Businesses urged to use 'norsk'

Bookmark and Share

“Bruk norsk!” That’s the message, “use Norwegian,” that businesses in Norway were getting this week not only from the government agency charged with preserving the country’s native language, but also from the otherwise internationally oriented organization that represents Norway’s major employers.

The employers’ group NHO (Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon) has joined with The Norwegian Language Council (Språkrådet) in urging local companies to pare down their increasing use of English. They’re concerned that English terms, and even English conversation, have been creeping into everyday use for far too long, at the expense of Norwegian.The two groups have thus launched a campaign urging businesses to “use Norwegian when you can, and English when you have to.” They’re particularly unhappy with the increasing use of English in advertising and help-wanted ads, which often are peppered with slogans or job titles in English.

“This isn’t meant to scold business,” NHO boss Finn Bergesen Jr told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) . Rather, he says, it’s an attempt to make business more conscious of the amount of English that’s become commonplace, and reduce the blending of the two languages.

“When we’re speaking Norwegian, we should speak Norwegian,” Bergesen said. “We don’t need to insert English words into our Norwegian all the time.”

Bergesen said the campaign doesn’t aim to reject English, which is necessary for any business that deals regularly with non-Norwegians.

“But when lots of stores on Bogstadveien (a popular Oslo shopping street) advertise with the word ‘sale’ (instead of the Norwegian salg or tilbud ) or write on their front doors that they’re ‘open Monday to Friday from 10 to 18,’ something is wrong,” Bergesen claimed. “Why can’t they write that they ‘har åpent mellom 10 og 18 fra mandag til fredag ?'”

Bergesen and Språkrådet’s director Sylfest Lomheim, who also advocates the use of nynorsk (the lesser-used and more ethnic of the two Norwegian language forms), face a tough challenge with their campaign. Lomheim chose NHO as a partner because “business is probably the most credible player that can influence the most people,” but response from business has been less than enthusiastic.

Using more Norwegian “is easier said than done,” John Egil Mæland of recruiting firm Mercuri Urval told newspaper Dagsavisen . His firm is currently seeking an “engineering manager” on behalf of a client, and claims there’s no proper translation of the title into Norwegian. “We need a common language at meetings, in job titles and in e-mail,” he said of companies with international operations.

Several such companies in Norway use English as the main spoken language at work, and neither Bergesen nor Lomheim has a problem with that. Bergesen himself told DN that’s “natural” when not everyone in the company understands Norwegian.”We fully respect that,” he said.

But Bergesen got angry when he once received a latter from Norwegian oil company Statoil written in English. “I wrote back in Icelandic,” he said. “And I told them that if they didn’t get the message, I’d respond in zulu the next time.”