To be brief, don’t do it. * (Regarding the intensive language course, Norwegian 1 and 2.)
You think it’s going to be a great idea. You’ll be in another country and you figure the full emersion makes it the best time to practice your language skills. While you have casually learned what you know up to this point via Duolingo, you think being in a classroom surrounded by students will help you hold yourself accountable. By default, you’re certain you’ll be encouraged to study more often and memorize all of those vocabulary words. You believe that learning from a professor will somehow transform how you memorize the idiomatic expressions and grammar rules.
What I just described are likely your expectations of what it will be like to take a language course. You know what? You’re probably right if you take Norwegian 01 or 1, both of which are beginning courses. Let me say, I do not think this is the best time to take the intensive language course that I did.
There are several reasons why taking the intensive language course in Norway is a bad idea, why learning a language in beneficial, and alternative methods to learn Norwegian while you are in Norway.
- Students come from all over the world with different intentions for attending this particular school. Some students come to focus on studies, while others go on Erasmus just to party. Remember that some universalities in Europe are free so it’s easier to not dedicate themselves to studies. Unless you are clear for yourself why you are in Bergen to begin with, you may find yourself influenced by what others involve themselves in.
- Traveling while in Norway or throughout Europe takes time. If you weren’t in a class and just casually learning, you could go around
- I took the intensive 1 and 2 course, so that means it’s a 30 unit class aka a full schedule aka 8 hours a week. This can be quit challenging if you chose to take an additional-15 unit class like me. Furthermore, many Americans don’t have experience learning a second language since most US schools don’t focus on languages as much as European countries. Therefore, Americans may not know what it takes to learn a language, let alone level 2, intensive Norwegian.
- I bring up teaching methods because the professors don’t talk about what is needed to master the language well enough to succeed on the exam. I think the professors make some assumptions when hosting these language courses. Norway is an interesting place in that as the country becomes increasingly heterogeneous racially, they encourage people to adopt the language and assimilate. They provide courses so people can learn, but I noticed that the method of teaching is full immersion. From day one, the texts are written in Norwegian. This wasn’t terribly awful for me as I took a course before this, but it is deterring. Small barriers like directions in a language you are just learning can make it challenging to fully understand the information. Unfortunately I left my coursework from home in California, so to best learn the language, I resort to Google translate, my Norwegian-English dictionary from home, and lots of online resources (which I’ll share with you).
Benefits to Language
Although I have just outlined several reasons why I don’t think taking the intensive language course is the best, learning a second (or third, fourth, and fifth language for many Europeans) can be highly beneficial. I have found it to be great for a few reasons:
- You can better connect with the culture of Norway
- Build relationships with Norwegians. Many of them appreciate it when you make the effort to learn Norwegian.
- Increase your skills. Learning a second language makes it easier to learn even more
- Not taking a formal class gives you more time to take other academic classes more relevant to your interests
Alternatives to a Formal Lecture
You may choose to opt out of the formal language course whether that is due to the fact that there weren’t enough seats available or you relate to what I have said. Regardless of what prevented you from learning the language, there are numerous options to learn the language including:
- The Bergen Public Library offers a casual space to learn Norwegian through conversation and activities with others
- Online websites such as Sett i Gang, Pågang, and NTNU Now, all of which are below under Tips.
- Practice conversations with Norwegian friends. They are just as excited as you are that you are learning the language. Set up a weekly meeting!
- Tandem Language program offered by UIB where they pair you with a Norwegian student to practice with
Tips to learn a language:
Settigang – Flashcards, grammar, exercises, games
Pågang – Grammar/Exercises
NTNU Now – Trondheim University grammar practice
*You’re wrong if you take intensive 1 and 2.
** I say all of Europe because did I mention how cheap flights are?!