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.
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 NRK.no 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.