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….

The Pros and Cons of the Duolingo App

Duolingo | Fluent for Free

I’m officially 42 days into my 100 days of learning Norwegian with Duolingo, and I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the difference between using the app, and using the desktop site. Because I am learning Norwegian right now, which is not one of the main languages, there will be some differences. So, if you are learning French, Spanish, German or another “main” language, you will have a few more options in the app and on the site. Continue reading “The Pros and Cons of the Duolingo App”

What I’ve Learned in 30 Days of Duolingo

Fluent for Free | 30 Days of Duolingo Norwegian

30 days ago, I decided to try learning Norwegian, having zero previous experience and pretty much no idea where to start other than Duolingo. I’d used Duolingo to practice some pretty-much-dormant German and Spanish skills, but wanted to see what was possible to achieve from scratch.

So, after the first 30 days, here’s where I’m at…

Continue reading “What I’ve Learned in 30 Days of Duolingo”

How I’m Learning Norwegian

Fluent for Free | How I'm Learning Norwegian - My free language learning routine and resources

In the spirit of trying to be Fluent for Free, I’ve put together a little plan for myself that doesn’t cost a dime, and will hopefully get me to B1 proficiency in Norwegian in around three months. If you’re curious about why I’m learning Norwegian of all languages, you can check out this post!

This plan requires several hours of study per day, but can easily be modified for those with far less time to invest. I’m using a combination of free websites and apps to maximize the language learning experience, and really have a more rounded set of tools to work with. As I find more resources, I’ll be sure to update this page!

Duolingo (Website & App)

The backbone of this entire language learning experience is Duolingo. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Duolingo is a free website with companion apps for Apple devices, Android devices and Windows devices. It’s often cited as the best free language program you will actually use, and so far I can’t disagree. The Duolingo Norwegian course is incredibly well put together, and depending on how much work you put int, can get you to A2/B1 proficiency upon completion.

Every morning, I start out by doing 5 review sessions before I even think of learning anything new. If the review sessions were a bit shakey, I do 5 more until I feel more confident with what I had learned the day before. These review sessions are important for keeping the information fresh in your mind, and for keeping the tree gold.

I also learn at least one new complete skill every day, no matter what. There are 114 “lessons” in the Duolingo Norwegian tree, each with 2.-7 mini lessons. Learning at least one full lesson a day should get me to a completed tree within three months.

After learning the lesson, I will do another 5 review sessions (at least) to solidify the new information. I try to do a mix of general “strengthen skills” reviews, and of lesson-specific ones, depending on what I feel needs some extra attention.

Memrise (Website & App)

The second part of this plan is using a flashcard program/website to drill vocabulary. I found a flashcard deck on Memrise that corresponds to the Duolingo Norwegian course, and so before I learn a new lesson, I make sure to learn the words in Memrise. I also write down all of the words for that lesson in a notebook to make them stick in my brain a little better.

Memrise also keeps track of how well you learn each word/phrase, in order to present them for review at the appropriate times. I usually log in to Memrise 2-3 times a day (for about 5-10 minutes each time) to review vocabulary.

Another neat feature of Memrise, is that there is audio attached to many of the words, so you can actually hear native speakers pronouncing things.

Supplemental Norwegian Resources

Duolingo and Memrise are the structured part of my learning. When I’ve got a few extra moments, or want something a little more immersive and engaging, there are a few more websites I sprinkle in here and there to improve reading and listening skills.

Clozemaster (Website & App)

Clozemaster aims to teach a language with context. Basically, you look at a sentence, and fill in the missing word, either through multiple choice or text input. I’ve been slowly chipping away at the Norwegian Fluency one, though starting with the top 1000 frequency words. I end up playing this for about 10 minutes a day in free time, or while waiting for things like laundry to finish or food to cook.

Clozemaster has a TON of languages to choose from, and many can be learned from several native tongues (not just English!).

KlarTale.no (Website & Podcast)

KlarTale.no is an online newspaper written in “lett norsk,” or “light/easy Norwegian.” The articles are all written with simple enough structure that a beginner can easily follow along. There is also a weekly podcast summarizing the news in slow-spoken lett norsk. It’s really helpful for starting to learn!

NRK.no Children’s Shows (Website)

NRK is the official broadcasting channel in Norway, and they have a ton of children’s TV programs available for utlanderer (those of us outsie of Norway) to watch. I’m just going with kids’ shows for now, as the content tends to be more simplistic, and the speech a bit slower.

Many of these shows also have subtitles, and some even have transcripts, so you can follow along as you go.

Norwegian on the Web (Website)

For more listening and reading practice, check out Norwegian on the Web (NoW). There are many dialogues with accompanying text, and mini dictionaries on the side, so you can follow along as you listen, and look up the new words without leaving the browser tab.

The dialogues are about 1-2 minutes long, and have a slowed down version as well as one at normal speed. These are great for comprehension and for hearing native accents.


I’m not sure if there’s anything out there that can’t be learned on YouTube. I really like Learn Norwegian Naturally, and Norsklærer Karense. Both channels teach Norwegian grammar and vocab in Norwegian, and provide some really helpful info! Learn Norwegian Naturally also has an awesome website accompaniement.

There are plenty of other great channels producing content as well, these are just the two I watch the most!

Quick And Dirty Norwegian Grammar

For those times when I just can’t remember something about Norwegian grammar, and the Duolingo notes aren’t providing a sufficient explanation (which is rare – the Norwegian Duolingo class has pretty awesome notes), I turn to University College London’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Norwegian Grammar. It’s easy to understand, and concise.