Jeg går på norskkurs

(I go to a Norwegian course)

In case you were wondering, yes I am trying to learn Norwegian. I’ve been going to classes for about four weeks and have managed to master some fairly simple phrases. As of right now I can:

  1. Conjugate in the present tense
  2. Conjugate in the future tense
  3. Know how to make nouns singular and plural
  4. Know how to use definite and indefinite forms
  5. Construct basic subject-verb-object (SVO) sentences
  6. Tell time

Now you’re probably wondering why I decided to stick time on my list. It’s because telling time in Norwegian is bit of a headache. Norwegian is the third language that I’ve tried to pick up and it’s the ONLY language where you can’t just say it’s hour x and minute y.

So, how do you tell time in Norwegian? Well, first of all you need to divide the clock into quarters (see the picture below). Next, you need to know that when telling time everything changes depending on which quarter you are in.

For the first quarter, you essentially you pronounce time the way you would in English. So in the first quarter everything would be pronounced like this:

12:01 = 1 over 12
12:05 = 5 over 12
12:10 = 10 over 12
.
.
.
12:14 = 14 over 12

Once you pass the 15 minute mark everything changes. You add an hour to the actual time and subtract the minutes from the 30 minute mark. So:

12:20 = 10 på halv 1
12:25 = 5 på halv 1

Once you pass the half hour mark you still add an hour to the actual time but now you add the minutes from the 30 minute mark. So:

12:35 = 5 over halv 1
12:40 = 10 over halv 1

And once you get into the last quarter hour you subtract minutes from the 60 minute mark. So:

12:50 = 10  1
12:55 = 5  1

Each of the quarter marks also has their own special phrase. So for example, 12:30 wouldn’t be 0 på halv 1. It would just be halv 1. If you now have a headache, don’t worry I did too.

While telling time has taken me a few days to get used to, I would say that Norwegian hasn’t proved too difficult to pick up. The grammar itself is pretty easy to understand so all I really need to do is just buckle down and memorize more of the vocabulary.

As for practicing Norwegian outside of the classroom, it’s taken a while to learn some more practical vocabulary and phrases. While knowing how to say “My name is,” “I come from,” “I study,” etc., many shopkeepers aren’t particularly interested in knowing those details. Most of what I’ve been able to say on a day-to-day level is limited to “Thank you” and “Where is (insert random grocery store item here)?” But it’s only been a month, and I’m sure I’ll be able to communicate a bit more with people before the year is over. I did have one great moment last week when a student asked me a question on my way to my office at Byåsen. The conversation itself was a bit clunky and went something like this:

Student: Er du lærer? (Are you a teacher?)
Me: ……YES! I mean ja! I mean how can I help you?

She quickly realized that she’d have to ask her actual request in English, but hey I was just happy that I understood her question (and that she actually thought I was a teacher, not another high school student).

Yo ho, Yo ho! A Pirate’s Life for Me

As you’ve probably noticed, titles are not my specialty. It’s something that many of my former teachers and professors have bemoaned, but hey I figure it’s more interesting than writing the week number. I swear the title will make sense later on.

Work at Byåsen is starting to pick up, and my co-teacher, Kirsti, has sent an email to other teachers letting them know that they should contact me if they’d like to have me stop by any of their classes. I’ve gotten a few emails asking for me to drop by later on in the semester, but this week I got to go to a social studies class. The teacher of this class just so happens to be an American, and we had a great time talking before class about American history and what the kids are learning about. This semester her students are covering the British Empire, while next semester they learn about the U.S. This week we talked a bit about the Scottish referendum, what people within the U.K. are saying about it, and what a separate Scotland could mean. It’s been really interesting talking to other Europeans about the Scottish referendum, especially since it’s so different from the experience I got in the U.S. In the U.S. I heard pretty much no one talking about the referendum and all of my daily news digests only casually mentioned it. The reason why I even heard about the referendum was because I took a class on England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales my senior spring. In contrast to this indifferent American response, the referendum is water cooler gossip in Norway, and many of the people that I’ve talked to have been saying that Scotland should stay in the union. Everyone here is waiting to see what Scotland will decide and what the implications of the referendum will be.

Things at NTNU are much the same, and I’ve really been enjoying the classes that I help with. So much of what we talk about when it comes to writing reminds me of what I was told when writing my senior thesis. Overall it’s been nice to convey all of the great advice that I received to a new generation of students.

I have also started to empathize with my students. They are more or less required to send me a weekly sample of free writing and that’s what this blog has become for me. The one key difference is that while my students are encouraged to write simply for the sake of writing and not worry about “mistakes,” I make a point editing my posts, even ones that are weeks old. The curse of writing is that it can constantly be changed and improved. Writing is never finished.

Other notable news includes seeing the Northern Lights for a second time! There are apparently websites where you can look up the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights and one of my friends follows one regularly. I on the other hand attempt to cheat the system by using an IFTTT recipe, but so far the recipe has been unsuccessful (if you have no idea what IFTTT is definitely spare a moment to go check it out). I did have my nice camera with me so I’m able to include pictures this time!

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There are two good things to know about the Northern Lights. The first is that they often last for quite a long time. When we saw them this weekend they lasted from about 10pm to 4am, although I headed for bed by around 12:30. The second thing to know is that the pictures definitely exaggerate what I actually saw. Long exposure times meant that my camera could capture colors that either weren’t visible to the naked eye or were much more muted in real life. Nevertheless is was a great experience and I look forward to seeing more of the Northern Lights in the winter.

Now for my title! I decided to join the NTNU sailing team! In reality this pretty much just meant taking a beginners class since the team itself is wrapping up for the season. I’ve always really enjoyed sailing and have gone out with my dad quite a few times. Since my dad is quite the experienced sailor, that has often meant that what I’ve learned about sailing has been fairly informal and pick it up as you go along.

The class was itself pretty simple. All I had to do was take a theory course and go out on the water twice. Unfortunately there wasn’t too much wind, but the flip side of this was that it allowed me to relax quite a bit and get to know the people I was sailing with. This also meant that my very tiny circle of Norwegian friends is expanding! While I enjoy living in international housing and getting to know people from all over the world, the trade-off is that it’s been much harder to meet and get to know Norwegians. I’m looking forward to getting out on water more and hopefully getting to learn more from my new Norwegian friends. We also got to see some very small whales on our first sail, so crossed fingers that I’ll get to see a few more!

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Lessons

This week has been absolutely jam-packed so I’ve decided to break it up into a few different posts. This week I finally got in a full round of teaching for both of my NTNU classes, Academic Writing and Communication for Engineers. Academic Writing is a tiny class of about nine and it reminds me of my college seminars. Because the class is much smaller than Communication for Engineers (which has around 130 students) I’m much more of a co-teacher instead of a teaching assistant. We didn’t cover too much since it was the first class, but I’m looking forward to having a larger role as a teacher.

With Communication for Engineers, I got to teach the students a bit about writing resources. In case anyone is interested I covered:

1. Write or Die  (When you stop writing it starts to delete what you have written) 
2. Written kitten (It shows you a picture of a cat or the furry animal of your choice once you’ve written a certain number of words)
3. Omm Writer (Provides you with a nice clean interface for writing)
4. Final Deadline (Provides you with a host of resources that can help you with writing)

Shout outs to both my thesis advisor, Danny, and my sorority for showing me most of these. As expected, Write or Die and Written Kitten were by far the most popular of these resources. I also told the class that I would be happy to read over any of their writing and would be setting up regular office hours in case they wanted to meet with me one-on-one. One student has already sent over a draft of a literature review so I’m glad to see that the students aren’t afraid to take me up on my offer.

As for the classes that I’m taking, I’m currently enrolled in a Norwegian class and a class called Gender and Norwegian Culture. Unfortunately, I had to miss the Gender class due to the Fulbright Orientation (more on that later), but I did get to go to my first Norwegian class. While the teacher seems nice, the structure of the class is mind blowing to me. In the other languages that I’ve taken there have always been regular tests on vocabulary and grammar, and in the case of Korean, weekly one-on-one meetings with the teacher. In this class almost the entire grade is determined by the final. Other than that I only have to write six essays and attend at least 80% of the class. While I am supposed to do workbook exercises I do not have to turn them in and am expected to grade the exercises in my own time. In contrast with the American education system, which in my experience has required a lot of assignments, participation, and feedback, the Norwegian system seems to be pretty hands off. I’ve also noticed this with the other classes that I’m taking or teaching. There is not a lot of work or participation required, just a passing grade on the final.

On a brighter note, I have begun to tackle a few simple phrases and the Norwegian alphabet. Luckily the Norwegian alphabet is the same as the English alphabet but with three more vowels, ø, æ, å. While I still struggle to pronounce everything correctly I have managed to memorize the extra Norwegian vowels thanks to a funny YouTube video that another Fulbrighter showed me. I included the video below so hopefully you find it as funny as I did.