Norwegian: arbeide med = work at, work on, work with?

serbianfan

Senior Member
British English
I've got so used to the common Norwegian expression 'arbeide/jobbe med' that my Norwenglish brain can't always decide whether you actually can translate this as 'work with' in some cases (I think Danish 'arbejde med' and Swedish 'arbeta/jobba med' are used in the same way). Sometimes it's obvious: if the Internet connection or electricity goes, a Norwegian might say 'De jobber med det' whereas in English I would say 'They're working on it'; some might say 'They're working at it' but nobody would say 'They're working with it'. But let's say a teacher has an assistant or a student teacher in her class, and says 'Du kan jobbe med de svake/svakeste elevene'. How would you translate this? To me 'work with' people suggests 'cooperate with': 'You can work with the other teachers to decide...' Maybe my brain is too Norwegianised, but 'You can work with the weak pupils' doesn't sound quite right to me.
 
  • winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I reckon "work with" is used more often in English than you think.

    A social worker might say, for example "I work with children" or "I work with adults".

    "I work with weaker (or ESN) pupils" is also OK. But if you needed a definite article in front of "weaker", to refer to a particular group of pupils, it doesn't sound quite right to me for some reason. In that case you'd probably rephase to use "teach". I suspect the Norwegian definite article here is used in cases where it would be omitted in English, and that might be part of your feeling uncertain? But that is where I become unsure of the Norwegian.

    Also a craftsman can "work with clay" or "work with wood". But, as you say, "you work on a problem or a task".

    (I also suspect that "jobbe med" is used more often than "work with", even if "work with" might be correct, because I think Nogwegian society tends to stress collaboration rather than agent-patient relationships. But again I am uncertain if it really it the case - I might be just imagining it.)
     
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    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Interesting to have your views. I agree that e.g. 'I work with special needs children' is perfectly ok, but there are cases where 'jobbe med' maybe shouldn't be translated by 'work' at all. As you suggested: 'teach'. Or 'help'. So where the Norwegian teacher says: 'Du kan jobbe med de svakeste elevene', the UK teacher would say: 'You can teach/help the SEN pupils'. Or the Norwegian boss says to an employee: 'Kan du jobbe med disse fakturaene?' whereas the UK boss would be less likely to use the word 'work' and maybe say 'Could you go through/take a look at these invoices?'
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    Swedish, Finnish
    It seems as Norwegian uses "jobbe med" in more/different ways than the Swedish "jobba/arbeta med", for example the example with invoices would sound very strange in Swedish. We can say "jag jobbar med fakturering", but "kan du gå genom/titta över dessa fakturor".
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Haha - your 'typo' actually resulted in the usual term these days. SEN pupils = special educational needs pupils. I did a quick search on Google - loads of hits for 'helping SEN pupils', none for 'helping ESN pupils' and not that many for 'helping weak pupils', so that's maybe kind of unwoke too.
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Haha - your 'typo' actually resulted in the usual term these days. SEN pupils = special educational needs pupils. I did a quick search on Google - loads of hits for 'helping SEN pupils', none for 'helping ESN pupils' and not that many for 'helping weak pupils', so that's maybe kind of unwoke too.
    Ah, maybe I was actually thinking of "special educational needs" when I wrote "SEN". It's difficult to know now.
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Do you use the expression 'work on oneself', as in 'He'll have to work on himself if he wants to do something about his drinking'? When I lived in Norway in the 1990s, the expression 'jobbe med seg selv' seemed to become very popular, especially in education/social work/psychology, and I remember thinking: What do we say in English? Can't be 'work with' or 'work at', must be 'work on' or maybe something else, like 'improve your self-image'. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say it in English, but of course I've never lived in England as an adult. It's certainly used a lot in Norway. I have the feeling that 'work on' specific things (he'll have to work on his anger) is more common in English.
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Do you use the expression 'work on oneself'
    If you do use it then, there must be a specific thing that needs change - you cannot generally 'work on yourself'. Even then 'He'll have to work on himself if he wants to do something about his drinking' sounds wrong. I think to 'work on yourself' is more emphatic. So if someone has a drinking problem, you could say 'You really need to work on yourself'. But I think it would be more common to use a different form of words like 'You really need to do something about it'.

    To put it another way, if a non-native English speaker occasionally used 'work on yourself', in an emphatic way and with a specific issue in mind, I wouldn't correct it (even if they want to improve on what is already good English), but I doubt it is actually used very much by native English speakers.

    Certainly 'work at oneself' is wrong. And 'work with yourself' is usually wrong, though you might conceivably contrast 'working with yourself' against 'working against yourself'.
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks, that's more or less what I thought, so it's good to see that I still have a feeling for English, including expressions that I never heard as a child/teenager :) (I did have to look up 'woke' at one stage!).

    So it seems clear that Norwegians talk about 'working on yourself' much more than people in the UK. What about Danes and Swedes?
     

    PoulBA

    Senior Member
    Danish
    "At arbejde med sig selv" is quite common in Danish too - a softer replacement for "at tage sig sammen" - to pull oneself together. To me (b.'58) it has a certain "newspeak" ring to it.
     
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