Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tongue Tied and Tired

I started my first Norwegian class in January and, truthfully, liked it a lot. It was exactly the level I needed to be in (I skipped the first one since I knew the basics and was ready for a little more of a challenge), and for the most part I didn't mind going for 3 hours 2 nights a week.

When class was over I got my certificate saying that I had completed 56 hours and could move up to the next level. There were no breaks in between the old class and the new, and we jumped right in to only speaking Norwegian. The class had dropped from 13 to 6, 2 of which were a couple who had an unbelievable mastery of the language.

I can sort of  understand native Norwegian's when they speak (sometimes.) - but I couldn't understand the Polish accent these 2 put on the Norwegian they spoke at incredible speed. Within the first 30 minutes I felt incredibly overwhelmed and incompetent. I went home determined to review everything we did in class and take the homework really seriously.

Well, I tried that. After 3 hours I gave up and resigned myself to be unprepared for the following class. I felt myself plummeting into a black hole of self doubt and sudden reluctance to try.

When was the last time you tried to speak Norwegian?, you might ask. My answer? I can't even remember besides the "kan jeg også ha en pose?" (Can I also have a bag?) when buying cat litter the other day. That's been the only phrase besides telling the cat: flink gutt du er! (clever boy, you are!). At the moment, if someone speaks Norwegian to me, I can feel the puzzled look come over my face....and then a slow understanding...and when I try to respond all that comes out is an exasperated sigh. Where have all my words gone?! Where has my go-getter, throw your worries to the wind attitude about trying gone?! Panic sets in and I unfortunately go to my fall back phrase: Snakker du engelsk? (Do you speak English? please oh please oh please speak English!)

My pile of ever-so-expensive Norwegian books are staring at me as I write this, and I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt that I haven't opened them in weeks.

I quit the class. I told the manager of the school that I will come back and try again in the summer or the fall, but right now I just can't do it. I'm not motivated and more than a little stressed out with the thought of needing to take driving lessons and a driving test, and fill in lots of applications for work-related things.

So I'm on a temporary Norwegian hiatus with the promise to myself that I will do a little bit in my book every now and then.

Before I moved, I made contact with a girl from Canada. I asked her about learning Norwegian and how the experience was for her. Her words are still in my head: it's not something to stress yourself out about. You'll learn it eventually and in your own way.

I think she's right. For now, I'll stick to having my Norwegian experience of the week be a free Sunday morning yoga class. She speaks very slowly, quietly, and the most popular phrase that I can appreciate the most right now: slappe av.



  1. i completely sympathize will learn it in your own right. that is weird that just suddenly spoke all norwegian at your class...they did that from day 1 at mine. so overwhelming. and i noticed people that have kids pick it up SO much quicker than those who do not. and like everyone in my class had children.

    i hafta be enrolled in classes for my visa, but if i didnt have to, i might not have gone. i learn 150 times more at home with andre speaking only norwegian than i do at those classes. the only good thing ive had come from those classes is they motivated me to get better (my last instructor was amazing). just keep your head will come eventually. everyone learns it at their own right and at their own speed. you're doing much better than many people i know that have been here for years!!!!

    <3 u! we will only speak norwegian on sunday (KIDDDDDDDDDDDDDING!!!!!)

  2. Good choice to will do it when you feel it is right!

  3. You'll pick it up in time. I agree that having kids helps! My husband and I have been together for 16 years and it wasn't until we had kids that I started to understand or pick much up that I could use. In many ways I think I'll never totally get it unless we move to Norway because the full immersion combined with classes would really help. In the meantime, "slappe av" and "flink gutt" are probably the top two Norwegian statements made at our house on a daily basis!

  4. Does it help to say this is a very normal feeling? One of the really hard things about learning the language is that we learn to read it faster than we learn to understand it when spoken. So while I could speak Norwegian to myself, I couldn't have a conversation with anyone. So I gave up! I think it too about 3 years just to hear the language properly when spoken. Don't give up and remember that listening is also part of learning. Listen to everyone everywhere.

    And I remember very well that "kan jeg få en pose?" level! :)

  5. For me the key choise was to start to immerse myself in the language, chose Norwegian programs on TV, download podcasts from NRK to listen to on the way to work, read the paper. The reason the Polish guys seemed good was probably that they had basic english so had to learn.

    If you are taking a break can I recommend getting Norwegian Verbs And Essentials of Grammar by Louis Janus. I found that getting the grammar structure right helped in making progress and this book is a useful tool in understanding that. It is also cheaper than the equivelent Norwegian published books due to the protection for publishers in Norway.

    One think I did find helpful as well was helping my step son with his homework. Reading topics you know written in a language for teenagers did help expand my vocab and put it into new context, but then that might just be me.