7 Reasons Why Learning Norwegian is Kjempefint!

Each year, the 17th May marks a very important date in the Norwegian calendar. With marvellous parades and celebrations, Norwegian Constitution Day, known as Nasjonaldagen (National Day), Grunnlovsdagen (Constitution Day) or simply Syttende Mai (17th May), is celebrated in good spirit, and in style.  So, here at Coffee Break Languages we thought that there was no better time than today to talk about the interesting aspects of the Norwegian language, and why learning it is kjempefint – “really great”!

1. Ja, vi elsker dette landet!

The Norwegian National Anthem begins with the line “yes, we love this land”, and really, how could you not? With some of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see, Norway must be in the top 5 most Instagrammable countries you’ll ever visit! Of course, if you can speak litt norsk (a little Norwegian), then your experience there will be all the more fulfilling. There’s a whole year until next Syttende Mai, so if you start learning some key phrases perhaps you can take a trip to Norway next year and join in the celebrations.

2. Two for the price of one

Believe it or not, there are actually two official, recognised versions of written Norwegian. They’re called Bokmål (literally “book tongue”) and Nynorsk (new Norwegian). Children in Norwegian schools have to learn both forms, but no-one really speaks either form: everyone speaks their own dialect! Don’t worry though – it is likely that most dialects will be understood by most Norwegian speakers, as Norwegians are used to hearing different dialects all the time.

3. One word + one word = much more than two words

There are a huge number of compound words in the Norwegian language, and very often the word takes on a whole new meaning. Take, for example soloppgang which literally means “sun up going”. This is the word used for “sunrise”. Or, if you have fire (ild) in your soul (sjel) about a particular cause then you’re an “enthusiast”: ildsjel. Our favourite compound word in Norwegian, however, has to be the word for “outer space”. Going back to Norse mythology, Odin established the different realms (or “rooms”) of the universe, making “outer space” verdensrommet, or “the room of the world”.

4. Sitt under the tre with your søster and read your bok

Guess what? There are already many words in the Norwegian language that you already know! There are a huge number of cognates – words with similar roots – between English and Norwegian and you’ll be able to work out the meaning of many Norwegian words simply by listening to them or reading them. Some examples are bok (“book”), tre (“tree”), over (“over”), familie (“family”), søster (“sister”), telefon (“telephone”), but there are lots more! English and Norwegian are both Germanic languages and therefore they’re related.

5. Jeg er, du er, han er, hun er…

Perhaps the best news of all when it comes to learning Norwegian is the fact that grammatically it’s really quite easy! If you’re used to six forms of conjugated verbs in other languages such as Spanish or French, worry no more. In Norwegian there’s just one form for each tense! So “I am” is jeg er; “you are” is du er; “he is” is han er; and “she is” translates as hun er. That means that “am”, “are” and “is” in English are all simply translated by one word in Norwegian: er. Så lett – so easy!

6. Three for the price of one

There’s another bargain to consider! If you understand Norwegian then you’ll be able to understand a fair bit of Swedish as many words are similar: to say “I understand a little English” a Norwegian would say jeg forstår litt engelsk and a Swede would say jag förstår lite engelska. And that’s not all: since written Norwegian (Bokmål) was based on written Danish, Norwegians can understand written Danish very easily. You’ll even be able to recognise words in Icelandic and Faroese, two other languages which derived from Old Norse.

7. You can learn in minutes – for free!

To celebrate Syttende Mai, we’re making our One Minute Norwegian course available on YouTube from today. With these ten short lessons presented by native speaker Dag, you’ll quickly pick up the basics of this beautiful language. The lessons cover greetings, introductions, counting and you’ll learn to say that you speak a little Norwegian. Although Norwegians generally speak amazing English, you can guarantee that when you say jeg snakker litt norsk to a native speaker they’ll smil from øre to øre!

So, whether you’re interested in travelling to this fantastic country, have a go at learning a different language, or want to get your foot in the door of understanding Scandinavia and all it has to offer, Norwegian could be the key to a treasure chest of Nordic delights!
Have you visited Norway? Have you tried learning any Norwegian? Let us know in the comments below.

Get your Ducks in a Row with these 10 Interesting International Idioms

If you’ve done as the title says and got your ducks in a row, then you will be more than prepared for the rest of this article! The English language is filled with innumerable intriguing idioms. Sometimes the only way to properly describe the weather is to say that it’s raining cats and dogs, and sometimes the only way to punish someone for letting the cat out of the bag is by giving them a taste of their own medicine. They may seem ridiculous to some, but don’t judge a book by its cover. There is a method to the madness that is idiomatic expression and, often, it might be the only thing that truly hits the nail on the head. Luckily for us, other languages are no different! Languages around the world are filled to the brim with these engaging expressions and so, we’ve gathered together some of our favourites. Let’s stop beating around the bush and get these out of our system! 

1. Haut comme trois pommes

To start off our list of expressions, we present to you this amusing French idiom. If you ever visit France or find yourself in the presence of French speakers, you may hear a person described as being “haut comme trois pommes”. This short phrase literally translates back to English as “three apples tall” and is used to describe someone’s (lack of) height. Perhaps three apples small would be more fitting.

2. Tomber dans les pommes

We’re keeping to French, and apples, with this next idiomatic expression. Now, if for some reason you were to faint, we’re going to assume that you’d prefer to land on, say, a collection of cushions, or even a comfy seat. What we’d guess you probably wouldn’t like to land on is a pile of apples. Would we be right? This French phrase literally means “to fall in the apples” and is used if someone faints. Ouch.


3. Encontrar tu media naranja

The next stop on our idiomatic journey is Spain, and you guessed it: we’re still talking about fruit. Telling someone that they are your “half orange” probably won’t mean much and might actually sound quite strange if they are not familiar with Spanish. However, to a Spanish speaker “encontrar tu media naranja” means to ‘find your soulmate’ and so “media naranja” can be used to mean your ‘other/better half’. How sweet!


4. Echar agua al mar

We will remain with Spanish for the next expression on our list! If you’re ever in need of the perfect expression to use when someone’s actions are unbelievably pointless, then you need look no further; Spanish speakers have got you covered! “Echar agua al mar” means to throw water into the sea. It doesn’t get much more pointless than that.

5. Da steppt der Bär

Continuing with animal-related expressions, we make our way over to Germany. Literally, “da steppt der Bär” means “the bear dances there”. So, if you’re confused by a German party invitation and are perhaps worried you may be sharing your company with some giant grizzly bears, don’t fret, as this just means “it will be a good party”. We can’t make any promises about no bears though.


6. Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Here we have yet another fantastic fruit-related idiom for you to add to your language repertoire! We all have that one friend who is a bit oblivious and unaware of what’s happening in the world around them (if you can’t think of who that friend is, then it might just be you). Well, in Germany, it’s said that these people are so blind to situations and their surroundings because they have “tomatoes on [their] eyes”. We suppose that would make it quite difficult to see, so we’ll let them off the hook!


7. Avoir un chat dans la gorge

Next up, we have another French idiom to add to your fast-growing list! You may be familiar with the saying used commonly by English speakers, to have “a frog in your throat”. This odd expression means to have a croaky throat and struggle to speak as a result of it. However, take a trip to France and you will find that this phrase slightly changes. Apparently, instead of having frogs in their throats (like English speakers), French speakers actually have cats in their throats! “Avoir un chat dans la gorge”; to have a cat in your throat. In all honesty, we can’t decide which scenario is worse.


8. Correre dietro alle farfalle

For our next idiomatic expression, we ask you to imagine yourself running through grass, chasing after beautiful butterflies on a shining Summer’s day. Seems like a picturesque scene taken straight out of a movie, right? Well, not to Italians. In Italy, what “[running] behind the butterflies” actually means is to pointlessly chase after something. Not quite the blissful scene that you may have initially imagined, but is it as pointless as throwing water into the sea? We’ll leave that up to you to decide.


9. Reggere la candela

We’ll continue with Italian for our next idiom, which is rather funny if imagined literally. “Reggere la candela” is a fantastic expression and it literally means “to hold the candle”. To put this into context: picture a couple out for a lovely, romantic meal. Now picture a friend holding a candle over the middle of the table for them as they dine. This is similar to – and just as awkward as – the English expression, where that friend is the “third wheel”.


10. Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco

Last, but certainly not least, we have our final idiom. At some point in life, something won’t turn out as you had hoped, and at that point, your only option will be to simply shrug it off. Luckily for you, Italian speakers created the perfect expression for when that time comes. Not everything goes as you plan, just as not all doughnuts come out with a hole.


And with that, we will call it a day on our list of international idioms. We hope that these have been interesting and that you’ve learned something new. You never know, you might end up using these one day – but we’ll leave you to cross that bridge when you come to it! 

Comment down below if you know of any international idioms that we haven’t mentioned; they’re the best thing since sliced bread and we’d love to read them!