7 Feb 2010

Snakker du norsk?

As I mentioned before, you can hear three official languages in Norway at once. The Norwegian Language Council approved two languages - Norwegian Bokmål and Norwegian Nynorsk. Sámi is a language of indigenous Sámi people, which are protected by law. While Bokmål and Nynorsk are regarded as Scandinavian Languages, Sámi is a group of Uralic languages. To make the life for foreigners more difficult, the most Norwegians speak their own dialect in all circumstances. But if you have a good command of Norwegian, you will be able to understand Danish, Swedish or even Icelandic. Great! I wish I could understand my Czech, Slovakian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian or even one of these: Bulgarian, Macedonian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian and Serbian fellows. The life in Slavic world not suppose to be as easy.
Move on, back to Norwegian, for Norwegians the dialect makes up an important part of their identity, and by listening to a person's dialect they can in most cases determine with good accuracy from which part of the country he or she is from. Scandinavian Languages developed from Old Norse language. Vikings were the ones who spread this language across the Europe and even into far Iceland and farer Greenland as well as deep Russia, making Old Norse one of the most widespread languages for that time. Christianity’s contribution into Old Norse around 1030 was Latin alphabet. Almost 150 years Norway was unified with Denmark and Sweden under Kalmar Union established in 1397, which means that the language in this union didn’t varied very much. Furthermore, between 1536 and 1814 Norway was subordinated under the Kingdom of Denmark – Norway, so Danish was commonly used by Norway’s literate class. After the end of this Kingdom the Dano-Norwegian koiné (About koiné language) had became the mother tongue of Norwegian elites. In short time Norway was forced to enter a personal union with Sweden. This time Norwegians wanted to declare their independence, they even proclaimed a constitution in Syttende Mai (17 May 1814), which day is now called Norwegian Constitution Day and is celebrated every year.
In order to show Norwegian sovereign the nationalist movement started to exist and its action was directed, among others, towards the development of independent Norwegian language. The movers had to choose one of three paths due to develop independent language:
(1) Do nothing (remained with Danish, which was already different from Swedish)
(2) Norwegianise Danish language
(3) Build a new national language based on local dialects.
They went through all three paths. Some movers did nothing, Knud Knudsen (About Knud Knudsen) tried to Norwegianise Danish using Dano-Norwegian koiné and Ivar Aasen began to create a new Norwegian language. Ivar was the most stout-harted, he traveled around the country and spoke with locals, examined Icelandic as well and the fruit of his labor was Landsmål (About Landsmål), meaning national language. Nowadays, Landsmål is interpreted as farmers language, which wasn’t Ivar’s previous intention. As an effect of Knud Knudsen work Riksmål (About Riksmål) did borned, which means state language. In 1929 Riksmål was officially renamed to Bokmål (Book Language) and Landsmål to Nynorsk (New Norwegian).

Today, the majority of the people in Norway are using Bokmål (85-90% of the population in Norway). But in areas in the Northwestern part of Norway and in the very south, Nynorsk is used (above 10% Norwegians use it as their primary written language). However, it should be noted that Bokmål and Nynorsk are not classified as two different languages where you have to learn the other as a foreign language. In short one could say that they are more two different written norms. Thus, text written in Bokmål is perfectly understandable for a person using Nynorsk, and vice versa. What is more, it exists also a conservative version of Nynorsk called Høgnorsk (High Norwegian) and in Norwegian language courses they taught foreign students Standard Østnorsk (Standard East Norwegian). Great! If you really want to develop on the languages field, come to Norway!

Let’s have a good start, here you can find survival phrases with pronunciation (just click on the word, it's working in IE):

(1) Total basic for dummers:
Ja. Yes.
Nei. No.
Vær så snill. Please.
Takk. Thank you.
Vær så god. You're welcome.
Unnskyld. Excuse me.
Beklager. I am sorry.
God morgen. Good morning.
God kveld. Good evening.
God natt. Good night.
For greetings they usually say: Hei or Hei hei.

(2) A bit more for advanced students:
Snakker du engelsk? Do you speak English?
Finnes det noen her som snakker engelsk? Does anyone here speak English?
Jeg snakker bare litt norsk. I only speak a little Norwegian.
Hva heter du? What is your name?
Jeg heter Kari. My name is Kari.
Hvordan har du det? How are you?
Takk, jeg har det bra. I'm fine, thank you.
Det er så hyggelig å treffe deg. I am very glad to meet you.
Jeg forstår ikke. I don't understand.

For Norwegian courses visit e.g. NorskCarolina.

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