Sunday, 28 September 2008

Learning Norwegian! how it all began...

Note: I found this unfinished post from when I first started the blog - about why I started learning Norwegian and how I went about it. I have just updated and finished it, and will post this today as I am still busy working and sad about Junior still...

I had wanted for the last few years to take up a learning a language, I thought maybe about German as that's what I studied longest as school - I guess that's as good a reason as any!
Then when Hans and I had been together a few months I mentioned to him that I would like to learn Norwegian; the main reason being there was a reason for it, if you know what I mean! It became especially important as we both realised that this relationship was meant to be and that we are in it for the long haul; I would most certainly be meeting his family and there was a possibility of him moving back home at some point, etc... it just made sense for me to learn it! (I have to admit I also thought I would have it easy with a live-in tutor, but it didn't quite work out like that)
So it began, with me learning the Norwegian Alphabet and 1-10! I found it fascinating instantly - especially with the extra letters; æ, ø and å! I remember not having a clue where to start with it as I had decided to teach myself (try finding a Norwegian course in Derby) so I just began by really bugging Hans to tell me stuff and writing everything down in a book. I will always remember him teaching me the alphabet, and then we went together to take the recycling and as we walked I was just repeating the letters over and over! I tried to completely ignore 'R' as it was very rolled and a completely different way of using my tongue than I was used to (Note added later - I have since discovered that there are a billion and one ways to pronounce the 'r' in Norway depending on the dialect, well actually there are a billion and one ways to say everything in Norwegian depending on the dialect) but Hans was very firm and kept making me say the R - I dont have a problem with it now, for some reason the letter I have most trouble with is 'O'.

I will also always remember the first time we came to visit his family in Norway, and we were waiting at Heathrow for the flight to board and I was hounding Hans 'can we go for a coffee please just one coffee I haven't had a coffee all day I am starting to get a headache COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE please please I'll buy them I'll buy you one too dont you want one I really want one I have a sore throat coffee helps me when I am waiting c'mon sweety lets go for a coffee...' aww poor guy :-) Anyway, we were sitting there and he was teaching my to say 'jeg bor i England' (I live in England) and I just couldn't say England right - I can't even descrbe the differences in the word which are pretty subtle but so important. I think it's probably one of the best words to hear to giive you an idea of pronunciantion. Anyway this was 2 years ago and following this event I have only just realised the England is spelt the same (I thought it was spelled Englond) That right there is the danger of teaching yourself - the grammar will always be a bit sketchy if you don't have grammatical experts marking your work and making you work harder on bits you just don't get - and there is not a proper structure to what you are learning either - therefore it can be very hard to see how far I have come...

Anyway, he taught me a few random words which I think gave me an idea of pronunciation, tone and (inevitably) norwegian insults and swear words, then one day I got back from work and there waiting for me was the complete book and audio CD programme of 'Teach Yourself Norwegian' - bless him! He realised I was taking this seriously (and was getting fed up of me asking him all the time) so he bought me the book to help me on my way. I have to say it has been a brilliant book, it starts off very basic and the book is structured well, with dialogue, translated words, relelavnt grammar and then excercises at the end of each chapter.

The good thing about teaching yourself if you can do it at your own pace and go over the bits that are harder for you as often as you want.

The bad thing about teavhing youself is also that you can do at your own pace! (meaning sometimes you can be a bit lazy with it) and you also have no-one to push you.

I think that although Hans doesn't teach me as much as I would like (I had this grand idea that he would of course spend an hour a night as my Norwegian tutor - what was I thinking?!) I am lucky that I have someone to listen to me when I speak it and tell me what I am pronoucing wrong and stop any really bad habits forming.

So, all in all - for saying I have taught myself from a book I have come a long way and done really well. I often tell others (especially in Norway) that I speak really basic Norwegian and really badly, and they are usually quick to correct me and say no - we understand what you are saying, or, 'du er flink for å snakker Norsk!' I think honestly though that people are just pleased I am bothering to learn the language - almost every Norwegian has a story of an english person they know who has lived here from 5 to 20 years and still refuses to learn the language! I am determined not to be that person, and I think I am doing ok.

The biggest think is my confidence with speaking it - especially here in Bergen as the dialect is so 'special'. I shall keep it up though! Sometimes after I write an email to a friend on Norwegian or realise I have been chatting with someone for 10 minutes I realise just how far I have come - sure its not grammatically perfect but I am starting to like my own version :-) Hans and I have dubbed it 'Beckywegian'
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