My 5 Biggest Mistakes While Learning Norwegian

I’ve been teaching myself Norwegian for a little over nine months now, and while I’ve been pleased with my language learning progress, there are definitely areas that could use improvement.

I thought it would be a good idea to share the mistakes I’ve made learning Norwegian so that someone else teaching themselves this beautiful language (or any language, really) might avoid the same pitfalls.

1. Complacency

The one thing that many internet resources will tell you about learning Norwegian is that it is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to tackle. I had read this in a few places (and even allowed it to push me a bit into learning Norwegian), and so this idea was burned into my brain. While I definitely had a very serious attitude in the first few months of learning, after I finished the Duolingo tree, I let complacency take over and figured, “it’s supposed to be an easy language, so I can back off now.”

Consequently, I focused less and less on improving my skills and actually backslid a little over the next few months, always thinking that I could just pick up the pace again if I felt like it. Were I to start this process over again, I would definitely keep up the more rigorous pace, and try to think less about whether or not the language is “easy” to learn.

2. Starting at an Unreasonable Pace

When I first set out to learn Norwegian, I had read that it was not unreasonable for someone fluent in German to learn the language in six months. I’m not at all fluent in German, but had reached B1 level in uni and figured that would help me out a bit. So, I set myself the goal of reaching B2 in six months, thinking I would do the Duolingo course over the first three and then just relentlessly drill vocabulary for the next three.

This idea proved to be a bit ambitious. While I did finish the Duolingo course in less than three months, I also burned myself out completely and ended up taking a week-long break (just doing the bare minimum). This turned into a two week period of doing very minimal practice, and then a month-long break. Had I just been a little more judicious about my timeline, I could have avoided the burnout and kept going instead of coming to a near complete stop.

3. Not Listening Enough

Listening is such an integral aspect to language learning, and even more so with languages like Norwegian that have a lot of dialects. I spent a lot of time in the very beginning searching out programs on and listening to Norwegian podcasts, but that started to fade after a few months, when I didn’t feel like I was making much progress. It wasn’t a conscious thing, so much as something I realized when I took a look back at my methods.

Something I’m working on now is trying to have a podcast or TV show in Norwegian playing in the background while I do dishes or make dinner – times when I would normally just replay The Office or 30 Rock for the millionth time. This is important for getting exposure to the many dialects that exist, as well as the more colloquial terms that aren’t really found in courses.

4. Not Diversifying Vocabulary

When I first found the Duolingo Norwegian companion flashcard course on Memrise, I was elated. It seemed perfect! I could learn the course words much more effectively, and not worry about having to make my own flashcards.

What I didn’t realize is that this would actually end up limiting me. I focused solely on the Duolingo words, and while there are certainly quite a few of them, I didn’t broaden my exposure enough at the beginning.

I have since found a 5,000 most frequently used Norwegian Words course on Memrise that I’m integrating into my routine. Many of the words overlap, which is part of why I avoided using these courses at the beginning, but now I wish I had incorporated them sooner.

5. Not Reading Enough

I know, if I wasn’t listening and wasn’t doing enough vocabulary exercises, and wasn’t reading… what the heck was I doing? Basically, spinning my wheels and repeating Duolingo exercises and the Memrise decks that I already knew. Too much reviewing, not enough utilizing or learning new material.

I had purchased the first Harry Potter book for myself in Norwegian, as well as another fun young adult fantasy novel (which I would HIGHLY recommend!), but it frustrated me that there were so many words I didn’t know, so I burned out fast.

I wish I had focused less on translating everything I didn’t know, and just chugged on through at the beginning. I realized this recently when I was reading without a wifi connection, and while I didn’t necessarily understand a word the first or second time, eventually I would see it enough times in different contexts to be able to figure it out. I think I would have progressed faster had I just stuck with this method from the start.

To Summarize: My 5 Biggest Mistakes When Learning Norwegian

Since realizing these little errors, I’ve managed to try and reign myself back in and focus more fully on learning Norwegian, but I’ve definitely set myself back. If you’re set on teaching yourself Norwegian, I would strongly recommend setting a reasonable plan with a mix of vocab, listening and reading and then just stick with it. It’s better to learn fewer words every day and actually continue than it is to set a high goal for yourself, burn out and then do nothing for a month.

I hope this list was helpful for you in determining the best methods for learning Norwegian. Of course, everyone is different, so you may prefer to do things in a slightly altered way, but for the most part, this advice can apply to any learning methods. Basically, just stick to what works for you and don’t over-complicate things.


Mistakes I’ve Made Learning Norwegian

Just over a month ago, I finished the Duolingo Norwegian tree, and got a 5.0 on the quiz. Not a bad place to be, when going into a totally self-directed study program. Of course, Duolingo is also self-directed, but having the structure of the lessons was incredibly helpful to me.

I had a plan, or at least I thought I had a plan: I would read Harry Potter og de Vises Stein every day and watch Norwegian media when I could, while continuing to do review sessions in Duolingo, and Memrise. I would also start using Clozemaster for more practice with common words. This would have been great!

So, what happened? Memrise was the first thing to go. I ended up skipping a few days due to work getting busy (I work in a seasonal industry, and had started this journey in the two months of the year when we’re basically off). Then, the words started piling up, and before I knew it, there were over 1,000 words to review. So, I got overwhelmed and decided to just let it go.

Bad decision. Fast forward a month, and while I kept up every day with Duolingo review and with reading/watching/listening to various Norwegian media…I forgot a lot. Mind you, I’m still on track to achieve a B2 level of speaking ability in six months (my goal for Norwegian), but I definitely need to ramp up my effort. I’ve decided I have to reincorporate Memrise into my daily routine. I know a lot of language learners prefer Anki, but I actually like Memrise better (on desktop). It’s pretty nit-picky, so whenever I make a small typo, the word ends up in my review rotation quicker, which I think is helpful.

How did this happen? In a nutshell, I got complacent. I figured that since I had made so much progress in the first few months, I could slow down a little every few days. Every few days turned into every day, and before I knew it, I was set back quite a bit.

So, time to turn it around and start learning for real again! I’ve gotten back into the routine of reviewing quite a bit on Memrise (it was definitely frustrating working down from needing to review almost 3k words, but it was worth it!).

I’ve been struggling to get through Harry Potter because I don’t really have that large a vocabulary (while Duo certainly provides a great basis, there are just so many words out there!), so my next focus is simply to increase my vocab!

I’ve been continuing to watch SKAM and listen to podcasts to hear the language more, since that’s another huge roadblock for me! I’ve also started using Mondly, which I actually really like as a companion to Duo. There seems to be a slightly different approach, and some different vocabulary.

I’ll try to update this blog with any new resources I come across!

Ha det. 🙂

100 Days of Learning Norwegian

It seems like just yesterday that I finished the Duolingo Norwegian tree, but it’s been a little bit over three weeks. I’m still doing at least 5 “strengthen skills” sessions every day, though now I’m mixing things up with timed practice sessions as well. I figure I’ll continue doing those for a while. Though some people may not be a fan of Duolingo’s sentences, I actually really like the repetiton. After all, isn’t that what language learning is? Continue reading “100 Days of Learning Norwegian”

Duolingo Norwegian in 78 Days!

Oh my goodness – I can’t believe I’m saying this already, but it’s been 78 days of daily study, and I have finished the Norwegian tree on Duolingo! It’s been a lot of work, but is definitely worth it. All of those extra “strengthen skills” sessions were totally worth it! Continue reading “Duolingo Norwegian in 78 Days!”

Learning Norwegian With SKAM

I first started learning Norwegian ar the end of January (55 days ago, according to my Duolingo streak!). At this point, I had not yet heard of the Norwegian highschool drama that had swept the world, SKAM.

If you also haven’t heard of SKAM, it is a webseries-cum-television sensation set in a Norwegian highschool, and following the daily lives of a group of students. While it is somewhat dramatic, the series isn’t quite as on-the-nose with its themes as other, similar programs. Instead of Very Special Episodes devoted to “teen issues” such as eating disorders, sexual assault, drinking too much or bullying, these ideas are woven into the narrative naturally. The realism is striking, and allows the viewer to identify so much with the characters.

There are also a lot of modern twists here – show producers set up social media accounts for characters that are active while the series is airing. Want to know what your favorite character had for lunch that day? Check their instagram. The show also uses text messages between characters as another way to demonstrate what’s going on. Entire subplots take place through text alone. Another unique aspect of the show is that the episodes are titatrated out on the web throughout the week. A new clip might be posted on a Thursday night, where the characters are out at a party. The next clip might be released Friday morning, as the friends sort through the aftermath in school.

The series is interesting, and different, and so I thought I’d give it a try to help learn Norwegian – and was that ever a good decision!

For starters, the kids on the show speak like real, live teenagers. This is neat, because you quickly become exposed to slang, curses and other colloquialisms not taught in traditional Norwegian courses. You also get a variety of examples of the cadence of Norwegian. With such a musicial language, it’s nice to have many points of reference for how it is actually spoken. This is something that was certainly missing from the online newspaper and podcast, Klare Tale (still an awesome resource!).

SKAM is also a good introduction to other dialects of Norwegian. Norway has quite a few different dialects, which can seem overwhelming on paper. Listening to one of the other characters who speaks the dialect from Bergen, you get a better understand of how these dialects work.

SKAM also provides a good sense of how people text, and the abbreviations which have become present in all languages in written digital communication. There are likely not going to be many opportunities for me to actually utilize this, but who knows! Maybe someday…

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously not using only SKAM to learn, but this series certainly provides some new material, and a pretty fun plot. I’m definitely a fan, and can’t wait for the next season!

Duolingo Norwegian: 60 Days In

I’ve officially been studying Norwegian with Duolingo for 60 days now, with the intention to finish the tree in 90. I’m right on track, and possibly even a little ahead in that I’ve got just 28 of the tree’s 117 skills left to complete.

The Norwegian tree in Duolingo (I’m on tree 3.0) is longer and more in-depth than the trees for many of the other languages. The Polish tree (which I was working on a little while back, but have since slowed down on) has only 68 skills. Because of the depth of the Norwegian skill tree, I feel as though it may better prepare learners for actual use of the language.

The course teaches well over 3,000 words, which is around a B1 level of proficiency according to the CEFR scale. Granted, just using vocabulary size is a poor indicator, as this does not take into account either knowledge of grammar or the ability to string these words together. It is a decent starting place, though.

So, 60 days into studying Norwgian with the Duolingo tree, I actually feel pretty well-equipped, gramatically. Because Norwegian and English use tenses in a very similar manner, the grammar has thus far been pretty straightforward. The course has already gone over the past tense, past and future perfect tenses, we’ve discussed the passive voice and also conditional statements. This far exceeds what I learned in my University German course (Level 1, whatever that means), and is actually pretty on par with what I learned in my AP Spanish class. Granted, I had a far broader vocabulary in Spanish back in the day, but this had been acquired over three years of institional learning. I don’t know whether this speaks to the inefficacy of the American school system, or how fabulous this Duolingo course is, but either way – I’m learning a lot!

I am still watching random Norwegian programming, and listening to podcasts and reading newspaper articles online, and this has all been rather helpful. I find myself looking up fewer and fewer words every day.

I’ve also managed to keep up with doing at least 5 “strengthen skills” sessions, most days completing more than that. So, these practice lessons combined with the new skill give me between 120 and 300XP per day. There have been a few days when I’ve done tons of practicing and gotten upwards of 500XP. At this point, I’m at level 16 on Duolingo, because of all this practicing.

For me, it’s not about the XP so much as seeing the information as much as possible. I think one place where people can go wrong with Duolingo is just doing the lessons and a little practice and assuming that’s enough. I like seeing all the words used in a variety of ways, and seeing the fun sentences that the course creators came up with. It’s also nice to see different contexts for certain words, as they can have multiple meanings.

I often see Duolingo criticized for not fully demonstrating the nuances between the usage of certain words. But (at least for the Norwegian course) between the course notes, the comments on sentences and the variety of sentences available, the shades of meaning become more clear. It really does just come down to doing tons of practice sessions, on both the mobile and desktop platform (this might be in my head, but I swear I get different sentences doing this!).

Basically, I’m going to keep plugging along with lots of practice and see where things go! I’m feeling really good about finishing this course on time, and retaining the information.





























Norwegian in 90 Days: Halfway Update!

So, a few days ago, I officially hit 45 days of learning Norwegian with Duolingo! I’m pretty excited, as this is the most time I’ve put into language learning since university. By far. In fact, I think these 45 days have already surpassed the knowledge I acquired in my German I course from uni, which was really intensive, and definitely not free.

I’ve been keeping up with my daily routine, and doing a minimum of five practice sessions a day has kept my tree gold the entire time. I’m really trying to keep up with everything, so as to actually internalize all the new vocabulary. Sometimes it’s a bit more difficult, as there will be a lesson with 70+ words one day, and I end up forgetting a bunch by the next day. However, I’ve discovered that even if I don’t know the words on the first or second day, they eventually seep their way into my brain (thanks to both Duo and Memrise).

I’ve also started watching SKAM, which I hadn’t heard of until I started learning Norwegian, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it! I’ll definitely be writing more about this show later, because it’s so entertaining, and actually pretty helpful!

It’s hard to see a huge progress, as there’s still so much I don’t know, and duolingo sort of scales up with you so you’re always working at your current level. I definitely feel like I’m getting somewhere, though!

One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s harder for me to memorize the large batches of vocabulary all in one or two days. I’ve definitely been forgetting more and more. Fortunately, Memrise has really been helping to try to keep me up to date.

I’ve also decided that I should just plug through the 90 days, learn as much as possible, and then when I’ve hit the 90 days, just keep reviewing until I know everything solidly. I may give myself a week to just completely review everything before moving onto the next material!

I’ve also yet to figure out what the next set of material is, exactly….