So, eight weeks into my Scandinavian odyssey, how am I getting on with my ambition to learn Norwegian? The answer, as you might expect, is slowly 🙂
Firstly some background. English is almost an official language here in Oslo. By that I mean you can launch into an English conversation in a shop, cafe or restaurant with no raised eyebrows and no offence taken. Many big websites have an English option. English is the language of my workplace. Even some announcements on popular public transport lines are made in both Norwegian and English. Some effort with the basics is of course appreciated, but more often than not you'll receive a smile and fluent English in return.
So with that context, it should be easy to see why many foreigners (especially native English speakers) make little or no effort to learn the lingo. For once it's not an arrogant British attitude, it's quite simply perceived as not necessary.
Having said that, I am making progress. Due to the difficulty practicing speaking on a regular basis, I have decided to concentrate on reading, listening and understanding. I am limiting my speaking to what I can use every day, for instance greetings/pleasantries, numbers, asking for bags/receipt in a shop, that kind of thing. If I end up staying in Norway for a long time, I will enrol in a course at the local college, where I will be able to make far more rapid progress with the spoken language.
A benefit of this approach is I have plenty of opportunities to practice reading Norwegian and build my vocabulary. Public transport, multilingual websites, ATM's, free newspapers, the house rules for my apartment block, press coverage at work, menus, the Norwegian (Bokmål) option on my work laptop, the list goes on. Google Translate is a useful tool but it's far from perfect, so reading proper everyday Norwegian text helps me greatly to understand the structure of the language. I've also loaded a Norwegian audio course that I borrowed from Wendy onto my iPhone, which is great to listen to on my commute.
As I go about learning an entirely new language, I find myself recalling German and especially French words. I feel like I'm unlocking the hidden/dormant part of my brain which deals with languages 🙂
Because of this, I've set myself a target. I studied French for three years, albeit fifteen years ago. Much of this knowledge has disappeared, although as I said the process of learning a new language has reminded me of the French I do know. I want to be able to comfortably read, understand and speak as much Norwegian as I can French, within the next five weeks. By then I will have lived in Oslo for 3 months and at that point Norwegian will become my primary second language. From there I will set myself another target.
It's not the most challenging of targets and it's also difficult to quantify on here, but it gives me something to aim for rather than playing darts in the dark.
Ha det bra.