Saturday morning I spent about $85 to take a two and a half hour train (actually bus) ride to Oslo, then another $150 to have a 10-minute conversation with a teacher who would then judge if my Norwegian was good enough, or not good enough, to work in the health care field in Norway.
That about sums it up.
I took the written skriftlig Bergenstest about 3 weeks ago now, the test that allows a non-native Norwegian speaker to gain admittance into a Norwegian university. I need it to take a course that will allow me to work as a nurse in Norway. These are brand-spanking new regulations as of last November, if anyone out there is saying "uh-uh. . . I didn't have to do that. . ." To those of you who are very nervous about the oral Bergenstest: I write this for you.
The written test was challenging, mostly because it is divided into 5 sections of reading, writing, listening and comprehension and you must pass all five parts. Because the oral muntlig Bergenstest is mostly for foreigners who wish to work in the health care field, there aren't a lot of us out there taking this test (hence the 2.5 hour train ride to Oslo). In fact, when I asked my teacher--my teacher in the Bergenstest preparation class--what she knew about the oral test, she had to look it up on the internet, because it's been several years since she had just one student take it. Our class has been very much in the mode of Teach To The Test, but just the written test--no focus on the oral at all.
To say I felt unprepared is an understatement. But to be perfectly honest, I really didn't give it much thought. In fact, it wasn't until I was walking up the stairs in the building of the test site that I began to feel a little bit nervous. My teacher told me to just relax and remind myself it's just a simple converation. A German friend reminded me to speak slowly, telling me that we-foreign-speakers try to speak Norwegian quickly "inanattempttohideourmistakesandmakeussoundmorenorwegian". Good insight.
I walked into the building, 15 minutes early (having registered a few hours earlier, and then spent 1.5 hours wandering around the neighborhood trying not to get lost), and the test proctor met me at the door: "Emily?"
"Ja?" sa jeg.
"We can test you now, the 12:45 student didn't show up."
"Ok!" sa jeg. "Jeg er klar, hvis jeg kan bare gå på do først!"
"Of course! I think it's better to just get this out of the way, then you're not so nervous."
We sat down at a small table across from one another, and another proctor sat at a table a few meters away from us. They asked me to tell me a bit about myself. I recited the sentences every Norwegian student knows by heart after the first week in class. My name is xxx, I come from xxx, I moved here xxx, I am educated as a xxx, I work as a xxx, I am married, i have xxx children. . .
Then she presented me with 3 lamenated pages. Each page had about 5 pictures on it. She told me I would choose one page, and I would be asked to describe the pictures, then I'd be asked to agree or disagree with a statement, and then we'd have a very short conversation about the topic.
My options consisted of digital communication (with pictures of computers, cell phones and email), sports and, I believe, gambling, and immigrant issues. To tell you the truth, I didn't even reallly look at the last two options. Knowing nothing about gambling and sports, and not really identifying with "immigrant issues in Norway", seeing that I am a white woman from a developed Western land, I choose the topic of digital communication.
First: describe what you see in the pictures. This was not elaborate, deep thoughts here people. "That's a computer, looks like they're talking on skype with each other. I really like skype--it helps me stay in contact with my family and friends. . . here's a cell phone, and they're sending an SMS to someone. Norwegians realy like to send SMS (it's true). . . "
Then the woman asked me to talk about the statement on the flip side: "I think digital technology has made us more lonely/alone". She told me I could take a few minutes to jot down a few notes, which for some reason or another, I declined and just jumped right in. (I think perhaps my confidence was positive???) I disagreed, and gave a few sentences of why I felt the way I did. Three sentences top.
Then she asked me a few questions (this is the "conversation" part of the test, but really was rather one sided): What are the dangers of technology and youth? What problems might there be with the elderly and technology? It is possible that we can get overwhelmed by the information out there? What dangers are there with security?
One thing I think everyone who is learning a foreign language learns to do is dance around what you really want to say until you find a sentence that contains the vocabulary that you actually possess. This "skill" was put to good use in that final section.
"Ok!" she said, after no more than 10 minutes, "We're done!"
"Completely done?" I asked. . . totally shocked.
This was actually a very good sign. In the test information it states that if there is any doubt about your ability to communicate, we could be asked to do a fourth section--looking at a graph or diagram of sorts, and asked to describe what it showed. Seeing that this didn't happen, I was incredibly encouraged.
In the hallway a few other students waited, nervously wringing their hands. Another man bounced down the hall, a big grin on his face. He reassured one of the nervous women: "It's easy! They are very nice!"
Results come in two weeks, along with the written test results.