The Language Confusion
You are about to learn Norwegian (Bokmål). What is this thing in parentheses, «Bokmål»?
Norwegian has two official written standards: Bokmål (lit. «book language») and Nynorsk (lit. «New Norwegian»). All Norwegians understand both, they’re not that different and you are taught both at school. We will be teaching Bokmål. It is by far the most widely used, more than 85 percent of Norwegians prefer Bokmål and most national publications are in Bokmål.
Both Bokmål and Nynorsk have a great variety of optional forms. That can be quite confusing for a language learner. So in this course we have chosen to teach the forms suggested by the style guide from NTB, a Norwegian press agency, which is used by many newspapers. This form of Bokmål is called Moderate or Conservative Bokmål. When you write, you can use any of the optional forms. Norwegian does not have an official spoken standard. Speaking in your own dialect and accent is perfectly fine in most contexts, though most unconsciously adapt the way they speak a little when they speak with people from other districts dropping hard-to-understand dialect words and so on.
In television and radio news and weather forecasts from NRK, a national public broadcaster, journalists speak Bokmål and Nynorsk in their own accent. If they come from Eastern Norway, what they speak is then «Standard Østnorsk» («Standard East-Norwegian»). You will hear that a lot, since this is the most populous part of the country and the part where Oslo, the capital where NRK is headquartered, happens to be.
Standard Østnorsk is what you’ll hear Duolingo’s robot (TTS) speak and also in most other Norwegian classes.
If you would like to hear some other some other dialects you could head over to the Computer-Assisted Listening and Speaking Tutor (CALST) developed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. It offers you several possible dialects including Standard Østnorsk. If you struggle with listening and speaking, it might be a good idea to go there anyway.
Standard Østnorsk is also spoken out in the real world. It is not strictly speaking a dialect, rather a sociolect. It is used all over Eastern Norway along the local dialects and some people consciously or unconsciously slide between the two depending on context. In some areas there are more Standard Østnorsk speakers than in others. In Oslo, it has largely replaced both the local dialect and the defunct «Dannet Dagligtale» (Cultivated Everyday Speech).
Standard Østnorsk is not officially sanctioned as a standard, and is rarely used outside of Eastern Norway, but it is the closest we get to the UK’s RP. Like RP has its fans and detractors, some think it sounds educated and sophisticated, others regard it negatively as snobbish and stuck-up. As a learner of Norwegias as foreign language you don’t have to worry about that, most people will salute for making the effort to learn Norwegian and you will probably bring with you a charming hint of your own native accent.
I'd like to add that even though less used, Nynorsk is still used in both business and private life.
In my county (fylke) Møre og Romsdal, most of the municipalities (kommune) use Nynorsk as their official language form, and a large percentage of other municipalities in Western Norway also do. Except for the cities, where they mainly have a neutral language form policy (this basically means Bokmål).
For example, it's perceived as professional to answer an e-mail with the language form of the sender.
Men berre som eit skriftleg språk? Dialekten som du snakkar er lik Nynorsk? Viss eg har lært Bokmål, skulle eg lære nynorsk?
Veit ikkje om eg forstår deg rett, men ja: nynorsk er eit skriftspråk som er meir likt korleis fleirtalet av befolkninga i Noreg snakkar (dialekta deira).
Det er aldri slik at du må lære nynorsk viss du allereie kan bokmål - eller motsett - men det er aldri negativt. Dersom du skal kommunisere med folk som har andre dialekter enn såkalt "standard Østnorsk", vil nynorsk godt muleg vere meir praktisk enn bokmål.
Nynorsk er nærmere islandsk. Jeg har studert bokmål så ville det bli litt vanskelig å lære alt en gang til, men det en god idé å studere litt nynorsk. Nå prøver jeg å skrive på radikalt bokmål. F. Eks. Jeg veit ikke, jeg er heime. Han snakka med henne. Han er sjuk.osv. Nynorsk...eg tek, sjå, kor mykje, dykk...islandsk...ég tek, sjá, kversu mikið...ykkur. Hvis du kan norsk, er det lettere å studere islandsk, især Nynorsk.
Great post, tusen takk!
Standard Østnorsk is what you’ll hear Duolingo’s robot (TTS) speak [...].
Thanks for clarifying this, Alek! It helps a lot to know this.
edit: Is this "Liv" from ivona?
Cool, thanks for confirming this. If I spoke like 'her' in, say, Oslo, people would understand me, I guess...? :)
You can expect to be understood all over the country, as even Norwegians who speak another dialect and choose to write in Nynorsk are subject to Bokmål and varieties of Østnorsk on a regular basis.
Keep in mind that there are a few words Liv struggles with (read: butchers completely), notably 'avis' and 'juice'. Her intonation is also a bit off at times, as she seems unable to differentiate between indefinite nouns and present tense verbs that are written identically (favouring the verb pronunciation), but I think you'll get a feel for that regardless.
I wanted to suggest replacing "juice" with "jus", but then I tried it out myself, and she cannot distinguish it from "jus/juss" meaning "law". She does however pronounce it correctly if I write "juus", but I suppose it's impractical to deal with two versions of each sentence, one to present to the learner and one to feed to the speech engine.
It's not only impractical, but currently something we don't have an option to do. It would require some programming work on Duolingo's part.
What we'll likely do once we're able to start working on another tree version is to remove 'avis' from the course (keeping 'avisen(/a)', which she pronounces correctly), and possibly even remove 'juice' completely.
I was certainly puzzled by "avis." Can I assume the actual pronunciation is fairly straightforward, i.e. without that pseudo glottal stop that the robot introduces, or is it something altogether different?
My teacher from Tønsberg laughs so much about "Avis" that we find ourselves using Arvis incorrectly, wherever possible, now! Perhaps it will enter the common usage in due course of time . I do find the emphasis on turtles wearing moisturising cream rather esoteric though.
I'd say it's prett straight forward, but then again I'm a native speaker so it's difficult to say.
I guess you'd pronounce the A as you would say "aaaaaa" at the dentist, although you stress the I (pronounced like "ee" in "teeth") so it's "aviis".
Aren't most regions in Norway teaching Bokmål as the main written language in schools? Because I assume if 85% uses this all the time in school except in the lessons Nynorsk that they just stick with Bokmål. I'm not Norwegian so I could be wrong, I just assume most people stick to what they've learned first unless they would move to a Nynorsk region and have to adapt their writing style.
According to Statistisk Sentralbyrå only 12% of the Norwegian primary schools' students have nynorsk as their primary, that is first, language in 2012. These schools are mostly on the West coast of Norway, in Sogn og Fjordane, Møre og Romsdal, Hordaland and Rogaland. 9 fylker (of 19) have no schools with nynorsk as the first language.
I'd say that's true. The thing that they're implying is that a lot of us speak Western (not me though, I speak Eastern) so why don't we use the written system which is closest to our dialect.
The duoLingo TTS voice is sometimes hard to understand, even for us native speakers. It sound like a foreigner trying to learn the language. Should have been recordings by a native speaker instead of TTS
Yes. I think since questions are infinite and computer-generated this might be hard. But if there is a drawback to Duolingo it is that it lacks oral and aural teaching. Apart from that it has taught me well for 18 months and has done amazing things with my brain.
The only sentences that are computer-generated are the incorrect multiple choice options.
Still, having the TTS voice near-instantly added to every new sentence we make is quite a big boon compared to having to wait weeks if not months for someone to record it. The TTS isn't perfect, but it sure has its upsides. :)
Are the questions really computer generated or is it just the voice? A lot of other apps and programs have a real human voice.
They are sort of generated. But try this in Google translate ( English). You will find that a public school girl from Surrey speaks. "Darling! I really have to do this for a while till Damien comes to take me out".
As of 2018, Google seems to be assigning English-speaking accents by geographical location. Pasted the above sentence in and got a godawful broad Australian accent - ugh.
It is impossible to understand, I surely hope that the sound will be improved, I always have to slow it down because some article or adverb always gets lost in the regular speed.
I have another question for the Norwegian native speakers here: What is the status of høgnorsk (the new name for landsmål) in today's Norway? Is it considered a conservative form of nynorsk or it is not in use anymore?
Høgnorsk is not an official standard and it is extremely rarely used. Most Norwegians have probably not even heard about it. Høgnorsk is not a variety of modern Nynorsk.
Tanks for the explanation! I like høgnorsk, it still keeps some words and forms similar to Old West Norse.
Woo! Someone else who likes Høgnorsk!
Exactly! I find it better to have a Mjǫlnir on the flag than a christian cross haha. That way I passively support the addition of the Icelandic course to duolingo as well.
Thanks! Also, is that the High Iceland flag?
Not really! I'm learning Old Norse, but it takes a lot of time. Later I may learn modern Icelandic as well (which is pretty similar to Old Norse so it wouldn't be very difficult), especially if there is a course here on Duolingo. I like though the ideas of High Icelandic.
@Mundgeirr´s second comment
So, can you speak High Icelandic? Or are you still learning?
I think it looks cooler.
Mange takk! I do not know what motivated me to learn Norwegian, but it is a nice language.
I am a daughter of a Norwegian father who grew outside of Norway while my father visited and tryed to teach me some words, and now I am doing my father"s and Norwegian family's wish by learning Norwegian. It seems easy for me, I am at level 15 in 70 straight days . I loved to find a resource where I can practice Norwegian!
Thanks a lot for your comment. Are college students in Oslo compelled to use any standard for academic writing?
I promise you, it's worth it. Registering is free and only takes a few moments. It's really worth it, and although I haven't used it long enough to conclude of its effectiveness, I can definitely say that you will enjoy it at first glance.
It is good to a degree.. It isn't a teaching aid but rather a series of examination tests which rapidly get very much harder, and which left me feeling really inadequate very quickly. Altogether a depressing experience.... quite the opposite of Duolingo, which makes me feel energised and wanting more. It may be me but listening and understanding is really hard work . Yet, so often, teachers and examiners seem to place almost no importance to teaching this major part of learning a language.
I like how Norwegian has some organization in regards to the differing Norwegian dialects.
Don't use the Duolingo robot to learn pronunciation. This site is good for basic sentence building but definitely not for pronunciation. I'm Norwegian and I took the "placement test" for Norwegian just to get some free points and I found the voicing really bad.
Many thanks for the courage. Your words "most people will salute for making the effort to learn Norwegian" are a great contribution toward my learning.
I am considering forming a pressure group to save the Informal Form of address in English. A traditional usage in grave danger of being removed by selfishly- motivated, London-based politicians, trying to assert their own view of English over our many regions. It is an outrage and ( if I may so refer to thee) Thou should'st join if thy views are as to mine! New-English!
You posted this to end our debate in the on the other post! xD Bra at den er her da. Jeg har nå skjønt at jeg snakker standard østnorsk. Correction though. You don't say "East-Norwegian" you say "Eastern-Norwegian"
Ja, jeg var født i England, flyttet til Norge og så flyttet jeg tilbake til England litt over ett år siden. Da jeg bodde i Norge, var jeg i Oslo. Hvordan det?
I am not sure if Duolingo is as much a game as a teaching aid. It is fine for me, but misses out on teaching "listening skills" , which is a vital part of learning to speak a language. But I should say it is for me amazing really so it is a small complaint.
I found the Danish and Swedish courses easier, even if I'm a native Norwegian with top grades in the Norwegian subject from school
I'm finding I speak Norsk with a German accent... I'm Canadian, but I learned German before Norsk, so now that's affected my Norsk accent.
I'm also (anglophone) Canadian, and grew up learning french. I am told I have a french accent in any other language I try to learn!
I'm from UK. What on earth is RP please?.... It's OK I googled it, turns out it's what posh people speak :)
I'm having a lot of fun with this so far - but the hardest part I've found is that I already speak German.
Which helps in some ways - some of the words are close enough. But some of the grammar is contradictory.
The biggest example so far: Adding -en to a (masculine) noun in German makes it plural; in Norwegian, it's quite the opposite, making it definitive!
And of course, while Norwegian sounds "like you're drunk and have a potato in your mouth", German (at least the High German you learn in school and see on DW) is extremely precise. The opposite of Norwegian. It's been interesting trying to adapt.
But so far so good!
Standard Østnorsk is a way to speak Norwegian, whereas Bokmål and Nynorsk are ways to write it. So they're really different things. That being said, I would say that you can think of Standard Østnorsk as Bokmål spoken with an Eastern Norwegian accent.
So in terms of grammar (suffixes, syntax, wording...) Bokmål is basically written Standard Østnorsk? And how different is Nynorsk?
It's the closest thing. Standard Østnorsk still has its own specific methods of pronunciation - kind of like a dialect. It is seldom (I'd say never) the same as written Bokmål.
It's the same with Nynorsk, but in the Western parts of the country (and some more).
You can think of Nynorsk and Bokmål as written representations of the spoken language. They try to reflect how the language is spoken, in their own ways.
Nynorsk and Bokmål mostly have the same structure and many of the same words, only different spelling. Example:
NN: "Hei og velkomen til Noreg! Namnet mitt er Kjell, og eg er trettisju år gammal". NB: "Hei og velkommen til Norge! Navnet mitt er Kjell, og jeg er trettisyv år gammel".
To illustrate simple differences. Although, these sentences could also be written both less and more similar to each other.
I don't think people realise how many languages can exist in a quite small area. Kenya has some 50 different languages and Ethiopia at least 70. India has hundreds if not thousands, so it's not surprising that Norway has a scattering of dialects verging towards mutual unintelligibility. Quite why and how this happens is a fascinating subject. As too, is the speed of which an old language can be replaced, sometimes only by order of politicians. The relationship of our language to ourselves is yet deep and complex. People take it very personally. Evidenced by the warmth our poor attempts at conversing in Norwegian are greeted with, even knowing that English would have provided no mutual trouble at all.
Semonje. You are too pessimistic. Nynorsk will have existed even if politicians had not 'allowed' it to. The very many ways of using words in Norwegian is witness to the number of dialects which could not be done away with. I was especially thinking of Hebrew as an artificial language supported by politicians. French swept England very quickly too. But so did modern English afterwards. In Norwegian I have a lot of catching up to do... I might never make it. It needs almost a lifetime to appreciate the nuances and puns jokes and references that are batted aroud so fast you might miss them. But I enjoy the journey so far.
Language largely defines your identity - it's how you communicate with others, and therefore also how others define you.
I think this is why people take language very personally. And yeah, politicians (or well, anyone with power) can influence linguistic processes.
This is how I feel my own language, Norwegian Nynorsk, is treated in Norway. At first by politicians, but naturally, eventually also by the people. To the level of people speaking 90% like Nynorsk but still "hating" the languge. It's a sad progress. Hopefully it'll get better.
AndyLowings. I hope you're right! I know the language won't "die" anytime soon, but it's a scary progress.
A friend of mine (from the same place as me) heard a song today that was in our dialect, and she proceeded to ask me if it was a character from that local "sketch group". It shows that if it's in our own language we might think that it's a joke, or that it's "those other guys" who actually use our language in their work.
There are plenty of examples like this, but again: I do hope you're right! And I'll also do my best to help it :)
Can/do people ever write or type Standard Østnorsk or any other dialects then? For example in texting?
What makes me interested is that standard written Chinese is quite different from Cantonese, but almost, if not entirely, identical to Modern Standard Chinese/Mandarin / Putonghua, though can be pronounced in the Cantonese way (because we still share much of the same vocabulary). And written Cantonese is almost never seen as proper. Simply put, Putonghua and Cantonese speakers speak different languages but have more or less the same written language. So I wonder if Norwegian has a similar situation, which seems likely so far?
And in your example, do the different spellings carry different pronunciations and/or grammatical functions?
My experience is that most people write some sort of dialect when it's informal, like with Facebook and SMS. I usually never write anything else than dialect (which is like a textual representation of how it's pronounced).
And yes, the different spellings carry different pronunciations. Both written languages try to reflect the spoken language, so the different spellings come from different pronunciation - where Bokmål represents Oslo and Eastern dialects (mostly), and Nynorsk mostly represents Western Norway and its dialects.
Most people in Norway actually have a dialect that's more similar to Nynorsk than Bokmål, which makes the usage interesting (only 13-17% use Nynorsk).
Example, different words for "I" in different dialects:
jeg eg æ ej e i æg je
and probably some more
Nynorsk is pretty different from bokmål, but closer than it originally was.
The closest spoken language to bokmål are found in Finnmark in the north where Sami people were forced to learn Norwegian. But they have a special accent
I will be traveling up the west coast of Norway next summer, with the most time spent in Bergen. I am assuming that the BOKMÅL dialect I am learning on duolingo will allow me to communicate with everyone I meet. Is that correct, or should I be trying to learn another dialect?
You'll be perfectly fine and able to communicate with everyone you meet with what Duolingo teaches you!
Just to clarify though: Bokmål is the written language and Standard Østnorsk is the common dialect Duolingo teaches (the way it pronounces things). People on the west coast of Norway generally speak a dialect that's closer to the written language Nynorsk.
"...and you will probably bring with you a charming hint of your own native accent." That's the loveliest thing I've ever heard (read) somebody said (wrote) about foreign accents. Thank you for the article!
They say that Danes talk with a potato in their mouth, Swedes talk like they're drunk, and Norwegians talk like they're drunk with a potato in their mouth. Icelandic....just sounds like a cat throwing up tbh.
And Faroese is the most beautiful language in Europe!
In my experience the importance of the subjective sound of a language decreases the more you understand. So keep learning I'd say ;)
Faroese IS awesome though.
would you expand on that please. It seems interesting but it's not clear what you mean to me.
Okay, this is just my personal opinion of course: If you don't understand a language at all, the only thing for you to go by is the sound, the intonation, the phonology, and (sometimes unfortunately) this determines if you "like" a language or if you get interested in learning it. Let's take French as the obvious example, because people tend to have a rather strong opinion about French. Some say it sounds "unmanly", whatever that means, while others find it charming and beautiful. Sadly that's just something that happens automatically... but we should all remember that noone chooses his native language, dialect or sociolect, and we shouldn't make fun of people because of their native languages. But this is just a side note that's somehow important to me. Even saying things like "Danes have a potato in their mouth" is in my opinion unnecessary. They didn't choose to be Danes, I didn't choose to be German. It's just their language, not more, not less.
But when you learn a language and start understanding more and more, you slowly have more to go by than the sound. That becomes less important, because for good communication you need to listen for other clues like meaning, choice of words to determine how your counterpart feels and what he actually wants to say aaand so on. For example, in Finnish there's the word "pussi", which means "bag". If you go to the Grocery Store, you'll find that crisps are quite often sold in a "Megapussi". When I went to Finland for the first time as an exchange student it was the funniest thing ever. Ha ha, megapussi! Let's take 20 pictures of us with various megapussis at the store! But then after a while it started being a normal word and I said and heard it without the association. So I think that happens with languages in general.
I hope the explanation was good enough.
I feel that your dislike of saying 'Danish sounds like speaking with a potato in your mouth', or French sounds 'manly' (or not) is only virtue-signalling. Such things have truth in them if only superficially. Its not racist.... How we change from hearing a strange sound to it becoming what we know it conveys as a meaning, is however an interesting topic. It has to happen or we don't learn the language in the end. I feel that Duolingo doesnt really do it enough ...perhaps I am especially bad at this transformation but it's a real issue of understanding spoken words for me. Thank you for your nice long reply Asjaajaja
I completely agree with you I speak one language, English and am having an extremely hard time getting used to the way Norwegian is spoken in dou. To me it sounds like some one slurring words together and dropping letters. Basicly a rough Boston accent mixed with a northern Maine accent for those of you who know what those sound like.
I am noticing I don't need to click mr turtle as much any more but certain words are still nearly impossible for me to understand at speed.
Yes, that's my concern, as well, I am pretty good at the written language, but the sound is off.