The official languages of both Svalbard and Jan Meyen is Norwegian; a North Germanic language (along with Faroese and Icelandic). There are two types of written Norwegian; Bokmål and Nynorsk (or New Norwegian). Its alphabet contains twenty nine letters from A to Z as well as the additional characters of Æ, Ø, and Å. The official languages of Norway are Norwegian and Sami.

In Svalbard the language is spoken is Norwegian Bokmål. This written form is preferred by some 85 to 90% of Norway’s population. Riksmål is another form of Norwegian which has unofficial status in Svalbard. Because of the fact that Jan Meyen has no permanent residents, only people who work or visit the island on a part time basis, the official language is assumed to be Norwegian since the employees usually come from that country.

Common words in Norwegian include “Velkommen” meaning welcome, “Ja´” for an affirmative response, “Nei” for “no” and “Kanskje” meaning “maybe”. A good morning greeting can be translated to, “God morgen” with “God ettermiddag” used in the afternoon hours and “God kveld” or “God natt” used to communicate “good evening or good night”. To wish someone good luck is to say, “Lykke til!”

Regional minority languages spoken in Norway include Kven, Tavringer, and Romani. Traditionally the most common foreign languages spoken by Norway’s citizens are English, French, and German but with increased immigration many other languages have gained popularity among the population. These include Spanish, Russian, Italian, Chinese, and Latin. A large percentage of Norwegian citizens can speak and write English which has been taught in local schools since the end of World War II.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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