Stop for a minute and think about how much English you use in your everyday language. Do you speak English with your friends? Is it difficult to find Norwegian words to express what you want to say? If so, you are not alone.
Gradually, English words and expressions creep into our daily language. The phenomenon is not a new one. English loan words have been commonly used in commercials, ads, and snappy slogans for a long time. We hear English words and expressions pop up in everyday language, and they have become familiar elements of colloquial communication. Abbreviations and slang are often used in texting and on social media, and this vocabulary gradually and naturally rubs off on verbal communication.
The driving force in this development is young people. Young people are in general more flexible and more lenient towards adopting new words and expressions into their language. A survey from 2020 conducted by The Norwegian Media Authority shows that more than 60% of all online games, YouTube videos, and films/series that young people watch, are in English. This massive exposure to English through media will naturally affect their vocabulary and communication, often to such a degree that English feels more like a first language than a second language.
English rubbing off on Norwegian
Today, there are thousands of English loan words in the Norwegian language, and most of them we use without batting an eyelid. In general, we distinguish between two types of loan words:
Words describing things that have no alternative Norwegian word, such as 'smoothie', 'wakeboard', and 'podcast'. Often, these words describe innovations and new developments in culture and technology.
Words for which there is already a Norwegian alternative, for example 'boots' (støvler), 'loser' (taper), and 'project manager' (prosjektleder). These words are often used to add prestige to something, to express belonging to a specific social group, or as an attempt to sound trendy.
Some loan words have become so fully integrated into the Norwegian language that they have been given a new alternative spelling that better corresponds with the Norwegian pronunciation of the word. Today, words like 'guide', 'racket', 'snacks' and 'service' can also be spelled 'gaid', 'rekkert', 'snaks' and 'sørvis', even though most people probably still prefer the original English spelling. However, the Norwegian spellings of words like 'streit' ('straight') and 'hipp' ('hip') are more commonplace.
There are also examples of English grammar making its way into Norwegian grammar, and it is not uncommon to hear English phrases being translated directly from English into Norwegian. The result can often sound a bit off. For example, how do you feel about the following sentences?
Jeg følte meg ikke bra, så jeg ringte inn syk (call in sick / ringe og si jeg er syk).
Når du søker på jobb, er det viktig at du står ut i søkerbunken (stand out / skille seg ut).
I min mening er dette en god løsning (In my opinion / etter min mening).
Jeg har et forslag til hva å gjøre på ferie (what to do / hva man kan gjøre).
Is this development a cause for concern?
Will this development be a threat to the Norwegian language in general? According to most linguists, this is unlikely. There is nothing in the foreseeable future that predicts the death of the Norwegian language. However, English has already become the dominant language in some domains of Norwegian society. For example, the great majority of scientific research is carried out in English, and there are many companies where English is the working language. Also, we know that the import of loan words and the changing of some grammatical structures will continue, and this will change the Norwegian language over time. Consequently, the Norwegian language you speak today will probably be quite different from what your grandchildren will speak in the future.
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