Learning Norwegian For Members

The most common mistakes you are likely to make when learning Norwegian

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
The most common mistakes you are likely to make when learning Norwegian
In this article, we explore some of the more frequent mistakes made by language learners striving to enhance their Norwegian language skills. Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

Mastering the Norwegian language involves overcoming numerous hurdles, big and small. Being aware of these pitfalls can help you on your road to fluency.


Learning a new language is rarely challenge-free. While the process might seem demanding initially, it can also be very rewarding.

Regardless of the language you decide to master, you can expect to make some common mistakes along the way – and Norwegian is no exception.

READ MORE: A language expert’s three top tips for learning Norwegian

From pronunciation to the gender of nouns and verb tenses and prepositions, we take a look at some of the most common pitfalls that language students are likely to face as they work on improving their proficiency in the Norwegian language.

Common mistakes at the beginner level

Yvonne Møtteberg Karlsen, a Norwegian teacher at the language school Speak Norsk, told The Local that beginners often struggle with three things.

"A lot of people are struggling with pronunciation, especially the pronunciation of the vowels u, o, æ, ø and å.

"Additionally, we use inversion in Norwegian, which means that the verbal always comes in the second position. For example: I dag jobbet jeg. (Today I worked.) If you want to start with a time adverbial in Norwegian, you need to put the verbal (jobbet) right after the time adverbial (i dag). In English, however, we put the subject (I) after the time adverbial (today).

"It's also difficult for beginners to learn the genders of the nouns. Some nouns are masculine (en dag / a day), some are feminine (ei dør / a door), and some are neuter (et tre / a tree), but there are no rules", Møtteberg Karlsen said.

The pedagogical team at the language school Lingu agrees.

"Some common mistakes that beginners often make in learning Norwegian include pronunciation, as many learners struggle with pronouncing certain Norwegian sounds, particularly the distinct vowel sounds, and V2 – when the verb comes in second place in the sentence.

"Learners of all levels may find it challenging to master the V2 word order and consistently place the verb correctly in their sentences," the Lingu team told The Local.


Common mistakes at the intermediate and advanced level

And what about students at the intermediate and advanced stages of learning Norwegian?

"Verb tenses, especially the past tense and the present perfect, are usually tricky at all levels because of all the rules and exceptions.

"Additionally, people often struggle with prepositions and prepositional phrases. Sometimes they are similar to the English rules, but other times they differ. For example, people often say, Jeg har bodd i Norge for to år. (I've lived in Norway for two years.), but we actually say, Jeg har bodd i Norge i to år. We use "in" instead of "for" when we talk about time periods.


"People also struggle with the distinction between skal and vil, which both mean "will" in English. The difference in Norwegian is that we use skal when we talk about a plan, something we can control (Jeg skal spise pizza i kveld. / I will eat pizza tonight.) We use vil when we talk about future we cannot control (Det vil regne. / It will rain.)," Møtteberg Karlsen said.

Lingu teachers pointed out that, at the intermediate or advanced level in learning Norwegian, students still often mix up similar words.

"As learners progress, they are exposed to a wider vocabulary and may mistakenly interchange similar words. Therefore, it's important to pay attention to the subtle differences in meaning and usage."

They also pointed to the inconsistent use of prepositions as a recurring mistake.

"Prepositions can be tricky in any language due to their flexibility and multiple meanings. Understanding their proper usage can be challenging."


How to avoid frequent mistakes

The fact that most language students make some of the above mentioned mistakes does not mean that there is no way to avoid them – especially if you're a diligent learner.

Language teacher Møtteberg Karlsen has several tips for students.

"Repetition and language exposure is the best thing you can do. Whenever you learn new vocabulary or grammar, you should always try to use it. Write sentences focusing on the new grammar or vocabulary.

"It's also a good idea to read books, watch TV and listen to podcasts in Norwegian to practice pronunciation and learn how to use grammar."

The team at Lingu also shared their advice for Norwegian language students and enthusiasts.

"While making mistakes and learning from them is part of the language-learning journey, there are ways to enhance your understanding of Norwegian. Immersing yourself in the language, engaging in reading, listening, and speaking activities, and seeking feedback will all contribute to your progress. As with everything, practice makes perfect." 


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