Learning a new language can be frustrating, but it can also be your biggest flex.

Confessions of a European Polyglot

Who is trying to snakker litt norsk, and hopefully, not failing at it


If you already have like four other languages in your mind, it is for sure going to be interesting to add Norwegian to the mix. You see, Norwegian, to a polyglot’s brain, feels like the extra Parmesan cheese you add to your pasta. Do you enjoy it? Yes. Was it necessary? Don’t ask a lactose intolerant. 

The thing about already speaking more than two languages, that not many people know, is that whichever languages are the third and fourth, they are going to be competing for attention inside your brain in an epic battle comparable to Ken’s beach war. You’re never entirely sure if you can actually speak any of them. “If you already speak German, this is going to be a piece of cake for you,” they said. However, they didn’t mention the fact that whenever I would try to speak Norwegian words, German would come out, and whenever I’d try to remember German, Norwegian words would come out. So you give up and end up saying something along the lines of “Kan wir snakker in englisch bitte, takk.” Meanwhile, English, French, and Spanish are standing in a corner like they are just Allan. “Je suis confused, qué está pasando?” you hear the confusion inside your brain, while you can only feel the heaviness of exercising your mind more than necessary. Might as well sigh “porca la miseria” and get on with your life.

It’s fun to learn a new language, isn’t it? Before you knew it, you were walking on unknown streets, exploring the new city you have just moved into, while listening to a silly little podcast in Norwegian (special mention to Duolingo’s playlist to learn Norwegian through songs). It seems plausible. “I’ll be speaking this in no time,” you think to yourself. You stop by a cute coffee shop at Grünerløkka, you order your silly little coffee: “Kan jeg få en kaffee stor? Takk!” you say in your silly litt norsk, the barista smiles and says “Værsågød,” coffee in hand. Life seems great, right?


What if I tell you people order beer in three different ways? Or that there are four main dialects in Norway depending on the area of the country (vestlandsk, østnorsk, trøndersk, and nordnorsk), yet still there are places like Bergen who seem to speak a completely different language? Moreover, there are clear differences between bokmål and nynorsk. One second you’re trying to have a conversation, a second later you realize some Norwegians talk faster than Eminem on Rap God. You’re lucky if you get a hyggelig and other familiar words now and then. Not only that, but the second a Norwegian notices your foreign accent, they automatically switch to English to make it easier for you, which is nice, but hinders your learning process even more. 

All jokes aside, the learning process, however frustrating, can end up being one of the most satisfying experiences you will ever get. That is, the moment when you can actually carry out conversations with people without making a fool of yourself. So hold on, and try hard, and if you have zero discipline, I would recommend signing up to a course, whether it be the UiO’s free ones or private. I’m sure it would be worth having your Norwegian friends smile proudly at you when you say your first words, as if you were their toddler sibling learning how to speak.

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