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Top Dialects of the Norwegian Language

Norway is famous for its rich history and natural beauty. Indeed, from the legacy of the Vikings to the tranquility of its numerous fjords, Norway is a small country that has a lot to be proud of. The Norwegian language, too, is as beautiful as the country’s mountainous landscape. But like the Norway’s varied geography, the Norwegian language differs from region to region. Here are some of the most common dialects you’ll hear from Norwegian speakers.

Image via Aconcagua / Wikipedia

Image via Aconcagua / Wikipedia

1. Standard/Nynorsk

Regulated by the Norwegian Academy, the Norwegian language has rules and guidelines for proper written Norwegian. However, unlike many other languages, there is no standard for spoken Norwegian. Therefore, while two standard and regulated forms of written Norwegian exist, several different dialects are accepted as correct spoken Norwegian.

2. Eastern/Østlandet

The Eastern portion of Norway, which contains Oslo, is home to the majority of the country’s population. For this reason, Eastern Norwegian may be considered to be the unofficial “standard” of the language, simply because it’s spoken by the greatest number of people.

As is common in language spoken in urban areas, speakers of Eastern Norwegian -- and especially those residing in Oslo -- are rumored to speak quite quickly. As Eastern Norwegian stays fairly true to the rules of Standard Norwegian, it’s the dialect most likely to be picked up by beginners.

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3. Western/Vestlandet

The Western portion of Norway is marked geographically by several islands. As a result, there are several different populations that have each developed their own form of the language. For this reason, Western Norwegian is more accurately classified as group of several different dialects rather than a dialect in and of itself.

For example, in Bergen -- a city on the western coast of Norway -- the letter R is pronounced like a French “r”, rather than rolling it as is typical in most other Norwegian dialects. However, this feature is particular to Bergen; even other regions in Western Norway roll their Rs.

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

4. Northern

Northern Norway consists of about 35% of the country’s mainland, but is sparsely populated: less than 500,000 people live there. Still, it has a distinct dialect that’s different from the Eastern and Western regions.

Norwegian speakers often say that people from Northern Norway speak in a more melodious or singsong-y manner. The sound “hv”is often replaced by “k”, so words like hvorfor (which means “why”)becomes kofor.

5. Trøndelag

Trøndelagis a region in central Norway with a population of just over 400,000. It’s home to some of the dialects that are furthest from Standard Norwegian, so learners should proceed with caution. Even very basic words can be quite distinct in the Trøndelag dialect: the word dere (“you”), for instance, is dokk in the Trøndelag dialect.

Though there are only 5 million people in Norway, the Norwegian dialect is rich, vibrant, and full of variations. Especially because there’s no spoken standard, it’s important to be at least basically familiar with any dialect of Norwegian. Of course, the best way to learn about Norwegian -- of any dialect -- is to take tailor-made classes from a native Norwegian speaker. Send us a quick inquiry to find out how we can help you master the complexities of Norwegian.