Today, at 11am sharp, immigrant students across the country of Norway sat down to take Norsk Prøve 3 (the 2nd level of Norwegian proficiency).
It was a challenge, that’s for sure. Reading comprehension, the easiest (as expected). Listening, a bit more difficult than I expected, namely because I didn’t understand all the words in the question. “Is it higher, lower, or pblørjæreneskap”. One can only guess that means “in the middle” or “unchanging” or “pending” or something to that effect. “Is Lars angry, sad, or skjeløerfætig”. Hmm. . . from the 5 seconds that my brain processed him to actually be speaking he seemed pretty positive, so he must have been skjeløerfætig!
The speaking part was a bit easier than I expected, to be honest (so if I don’t pass. . .grrr. . . ). We were paired with a partner, mine a 50 year old woman from Lithuania, married to a Norwegian man, who takes the evening language course in Lillehammer two nights a week. We were given our first topic: “Talk together about what your ideal job would be in Norway.” Easy! This is a topic of conversation with just about every other person I meet in Norway. Second, individual topic: “Talk about something you enjoy doing, something you are very flink (capable) at”. Also rather easy. I talked about how I like to knit and sew, how I’ve made many sweater and hats for my daughter, how I don’t have a sewing machine in Norway, how I’ve met Norwegian friends through my knitting group. (I think the norsk teachers liked this: it shows I’m meeting other Norwegians, and using Norwegian outside of class, and trying to integrate. Not that this matters in trying to pass the test. . . but maybe???) My partner was asked to speak, individually, about a place that she thinks is very nice. She kind of rambled on and on, vaguely, about Lithuania.
Finally, we were asked to discuss together “what we think is different or similar between Norway and our homelands”. This is one of those very broad topics that you can kind of bend whatever way you want. Are you most able to talk about food? Fine. Sports? Great. Weather? Go at it. I was a little annoyed with my partner, as I was told to begin the first conversation, and she was told to begin the second conversation. She proceeded to do so by saying, “So, Emily. . . what do you think is different in Norway from your homeland?” Cop out! “Maybe the weather?” she prompted. I responded by saying the weather is very much the same, where I grew up it’s cold, blah blah blah. In the end, while I was most worried about the topics of conversation being difficult, they weren’t. I just hope my grammar met their standards. We were certainly able to communicate, both with each other and with the teachers, but whether this is enough, is anybody’s guess.
The writing was the longest portion of the test (90 minutes) and also challenging. In fact, my hand is still kind of shaking from all the gripping it’s done in the last 4 hours. Every test begins with a short (100 word) “letter” of some sort, usually a complaint letter to the newspaper, city council, or neighborhood council. This was a letter to your neighborhood/community council regarding your neighbor who makes a lot of noise at night. It’s pretty easy to embellish these letters, such as “I hope you can help me with my big problem. My new neighbor moved into the neighborhood 3 months ago and . . . “ See—used up 20 words already. And have demonstrated my ability to properly use adjectives and several prepositions. The second, longer (200 words) essays are generally more challenging. Today, we had a choice between two: 1) Write about a store that you’d like to open. If you’ve had a store before, you can talk about what you did. Or 2) Write about what it takes to make a good [word you don’t understand]. Shit! What does that word mean? Environment? Together-something-meeting? Arrrrg. . . So, the choice was pretty easy. I must write about a “butikk” that I want to open. (Turns out that mystery word was “community”. Probably should have known that one). Again, I fell back on knitting. “I have always had a desire to open a knitting and coffee store.” Problem was, I know how to say the verb “to knit”, but then became very unsure of the noun “knitting” (yes, it’s strikking). But norsk doesn’t use too many “-ing” words. Like, “running” isn’t a noun—you use “to run”. So, I’m crossing my fingers that in the variety of ways that I used the words “strikke, strikking, å strikke”, something will be right. I actually began eliminating it all together, simply describing it as “my store” and a place “to knit”.
But here’s the deal: I have been in an official Norwegian class for FIVE months. We had to write on a pre-test survey how many hours of instruction we’ve received, and I was told I had 304 hours. My classmate sitting behind me? Two thousand hours. Two thousand hours. I say this not to brag. Really, not at all. I am writing this down as a reminder to myself that should I fail, I’ve still come a helluva long way in five months. Results arrive in the mail in 3-6 weeks.
Stay tuned. . .