Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Language learnin' . . . (now with a Tika update!)

My Grand Plan, upon arriving in Norway, was to immediately sign up for language classes and fully immerse myself in Norwegian. I have a Norwegian textbook and workbook that are used in American colleges, and I had dabbled in learning Norwegian in the months leading up to our move in August. But everyone kept telling me "oh, you'll learn it when you get there."  True. . . but it's not so easy.

Even Tika is learning Norsk.
Here I caught her studying "Se og Si", which is
pronounced "say oh see" but really means
 "See and say," which is so confusing I
still don't have it straight in my head after 4 months.
The week after we arrived in Norway, we went to the Volksenoplæringen (community learning center) to register for a norsk kurs. A first level class had started the week before, which I was hoping to join, but was told the course was full and I couldn't be squeezed in. The next class would start in. . . November. (Now, as I write this in November, you think "that's not so far away,"  but when I was told this in AUGUST, it felt very far away). This was not a part of my Grand Plan.

So, in the meantime, I continued my efforts at home in hopes that I might join the second level class come November. Just last week I received a phone call from the learning center informing me that the November class won't actually start until JANUARY. I politely explained how I hoped to join the second level class, and would this be possible. I was then tersely informed that "that class is full, and there is no room for you." Perhaps they didn't mean to be terse, and it was just the fact that they were being succinct with their English-as-a-second-language skills. But if felt really crappy.

I'm really not happy about what feels like my only option to join a first level class FIVE months after we arrive here. I've essentially covered a semester's worth of material at home on my own. I've also recently discovered a website with interactive assignments to be used with the Norwegian text they use at the learning center, and I've breezed through the first 12 chapters of that.

On the other hand, I'm also not convinced that attending classes at the learning center will be all that I hope it will be anyway. I've had at least 4 sources who have either first- or second-hand knowledge of the courses tell me the courses move extreeeeemely slowly, which can be very frustrating for the motivated student who wants to learn as quickly as possible. I've been told the slow pace is due primarily because the courses are mostly filled with asylum refugees who may have little formal education, no knowledge of a Germanic language, and are essentially being paid by the Norwegian government to attend classes and therefore have little incentive to learn quickly. This sounds pretty racist when I put it down in black and white (it also sounds rather black and white), and I am just reporting what I've been told, and haven't witnessed myself. But it does make me wonder if my expectations for these courses are way too high.

In the meantime we've come up with a few alternatives, with suggestions from other English speakers who have successfully learned the Norwegian language in Norway. I'll continue to hit the books at home; we'll actually try to watch more TV--Norwegian TV, and hopefully with subtitles; listen to the radio, even if it's just background noise; read newspapers and magazines; and finally, go to a 3rd grade elementary school class!

This last suggestion was made by at least two American friends now living in Norway, and was made possible by one of Erik's colleagues who has a 3rd grader at a local school. The school is an "open school", which quite honestly I don't know what that means, aside from the fact that parents are welcome to visit as much as they wish. The 3rd grade teacher, who I will call A., was very open to the idea of me coming. So last Friday, I attended my first day of Norwegian 3rd grade.

Those are some smart little Norwegian kids. Their Norwegian is so good! They speak so quickly! ARG! Maybe I need a remedial 1st grade class!

I've attended about 4 days (only 2-3 hours a day) of school thus far, and I can understand the jest of the topic of conversation, but not usually the details that are rather important. Such as "students. . . conjugated verb. . . book. . . . you can. . . . table.  .  . conjugated verb. . . lunchtime. . . . red car." It's very overwhelming, even though there are absolutely no expectations that I do anything. I've listened to a morning theme discussion about Hindu-people and how they pick a baby's name, the Stoneage people and what the first housepets were (goats and pigs, in case you're wondering), math class about volume, learning to write a cursive "R" and "r", and crafts where they sewed a button onto a felt pouch they had made and braided a handle. That was the first time I felt I could actually communicate with some of the kids.

Erik and I plan on visiting the learning center soon, and make a personal plea to let me join the second level class, letting them know that there is essentially a job awaiting me as soon as my Norwegian is "okay". We're hopeful this might melt their icy Nordic hearts.


  1. Do they have Norwegian soap operas? Or, if they dub over Telemundo stuff, that is what you need. Overly dramatic, slow and obvious plot lines, overkill acting, etc.

    p.s. how do Hindu's choose names? :-)

  2. Well done, you sound as though you are doing it in a way that will help your Norwegian improve, what better than kids to learn with (they are also not afraid to tell you when you are wrong!)
    I cant start my Norwegian lessons until I have been granted Family reunification (which could take 6 months, I've been waiting 2 so far....)
    The whole system is rather frustrating to say the least! I think Im learning most from watching English TV with Norwegian subtitles, sitting there repeating things and comparing them to English words! Which web site do you use??

  3. That is frustrating, but is sounds like you are learning are learning a lot on your own. I was impressed that you could ask about your missing mobile phone.

  4. @ Linda: something about the priest coming to the house, whispering the name in the baby's ear or something like that.

  5. I don't know if this information is of any help because it's so dated at this point, but when I first moved here in '98, I too signed up for the public course. The timing was perfect in terms of my "documentation" coming through and my being able to join a wonderful class at Rosenhof. At that time, they organized classes based on educational background. I too was very eager to learn. Aside from getting a wonderful foundation (grammar, pronunciation, etc.), I made new friends and gained a connection that within a couple weeks resulted in a great job. While you don't need the job, it sounds like you are ready to welcome a peer group of Norwegian language students! Good luck!

  6. Emily- 2 things:

    1) I had a hard time getting "se" and "si" straight too. As well as "men" and "med" (hint- just think "men"=but, because men have butts).

    2) You're probably already doing this a bit since you have a 3 year old in the house, but try watching Barne-tv on NRK3- a great way to learn the language since it's relatively slow moving, they speak clearly, and use lots of visual images.