When I began blogging about my move to Oslo, I had intended on giving regular progress updates on my quest to learn Norwegian, just like the lovely Will over at My Spanish Adventure. Over a year later and I realise I've barely mentioned it!
My last proper progress report was after just eight weeks when I spoke in general terms about the task ahead. I did set myself a short-term target for Norwegian to become my primary foreign language, which I achieved. Although I've mentioned language in posts since then, and welcomed on board Bryce as a Norwegian language blogger, I haven't touched base with you all… until now.
So, after a year in Norway, how have I done?
The answer is both better than worse than expected!
The elements of language learning
With the wonderful benefit of hindsight, I now realise my biggest mistake was not putting in place a proper strategy. I put this down to inexperience with language learning. Having not seriously tried learning a foreign language since the age of 16, I kinda forgot that learning a language is a complex interwoven web of written comprehension, listening comprehension, speaking and writing – all requiring very different skills and approaches.
My haphazard approach has resulted in my written comprehension and to some extent my listening comprehension to be better than I'd have expected, but I have really struggled with speaking. I'll openly admit, to some extent I fell into the expat trap of not trying for periods of time. This is extremely easy to do in Scandinavia, where the use of English is so prevalent.
Mistake number two was not taking Norwegian classes, although the main reason for that was the uncertainty of my contract job, and the expense! A perk of starting a permanent job is the bill for Norwegian lessons will be taken care of by my new employer. This will give me a regular opportunity to practice listening and speaking Norwegian in a structured way – something I should have done from day one.
My Strategy for Learning Norwegian – Year 2
I will be starting lessons at a more advanced level than complete beginner, but not too far along, to ensure I can practice conversing with the vocabulary I am already familiar with. In addition to this, after a year spent tackling the language in my own way and discussing tips with others, I can reveal a few other strands to my Norwegian strategy for Year 2!
Watching kids cartoons
Norwegian television is full of British and American sitcoms, documentaries and the like. These are subtitled, but with the average Norwegian's ability in English, not many need them. The only exception on Norwegian television is cartoons aimed at children, which are dubbed. Last night I watched some super old episodes of Top Cat and Scooby Doo dubbed in Norwegian – a very bizarre experience!
A former work colleague of mine suggested I watch cartoons, both international and native Norwegian, as the language used is basic and the pronunciation clearer. She was absolutely right! Even at my basic level of Norwegian, they are surprisingly easy to follow and it has given me a morale boost that I am making progress. Baby steps!
Reading Norwegian books
Not language text books, but novels. Gerry has started to read Den Mørke Materien (His Dark Materials) starting with The Golden Compass. His strategy is to read and highlight words he doesn't know. He then looks up the words and re-reads the page until he can comprehend the vocabulary and grammar. It's a very effective technique, but only once your vocabulary is at a certain level. As a variation of this strategy and a supplement to the one above, I am considering buying a few children's books to read.
Playing a word game
As I'm a competitive little sod, playing games has become a great way to assist my language learning! A few months ago, Gerry and I bought a ordbokspill (dictionary game) called Lexico, which is a fantastic tool for building vocabulary and having fun at the same time. A nice touch is the three levels of difficulty, allowing those at different stages of progress to play in the same game.
Speaking only Norwegian to my Norwegian friends
I am typically British when it comes to this. When I don't understand something or get something wrong, I get flustered and immediately switch to English. If that doesn't happen, something else typically Scandinavian does – they start speaking English to you, even if your Norwegian was correct! This is a phenomenon in coffee bars and shops that makes practising conversational Norwegian extremely difficult.
So! I already chat in Norwegian to my local friends on Facebook, as I am far more confident reading and writing than I am speaking. From now on, I am going to invite my friends out for coffee and insist we speak Norwegian only. I have no doubt this will frustrate me immensely to begin with, as my conversational ability is limited to some basic chatter, but it's the only way I will make substantial progress with conversational Norwegian. So to Kathrine, Andreas, Hege, Jeppe, Ståle, Morten and everyone else – you have been warned!
Your Language Learning Tips
These are all elements of a language learning strategy that should have been in place since day one. But now I've committed to a future in Norway, I feel ready and motivated to fully take on the task of learning the language.
Do you have experience learning another language and have practical tips to share? Also, how do you think I should record progress? Continued blog posts like this, or maybe videos of me speaking Norwegian and/or responding to questions?
Over to you! Comment away…