Due to popular demand (I know I’m stretching this, but I never claimed to be the preacher of truth…) today’s post is the first in a series (though probably not a consecutive one) of Norwegian “lessons”. That is, there are some oddities in this native tongue of mine, and some of them are amusing enough to be blogable. I’ve never claimed to be a great pedagogue either, so my tactic is a somewhat unusual one. Instead of starting with simple phrases such as “Mitt navn er…” [My name is…] or “Hallo” [Hello – duh!], and thus easing you into the language, I intend to scare the riff-raff away. Thus, we start with the tricksy stuff.
Ready to be confused? Today’s lesson is one of pronunciation. Specifically, I am targeting one thing that many Norwegians struggle with themselves. We have a number of words starting with an s and a consonant of some kind. The easy ones (st-, sp-, sn-, sm- and sv-) will not be covered in this post (or potentially ever) because they are, well easy. The tricky ones, however…
A clever observer once said to me that she found it interesting that the Norwegian sk- seemed to be pronounced like the English sh-. Following is a slight re-write of my reply:
Sk- doesn't necessarily have to be pronounced sh-. For instance Skandinavia is pronounced with the same sound as the English Scandinavia. However, sj-, skj-, sh- (not common), ski-, sky- and skei- are pronounced like sh-. Skau- is pronounced like sh- in some words (and/or dialects), and like sk- in others. The same goes for skøy-. If the rule had been consistent, this should also have been the case for skai-, but it isn't, because that's always pronounced sk- (again, as in Scandinavia).
Then we also have the similar sound kj- (also the common pronunciation of ki- and ky-, but not always), that English just don't have, and consequently, it's almost impossible for foreigners to pronounce it properly (many Norwegians struggle with it too). Instead, they end up with sh-, because it's easier to say. However, this may completely alter the meaning of the word you're trying to say. Kjede means chain or necklace, but pronounced with a sh-, it becomes skjede, which means vagina...
To further complicate this, there exist a number of varieties in Norwegian dialects where words written exactly alike are pronounced radically different. Some dialects don’t even have the kj- sound, while they may or may not have a tkj- variant (that you don’t find at all in for instance my dialect).
Finally, there are a number of other words also pronounced like sh-, such as the Norwegian word for giraffe, giraff (that can be spelled sjiraff, but if you do I'd have to kill you) and giro [giro - duh # 2]. Gisp [gasp] and giverglede [generosity], however, is pronounced like a Norwegian j (not unlike the sound at the beginning of "young"), while gire [(to) gear] and gissel [hostage] is closer to the English gi- (as in "give").
Now, repeat after me:
Sjåføren kjører skøyteløperen og skiskytteren som kjenner kystvakten opp på skytebanen der kyllingen sier ”kykeliky”. [The chauffeur drives the skater and the biathlonist who knows the coastal guard up to the shooting range where the chicken says “cock a doodle doo”]
Homework for next time: figure out how to pronounce æ, ø and å. That is if your browser can read them *evil cackle*