Speaking the same language

Eric Kendall, 01 March, 2018
Norwegians are really good at English. So good, in fact, that they don't need a native speaker’s help to translate – resulting in some very subtle but entertaining errors...

It can be tricky to know who you're talking to in Norway. Many of the seasonal workers from Europe and beyond speak excellent English with a hard-to-define accent. As with young Norwegians' English, much of which is honed by American TV and cinema, you can be fooled into wondering how someone from across the Atlantic comes to be working in a hotel in Ballestrand, Voss, or Ulvik when in fact they’ve come no further than Estonia, or perhaps from just down the road.

At an official level, Norwegians fall into the trap of being so good at English that they don't have to bother to check with a native. This leads to subtle errors such as national rail's message: 'Thank you for travelling environmentally friendly.' It's so close, and besides, what should you say? Friendlily?

But I think my favourite on the railways is: ‘Mind the gap. Have a safe trip.’

Their staff come out with some nice expressions too. During a rare technical hitch on the train between Flåm & Myrdal, the conductor explained to our carriage that we should be continuing shortly, allowing passengers to make their onward connections. But if they couldn’t get things working again, he said, with a dramatic pause, ‘Things get ugly’.

And I loved the instructions at the tiny ferry jetty in Undredal - a request stop. To let the ferry captain know you’re waiting a notice tells you to, ‘Turn on the blinking light’, as if it has just about had enough of incompetent tourists waving in a futile manner at ferries they’ve just missed.

The Serene Hardangerfjord

Walk beside thundering waterfalls and through beautiful, orchard-strewn pastures in spectacular Hardangerfjord, the southernmost of Norway’s three great fjords. The local transport network here is excellent – journeys by boat and bus are a key part of the experience – even if their translations sometimes go a little awry.
More about about our walking holidays in Norway >
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