This week, my languages around the world series takes us to Scandinavia, where Cristina from Coco Voyage shares her experience and insight on how to learn Norwegian in Norway. I’m really excited to share this one because Cristina learned Norwegian in Norway in a very similar way as I learned Spanish in Spain!

My name is Cristina. I am Flemish Belgian, which means that my mother tongue is Flemish (the Belgian variant of Dutch). . My first time moving abroad was in 2013 to Norway when I was 17 – I lived there for 1 year. Yes, I was able to move abroad without family at the age of 17. How? Because of AFS (American Field Service). AFS is an exchange organisation. Their goal is to connect people from all over the world with each other. You apply for it and then you will live with a local host family in one of your countries of choice, go to a local school, engage yourself in typical local activities and… learn the language. I went with the specific intention to learn Norwegian in Norway.

 Before I moved to Norway, I had zero knowledge about the language. AFS said it wasn’t a problem because “they organize FREE language courses in every single country for ALL AFS students”. Yeah right… AFS didn’t organize any language courses in the region in Norway where I moved to. The only language courses I could take, cost about $500 per month, just for 4hrs a week or so. Obviously I couldn’t pay that so I decided to do it myself. With a lot of help from my host family and some friends, I managed. After about 7 months, I was totally fluent in the language – and I still am.

How and Where to Stay in Norway

 Norway isn’t an easy country to move to. Not because they have ridiculous visa laws (you don’t even need a visa unless you want to stay for more than 3 months) but because of the cost of living. Norway is quite an expensive country for foreigners. You can’t simply go and live there. If you get a job there, it should be fine as the incomes are adjusted to the cost of living. In order to get a job in Norway you have to speak Norwegian, unless you’re an (architectural) engineer and get a job in the oil industry.

 An easy way to live in Norway is like how I did it: applying for AFS but you can only do this when you’re between 16 and 18 I believe. If you’re a University student in Europe, you could also try applying for Erasmus Norway (if not, see if your University offers an exchange programme with Norway). Norway also offer working holiday visas and may grant visas for others under certain situations. Check out the Norwegian Immigration page for more information.

You might want to study Norwegian at a language school while you are in Norway. Find a language school in Norway.

Languages in Norway

English in Norway  

 Everyone in Norway speaks English fluently and usually they really enjoy speaking it. Norwegians are so good in English, it will be harder to learn Norwegian because both they and you will automatically choose the easiest option, which is English. Try to make it clear to them that you WANT to learn Norwegian (as advised in how to learn a language abroad). Even though they won’t entirely understand why because there are only about 5 million people in the world who speak this language, the Norwegian people are kind so eventually they’ll oblige to your request and talk Norwegian with you.

Norwegian in Norway

 Norwegian is a Germanic language that is pretty similar to Swedish and especially Danish. It’s also a bit similar to Dutch and German – when it’s written down, that is. When you hear people speaking Norwegian, it doesn’t sound like Dutch and German at all. The grammar is similar to the English grammar but there are some exceptions that I haven’t seen in any language.

I’ll use the word stol (chair) as an example.

A chair = en stol

The chair = stolen

My chair = stolen min

My chairs = stolene mine

This is something that makes it a bit hard in the beginning but you quickly get used to it.

 Something else specific to the Norwegian (and Swedish and Danish) alphabet is that there are 3 letters more; æ, ø, å. Same thing, once you’re used to it, it’s quite easy and obvious when to use it.

 That brings me to the next thing; Norwegian is quite a phonetic language. Which makes it pretty easy to write – also to know when to use the æ, ø or å.

Other languages in Norway

Norwegians are very good at English and that’s where it stops. Here and there you’ll find somebody who speaks another language but those people are exceptions.

At high school in Norway, the students have to choose between learning Spanish, German or French but as we all know, learning languages at high school is less than ideal and most of the time you end up learning almost nothing (in my experience at least). If you don’t speak English well, it should be easy to learn Norwegian in Norway.

People and culture in Norway

 It is important to know that Norwegians aren’t like Mexicans. Meaning that they won’t simply come up to you and start a conversation. They’re very shy and reserved people. Therefore the best way to learn Norwegian is by living with a Norwegian host family. I’ve met several foreigners who live in Norway (because of work) but hardly speak any Norwegian because they simply don’t really know any Norwegians.

 As an expat in Norway, it’s so easy to spend your time with other expats but if your goal is to learn the Norwegian in Norway, you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone. Get online, go to a sport club, go hiking. Take initiative. Don’t wait until they will take the first step because they won’t. In this situation, YOU will have to be the one who takes the first step. Talk to them on Facebook, and if you’re always the one starting the conversation, don’t worry! It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it just means they don’t really know what to say because they’re so shy.

How to learn Norwegian in Norway

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Fishing, again. #fishing

A post shared by Cristina🔮 (@cristinamelloul) on

My method to learn Norwegian in Norway:

There are several ways to learn Norwegian but I’m going to explain how I did it.

 I noticed that my method of learning languages is quite similar to Suzie’s method, as she described in her post “How I Learned a Language Fluently“.

 The first thing I did was listen to the language and learn simple words. I found it very helpful to put notes with the word in Norwegian on furniture. That way, every time I opened the fridge, I saw the word “kjøleskap”. After a short while, I knew almost all of those words without actually studying them. I also studied the grammar before I started speaking.

 Seriously though, listening is extremely important and will teach you A LOT.

 Another thing I did was reading books I had already read before in English (or Dutch), in Norwegian. No complicated books though. Reading books for children in Norwegian works too.

 Watching movies and series in English with Norwegian subtitles helped me a lot as well.

 I started speaking Norwegian pretty late. I think I listened to the language for about 5 months before I started to speak. It went very fast though. I only practiced for 2 months and that was enough to be fluent.

 Once you feel you’re getting fluent, practice as much as possible. Practice speaking in real life and talking to people online helps a lot too as you have time to come up with an answer, can search for words in the meanwhile and learn how to write. If you don’t know any Norwegians yet, you should really try Tinder (it might give you a Norwegian boyfriend too. Lol no please don’t get your boy/girlfriends from Tinder!). I didn’t do that in Norway as I didn’t have a smart phone but I did it here in Mexico and it helped me quite a bit with my Spanish.

If you don’t know any Norwegians in real life either, join a sports club or even better; go hiking or join a hiking club. Norwegians LOVE hiking. If you meet them whilst hiking, they’ll be more open to you because they’re doing their favourite activity. Remember, you are there to learn Norwegian in Norway, so just talk to people.

Other methods to learn Norwegian in Norway:

Norwegians are very nice people, you just need to give them some time and if you speak the language, you’ll integrate a lot more.

 Cristina is the writer behind the travel lifestyle blog Coco Voyage where she writes about comfortable (mostly off the beaten path) travel on a tight budget with focus on society as well. Even though she’s originally from Belgium, she has lived in Norway and is currently living in Mexico.

Connect with Cristina: Blog | Instagram

Have you learned a foreign language in another country? If you would like to share your experience for my Languages Around The World series, contact me here.

How to Learn Norwegian in Norway

How to Learn Norwegian in Norway



  1. This was really interesting! I especially loved the tip about sticking notes to furniture! Lovely post 🙂

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