Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flashback: 3 Weeks into Norwegian Classes

Dear readers. . . Here is a post from late January that I never completely finished and therefore never posted. I realized recently that I never have posted anything very specific about my Norwegian classes. This really surprises me, seeing that so much of my life over the last 8 months has revolved around my ability--or inability--to learn and speak the language. 

So, without further ado. . . 

I now have 3 weeks of Norwegian classes under my belt, and hopefully have a little something to show for it other than some new gray hairs. Arg.

I wanted a challenge, and that is what I got. So for that I should be grateful. I was concerned that I'd be in a class where I'd be re-learning present tense verbs, and instead I got a class where the teacher wrote down and students recited four new tense of verbs I hadn't learned yet. Note to self: skip ahead to "new verb tenses" chapter.

The bureaucracy surrounding the Norwegian language classes has been a frustrating experience up until this point, and the first day of class was not any different. I was not given any information ahead of time other than "class is at 8:15am" --no room number, no class level, no teacher name--nothing (although I actually thought they said 7:45am, but the entire building was still dark and locked up at that time of day). Note to self: review "how to tell time" chapter. I spent nearly a half hour trying to find someone who could tell me which class I was in, and where the class was meeting. I thought this would be relatively simple, but the Learning Center does not teach just one Norsk kurs. They appear to be teaching at least 3 adult level classes, and have an entire elementary, middle and high school program running for immigrant students until they can be absorbed into the regular public schools. I was delivered to the appropriate room, 10 minutes late on the first day of school-thank-you-very-much, to a room with 6 other students and to a teacher who had no idea she was getting a new student that day. Again: thank you very much.

We made simple introductions, and I learned that the majority of my classmates had been in Norway for at least. . . 1.5 years, and some off and on for nearly 6. They included a married couple in their 40s from Lithuania, a dating couple in their early 20s also from Lithuania, a man from Somalia and another man from Eritrea (which took me 3 weeks to figure out what he was saying, and then another day to look it up on Wikipedia, ignorant American that I am).

To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. The students have a very good grasp of Norwegian, and seem to understand everything the teacher is saying to them, and can also rather clearly express themselves. I, on the other hand, could not. I quickly realized that I was lagging behind in two important areas: comprehension of "real" spoken language and verbal expression. I tried to remind myself that it was only natural for me to feel overwhelmed. After all, I've never taken a Norwegian class in my life, and this was the most intense exposure to the spoken language than I've had in the last 5 months. And I tried to treat the experience as a true "immersion" language class, knowing that the struggle to comprehend will eventually pay off. But it's hard not to feel like an idiot nonetheless.

May 2011 update:
To say my Norwegian class is an interesting experience is yet another understatement. Am I learning? Reflecting back over the last 4 months, I would say "yes". Has it been as effective as it could--or should--be? Absolutely not.

But, more on that later. 


  1. Your language skills will only get better and better as long as you keep an open mind and keep trying!

    As for the quality\organization of the Norwegian classes...well, maybe I just won't say anything since I don't have much nice to say! Make the best of it!

  2. Your experience on the first day of class mirrors many of my own - I can sympathize! I really am beginning to believe that there is a system that every one else knows, and if I can figure THAT out, then I am on my way! When I started teaching literature at the Univ. of Bergen I was told I could create my own course and that it would meet from 10 am - 12 pm on Tues. And that was all! I spent so much time trying to find out when the term started, how many assignments or exams they should have, how many weeks term was ... when the holidays were ... and I think many Norwegians simply don't realize what we foreigners DON'T know about their system. In my case it was simply a matter of finding the right website with ALL the info I needed (and finding the right person to finally tell me about the existence of this website!) *sigh*

    But it's very impressive that you've made it through almost a year of Norwegian so far!