Norway has two official languages, both Scandinavian in appearance. They are virtually the same, and every Norwegian will learn both. Bokmål, literally "book-language", is the urban-Norwegian variant of Danish -- the Danes ruled Norway until 1814. Being also called Dano-Norwegian in textbooks, it is used by more than 80% of the population (late 20th C. figures; growing). It is the predominant language in all Norwegian cities, the primary language of education for most Norwegian school children, and the language most frequently used on TV and in newspapers.

The other "Norwegian" language is Nynorsk, or "New Norwegian" -- as opposed to Old Norse (before 1500) -- and is a kind of common denominator of everyday speech in all it dialects. Nynorsk has a much more rural base, and is the predominant language in the western fjord area and the central mountain districts. Growing urbanisation since the end of WWII has led to a marked decrease in the number of speakers of Nynorsk, viz.: nearly one-third of all school children used it as their primary language in the 1950s compared with less than 15% today.

Yet, there is no problem for Norwegians speaking to each other. Aside from a few grammatical or syntactical differences the two languages sound remarkebly similar, and all Norwegians will understand both. Bokmål is predominant in the daily papers, and a striking feature of the Norwegian language -- whether Nynorsk or Bokmål is that many words have more than one authorised spelling. For example the word "champagne" can be spelled as in the french, or it can be sjampanje -- reflecting the pronounciation.

Like Danish the Norwegians use the characters å, æ, and ø, have uniform-conjugation of verbs, and suffixed definite articles. They do have three genders, however. In Bokmål the use of 3 is optional, however; one may use the old Danish common/neuter gender set-up.