Oslo's norwegian?)

October 3, 2018


The Bergen dialect is very characteristic, but not the most difficult to understand. And it is probably the only dialect that strictly follows a two-gender noun system. It is quite 'expressive' in its way, and often parodied. Look it up on Youtube. In the Norwegian dub of Ice Age (Istid) for instance, Sid speaks the Bergen dialect and is even more hilarious for that.

You should study bokmål, which is the most common written variant, and learn to pronounce it as 'standard eastern Norwegian'. This is what Duo and most other courses teach. You might pick up some of the Bergen-dialect, but I don't think that learning to speak a specific dialect should be a goal.

Dialects are largely mutually intelligible for us natives, but I know of people who have come from abroad, lived here for 20 years, and still have problems understanding what people living 50 km away are saying. Learning about dialects and getting exposed to them, so that you can guess - at least roughly - where in Norway people come from, should be a part of studying the language at an intermediate-advanced level. People will speak their own dialect in any situation, and are more ready to switch to English than eastern Norwegian when speaking to foreigners.

October 3, 2018

  • A 2005 poll indicates that 86.3% use primarily Bokmål as their daily written language, 5.5% use both Bokmål and Nynorsk, and 7.5% use primarily Nynorsk.

  • Map of the official language forms of Norwegian municipalities. Red is Bokmål, blue is Nynorsk and gray depicts neutral areas.

October 3, 2018

Yay, I'm one of the 5.5%!

October 3, 2018

And I am on the 86.3 % ;-)

October 3, 2018

Kudos to you for using both! :)

October 5, 2018

Hehe, takk!

I tend to use Bokmål in formal situations, writing mails and whatnot, but since I am a teacher in a nynorsk-using municipality, I am required to use that at work. I also prefer to use nynorsk in creative writing.

October 6, 2018

Oh, and also, which are the things that really vary from Oslo to Bergen dialect? Is it just the pronunciation or is it a completely different thing?

October 3, 2018

Mostly pronounciation and intonation. In Bergen they for instance have the uvular r (as in standard french, for instance), and the intonation pattern is mostly opposite to that of eastern Norwegian, in that stressed syllables tend to be pronounced with a higher tone, whereas in eastern Norwegian stressed syllables tend to have a lower tone than the unstressed syllables. Nothing to worry about.

There are some characteristic 'dialect-words' in the vocabulary (there always are), but you'll pick up on that as you go.

You could spend some time trying to get used to the dialect, for instance on Youtube - or watch the Norwegian-dub of Ice Age if you can get hold of it - but you don't really need to study the dialect.

October 3, 2018

I'm very far from knowledgeable about how the dialects work, but my understanding is that generally Bokmal and Nynorsk are the two official written language systems. I think people with different dialects could read the same sentence in Bokmal out loud and say it differently.

Definitely hoping someone more knowledgeable can shed some light though.

October 3, 2018

Yes, when reading bokmål aloud, we always keep the r-sound of our own dialect, for instance. And we tend to base the intonation on our own dialect. So, you could make pretty good guesses about where people are from based on how they pronounce bokmål / nynorsk when reading it aloud.

October 3, 2018

It will not be easy to find a cours in Nynorsk, wich is actually not really spoken... I mean all the dialect or more or less close to official Nynorsk. For sure... everybody understand Bokmaal, and usually Norwegian people or very patient, speak slowly for you, etc. You will probably have teachers from different part of Norway. I think Bokmaal is a good choice. A good base. And when you'll be there you'll learn the Bergen's dialect. Afterall... this is just a way to speak !

I came to work in Finnmark, Varanger. People speak Bokmaal... but so differently ! I have learned pretty quick (except that after year, it's difficult to get their accent). At TV, radio, university, you'll heard many different accent... you'll quiet quick recognise if people come from Oslo, Drammen, Stavanger or Finnmark.

good luck (norwegian is not so difficult... I mean, less difficult than other languages)

October 3, 2018
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