Friday, September 28, 2012

How I'm Learning to Speak Norwegian

Living as an expat comes with plenty of challenges and experiences that develop a part of your personality you didn't know existed.

A challenge that we all share when living abroad is learning the language of the place we are residing. I consider myself one of the lucky ones: I'm living with a Norwegian. (This can be a blessing and a curse - I don't have to look up every little thing, but then I don't ever remember what something means even if Stian has told it to me one thousand times).

Stian and I don't speak Norwegian at home. We should. We've tried....sort of. But at the end of the working day, the last thing either of us want is to be frustrated because we can't express ourselves.

So, being the teacher that I am, I had to get a little creative. I made up a game and I call it "Det Norske Spillet" (The Norwegian Game).

It's simple, really. Because I'm taking night courses again (which means I'm also drinking quite a bit of coffee to get through my 3 hour class), I was made very aware of how limited my vocabulary is (my pronunciation is not bad, though...I mean, I sound like a foreigner, but it could be worse!). So, I started putting words and phrases in a jar with the English translation on the back.

When Stian and I eat dinner, we try to speak a little more Norwegian. Conversations can be quite dull, but if we pull a word from the jar, we can each make up a sentence with that word. I want to keep it simple and carefree, so we don't do too many per week. It's actually kinda fun.

Er du fornøyd? (Are you satisfied?)

I've also decided to allow myself a little money to spend on magazines. I know that sounds a little silly, but there are 2 Norwegian magazines that I like: Det Nye, and Tara Smak. One fashion, one food. A semi-ironic combination, but learning words about clothes and food comes in very handy, and it's always good practice to read recipes in Norwegian.

Of course, I have to throw in an English magazine as well for easy reading and my sanity: In Style (I can't get the American edition, so British it is, but I'm enjoying comparing fashion trends from the two places!).

I'm no longer bothered by entirely Norwegian evenings with friends and family (which at the beginning, made me cry because it just simply wasn't me to sit back and not  participate in a conversation if I wanted to). After being here over a year now, I understand a lot, and generally can follow along with most conversations. This helps to take the edge off, though, if I'm going to try speaking:

I'm speaking a bit more Norwegian at work this year, and talking to the cat in Norwegian as well. Both children and animals are easy audiences, so it's good practice. I'm stuck on the appropriate use of possessive pronouns (yours, mine, his, hers, theirs), but the more I actually speak those words, the easier it's becoming. Some of the parents at the school that I work at have complimented me on my Norwegian - which was very sweet, but triggered a hefty belly laugh from me. I can make myself understood at the very least, but I would never consider my Norwegian abilities "good."

It's a start at least, and I appreciate the encouragement!

My goal is to keep it stress-free, as well as sincerely fun, as learning a language should be.

Cheers to others out there who are forcing themselves out of their element to communicate in a different way! Don't give up because you can do it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I'm back!

We got a new computer, thank goodness, and now I can start blogging again. I have so much to tell you, but for fear of a ridiculously long post, I think I'll start with the most recent thing first.

Perhaps most important of all is this: last Wednesday morning I took my driving test. I had been simultaneously loathing and looking forward to this moment. It stressed me out to the point of tears on more than one occasion, and I think I learned a pretty valuable life lesson. Failure happens. Facing the fact that you may actually fail at something you've tried so hard for and wanted so much is a very real possibility. I had to prepare myself for disappointment.

I cried over the idea of failing because I needed this. (My marriage needed this - we simply could not go on spending our free time together trapped in a car agitated with each other's actions or words - all of which were driving related, don't worry too much).

On the morning I took my test, I spent 3790 kroner ($660). That was to just to take the test. Nevermind the thousands of kroner I'd already invested in driving lessons up to this point. Then there was the added pressure that if I failed, I would not only be required to spend more money on lessons, but also pay this ridiculous fee the next time I attempted to get my license.

Shall we say, uff da?

I feel like maybe this a good moment for the old Mastercard commercial:

Driving Lessons: 9600 kroner ($1672)
Car rental for test (required): 2600 kroner ($453)
Test fee: 895 kroner ($156)
Driver's license photograph: 295 kroner ($51)

Passing your test on the first try and getting that Norwegian driver's license (førerkort) in the mail:

I'm so relieved.

So happy.

And so proud of myself. 

I have my independence back, and I know Stian and I are quite happy to put this experience behind us.

Next on the agenda: learn Norwegian and pass the fluency test. I refuse to stress about it now though as I am still basking in the glory of this personal triumph.

Hipp hipp, hurra!