Official languages in Norway
You already know that Norwegians speak a language that falls into the category of Scandinavian languages and you may know that it is a North Germanic language. What you probably do not know is that there are three official written languages in Norway. The first is Bokmål, which means «language of books». Bokmål was once the only written language in Norway and is an evolution of Danish. If you compare a text in Norwegian and the exact same text in Danish, you will notice that there are striking similarities. The vast majority of Norwegians (more than 85 percent) use Bokmål today.
The second official written language is Nynorsk (literally: New Norwegian). Nynorsk is the spiritual child of Ivar Aasen, a Philologist who traveled across the country during the 19th century and collected various elements of local dialects, eventually proposing the Nynorsk written standard. Nynorsk is particularly common in the western part of Norway.
While sharing the same rules and structure, these two standards can appear quite different to the untrained eye. In reality, though, they are just variations of the same language. These are the main languages used in schools, churches, public services and the media.
The third language is Sami, which is the language of Norway’s indigenous people. It is a group of Uralic languages spoken by the Sami people in Northern Europe Northern Europe (in parts of northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and extreme northwestern Russia).
When it comes to oral communication, things can get even more confusing. With the exception of Oslo, Bergen and a handful of other large cities, Norway’s population has always been scattered throughout the country. Before the establishment of telecommunications, many communities in Norway were virtually isolated entities with little external interaction. This has led, among other things, to the development of countless local dialects, some of which are nearly incomprehensible to the average city dweller. Note, however, that Oslo and its neighboring communities share pretty much the same dialect. Therefore, foreigners who stay in the area are not required to master several variations of the language.