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 forn√łyd? (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!


  1. Learning Norwegian was one off the hardest things I've ever done! I too am married to a Norwegian and after twenty four years of marriage we still speak English. I don't think our marriage would have survived if we didn't. And we still do it to this day because if there's any place I need to be my "real" self, its in my relationship with him. (it just works for us)

    With that said... Try to talk as much Norwegian as possible with everyone else. Practice, practice, practice. Reading Norwegian text, while listening to people talk English on television helps and reading children's books also helps (work your way up gradually)...

    Remember your not alone and you can do it!
    Good luck!

  2. Good luck with learning the language! I'm still learning Norwegian too, but at least I have the advantage of having studied Swedish in school for five years (I'm from Finland so that's compulsory), and that helps a lot! On the other hand I'm married to a Brit, so there's no chance we would speak Norwegian at home. And I don't need it too much at work either.. Yaiks. I need to come up with some creative ideas like you have done!! :)