I love my language. Obviously. It is my native tongue.
In a way, there are many advantages being such a small language. For one, the costs per capita (so to speak) of dubbing films, translating books, etc. are very high. That means that films are not dubbed and not very many books are being translated into Norwegian. So for that reason and others, we are very exposed to other languages - first and foremost English, of course. And thus, on the whole, we have quite good foreign language skills. Most people can to some extent communicate in English, and many people in other languages. All good.
On the flip side, in certain areas, we have to rely on foreign literature and media. I referred to this in a post back in 2009 titled «More on language - sub-standard Norwegian non-fiction». The main point was that the volume of non-fiction literature in Norwegian is very scant, and the number of good quality works low. This is an issue in academia.
But also outside of academia, this is a problem. Let’s say if you want to check up on something on the Internet. For me, I practically always type in the English search term when I want to look up something, sometimes even when my search relates to Norway. If you compare en.wikipedia with no.wikipedia, the contrast in striking. The volume of information in the Norwegian version is a fraction of the English one, and a lot of articles are not yet written.
And also, for certain stuff on the Internet, the English speaking community is obviously so much larger than the Norwegian-speaking one. Then you got the choice of relating to a tiny Norwegian community or a vast English speaking community online. This of course also goes for academia.
So, back to the title of this post: «The Catch-22 of a Small Language». Do we want to further the use of Norwegian whenever we can, produce Norwegian non-fiction literature that will be read by a handful of individuals, relate online to not many more? Or do we want to communicate in English (which is relatively easy for most people), and reach many more? If we choose the former, we will strengthen Norwegian as a language, I think, but isolate ourselves more. If we choose the latter, we will weaken Norwegian, but to a larger extent be part of a global community. It is a sliding scale, of course, but where on the scale do we want to be?
Nevertheless, it is a Catch-22 situation.