Your beginner’s guide to Norwegian pronunciation

In this article, you will find a general overview of how Norwegian words are pronounced. Sound files and videos are included to make it easier for you.

Introduction

This pronunciation guide may be helpful if you are a complete beginner or if you just have a limited knowledge of the language. It may also be useful if you have learned the basics, but still need a general overview of the pronunciation rules.

The explanations in this article refer to what can be considered a standardized pronunciation of Bokmål, the most commonly used standard of Norwegian. This is close to the way the language is spoken in the Oslo region.

Be aware that this guide only covers the most important aspects. However, it can be considered a useful supplement to Norwegian language classes.

The Norwegian alphabet

In this video, you will see me demonstrating all 29 Norwegian letters

Some of these sounds may be unfamiliar to you. However, in my opinion, learning how to pronounce Norwegian should not be difficult. You can start studying right now by listening to the examples in this article. I would also advise you to repeat aloud. 

Norwegian vowels

Listen to the sound file below the photo to hear the pronunciation.

pronunciation norwegian vowels

The three first ones – a, e, i – can be compared to the vowel sound in the English words “hard”, “bed” and “hit”.

O has no equivalent in English. It is similar to u in a few other languages.
U can be compared to u in English “uniform”.
Y comes somewhere in between u and i.

Æ sounds like the vowel in English “man”.
Ø has no equivalent in English. It is similar to German ö and French eu.
Å is similar to aw in English “crawl”.

It almost always matters whether the vowel is long or short. When the length of a vowel changes, the meaning of the word very often changes as well.

A single consonant tells us that the previous vowel is long, while the double consonant comes after a short vowel. The vowel coming before two different consonants is usually (not always) also short.

long or short?examplessound
Short vowel

kanne, bitt, hoppe, vinne

Short vowel

anke, spurv

Long vowel

bil, hus, pen, hvile

More about o,u,e

You will need to pronounce o, u and e differently in a few cases. Here comes an overview:

O usually sounds like the vowel å as a short vowel.
U often sounds like a Norwegian o when it is short.
E before r is often pronounced like the vowel æ.
E sounds like the Norwegian i in one word: de.

how it soundsexamplesSound file
o sounds like å

tog, sove, hoppe

u sounds like o

bukse, munk

e sounds like æ

der, herre

e sounds like i

de

However, there are quite a few exceptions to this. Some commonly used short words have a short vowel — like in han, hun, men, til, vil, skal. There are also many cases of a long vowel before two different consonants. If you are in doubt, you should consult a dictionary — or ask a native Norwegian.

The diphthongs – ei, ai, au, øy

Norwegian diphthongs (gliding vowels) are usually indicated by writing two vowels after each other. You may need some extra exercise for au and øy if there is no similar sound in your language. Listen to this sound file to hear their pronunciation, including the words stein (stone), hai (shark), sau (sheep) and øye (eye).

In the video below, all Norwegian vowels, including the diphtongs, are demonstrated. I also demonstrate the pronunciation of words with the long and the short version of every vowel.

The Norwegian consonants

Most consonants are pronounced more or less like in English. However, more explanation is necessary in some cases. Below, you will find an overview.

G usually sounds like in English “go”.
H is pronounced like in English.
J sounds like y in English “yes”.
L should preferably always be pronounced like you hear below.
S is never voiced.
V sounds more or less like in English (it is voiced).

The pronunciation of R varies, depending on the region. Below, you can listen to a voice from Trondheim (with a rolled r), and a voice from Bergen.

consonantsexamplessound
j

jente, jul

l

lampe, full

r

reise, ro, lur
(two voices)

s

snø, asbest, sebra

v

vite, vann

Five of the consonants are rarely used: c q w x z. Instead of using these letters, foreign words tend to be written in a typically Norwegian way:

sjåfør (driver), konjakk, kvalifisere, klovn, praksis, sebra.

Consonants: The exceptions

The explanations above summarize the main rules for the consonants. However, sometimes you need to pronounce them differently. Consonants are also mute in a few cases. Here you will find an overview of the most important types of cases:

D is often, but not always, silent at the end of a word.
T is silent in the pronoun/article det. It is also silent in the definite form of neuter nouns.
G sometimes sounds like a vowel or like a Norwegian j.
H is silent in some specific positions.

In the table below, you will find examples of both the kj-sound and the sj/skj-sound. Some practice is needed to master both sounds correctly.

types of casesexamplessound
d silent

sild, vind, med

eg sounds like ei

jeg, meg, regn

gj, g+i/y

gjøre, gi, gyse

h silent

hva, hjul

kj, k+i/y

kjøtt, kino

sj, skj, sk+i/y

sjakk, skjegg, ski, sky

t silent

det, huset

Which syllable is stressed?

In most cases, the first syllable of Norwegian words is stressed. However, there are many exceptions to this.
In quite a few cases, the stress is placed on the second syllable rather than on the first. This is the case when a word has one of the following prefixes: be, er and ge. This is also the case for many (not all) words with the prefix for-. Below, you find some examples:

betale, gebyr, erfaring, forfatter

There are other prefixes and suffixes as well that influence the stress pattern. Further, you need to pay attention when encountering foreign words. A good dictionary will give you the necessary information in that respect.

Where and how can I learn more?

This article is merely meant as an introduction. However, in order to learn more, a good language tutor can give you the necessary advice. Your Norwegian teacher can help you master pronunciation and other aspects of the Norwegian language.

I offer online private language courses via Lynganor. These lessons are tailor-made to fulfil your needs. During the lessons, you will get the necessary help to improve your own pronunciation of Norwegian. Of course, you will also be trained in the other aspects of the language – in a way that suits you!

Here you find more information about my way of teaching Norwegian.


You are welcome to get in touch for at any time. I will be happy to further assist you.

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