How Can I Learn Norwegian in One to Two Months?
December 30, 2003 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I want to learn a language FAST. Say in one to two months... I have a teach-yourself book and tape (Norwegian), and a few friends who speak the language. Any tips or suggestions?
posted by degnarra to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Here's my opinon as a native Norwegian speaker who majored in communication studies and has studied a bunch of languages: Norwegian is a medium difficulty language. It's not as easy as Spanish or Swedish, but not as difficult as Japanese or Latin. The grammar is fairly easy (though memorizing the gender of the nouns is a pain because we use masculine, feminine and neuter), but the main difficulty is in the pronounciation and vocabulary. A lot of Norwegian words mean different things when pronounced with slightly different accents, even though the spelling is identical or only slightly different.

I've listened to a few of the Norwegian tapes, and they were atrocious. There are two official languages of Norway, norsk and nynorsk, and many variations that fall in between. What they speak on the tapes is the equivalent of Hoch-Deutsch or (extreme) Oxford English - except that nobody outside of the royal family speaks like that. The word choices are archaic and the pronounciation can be downright offensive in its snootyness.

So my advice to you would be to use the book and rely on your Norwegian-speaking friends for pronounciation. The good thing is that virtually all Norwegians speak pretty good English, so you'll get around with no problem, and they are thrilled when foreigners try to learn their language - which is only spoken by about 5 million people, after all (though understood by Swedes and Danes and a few others).

For more nitty-gritty suggestions:
- Try putting flashcards directly on objects w/the Norwegian translation w/gender and phonetic pronounciation.
- Ask your friends to speak it with you.
- Memorize a few key phrases first, then learn vocabulary to substitute other nouns and verbs. This way you'll get used to the sentence structure.
- When you listen to the tapes, listen more for inflection than the actual words - Norwegian inflection is very important and a little difficult to get.
- Memorize the pronouns and numbers right away, but don't waste time w/vocabulary you're not likely to use in the beginning (like months, or occupations).
- Memorize vocabulary that is related to you - in other words, how to say your name, your occupation, your family background, whatever you're likely to be asked.
- Check out some of the Norwegian websites to get a flavor for how the language is used. Aftenposten is a very good online paper and it has an English section, so you can learn a lot by comparing the two. VG is a trashier paper and the language used is simpler.

Good luck!
posted by widdershins at 9:17 AM on December 30, 2003 [2 favorites]

Just eat a lot of lutefisk. I might have some left over from the holidays!
posted by emoeby at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2003

I don't know Norweigan, but in my experience w/ other foreign languages, it really seems to pay off if you take the time to learn the alphabet really well. As tedious as it seems (after all, you can't speak to people in letter-form), you really get a chance to sound things out closely; it sort of primes the ear.
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2003

Ask your friends to speak it with you

This is the most important recommendation. All the other stuff is useful to varying degrees (partly depending on you: I happen to love tables of conjugations and that sort of thing, but a lot of people can't stand them), but the only way to get a good command of a language is to speak it as often and continuously as possible. Ask your friends to correct your mistakes and not to lapse into English, and you should be good to go quicker than you might think. Oh, and widdershins' suggestion about websites is also excellent; my Russian has gotten much more au courant since I started frequenting Russian blogs.
posted by languagehat at 12:06 PM on December 30, 2003

norwegian dude here. i agree w/everything above. i'm trying to teach my american girfriend norwegian and it's pretty tough, mostly because she doesn't have anyone to talk to and practise with other than me, and she gets tired of talking to me using her limited vocabulary (can't really have an intelligent conversation).

i have one more idea for you: start listening to NRK radio streams online. NRK is the norwegian state broadcaster. have your norwegian-speaking friends navigate the site for you once, to show you where to find the streams. you can also watch NRK television online, but you'll need to register. i don't remember if the radio stuff requires registration.

also, for fun, check out "Elling" on DVD. it's a good norwegian film with english subtitles. the dialects of norwegian in it are varied, but nothing outlandish.
posted by edlundart at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2003

A similar question was asked here ten days ago. There may be other useful advice there.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:44 PM on December 30, 2003

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