How Common Is Spoken English In Norway?


Norway is a Scandinavian (and a Nordic) country found in Europe, and like most Scandinavian countries, it is particularly wealthy. Nearly all Scandinavian countries are consider to have high levels of English. Yet, how does this all apply to Norway specifically?

English is commonly spoken in Norway as a second language with 90% of Norwegians speaking it. This would mean that 4,795,200 Norwegians speak English out of 5.328 million. Like with most Scandinavian countries, English has very high presence in Norway.

According to the EPI, Norway is considered to have a high level of English present in the country, which places it as 5 out of the top 100 countries in the world that can speak English (not including those that speak it natively). Yet, why is English so popular in Norway? Learn the reasons why to that and more by reading on!

What Percent Of Norway Speaks English?

In most Scandinavian countries, and the broader Nordic countries, English is widely spoken as a second language. Norway, being both a Scandinavian and Nordic country, is no different in this regard. Yet, what is the exact percentage of those who can speak English in Norway?

The percentage of Norwegians that speak English is around 90%. This almost exclusively references Norwegians who speak it as a second language. To compare, 95% of Norwegians speak Norwegian as their mother tongue. English by far has the highest percentage of second language speakers in Norway.

These numbers are the general consensus on how many speak English in Norway. These percentages come from self reported data on what Norwegians themselves claim.

This means that there will definitely be varying degrees of how well Norwegian can speak English. However, for the most part they seem to speak it well enough due to their general confidence in their abilities.

Excluding native speaking populations like the U.S. and Great Britain, Norway reports some of the highest percentages of English speakers in the world. The language is not an official one, but has all of the other attributes one would expect.

We must remember that nearly anything relating to percentages are estimations rather than exact numbers. Though that might seem obvious to say, even in academic studies and far reaching polls definitive answers based on general percentages and estimations tend to be a bit skewed.

Most all of the other countries around Norway have a high percentage of English speakers as well. Mainly it has to do with culture, geographic location and the wealth benefits. We’ll go over this more later in the article.

How Many People Speak English In Norway?

If there really are a total 90% of Norwegians who can speak English, what would that number translate to when applying that to the population of Norway? For starters, there are more than five million Norwegians that live in Norway. If 90% of them speak English, how many people in Norway speak English in total?

Many people in Norway can speak English with around 4,795,200 of Norwegians being able to speak it on some level. This is compared to the approximately 5.328 million people that live in Norway. It clearly shows that English is spoken on wide scale in Norway.

Out of a 100 countries in the world with the best English proficiency (disregarding those that speak it natively), Norway ranks 5th.

It also ranks 5 out of the 34 countries in Europe in the top 100 for English as a second language. The remaining four top countries are all other Scandinavian or Nordic countries.

This data is according to EPI, which states that English is very high, or in other words, very common in Norway.

English speakers in Norway represent around 90% of the total population. Yet, it can be easier to say that 9 out of 10 Norwegians that you meet if visiting or living there will be able to hold a conversation in English to some extent.

There is no debate about whether English is prevalent, but the question still remains, “Why is English so common in Norway?”

If you would like to see how common English is in other countries, you will like these articles of mine…

Why Is English So Common In Norway?

That a majority of the population of Norway can speak English may leave many scratching their heads wondering how that can be the case. If English is so common in Norway, why is that?

English is common in Norway for three main reasons: education, geography, and business. The high English levels present in Norway’s neighbors provide incentives to learn the language. This is then taught through the Norwegian education system, which leads to better career futures for Norwegians.

So, some of the main reasons for English in Norway have to do with location, schooling and job opportunities. How does this actually play out in Norway? Well, it just so happens that I answer these questions down below.

How Does Geography Make English More Common In Norway?

Looking at a map of Europe, you may notice a very interesting fact. The closer you are to England, the higher the level of English will be. This is a general principal that holds true for most popular languages in the world.

This is not exclusive to England either, in fact, this rule applies to almost every country that is near another one that speaks a different language. The closer you are to an English speaking country (or any language for that matter), the more likely that you are to have some of that language in your own country.

Trade routes, family connections, education, and jobs between neighboring countries all contribute to the practice of language sharing.

This is how geography can affect the amount of English present in Norway and how languages spread in general.

Norway and all of its surrounding countries have very high levels of English as a second language in the world as reported by the EPI (English Proficiency Index).

According to EPI, the rankings of these northern European countries in reference to English proficiency looks like this:

  • 1 out of 100 – Netherlands
  • 2 out of 100 – Denmark
  • 3 out of 100 – Finland
  • 4 out of 100 – Sweden
  • 5 out of 100 – Norway

As you can see, Norway is surround by all of these countries along with being close to England’s native English speaking population

The fact that all of these five nations are wealthy along with England means many different trade routes, jobs, and businesses will naturally connect to one another. Yet, this is not the only factor that plays a part.

The popularity and spread of native languages also have a role. It should be noted that Norway and neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark have languages that are not spoken widely elsewhere in the world.

LanguageNative CountryNatively Spoken In CountrySpoken Worldwide
EnglishU.S., England, Australia, etc.360 million1.35 billion
DutchNetherlands17 million23 million
DanishDenmark6 million6 million
FinnishFinland5.5 million5.8 million
SwedishSweden10 million10.5 million
NorwegianNorway5 million5 million

Another way to think about it is by looking at the prevalence of English in the world as compared to the native languages of these five countries. English tends to be very useful for international business and political relations in countries with highly localized languages.

This shows how the languages spoken in these countries are normally contained within their national borders. For commerce, education, and tourism English benefits them communication wise with trade partners. It is no surprise then that English is taught in all of these countries at an early age.

Is English Taught In Schools In Norway?

Education can be a major reason whether or not a language is used in a country. On a nationwide level, one of the main contributing factors is if it is taught in the education system, promoted in popular culture, and if the general populous wants to learn it (i.e. if parents want to teach their children).

Focusing on education, is English taught in Norway?

English is widely taught in Norway starting at a young age. English is the largest second language in Norway and as such is taught in schools due to popular demand. Since it helps in future careers and college education opportunities, English is encouraged and taught in Norway.

From very early grades, classes are taught in both Norwegian and English. Yet, it doesn’t stop there. In many large Universities, like the University Of Oslo for instance, they offer many different programs entirely in English.

Does Business Effect English In Norway?

The businesses in Norway affects how much English is present in many ways. For starters, Norway’s economy as a country is highly focused on exporting, whether it’s oil, gas, fishing, or other goods. As discussed by WorldAtlas, Norway as a country makes most of it’s resources by exporting raw materials.

International Business

It is no surprise then that English is so predominate in Norway due to many international dealings. With English being used all over the world, it is the most practical choice from a economical view point.

Since the Norwegian language is only really spoken in Norway, it is difficult to use in dealings with foreign nations. It helps to have English common in Norway because England and all of the neighboring countries speaks English. This in turn helps increases Norwegian presence in the international business world.

Tourism

It is also the case that tourism has a place in Norway and as such will generally promote more English. Yet, it is not as big of a industry in Norway as some other countries in Europe.

Unlike its neighbor Sweden, Norway is not particularly known for its tourist destinations. This can work in reverse though, as many Norwegians with disposable incomes do tend to travel outside of their national borders. With English holding such a high standing in much of the world, their English levels serve them well.

Can You Live In Norway Only Speaking English?

It is not uncommon for some to wish to live in or study abroad in a country in Europe. However, the main hurdles against that endeavor are almost always related to cost and the language barrier. Relating this to our topic of Norway, how does language affect living there? Or, in other words, can you live in Norway only speaking English?

It is possible to live in Norway only speaking English due to the large population of English speakers found there. English is the largest second language with 90% of the population speaking the language. This makes it feasible to only speak English in Norway.

You can technically live in Norway just using English, particularly in the major cities, yet it can become awkward if you don’t learn Norwegian when you plan to live there long term.

It can be an insult to the Norwegian people if you don’t put in the effort to learn their language. Something like this won’t be that much of a issue if you are just visiting or studying abroad.

In many different countries including Norway, English can be seen as trying to take over the country and replace the culture.

This can lead some Norwegians to see English in a bad light, which is evident in a popular study by, Multilingua – Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication.

Even though they can speak English in Norway and the neighboring Scandinavians countries, in long term scenarios living there, it is best to learn the language of the country.

Despite all that, in instances less long term, English is more than capable of allowing you to enjoy daily life in Norway.

Where Is English Spoken In Norway?

In many countries that don’t speak English natively, you can find more English speakers in the major cities than those in rural areas. This is true, even if the general level of English in that country is low. With Norway, does location affect how much English is present? If so, where is English spoken in Norway?

Major cities and universities is where you will find many Norwegians who can speak English. Yet, since in Norway English is spoken by the vast majority of the populous, you will more than likely be able to meet English speakers anywhere due to wide reaching influence of the language.

You will never really have a problem finding English speakers in Norway. It is due to the 90% of the Norwegian population that can speak English. This means that 9 out of 10 Norwegians can speak the English language.

The only real problem lies in how well Norwegians can actually speak it. Some Norwegians, maybe more elderly individuals, might only be able to have “surface” conservations.

It is very likely that you will come across a English speaker in Norway. Yet, it is even more likely that you will find English speakers in Norway around big cities and colleges.

Is English Spoken In The Norwegian Workplace?

For the most part English is not the main language of business within Norway. Even though most can speak it when necessary, Norwegian is how most communicate on a daily basis.

It is not unheard of to find English in a business setting, but in Norway English will not be used in most work environments. This mainly has to due with a lack of motivation in most Norwegians when it comes to speaking English with other Norwegians.

That is blunt way of phrasing it of course. Yet, it is not necessarily untrue.

With Norwegians, as with many countries enjoying English as a prominent second language, it is used for more professional and education reasons than for cultural ones. From a cultural stand point, the official language is more applicable.

In Norway, this is the case in a nutshell. They can speak English, but in daily life they speak their mother tongue, Norwegian.

Unless there is a English speaker around, Norwegians will use their native language. Yet, if they do come across a English speaker then generally they’re more than willing to accommodate them by using English.

There is one thing to keep in mind if trying to find a job in Norway using just English. Norwegians speak such good English that it isn’t really a advantage for someone trying to find a job from another country. You will need to have other skills that set you apart.

Is There English On Road Signs In Norway?

Generally English will not be on road signs in Norway. There might be some exceptions, but for the most part if you do see a language on a road sign in Norway it will be in Norwegian.

There won’t be any English on road signs, yet it’s rare that you will see any language on road signs since they purposely just use a pictograph symbolizing the meaning rather than writing it.

However, if you have been to other countries nearby in Europe then you shouldn’t face too much trouble in regards to road signs. Across the countries in Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries, they don’t share the exact same road signs, but they do share similar design choices in making them.

It is commonly considered that driving in Norway is safer than other countries in Europe like Greece or Italy. If you are wondering whether or not you can drive around when visiting then it really is better than most. This is especially true if you learn some basic Norwegian words like left or right.

Is There English on Movie and Television Screens In Norway?

In Norway, the English media and entertainment is very popular. When you combine the fact that they don’t dub really any foreign media, English ends up all over the place.

This holds true for most every type of movie or television show execept for some children’s shows. The practice of dubbing children’s programing into a native tongue is widely used throughout the world and Europe especially.

Like in many other countries that choose not to replace foreign languages in their movies, Norwegians simply have subtitles added. These Norwegian subtitles allow for older populations with less English language skill and children able to read to still be able to enjoy the film, but leaves the original production in tact.

Common Spoken Languages In Norway

Along with English what other languages can you expect to find in Norway?

Norwegian is of course the official language of the country, but there is another official language that many haven’t heard about. Sami with its over 10 different dialects is a language spoken by the peoples in the cold northern regions of Norway.

Norway has two official languages: Norwegian (spoken by 95% of the population) and Sami. Sami is spoken by small minority populations in the country’s northern regions. The most common second language spoken in Norway by far is English with 90% of the population reporting some level of fluency.

As I have been detailing here, English is very widely spoken in Norway and is the most common second language. Because of the popularity of English and the prevalence of Norwegian, the vast majority of the people of Norway are bilingual.

The Final Talking Point On How Common English Is In Norway…

English is not only commonly spoken in Norway, but its wide spread use makes the country one of the leaders in the world in English proficiency. Living, traveling, and working in Norway using only English is fairly easy to accomplish and is regularly done by tourists, students, and business professionals.

Like with any country, it is advisable to learn the language of the communities you live in if stays longer than a few months is planned. Yet, with the view and dominance of English in Norway, it is not a dire necessity.

If you would like to read more about English and how it is used in other countries, see my articles here…

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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