Want to enrich your stay in Oslo? Learn Norwegian!

Three students walking along a quiet street with small wooden houses. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward.

Regina Valdés Gutiérrez, a master’s student from Mexico, has taken two semesters of Norwegian classes at OsloMet.

“At first I didn’t feel like learning Norwegian was a necessity. But knowing the language makes socialising easier, and when you start looking for a job it really helps a lot. Being able to speak Norwegian becomes a way to understand the country and the culture.”

Regina has taken both beginner and intermediate Norwegian and says that learning the language has enriched her experience of living in Norway.

“Understanding what’s going on around you just makes it easier and more fun to live here,” she says.

Two kayakers paddling on the Oslo fjord with the Opera House in the background. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward

Getting comfortable speaking

OsloMet currently offers two courses: A1 (beginner) and A2 (intermediate). A1 is ideal for exchange students who are in Oslo for one semester, while master’s students, who have more time and possibly a longer perspective about living and working in Norway, may benefit from taking the second class as well.

Per Gunnar Paulsen, who has taught Norwegian for two and a half years at OsloMet, says that new students can expect there to be a strong focus on speaking skills in both courses.

“You need to have the oral skills to be able to interact with people, but it can be hard for students to practice in the wild, since Norwegians speak English perfectly well.”

Regina agrees, saying, “Even though you’re in Norway, it's not always easy to hear Norwegian. Your classes will be in English, and everyone, even at the supermarket, can speak to you in English.”

This is why speaking in the classroom setting is so important. Per Gunnar says that in class, students can expect some short lectures but will spend most of their time speaking in pairs. Norwegian teachers also incorporate games and role playing, since it can feel less scary to try a new language when you’re pretending to be someone else.

“Learning a new language as an adult can be awkward, so we try to make students comfortable,” says Per Gunnar. “These classes are a lot of hard work, but we also want them to be a relaxed space so that the experience is fun and not so intimidating.”

As a student, Regina says she enjoyed this style of language learning. “There are a lot of things you hear people say in real life that you won’t learn in the books. I really liked that we learned to speak some slang in my classes, and listened to popular Norwegian music. We got to practice speaking a lot, which helps you to actually be able to socialise. I think that’s a cool way to explore the language.”

A group of students enjoying dinner in good company. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward

A window into the culture

But if it’s possible to speak English to most everyone you meet in Oslo, why bother with Norwegian? Well, because language is so much more than just words.

“You will see many parts of culture reflected in how people speak,” says Per Gunnar. Language really is a window into the culture, and if you want to know Norway, you need to know Norwegian.”

It’s true that there are some expressions that are so quintessentially Norwegian, it would be a shame to leave Norway without knowing the words for some of these unique concepts.

“There are certain words you hear people say all the time, like koselig,” says Regina.

Koselig is a rough translation of “cosy,” but means so much more. The feeling of koselig is difficult to explain until you’ve felt it: friends gathered in the park, sharing a bottle of wine in the late evening summer sun. Coming inside to warm up by the fire after a long day on the ski trails. A simple dinner with good food and conversation. Almost anything can be koselig, and once you know and can use the word, you will feel it everywhere.

The fact that Norwegians have special words for these ideas, and use them often, tells you that these things are important to the Norwegian culture. “They love koselig especially,” Regina says, laughing.

Two students on skis cheering in a winter landscape. Photo: Kristin Mehlum

Making friends in the local language

If you’re eager to learn about how to get koselig from the real experts, or want to take a proper Norwegian tur in the forest, learning the language can also help you become better acquainted with Norwegians.

“Norwegians are really friendly, but speaking a bit of the language is a big advantage in getting to know them and socialising with them,” says Regina.

Per Gunnar agrees, saying, “Learning the language helps students break out of that international student bubble and make some Norwegian friends. This can help make their stay here more immersive, and make them feel like they’re part of society.”

A signpost with signs pointing to the Vigeland Museum, Oslo Museum, cafés and restaurants. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward

Regina and Per Gunnar’s tips for everyday practise

There are a lot of ways to practise Norwegian outside of the classroom. Here are some ideas that might inspire you to keep learning:

Interested in registering for a Norwegian course? Read more about the courses we offer and how to apply.

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