eulingual norwegian owl

Norwegian alphabet

After Norway separated from Denmark in 1814, Danish continued to be used in schools until the 1830s, when a movement to create a new national language emerged. The reasoning behind the movement was that written Danish differed to such an extent from spoken Norwegian that it was difficult to learn, and because they believed that every country should have its own language.

There was considerable debate about how to go about creating a national language and two languages emerged – Landsmål (national language), based on colloquial Norwegian and regional dialects, particularly the dialects of western Norway, and Riksmål (national language), which was primarily a written language and very similar to Danish.

Landsmål was renamed Nynorsk (New Norwegian) in 1929 and Riksmål is now officially known as Bokmål (book language). A few people over 60 still use Riksmål, which is considered a conservative form of Bokmål and differs only slightly from it.

Today schools can choose to teach either Nynorsk or Bokmål and civil servants are expected to be able to use both forms. For a while there was a movement to create a single standard language to be called Samnorsk (Union Norwegian). Politicians liked the idea of unifying the Norwegian language, while everybody else thought it a bad idea and a bit of a waste of time. The Samnorsk project was officially abandoned on 1st January 2002.

Norwegian alphabet (norsk alfabet)

A a B b C c D d E e F f G g H h I i J j
a be se de e eff ge hå i je/jådd
K k L l M m N n O o P p Q q R r S s T t
kå ell em enn o pe ku ærr ess te
U u V v W w X x Y y Z z Æ æ Ø ø Å å
u ve dåbbelt
-ve eks y sett æ ø å

Norwegian’s alphabet is the same as English’s, except with three extra letters: æ, ø and å. All examples below use English words.

A – a as in father
B – b as in boy
C – functions as English C (generally “hard” c, as in cat)
D – d as in dog
E – e as in egg
F – f as in fire
G – g as in go; becomes soft (sounds like English Y) before i, j
H – h as in horse
I – ee as in bee
J – y as in yes
K – K as in kite
L – l as in love
M – m as in mop
N – n as in new
O – o as in you
P – p as in pop
Q – functions as English Q
R – r as in ring; also slightly rolled in some dialects
S – s as in say
T – t as in toy
U – u as in rude
V – v as in vase, except weaker
W – pronounced like v
X – functions as English X
Y – This is a hard one — try pronouncing ee as in bee, but round the lips
Z – functions as English s
Æ – a as in ash
Ø – e with rounded lips; roughly an “uh” sound
Å – aw as in paw

There are also other sounds to watch out for:

au – sounds like æ-oo (see æ above)
Kj – Hard to explain. It sounds like the “ch” in the German ich and the Scottish loch. Can also be pronounced as ch.
rs – this always turns into a “shh” sound, such as rsh in harsh
sk – always an “sh” sound, like the sh in shield before i, j, y and ø
s – pronounced like sh before l in Oslo dialect

The g is never pronounced at the end of the word (deilig, which means delicious, sounds like “die-LI”).

Watch out for double consonants; they appear together, but are pronounced in each syllable (for example, ikke sounds like “IK-k(j)e”).

The r before d, l, n, s and t is slightly rolled in some cases; the tongue should be curled back when pronouncing the r and the following letter.