About the Norwegian Language
Norwegian is spoken by approximately 5 million people, primarily in Norway, although there are some speakers in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the U.K., Spain, Canada, and the U.S.A. It is closely related to Swedish and Danish. In Norway, no official standard of spoken Norwegian exists, and there are hundreds of spoken dialects. Generally, the dialects are mutually intelligible. Because of the great number of dialects spoken in Norway, there are variations in pronunciation from place to place to place. In the Pimsleur program, we adhere as closely as possible to the pronunciation of the inhabitants of Oslo, the capital of Norway.
There are, however, two official written forms of Norwegian: nynorsk (literally, new Norwegian) and bokmål (literally, book language). These standards emerged after Norwayseparated from Denmarkin 1814. Prior to that time, the two countries were united, and Danish was used as the official language of the government. It was also spoken by the elite and eventually the middle class.
After Norway became independent, there was a push to develop an independent literary Norwegian language. Two approaches were attempted, resulting in two different forms. Historically, bokmål is a Norwegianized variety of Danish, while nynorsk is based on Norwegian dialects. Currently almost 75% of Norwegians use bokmål as their primary written language; somewhat more than 25% use nynorsk. Both written forms of Norwegian are mutually intelligible, and all Norwegians learn both in school. It is also required that all government forms and publications be made available in both. The Readings in the Pimsleur program are written in bokmål.
Because of the large number of similarities between Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, knowledge of any one of these languages makes it possible to understand the others. This is true for both spoken and written forms.