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Norwegian: hard time understanding when they talk


I live in Norway, been here for some time, I did courses up to level A2, now here. Planning to get in B1 course after summer.

I don't know if normal but I , having a hard time to understand, I can't follow any conversation.

I could understand quite well to my teached, out of there I am lost. Is that normal? Any tips on how to improve on this?


July 16, 2015



If you haven't already, you should watch Norwegian TV, movies, etc with English subs. You might even be able to get English subtitles on your TV by playing around with some settings. It probably won't work for all shows, and that feature might not even be available in Norway, but if it works you should be able to get subs for many popular shows (I do this in the US, but with Spanish audio subs for practice).

Also, you could try NTNU's "Computer-Assisted Listening and Speaking Tutor" (CALST) program, which is free and has a lot of listening and writing exercises. The vocabulary is fairly basic, but it could help you "get an ear for the language," as they say.

I'm interested to know if the subs will work on your TV, so please share your findings once you try it. :-)

Link to CALST: http://www.ntnu.edu/isl/calst-for-learners


Also I just looked at your profile and saw that you're Spanish, so here is a link to another one of NTNU's free online Norwegian programs, en Español: http://www.ntnu.edu/learnnow-es

That way you won't have to translate Norwegian - English - Spanish.

Hope I helped! :-)


It's very normal to have a hard time following conversations between native speakers, especially when people speak quickly, use slang terms or cultural references, and have differing dialects. It gets much easier over time with lots of exposure to the spoken language. I also live abroad and I watch more television than I did in my home country, just to hear different variations of the language everyday.

This website has many listening exercises with transcripts. I'm using it to help me get a better feeling for spoken Norwegian. It might be of use to you as well. http://www.learnnorwegiannaturally.com


Thanks for the link!! I will try it!


I would think that is normal.

Sadly there's not really any language courses that prepare foreigners for the many different dialects you will encounter in Norway. There's not really a good way of teaching people these dialects, even if you reduced it down to the 4 main groups.

Can you at least make yourself understood when you speak Norwegian? that alone should be a way to get into conversations with people. And once you manage that, and show interest in learning. Then I am sure people would love to help you understand dialects.


Well I dont use to speak must norwegian yet, at shops only, and if things get complicated I change to english, everybody speaks english here......which make easier to live but not good for being force to speak the langues.


Thanks you the advice! :)


The only thing I can think of is to ask people to speak slower to you. Your brain will begin to work with the language quicker. Just be aware that people generally do not speak in the same way as the language is written, so sentence structure and pronunciation may be different than anticipated.


I live in Norway and have the same problem. My partner speaks very slowly and clearly when talking directly to me but when there is a group conversation and the speed picks up I'm lost. On top of that, I live up North so the dialect is different from the Norwegian I learn here. Anyone from Finnmark I can't understand at all! The only thing I found that helps is when I'm learning a phrase to force myself to say it as quickly as I can. It's natural to want to be careful and slow down every syllable when I repeat it but if I get used to hearing myself saying it at a faster pace I can recognise it more readily when it crops up in conversation. Hope that helps a bit.

Good luck.

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