Monday, September 2, 2013

Leisurely Now

I think I am now fully recovered from my Polish travels. Among many good things that came out of my trip there is one that I especially cherish, for its linguistic applications. I think I now am fully at peace about the interchangeability of the languages I know to different extent. I used to think that if I switch between them, I will dig myself into a full linguistic confusion and won't be able to express myself properly in any language. I liked to keep my languages as separate as possible.

I think it was the necessity of buying materials to learn Norwegian - materials that were prepared in Polish - that made my understand how silly I was being. Needless to say, I now intend to take a full advantage of all the languages I've been playing with. I was even considering getting the Assimil Norwegian course done for French speakers, alas, I'm not yet so brave.

Norwegian-wise, last week was used for a bit of a review. I was trying to get my Norsk to the pre-trip levels and work out some of the long-term goals I would like to set. Even though my changeable nature is already demanding another language, I decided that Norwegian will stay with me till the end of 2013. I am hereby scrapping my original goal of the B1 level by mid-September, and giving myself a few more months for the same linguistic scope. I think it proves maturity of both my resolution and my resolve. I am very proud of myself at this moment and I won't let this feeling be interrupted by any silly reminder that a won't be achieving my goal at the speed of light after all!

I will now go and read some more of Anne fra Bjørkely - at the most leisurely speed.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back in Canada - back to Norsk

Aside from the phrasebook mentioned before, I returned from my European travels with another resource to learn my current language of choice. It is a little book by Stanisław Łęcki called Język norweski dla początkujących (in English that would be Norwegian for Beginners). The only issue I have with it is the title - after all I would like to believe - even if it would necessitate lying to myself - that I am no longer a beginner. However, I did have a 2.5-week break in my Norsk studies, and even though the book is theoretically meant for beginners, it will get me very nicely to the intermediate stage.

I also find the organization of the material very comforting - it is exactly what I'm most used to. First there are some dialogues, then a piece for reading comprehension, then the vocabulary, grammar and some exercises.

I know this is the most traditional way of teaching a language, and not necessarily the most effective one, but after many attempts at more modern methods I decided that the presentation of the material in the newer textbooks is quite distracting to me. I especially dislike the colorful A4 format language textbooks and workbooks, where the page is so crowded with pictures, text, exercises and cultural notes of all kinds that there's no room for the learner to make it their own. Give me a white page and I will make it colorful and meaningful - to me - in no time. It's hard to make memorable pages that are already as colorful as they can be. So I appreciate the unimaginative character of Język norweski dla początkujących and the lack of distractions in the book.

On another note, I believe that even though I stopped Norsk for some time, listening to the Klar Tale podcasts affected my ability to guess Norwegian pronunciation very nicely. When I first started learning the language, my main problem was that unless I heard a word pronounced, I would not be able to figure out how to say it. It's different now - I can extrapolate from all my experience with the language, and sometimes I can even get the tonality of the language almost right.

Although I still think with nostalgia to the times when I thought phrases like "Hyggelig å hilse på deg" were the most difficult things to say ever... I am so much better now!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Light sabbatical

Well, I decided that Norwegian in Poland will just not happen. But I'm at peace. 2 weeks and 3 days' break will affect my fluency but it's nothing I intend to lose sleep over. I will step on it when I come back from my trip and I expect to be back to the pre-trip levels in 2 days or so.

In the meantime I purchased a lovely Polish-Norwegian phrasebook. I know, I know, I was supposed to do this one on the cheap and not overdo it with resources but the little book was calling to me from the shelf and I had to answer. It was very pleasant when I opened the book and found many, many phrases that I already knew very well. Although my usual Norwegian studies were happening in the English-to-Norwegian direction, not Polish-to-Norwegian, so I am a bit confused. But what's the point of knowing several languages if one is not prepared to use and abuse them every which way?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

So close to Norway, so far away from Norsk!

I'm worried about the state of my Norwegian. I'm worried because even though I happen to be visiting a country that's much closer to Norway than Canada (where I usually learn Norwegian), I feel absolutely no need to do anything intellectual - and I suppose learning a language belongs in that category. I suppose over-seas vacation means that one should do different things than at home, or nothing at all. Nah, that can't be!

Maybe because on my vacation I am forced to speak my native non-English language, I'm a bit afraid to add another language into the mix. I already have trouble translating my life, which happens in English, into Polish, so that my relatives could understand it. Would intensive Norsk studies not confuse me even more?

In the meantime, I'm staying in touch with the language by reading Klar Tale and listening to a bit of the language every day. But the fact that I may not be able to do any intense language studies is worrying me, especially considering my goal to get to B1 level by mid-September. I may have to rethink and reschedule the goal - but that will happen later, once I know for sure.

And now I allow myself to enjoy the proximity of Norway.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Made It a Little More Official

Today, at the beginning of week 5 of my attempt at Norwegian, I celebrated a little.

Since my knowledge of the language is probably hovering somewhere between A1 and A2 right now (closer to A1 than A2 but I will not allow this detail to deflate this balloon in which I'm currently traveling across the sky), I decided I deserve a little acknowledgment of the knowledge I acquired.

So instead of a little medal or a blue ribbon, I gave myself a virtual nod - I added Bokmål Norwegian to the languages I speak on my LinkedIn profile. Thank goodness LinkedIn allows for some indication of the proficiency level of the languages that people (claim to) speak. I wholeheartedly indicated that my proficiency level happens to be "Elementary proficiency".

On a moderately related note, I'm finding that the more advanced I become (advanced - doesn't feel right to use this word yet but since this is me patting myself on the back session, I'll let myself have it), the more distracted I become with different resources I find to learn Norwegian. I remember when at the beginning of this journey I was bemoaning the scarcity of the learning materials. Now I have more than enough. I almost feel I'm losing direction a little bit. The different resources are making learning more interesting but they're also making it harder for me to measure my progress. I may remain torn between quantifiable and organic knowledge - and I know most serious language learners are totally pro-organic (maybe with the exception of professor Alexander Arguelles who at any point in time knows exactly how many hours/pages of writing/pages of reading he invested into each language that he's studying) . And I so longed to know exactly where I stand!

But I guess that ship (or should it be balloon?) has sailed. I will learn to embrace all my knowledge then, no matter how it was acquired.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Klar Tale

I tried to read an online magazine in Norwegian today. A bit of a frustration it cost me but it didn't affect my attitude towards the language. The article I attempted is about the movie Despicable Me 2. I found it surprisingly difficult - my tiny yellow dictionary doesn't have most of the words I needed to look up, and I really dislike online dictionaries.

As I'm getting over that dislike and the self-disappointment I experienced, I'm exploring another online magazine that I discovered thanks to one of my former compatriots who some time ago attempted an experiment similar to mine - however different his methods.

The magazine I'm reading is called Klar Tale. It is written in simple language and as far as I know, it's meant for the learners of Norwegian. This is what I found on their website:
Klar Tale er Norges eneste lettleste nyhetsavis. Større skrift og enkelt språk gjør avisen lettere å lese enn andre aviser. Klar Tale kommer ut hver torsdag som papirutgave, som lydavis på CD og podcast, og som punktskriftutgave. På våre nett-sider finner du alltid de viktigste nyhetene. De er alltid lette å lese. Fordi vi bryr oss om at alle skal få informasjon.
It speaks to me. And it speaks to me in a language I can understand, even if not completely without difficulties.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Relatively Undiscouraged - on to Chapter 5

I have come to the realization that chapter 4 in the Teach Yourself Norwegian book was meant to make me reassess my goals. The fact that I go stuck on it - so desperately that I abandoned the book itself for a few days - served some purpose. Now I can say with some confidence that if I didn't let that one awful chapter derail me in my resolution, my resolution is safe.

I still can't say that I defeated chapter 4. There's some massive vocabulary there that I haven't committed to even the short-term memory. Of course that means that I would probably be a horrible sightseer in Oslo - after all the chapter deals with sightseeing in Oslo - but I realize it may be years before this hole in my linguistic education will affect my life. So I decided to do something radical and GET OVER CHAPTER 4.

I may go back to it at some point - surely months from now. In the meantime, life is too short. So today I moved on to chapter 5, fully expecting it to be as difficult as chapter 4 was. So I made a plan to change the way I work through the book and instead of trying to do all 3 dialogues one after another in one sitting, I was going to do just one dialogue today. Then another one tomorrow. And so on. It would have slowed me down in my language acquisition but I was planning to add some other methods to fill the presumed holes. However, it turns out chapter 4 was much worse than chapter 5. I'm breezing through chapter 5 and I don't feel any worse for not having completely internalized the content of its predecessor.

What IS slowing me down is all the research I do these days about languages, learning and learning languages. Right now I really want to read Stephen Krashen and his theories of language acquisition. I keep telling myself if I spend time on theory I will have no time left for practice, so I'm trying to wait it out and if possible not purchase any huge volumes full of theory.

It may be hard.

So today I think I will try to do some more of chapter 5 of Teach Yourself Norwegian, work through unit 24 of Pimsleur and read some more of Anne of Green Gables and its Norwegian translation. Lofty goals but it is a sunny afternoon perfect for a walk in the park with some foreign sounds in the headphones.

I'm really liking this language!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fiction Interlude

I'm feeling a little better about the state of my Norwegian today. This may have to do with the fact that so far I've read one third of the Norwegian translation of Anne fra Bjørkely - still side-by-side with the English version but from time to time I would read the Norwegian version before I comforted myself with the familiarity of the original. And I understood more than I expected after not even 3 weeks of learning the language.

Tomorrow the plan is to do Pimsleur in the morning during my commute and then some Teach Yourself Norwegian stuff in the evening. I may even dare to move to chapter 5.

I already know Norwegian will not be as easy as I hoped it would be. But I'm accepting the challenge, however more difficult it becomes every day.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Adjectives and the Gender-Confus-ed/-ing Nouns

I'm finding myself stuck on chapter 4 of Teach Yourself Norwegian. Stuck completely - between a ton of vocabulary for which I have no mental hooks (so I feel like I'm learning it anew every time I go over the lists) and the suddenly and inexplicably difficult forms of the adjectives. Also, gender is strangely proving quite the challenge - especially that some of my learning resources do and some don't include the feminine gender. It's nice that there's some leeway in Norwegian on whether to use it or not, as I'm reading. However, I'd rather deal with absolute rules than this supposed freedom that forces me to mentally correct between my Pimsleur audio material and the Norwegian on the Web, which use "ei", and my Teach Yourself resources, which happily announce that "en" is just as accepted for all the traditionally feminine nouns. I'm afraid that giving a beginning learner any kind of freedom may create more confusion than progress.

Another thing I'm still getting over is the definite article that gets attached to the end of the noun instead of going in front, like the indefinite one does. And I can't somehow get used to what happens to the whole article situation when the noun is modified by an adjective. I know it theoretically and I could write it out but there is no way I can think fast enough to say it.

In many ways I feel much less advanced in my studies than I felt a few days ago when I just hit my 2 weeks with Norwegian. Is it that the more one knows of the language, the more ways one has to get things wrong?

Now I'm torn between wanting to move on to chapter 5 - since technically I completed chapter 4, however inadequately in my mind - and reviewing chapters 1-4 until I completely know every single sentence in them. I think I will postpone the decision until I've listened to a few units of Speak Norwegian with Confidence. I have a feeling the early conversations dealing with introducing oneself and other simple matters may give me the confidence I need to continue in good spirits.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Anne fra Bjørkely - Reading Fiction in Norwegian on Day 15

I read two full chapters of Anne of Green Gables in Norwegian today, or what I should call Anne fra Bjørkely. Several discoveries:

  • As much as it is awesome to read fiction in a foreign language, the knowledge of the past tense - any past tense - really helps in understanding. Need I say in my norsk travels I have not yet come across any past tense? Should I give it another week before I continue? Somehow I don't think I will...
  • It seems to me that the translator (Mimi Sverdrup Lunden) was taking some serious liberties with the material! I was reading my freshly borrowed from the library version side by side with the English version that I have on my Kindle. As far as I could tell, some parts were missing and some parts were rearranged. I've been reading much about theories of translation and I know that some leeway is there to make changes in the material. I can also imagine that it may have been impossible to translate some of Anne Shirley's frantic monologue in chapter 2, or even some of the descriptions of the brooks and hills around Green Gables. But somehow I feel cheated out of some of my Norwegian text!
  • Even though I probably would have much more trouble if I didn't have the English text available to compare my imaginings of what the text says with reality, when I analyze single pages, I realize that I know a lot of words. More than I thought. They are of course single words, and the context would still escape me if I didn't have the crutch of the English text. But I have some solid foundations already. It's satisfying. 
The book I have has 3 volumes of the Anne novels. I've never read them in English but now I may read them in Norwegian. And by volume 3 I may even need no English crutch!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Experiment Finished - To New Beginnings!

I did it. I studied Norwegian consistently for 14 days. Just as I promised. In fact, I kept most of my promises (to myself) - I limited the number of my resources, I almost managed to resist buying books to learn Norwegian and I truly managed to resist immersing myself in the ones I did buy, I studied every single day and didn't let the early hiccups with pronunciation get to me enough to make me stop. 

The experiment did have the desired effect - I got to like the language enough to want to continue. Despite the fact that my dictionary is tiny, my books are not taking up even one shelf and my pronunciation is still very shaky. 

So this is the plan for the next 2 months (yes, I'm keeping Norwegian in my life for at least 2 months):
  • Incorporate into my studying plan Teach Yourself Norwegian and Speak Norwegian with Confidence 
  • Read some Norwegian literature (in English) - from Sigrid Undset to Linn Ullmann (I attempted Knut Hamsun's Hunger so far, for the second time, and I already know that despite his genius, Knut will not be read at the beginning of my Norwegian linguistic education.)
  • Consistently listen to Norwegian radio
  • Research Norwegian artists and educate myself on Norwegian culture  
With all this, I will still try not to overdo it with all the resources. I know that it's generally good to surround oneself with the language as much as possible but in the past it had a way to distract me from my studies rather than help me. However difficult it will be, I'm planning to restrict myself at least at the beginning.

I wonder what level I could reach with 2 more months of study. 

I bet I could get to B1 if I put my mind to it! Yes, this is my new mission - to get to the (self-established) B1 level in Norwegian by September 15, 2013. I can't wait!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Making Plans for the Future Already

I found more Pimsleur so I'm safe for now. I did one unit today in the morning while I took myself for a walk. It was 7 a.m., some crazy neighbor was at it mowing his front lawn, and in my headphones the calm voice was asking me to repeat in Norwegian that I can have a glass of wine but my husband is going to drive later so he will only have a glass of mineral water. I like that I can say a sentence like that, even though it is not very useful for me at this particular time. Even though I brought my husband into the loop about my little project (and to his credit, he didn't laugh too loud or too long), we will probably not make our way to Norway for some time.

The way I see it, it just means I have more time to master the language.

Monday is going to be day 14 of my project. That's when I'm going to take possession of the contraband language materials I purchased even though I said I wasn't going to. There's not much of it, and to my defense, I was partially motivated by the fact that Norwegian learning materials are hard to come by in Toronto, Canada, and when one does find them, one cannot ignore it.

As commitments go, I am committed to stick with it for at least another 2 months. A notion did occur to me for a moment to become a Norwegian translator but I recognized it for what it was - another sign that I like to think I'm limitless and can do whatever I want - and I promptly stifled it. The notion shall be reassessed when I can actually form a sentence in Norwegian that has some subordinate clauses.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Running out of Pimsleur

I have only 4 units left in my Pimsleur program and I already see that the linguistic heights I was planning to achieve with its help are going to be more like rolling hills than anything with a respectable peak. Looking at other resources I have, I have a feeling that the uncertainty how to pronounce words will be my main deterrent in vocabulary studies. I rely on Pimsleur for telling me how to say things, and not just what to say. What will I do when Pimsleur ends?

I ordered some materials from the library today - both language learning materials and literature that I know in English, in Norwegian translation. Bookstores I've visited proved disappointing when it comes to Norwegian learning books and CDs so I had to resort to getting library books, even though I won't be able to keep them forever and deface them according to my learning mission (I guess I should admit here that today I broke down and purchased my tiny yellow Langenscheidt Norwegian dictionary - but that was only because deep down I know that I don't have to wait till day 14 to commit to the language. Also, immediately after the purchase, I deposited it safely in a place I don't have a key to and it will stay there for 3 more days, until I really deserve it.)

Fiction-wise, I ordered Anne of Green Gables and one of my favorite books by Robertson Davies - What's Bread in the Bone. In Norwegian! Why am I embarking on literature despite my still very low level of the language knowledge? Well, I've been reading Polyglot. How I Learn Languages by Lomb Kató, a Hungarian polyglot whose attitude towards learning languages I find very compelling. Among other things she says that there is no such thing as talent when it comes to learning foreign languages, no matter how many. It's all about motivation, hard work and determination. For many years I thought that I had not much aptitude for languages - and even though it didn't stop me from trying to acquire as many of them as I could fit into my schedule, I always felt that it's not fair that some people have "it" and I don't. I'm very ready to believe the "it" doesn't exist (hard to do when one's husband and one's best friend are both seemingly effortless language learners). This book tells me that I can.

Lomb Kató learned her many languages in part by reading books way beyond her level and figuring them out for herself with or without the help of a dictionary. No reason I can't add that to my list of tricks.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Trophy Necklace of Little Shiny Words

I'm listening to Norwegian radio right now and I'm discovering something I didn't know before - I actually really like the sound of Norwegian. At the beginning of this experiment (which by now seems so far in the past!) I used to joke that norsk sounds as if somebody was speaking backwards. Well, my friends, it doesn't anymore - at least not when it's spoken fast and fluently. It sounds awesome!

Of course I can't understand anything except for the little words I happen to know and I manage to recognize in the sea of rapid radio Norwegian. It's doing wonders for my feel for the language though. I hear where sentences start and where they end. Oh! Somebody just said "tysk"! And I totally heard it! I bet if I stick with it, I'd recognize even more words, even if the general gist of the conversation is still a mystery.

And now they're talking about the movie Valkyrie. And I didn't miss it!

For the record-keeping purposes only, here are the words that I know in Norwegian (one benefit of using few resources is the ability to track one's progress easily):

en antropologi
en arkitektur
ei avis
  bare bra!
en bensinstasjon
en bil
å bli
å bo
en brus
en by
en båt
en dag
ei dame
  der borte
  det går bra!
en ekspeditør
  er (å være)
en familie
et fly
å gjøre
  god tur!
å ha
  ha det bra!
  ha det!
å hete
å hilse
  hvor langt
  hyggelig å hilse på deg!
ei jente
å jobbe
et kart
en kilometer
å komme
å koste
ei krone
en morgen
å møte
en professor
å reise
å ses
å snakke
å stoppe
en student
å studere
å ta
et tog
en tur
en turist
  vær så god!
å være
et år
en adresse
  bagasje (uncountable noun)
å betale
å bety
en billett
å bruke
en buss
en bussjåfør
ei bussrute
en busstur
å bytte
å dra
å drikke
en ettermiddag
å finne
en flybuss
en hjelp
å hjelpe
en kafé
en kaffe
  kan (å kunne)
å kjøpe
et kjøpesenter
å kjøre
  klokka er…
ei klokke
en koffert
en kopp
et kort
å kunne
å lande
å ligge
en mandag
å måtte
et nummer
en onsdag
en overgang
å parkere
en parkeringsplass
en pose
en resepsjon
å rope
et rundstykke
å se
en sentralstasjon
et sentrum
å sjekke
  skal (å skulle)
et skilt
å skulle
å spise
å spørre
å stenge
en studentby
å stå
å takke
en taxi
en taxisjåfør
en time
en tirsdag
en torsdag
en vei
å vente
ei veske
  vil (å ville)
å ville
et øyeblikk

I may know a few more but in the meantime I feel like these words are my trophies - hanging off my linguistic necklace like shiny white animal teeth of some mythical Nordic beast. I can only imagine how long my necklace will be in 6 more days. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Slowly, Very Slowly Speaking Norwegian

I can say that I'm beginning to get the grammatical structures but I also manage to remember how to say certain things even if I don't yet know how the parts fit together or how to spell some of the words. This of course comes from Pimsleur being my main source right now. Norwegian on the Web is going faster than my audio material is and I'm experiencing some anxiety when I look at the dialogues which I don't understand at all until I study the vocabulary in each lesson. Pimsleur doesn't do that - the program introduces new words and phrases very slowly, and they're always surrounded by very familiar by now words and phrases, so even if I don't remember the new one right away, it doesn't affect  my accuracy (= my linguistic confidence) very much.

I'm still pondering what kind of Norwegian I want to have learned by day 14 of this experiment. Do I want to be able to speak or do I want to be able to do it all, at least a little? Since I'm doing this one differently, I'm tempted to abandon any attempts to do grammatical exercises, learn vocabulary, study tenses and memorize things altogether. This is after all my usual path, and I know by now how long it takes me to learn languages this way. Speaking always gets left for last, and somehow never manages to catch up with the other skills. And then it gets abandoned altogether and I am left with a solid B2-level passive knowledge of the language but very little ability to produce too many coherent sentences in speech.

I would not like it to be this way this time around.

I wonder how much of my motivation is bragging rights. After all, it would be so much fun to announce - when it finally happens - how I spent last two weeks. And it's hard to brag if one can't prove that acquiring of a new language actually did happen...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Still Minimizing Resources and Proud of It

I dreamed about a Norwegian dictionary. Nothing too fancy - just a tiny one for now, maybe published by Langenscheidt, since I already have affinity towards their language products. Something that would help me look up the words I hear on Pimsleur recordings so that I don't have to keep imagining what they look like until I come across the same word in one of the online sources I use. Something that could be easily hidden in a pocket and used quite surreptitiously until I'm ready to properly announce my endeavor to my immediate surroundings (having a blog about it is not the same as telling people who have dibs on at least some of my free time, which will no longer be free if I decide to turn this endeavor into a mission and make it last longer).

I know just where I could purchase such a dictionary.

It was a beautiful dream. That will remain a dream until my 2 weeks are up. If after that time I decide to stick with it, I will reward myself. Until then I will continue with my resolution to not use anything I don't already have.

Even though part of me is feeling starved for resources, I find it curiously freeing to have as little as I decided to have for this project. I'm never at a loss for what to use - if I'm at the computer, I use Norwegian on the Web; if I'm in transit (on the train, walking), I listen to Pimsleur. Very few choices make for some quite efficient studying. In fact, it's making me rethink my to-date language acquisition method, where I would try to get everything I could find on and in my target language and then I never managed to find enough time to use those resources properly - just because I had more books and CDs than time. I'm liking this minimalist approach. I still want to find some Norwegian radio or TV on the web so that I can get used to the melody of the language but aside from that I have to cautiously admit that I'm set.

Yesterday I learned how to say that I'd like something to eat and drink.

This new knowledge gave me much comfort.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Artificially Adding Commitment?

So I am tempted to do what I did to motivate myself to stick with Italian (in many ways my favorite language in the world). I'm tempted to commit to passing an official Norwegian language test. I know this is way too much commitment than I should be making on day 4 of language learning, and knowing this exercise may end after 2 weeks, but something in me wants the threat of failing to motivate me to step up my game.

I will fight this impulse. Especially that today I only managed to sneak in about 30 minutes of chapter 2 of Norwegian on the Web. The night is still young so this may change but for now I will try to talk myself out of paying money for a certification that I will never need. Not to mention, it would be hard to find a place that administers such tests in Toronto.

Have I mentioned that most Norwegians speak English, so even if I somehow manage to travel there, I will not really need to use the language?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I am not Norwegian but I understand Norwegian and I speak a little. But I don't speak so well.

I have noticed that Norwegian in the evening is much more difficult than Norwegian in the morning.  Yesterday on my way home from work I desperately tried to learn by listening to unit 4 of Pimsleur Norwegian I, and it seemed nothing could be more difficult. On the other hand, the same unit today in the morning had a completely different effect on me. What was impossible on a tired mind, was quite achievable with a rested one, however unfed (no time for breakfast when one has serious studying plans).

Turns out I already know how to say in Norwegian, however slowly, some sentences and phrases of various usefulness and complexity. Here are some:

How are you?
Just fine, thanks.
I'm fine, thank you.
I'm quite well.
Not so bad.
Not well.
Are you well?
I'm very well.
I don't understand Norwegian.
I don't understand so much.
I think...
Are you American?
Yes, I'm American. And you?
Do you understand English?
No, not so much.
Yes, you understand very well!
I think you understand English very well.
You speak well.
You speak quite well.
I think you speak Norwegian quite well.
I speak a little but I don't speak well.
Yes, I think you speak very well!
Don't you understand English?
Yes, I understand a little and I speak a little but I don't speak very well.
Do you speak Norwegian?
Don't you speak Norwegian?
I am not Norwegian but I understand Norwegian and I speak a little. 
But I don't speak so well.

Considering my current preoccupation with Norwegian, it's nice that I can talk about it constantly while learning it, even if it's just muttering under my breath. The problem is of course that even though I can say these things, I probably couldn't write them - at least not all. The difficulty of learning by listening mostly (the easiest to accomplish while in commute and while keeping the language study a secret to some extent) that one doesn't have anything to latch on when the auditory memory just doesn't want to cooperate. And sometimes it doesn't - especially in the evening.

On day 3 I think I completed only about 40 minutes of Norwegian study/practice. I'm still stuck on some pronunciation but I feel that if I give it enough time to overcome this particular hurdle, I will have more solid foundation for any more advanced knowledge I go on to acquire.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hyggelig å hilse på deg - and other mouthfuls

Hvordan har du det?

Who would have thought that learning this phrase will be so difficult? I'm pretty sure that no matter how much Pimsleur insists, I will not be asking anybody how they are in Norwegian any time soon.

Here's an even better one: hyggelig å hilse på deg! Until I can fathom the existence of this phrase, I won't be saying that it's nice to meet anyone.

The time it takes me to remember that to express my opinion I should start the sentences with "Jeg synes" will probably ensure that I'm much less opinionated - at least in Norwegian.

However, I really enjoy some things about the language already. For example that Germany is Tyskland. Isn't that lovely and completely nonthreatening? I like the regularity of Norwegian negation, the simplicity of what happens to a verb depending on the subject of the sentence (nothing! Isn't that just the greatest?); I like how I can already use a lot of what I remember from German - I mean, Tysk - to make my learning easier.

Pronunciation kills me still. Nothing sounds like it's supposed to, and no word looks like it should based on how it's pronounced. This may be my frustration barrier, which (as I'm reading in an amazing book called The First 20 Hours. How to Learn Anything Fast, by Josh Kaufman) will pass soon, as I'm moving if not towards mastery, then at least towards linguistic self-satisfaction.

I've been at it for two days. Probably about 4 hours of not very focused practice. I will build some structure around this experiment soon.

Today I bravely resisted buying learning materials for Norwegian. I was very proud of myself. I shall persevere and use only what's available for free. My husband would be so proud if he knew. Alas, my Norwegian experiment must for the time being remain a secret. At least for 2 weeks.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

06. Mari Boine - Davvi Bávttiin (On the Fells of the North)

This instead of books

The fact that I'm not buying any traditional language learning materials limits me a bit in the titles at my disposal. Alas, we will make it work. This is what I intend to use:

  • Pimsleur Norwegian I (Comprehensive), provided by the bestest of friends, who also happens to be a seriously linguistically talented individual - I used Pimsleur before for French and Italian and however boring the audio tracks, the method does work, which I'm admitting reluctantly
  • Norwegian on the Web - a fantastic online language course prepared by Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. The course takes the learner through levels A1 and A2 in 10 lessons. 
  • Norwegian Class 101, with its nice and short podcasts for various levels of language knowledge
  • Norwegian - the tutorial, with some light grammar content - nothing too scary
Normally the list would be getting much longer but since this is a 2-week project, I will try not to overdo it this time. 

Only 2 weeks - with norsk.

Languages are hard. It takes long to learn them well enough to enjoy the fruits of one's labors. Why then am I doing it to myself again? Oh well, why not?

This blog will be a very short blog. Its purpose is to help me chronicle my attempt to learn as much Norwegian as I can in 2 weeks.

Why 2 weeks only? To see if it sticks. I've had some luck with languages in the past but not so much with language blogs. The long-term commitment the learning of a language seems to demand doesn't translate well in my mind to the blogging commitment of
similar scope. But anybody can handle 2 weeks!

In the book Babel No More, the author Michael Erard talks about hyperpolyglots - people who speak many (oh, so many!) languages with some levels of fluency. He writes that those hyperpolyglots often describe the ease with which they learned a language. Some of them can immerse themselves into a language enough to produce some proper linguistic output in a very short time. Very short compared to years of language classes that we're often subjected to as part of public education.

A lot of my foreign language education happened in the classroom. Russian was mercilessly inflicted upon me when I was 10 and it didn't go away until I was 17 (I swear it felt like it went on for much, much longer). German I welcomed into my life at 13, and it stayed with me till I was 24, at which point I had to replace it with English. That one has been in my life for the last 13 years. In the meantime, I've done some Latin and some French. At least to some extent, I've learned those languages in the classroom.

My first experiment at linguistic self-education, with no formal instruction and not much human contact in the language, was Italian. I even put my self-acquired skills to the test and after about 4 months of intensive labors I passed a standardized language test at a B1 level (self-established). The 86% mark that I received at that time made me feel invincible.

Norwegian is going to bring that feeling back into my life. It will be another self-attempt, but I will take it to the next level. Normally even when I'm only at a stage of considering learning a language, I'm already predisposed to go to a bookstore and purchase all kinds of learning materials, from textbooks to dictionaries. The library receives my frantic requests for whatever they happen to have in whatever language I happen to be getting interested in. Usually by the time I start Lesson 1, I have a sizable obsession and a language library of an equal size.

This time will be different.

This time no book will be purchased - not even a dictionary. I know how much it is going to cost me but this time the materials I will use will be mostly online. The bookcase in my room that currently houses all my language materials will not gain a Norwegian section.

I'm very proud of myself for this. This time will totally be different.

I intend to talk about this learning experience - if only to myself. It's hard to learn from an unexamined educational experience, and I intend to make most out of this one. At least for 2 weeks.