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What foreigners in Norway need to know about Nynorsk?

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Some readers may find it a surprise to learn that the small country of Norway has two official written languages.

Both the Bokmål and Nynorsk variations of Norwegian are viewed as the national written languages of the country.

And while Bokmål may be the more popular of the two, Nynorsk, which translates as “new/modern Norwegian”, is still used by up to 15 percent of the population and is mandatory in schools.

How there came to be two variations of Norwegian in Norway

Norwegian is considered to be a part of the North Germanic languages, which include: Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, and Faroese. All of these languages stem from the same parent language, Old Norse. Old Norse was eventually replaced by Danish (though not in Iceland). 

In the 1530s, Norway was under Danish rule when Protestantism replaced Catholicism. As a result, Danish became even more prominent in Norway as all holy texts were in Danish. 

In 1814, the territory known as Norway was acquired by Sweden but was still allowed to operate as semi-independent. Around this time, many Norwegians found it problematic that Danish was the primary language and began a linguistic reformation pivoting from Danish to Norwegian. 

This transformation took decades. In addition to the reformation, another strategy Norwegians used to create their own language involved the investigation of Old Norse and incorporating it into the modern language.

Both strategies resulted in the birth of the Norwegian language. However, the outcome was two different variations of Norwegian. Bokmål or “Book Language” (derived from Danish), and Nynorsk or “New Norwegian” (derived from the regional dialects of Norway).

How similar is Nynorsk to Bokmål

Depending on where you settle in Norway, you may be offered Norwegian courses either in Bokmål or Nynorsk. Even though the languages are similar, do not switch between the two while learning the language, as it could make learning the grammar complicated and impact how you pronounce certain words. 

Orally, there isn’t an official difference because the two are, officially, purely written languages. Instead, differences in spoken Norwegian mainly stem from different regional dialects. The way some dialects are pronounced can sound similar to how one would expect Nynorsk to be pronounced were it a spoken language.

The written form is where the most significant difference is seen. Nynorsk is mainly used in Western and Central Norway by about 10 percent of residents.

A town or municipality in this country can decide if Nynorsk or Bokmål will be the official language. They can also decide to not choose between the two and be standard neutral. A quick way to identify if you are driving through or staying in a municipality that uses mainly Nynorsk is by looking at the road signs and noticing how directions are spelt on them. 

Below is a map representing municipalities that have declared Nynorsk as the official language (in blue), Bokmål (in red), and standard neutral (in grey).  

Source: Norwegian Language Learning 

Can I understand Nynorsk if I am not from Norway and have learned Bokmål?

Generally, yes. But the amount you’re able to understand depends on your level of Norwegian. You’ve likely already noticed Norway has plenty of different dialects, with some being more difficult to understand than others. 

You will likely understand what a local is saying to you in a dialect Nynorsk is derived from, but reading it would prove to be a bit more complicated. 

Below is an example provided by Norwegian Language Learning.

Bokmål: Vi har syv / sju ravner, en / ei kråke og flere linerler.

Nynorsk: Vi / Me har sju ramnar, ei kråke og fleire linerler.

English: We have seven ravens, a crow, and several wagtails.

As one can see, the spelling and the lack of masculine and feminine article options in Nynorsk are obvious separators of the two languages. 

Another noticeable grammatical difference between Nynorsk and Bokmål is that plural endings for masculine gender nouns are different. Take en hund, or “a dog”, for example.

Bokmål: hunder

Nynorsk: hundar

English: dogs

The government’s regulation of Nynorsk in the media

Even though a large part of the population in Norway uses Bokmål, the Norwegian government has rules set in place to make sure Nynorsk is represented. The use of Nynorsk is regulated in public service institutions such as in the media. 

State-owned broadcasting company NRK must have at least 25 percent of its verbal elements in both television and radio be in regional dialects. This could be confusing for foreigners if they were not aware. A newcomer can click on an article to read on the NRK website and suddenly not be able to decipher the text. Don’t worry about your language skills slipping, as the article is likely written in Nynorsk

Below is a graph showing how much Nynorsk was used in each of the NRK channels last year. 

Source: NRK

There is a third official language in parts of Norway

Bokmål and Nynorsk may be the two official administrative languages in Norway. But in some parts of the country, Samisk or “Sami” has an official standing. Sami is the language spoken by the native Sami people of Norway.

 Two variations of Sami are spoken, though two-thirds of the residents who speak it (mainly in Troms and Finnmark in the North) speak North Sami over its counterpart, East Sami. You can find articles or newspapers written in Sami, though the use of it in government and education in Norway is almost non-existent. 

Sami has the status of a minority language in Norway, Sweden and Finland. However, Sami has the status of an official language in Sami administrative areas within the countries. Unlike the similarities between Nynorsk and Bokmål, Sami derives from the Fenno-Ugrian languages and can not be understood by even native Norwegian speakers. 

Vocabulary in Nynorsk and useful facts 

Ivar Aasen is considered the creator of Nynorsk. As a language researcher, he both collected and systemised different dialects around Norway. His work is the basis for what we know today as Nynorsk

Previously, learning Nynorsk in school was a requirement. At the time of writing, The Education Act is being reviewed, and any changes for Nynorsk will be announced when new legislation has been enacted. The debate over the continued study of Nynorsk in schools has been quite active in the media for years. 

skule – school

korkje – neither

naudsynt – necessary 



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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds

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Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal

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CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.



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Three Cork publicans prepare to begin trade again

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Pensioners who like to read the paper as they enjoy a few leisurely pints are the cohort most excited by the resumption of indoor service in pubs, according to a Cork city publican who has only traded for two weeks since March 2020.

Michael O’Donovan, who owns the Castle Inn, says his regulars have been phoning to check what time he is opening on Monday, with some saying they have not had a social outing since the start of the pandemic.

“We know all our regulars on a first-name basis. We have a man who comes in and has two or three pints on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He will read the paper but he will watch the world go by at the same time,” he said.

“He will chat when he wants to chat. He is in his late 70s and he wouldn’t have been out [socially] in 15 months.”

Mr O’Donovan said it has been a surreal time but was hopeful that better days were coming.

“We will adapt and get on with all the changes we have to make with how we do business,” he said. “It is difficult in that we never wanted to be asking people about their health status. We have to be cautious but it is another step in getting life back to the way we knew it.”

‘It has been a struggle’

Danny Collins was looking forward to reopening the Boston Bar in Bantry, west Cork after a year of many sleepless nights due to worries about keeping the business afloat.

“I have been going through my savings to pay the mortgage as we were only open for a couple of weeks last year,” the independent councillor said.

“It has been a struggle. Of course there were other bills as well. To have your pub cameras, you had to pay the internet bill. I was also advised to keep my cooler system running. In the winter, I had to put on the heating.”

Mr Collins said he was apprehensive about all the different regulations that will have to be complied with as indoor service returns, such as staffing all entrances, and that finding employees had been a struggle for those in the sector.

“I think the PUP [Pandemic Unemployment Payment] should be reviewed at this point,” he said.

‘We can’t wait to open’

In Cork city, publican Ernest Cantillon will be opening Electric bar/restaurant and Sober Lane bar this week.

During the pandemic, he set up an online cocktail sales business and sold takeaway food, allowing him to keep a core team of about 15 people employed despite his business only opening as a traditional pub for a couple of weeks last year.

“We have also shifted to a new model of opening four evenings a week,” he said. “We are opening next Wednesday through Saturday and then staff will have three days off. That has been a key factor in staff retention and recruitment. We are going to give it a go. We can’t wait to open.”

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