About 5 million people in the world speak Norwegian. The majority of them live in Norway, but there are also quite a few around Denmark and Sweden and in other parts of the world.
While there is one main spoken form of the language, there are two written forms: Bokmal and Nynorsk, which mean “book tongue” and “new Norwegian” respectively. The Norwegian Language Council regulates the two forms and makes recommendations for introducing new terms whenever necessary. In schools, students learn both official variations, although Bokmal is the version most commonly used.
There are also two unofficial written forms: Riksmal and Hognorsk, which mean “state language” and “High Norwegian” respectively. The latter is a more formal version of Nynorsk.
Regulated by the Norwegian Language Council, the language is an official one for Norway and for the Nordic Council. While there are other parts of the world that will have a fair amount of Norwegian speakers, the language isn’t official recognized there. Nordic country citizens have the option to use Norwegian when communicating with official bodies in other Nordic countries without the need for a translator or interpreter.
In fact, Norwegian has links to Danish. During the 16th to the 19th centuries, Norwegians used Danish for writing. The current system has only been adapted in the last century.
Like many other Scandinavian languages, Norwegian is part of the Indo-European family. More specifically, it is part of the Northern Germanic languages, with links to other Germanic languages like German and Dutch. There might also be links to the Old Norse family of languages, although this are not without controversy.
It is difficult to determine just how many dialects of the language there are. Distinct dialects are created through differing pronunciations, vocabulary, and grammar. What doesn’t help determining dialects is the lack of officially versions. In Eastern Norway, the standard is to use an East Norwegian dialect that works closely with the Bokmal written form. Other dialects aren’t regulated, which can make learning the language slightly harder depending on where you are.
According to the Foreign Service Institute, Norwegian is classed as one of the easier languages for English native speakers to learn. It’s a Category I language, which means it takes between 575 and 600 class hours in total. This will mean in 23-24 weeks of full-time study you could be proficient in the language.
Of course, everyone is different and there are some people who find it easier to pick up a language than others. If you have experience in some other Scandinavian languages, such as Danish or Swedish, you may find learning Norwegian a lot easier.