Jeg vil gjerne en kaffe

For the last month Brian and I have been enrolled in Norwegian class with the folksuniversitet.

The classes are intensive at seven hours a week, with as many hours again in homework assignments.

Slowly though, our Norwegian has been improving.  My colleagues are now no longer talking about me, but rather about the weather.

However, there is still a long way to go.

Norway has two national languages, bokmål and the less common nynorsk.  We are learning Bokmål, specifically the Oslo variant.

So far, much of the grammar seems reasonably straight forward, and as a bonus, words generally share a common root with either English, or more commonly German.  Furthermore, verbs only have one form regardless of the subject.  For example:

English Bokmål German
I drink Jeg drikker Ich trinke
You drink Du drikker Du trinkst
She/he drinks Hun/Han drikker Sie/Er trinkt
They drink De drikker Sie trinken
We drink Vi drikker Wir trinken
You (plural) drink Dere drikker Ihr trinken
  (Formal) Sie trinken


But, that’s where the simplicity ends.

Like German, Oslonian bokmål has three genders feminine (ei), masculine (en), and neutral (et).

The gender affects the formation of the subject.

Of course, because Norway is a geographically challenging country with documented civilisations older than Jesus, there are countless communities that have lived in near isolation until the recent invention of the oil, which provided them with bridges and tunnels.  Lots of tunnels.  This means each city, town, and area has evolved its own dialect.

And Bergen, only a few hundred km to the west of Oslo, is no exception.

Here the locals speak Bergenese.

This dialect has two genders.  Neuter, the same as Oslonian Bokmål, and ‘common’, a combination of masculine and feminine.   This, and other quirks makes Bergenese  significantly different from proper Bokmål that Google translate usually behaves rather strangely on the local newspaper articles.

So, ahead of us is a long and tricky journey.  First we must master proper Bokmål, and then we need to recognise the local dialects.   Only then will we be ready to begin learning proper Bergenese.

I have been practicing, though.

Whenever we go to a cafe, I confidently walk up to the counter and make my order.  This usually goes something like:

“Jeg vil gjerne ha en kopp kaffe”
“Certainly.  Would you like a single, or a double”
“Um, a single please”
“That’s 37NOK”

Last week though, I made a breakthrough.

“Jeg vil gjerne ha en kopp kaffe”
“Sechs-und-dreissig NOK bitte.  Danke schön”

My accent was no longer mistaken to be that of an English speaker, but rather a German.

I’m getting closer.

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