Saturday, September 18, 2010


I've been planning to write a post on my Norwegian language class for a while now. You see, going to Norwegian class each time is like going to watch a comedy at the movies, only it's free here, and I'm learning something new. And this is way funnier... Let me explain.

I like our teacher. I couldn't ask for a better Norwegian teacher. His name is Frode, and he is fantastically enthusiastic about teaching Norwegian. He gave us his office number, and his email, and his home phone in case we couldn't reach him. He has high hopes for our class, only, sometimes I don't think we quite live up to these hopes of his. Of course, he doesn't have the heart to tell us this.

Our class members can be divided into a cast. The chorus (read: majority) would be made up of the Germans. Germans are known for being fast learners of Norwegian. The thing about the Norwegian language is that syntactically, it is very much like English. Sentences are constructed in the same way, but the advantage for native German speakers is that the Norwegian vocabulary shares a ridiculous number of German words. So these Germans usually find Norwegian relatively straight forward to learn, but not vice versa. Why? To begin, German has 4 cases. I still don't quite understand the deal with that. I also don't understand why Germans seem to have their main verb at the end of their sentences. Why would you do that??? It's like, every time they speak to each other, they hold back the most operative part of the sentence until the very end. So you find out all the main players, all the objects and props, all the prepositions and time setting and location and SURPRISE!! He got killed. But you didn't know that because I only said the verb at the very end...

Anyway, I digress (a tendency shared by my Norwegian class...). Quite simply, here's what makes me laugh:
  • The fact that it's so obvious when it's a German reading the text out loud. They pronounce Norwegian like they're speaking German. Throw in a few Ich's and Nicht's and Aber's and you could convince yourself it was German...
  • The fact that there's a girl in my class who still struggles with the concept of the infinitive. Ie. To live, but he lives. And Norwegian is simple in that. To make a verb the present tense, you just add an 'r', no matter who the subject. So it's I play, you play, he play, she play, we play, you all play, they play, it play. Bless that girl.
  • The fact that we'll be reading a text in Lesson 3 Chapter 4 and someone will ask a question about Lesson 1 Chapter 4, as if it were normal. I'm not sure of why there is this time delay.
  • We'll learn a new verb in class, and someone will innocently ask the teacher, (as if we'd never come across the verb yet), how to say that verb 30 min after we'd just learnt it.
  • Pronounciation. Possibly not as bad as someone in my Year 12 French class who kept on saying Jay (like Jaaayyyyson the bogan) when they meant Je. Je as in I. The most basic and important word in French. But yeah...Norwegian is a fairly melodious language, and yet some insist on reading it staccato.
  • Sometimes we still struggle with the concept of making nouns plural when so required. So people will go around saying things like 'I like to read book'. Similarly, because Norwegian places the word 'the' at the end of the noun (ie. en bil = a car; bilen = the car; biler = cars; bilene = the cars), people struggle with the concept of the definite article. So we go around saying 'During weekend, I read newspaper and eat grape (yeah...I eat one grape)'.
  • Norwegian has 2 tones. A flat tone, and the up-down tone. In Norwegian, gjenta = repeat. Jenta = the girl. Phonetically, they are both pronounced the same way. But gjenta is flat, and jenta goes down first, then up! Our teacher specifically sounds out the difference to us, then gets us to repeat after him individually. The difference in his voice was obvious. But out of our class of 20 something students, I did not hear one single person correctly differentiate the two words.
  • We were taught the past tense last Monday. On Wednesday, our teacher wanted us to write an essay in the past. He thought about it for a moment, paused pensively as he looked over at us with pity, then decided to keep it in the present tense until next week. He didn't have the heart to tell us why, but his eyes said it all.
You know, I LOVE my Norwegian class. I have so much fun there, even if we do seem to go through the same thing again and again. I also love the students in my class. We are a great bunch. We try very hard. We don't quite live up to our teacher's hopes (he had high hopes because of all the German speakers). But we have fun trying anyway.

Meanwhile, I really hope that the aforementioned student discovers what the Infinitive actually is, and when to use it and why it is different from the present tense (or past for that matter...).

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