What Language Do They Speak in Norway?

Norway, a beautiful Scandinavian country known for its stunning landscapes, rich history, and progressive culture, has a unique linguistic identity. While many people associate Norway with the Norwegian language, the intricacies of its linguistic landscape are often overlooked. In this article, we will explore the Norwegian language, its various forms, and the efforts to preserve linguistic diversity in the country.

Norwegian Language – An Overview

What is the Norwegian Language?

The Norwegian language belongs to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. It is the official language of Norway and holds significant cultural and historical importance for its people. Norwegian is spoken by approximately 95% of the population, making it the primary means of communication in the country.

History and Evolution of Norwegian Language

The roots of the Norwegian language can be traced back to Old Norse, a North Germanic language spoken during the Viking Age. Over the centuries, Old Norse evolved into several regional dialects, leading to the emergence of distinct Norwegian dialects. This linguistic diversity eventually led to the development of two written forms of Norwegian: Bokmål and Nynorsk.

Bokmål and Nynorsk – The Two Written Forms


Bokmål, which translates to “book language,” is the more widely used written form of Norwegian. It is based on the Danish-influenced Norwegian dialects and is commonly used in urban areas and larger cities. Bokmål retains many words and structures borrowed from Danish due to historical reasons, but efforts have been made to make it distinctly Norwegian.


Nynorsk, meaning “new Norwegian,” is the other official written form of the language. It was created in the 19th century by linguist Ivar Aasen, who sought to preserve the traditional Norwegian dialects. Nynorsk is used by a smaller percentage of the population, primarily in rural regions. Despite its lower usage, Nynorsk plays a crucial role in maintaining linguistic diversity in Norway.

Minority Languages in Norway

Sámi Languages

Apart from Norwegian, Norway recognizes several minority languages. One of the most significant is the Sámi language, spoken by the indigenous Sámi people in the northern regions of the country. Sámi comprises several distinct languages, with Northern Sámi being the most widely spoken. Efforts to revitalize and preserve Sámi languages have gained momentum in recent years.

Kven Language

The Kven language, spoken by the Kven people, is another recognized minority language in Norway. The Kven people, a Finnish ethnic minority, have their roots in Northern Norway. Like the Sámi languages, the Kven language is an essential part of Norway’s linguistic tapestry.

Language Education in Norway

Language Policy and Education

Norway takes pride in its inclusive language policy, which emphasizes multilingualism and language education. The educational system encourages students to learn both Bokmål and Nynorsk, fostering an appreciation for linguistic diversity from an early age. Additionally, English is taught as a compulsory subject in schools, reflecting Norway’s global outlook.

English Proficiency in Norway

The Prevalence of English

English has gained widespread popularity in Norway, with a large majority of the population being proficient in the language. This proficiency has been instrumental in facilitating international communication and has contributed to Norway’s global connectivity.

Cultural Significance of Language

Language and Identity

Language plays a vital role in shaping cultural identity, and Norway’s linguistic diversity is a reflection of its rich cultural heritage. Both Norwegian and the minority languages are integral to the country’s sense of self and are celebrated as valuable cultural assets.

Language Preservation Efforts

Recognizing the importance of preserving linguistic heritage, Norway actively supports language preservation initiatives. Efforts to document and revitalize minority languages, such as Sámi and Kven, are being undertaken to ensure their survival for future generations.


In conclusion, the Norwegian language holds immense cultural significance for Norway and its people. With its two written forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk, and the recognition of minority languages like Sámi and Kven, Norway stands as a model of linguistic diversity and inclusivity. The country’s commitment to language education and preservation efforts ensures that its linguistic heritage continues to thrive in a globalized world.


  1. Is Norwegian the only language spoken in Norway? No, Norway recognizes several minority languages, including Sámi and Kven, in addition to Norwegian.
  2. Which is the more widely used written form of Norwegian? Bokmål is the more widely used written form of Norwegian.
  3. Who are the Sámi people, and what is their significance in Norway? The Sámi people are the indigenous inhabitants of northern Norway. They have their own distinct culture, language, and traditions.
  4. Why is language preservation important in Norway? Language preservation is essential in Norway to safeguard its cultural heritage and maintain linguistic diversity.
  5. How is English proficiency in Norway? English proficiency is high in Norway, with a large majority of the population being proficient in the language.

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