Dec 11, 2010

Skj, Sj, Rs, Kj and other strange letter combinations

In Norwegian, there is a few letter combinations which we rarely (if ever) see in English. Most of them are pronounced in a way which is not really expected if you haven't encountered them before. So I'll go through them, and try to provide some examples.

Kj makes a 'sh' sound, rather than what you would expect it to make if you only speak English. As an example, I'm going to use the Norwegian band Gåte. The song Kjærleik is a good example of the 'Kj' sound (and might also help with the pronunciation of the æ sound). Even though it's being sung, this at least makes an interesting way to learn the pronunciation, or hear it.
Gåte was a Norwegian 'folk rock' band,
This is the lead singer, Gunnhild Sundli

This sound is pronounced like a more harsh 'sh' sound like in the English word, "shut". To me, properly pronounced it sounds almost like there's a soft 'h' sound in front of the Sh sound, but that's probably just me. Just think of it like the Sh in Shutup. Sj is pretty much the same in pronunciation to Skj, so basically a slightly... harsher Kj. An example is another Gåte song, Sjå Attend.

This isn't so much a letter combination in most cases, but more like a convention, I suppose. Words the have an 'r' followed by an 's', and sentences that have a word ending in 'r' followed by one starting in 's' cause the 's' to have a 'sh' sound in most cases. The sentence Vær så snill (Be so kind, like saying please) when spoken the r and the s run together, which causes the s to be pronounced as a sh, so instead of being pronounced like 'vahr soo snil' it is more like 'vahr sho snil'

This is an interesting combination, at the start of words (eg. Skål -Skohl, meaning 'cheers') it is pronounced as you would expect, but in the middle of words (eg. Datamaskin - Datamaschin, 'computer') it is pronounced with a 'sh' sound. At the end of words, eg. 'fisk' (fish) it still makes the regular sound you would expect from sk.

To cap up, i'll put them in the order of what is the 'harshest' sound and what is the 'lightest';
Skj/Sj - example - Bagasje (Luggage) - Bag-ahsh
Kj - example - Kjole (Dress, the clothing not the action) - Schohl
Rs - example - Først (First) - Foursht 
Sk - example - Torsk (Cod, the fish) - Torshk

It's a little confusing at first, but in written Norwegian it's fairly simple, the pronunciation of them is what will kill you, since they are so similar if you aren't used to hearing them, so it is difficult to tell the difference between the two sounds.


  1. interesting, thanks for the incite.

  2. I'm always in the market for good folk metal bands. Any recommendations? And folk rock... I have never heard of that. Please, do tell!

  3. Awesome and takk. Gåte is hot too. Haha.

  4. @Smatchimo
    Thanks, glad you read!

    I don't know a great lot, maybe Dirty Oppland or Lumsk?

    She sure is lol