There are many groups of words in the Norwegian language, that can be difficult to tell apart or more importantly difficult to pronounce accurately for non-native speakers. I came up with this sentence last night during our Norwegian class, which illustrates this problem.
Er det lov å lyve om løven i låven? (
Is it permitted to lie about the lion in the barn?)
lov the o as in “of”
lyve the y is like the “e” in eat/beat
løven the ø sounds a bit like the “i” in whirr but a bit longer.
låven the å is a like the “ou” in ought or the “o” in bore, but a bit darker.
Then there are homonyms to keep things interesting. Here is another example from our lesson.
Vi skal løfte møblene opp på loftet. (We will lift the furniture up into the loft)
Du må love meg at du skal lufte moblene (You must promise me that you will air the furniture)
Javel, det er et løfte. (Yes that is a promise)
å løfte = to lift
et loft = a loft/attic the loft = loftet
et løfte = a promise the promise = løftet
å lufte = to air
There is no way to differentiate between “å løfte” and “et løfte” except from context. I also found it quite hard to hear the difference between loftet, løfte and lufte. The trailing “t” of loftet is (almost) dropped so all that is left is the vowel sounds to differentiate between loftet and løfte. The word “lufte” while it isn’t a true homonym can still cause confusion to the untrained ear. More so if the sentence is spoken quickly or in dialect.
Of course, being confronted with vowels and homonyms is just part and parcel of learning a language. To be honest, I am glad I don’t have to learn English as a second language given that it is peppered with similar sounding words, spelling exceptions and erratic pronunciation.