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Should Norway’s cafe and restaurant staff speak more Norwegian?

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Should Norway’s cafe and restaurant staff speak more Norwegian?
Cafes in Stavanger. Photo: Kisa_Markiza/Depositphotos
16:31 CET+01:00
The Language Council of Norway (Språkrådet) has expressed concern about the number of cafes at which the working language is English.

According to a recent study, one in two people in Norway has experienced being served in English by a non-Norwegian speaker during the last year, NRK reports.

The language council says it is concerned by the apparent trend of increased use of English as a primary workplace language by café and restaurant staff.

The analysis, carried out by Opinion on behalf of the Language Council of Norway, also found that 80 percent of guests prefer their server to speak Norwegian.

“These figures are very clear and striking and send a clear signal to the sales and service sectors that most people want to speak and be spoken to in Norwegian at restaurants, stores and in taxis,” the council’s director Åse Wetås told NRK.

Companies should offer all staff language courses, Wetås suggested.

“This is a cause for concern. Not just for the Norwegian language as a common tongue and cultural entity, but for the lack of good language training at Norwegian businesses,” she said.

A clearly-defined strategy for learning Norwegian for staff who have customer contact would be a positive step towards improvement, the language council director said.

“I think most of us have a high tolerance for Norwegian that isn't perfect, but the workplace is an excellent arena for learning good Norwegian, and language courses would make that learning process much easier,” she said.

But the council should take a broader view of the use of other languages in the hospitality industry, the head of a major Norwegian trade federation said to NRK.

“This is about getting as many people as possible into jobs in Norway. This is a sector that takes a lot of responsibility for recruiting people whose Norwegian is not so good,” Helga Bull Rostrup, director of Virke, told the broadcaster.

“It’s also more than just language that counts when ensuring a good experience for the customer,” Rostrup continued.

“I think that there could be more [people working in the café and restaurant sector] who speak Norwegian. And those who are working could maybe be better at challenging themselves, practising Norwegian and improving, she added.

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