Monthly Archives: April 2012
Learning to talk Norwegian
is one of the hardest things oops, I mean, is the hardest thing I ever did!
I’m sure you heard the old saying –you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, you can its just going to take years to do it.
I landed in Norway with three young children in 1989 and the only words I knew were: takk for maten, which means thanks for the food and a few curse words (for some reason we always learn those first). We moved to a small town called Egersund and with the nearest International school miles away, I enrolled the children in Norwegian school. It didn’t take long for their young minds to absorb the Norwegian language. Meanwhile, as her whole world turned upside down, their poor mother struggled to clear the cobwebs from her head. I now had my eleven-year-old daughter reading my mail and translating cooking instructions for me.
I was living in an area where there were few expats, I didn’t even consider myself to be one. I wasn’t there because I had a job to do, or had a company supporting me, I was there as the wife of a local. I had no choice, but to sink or swim. At first, I really tried to swim; I took classes, read books and listened to language cassettes. The only thing I didn’t do was practice. I felt foolish speaking this foreign language, in which there were three extra letters in the Alphabet (Æ, Ø and Å) and all nouns were classified by gender.
Meaning, I had to learn the gender of every noun in the whole Norwegian language!
There were other problems as well; I was being taught proper (Bokmål) Norwegian, but the good people of Egersund were speaking in dialect. Help!
Years passed, and I began to understand the native tongue spoken around me, yet I still spoke English myself. It seemed like the perfect compromise; I talked my language, they talked theirs and everyone understood each other. The only thing is I stuck out like a sore thumb in the little town. I would try speaking to children, but always felt as if I were met with questioning eyes. When I tried speaking around the house to my own family I was either corrected or laughed at, (not in a mean way) but it still didn’t help matters.
I would spend hours rehearsing and planning what I would say. It sounded perfect inside my head, then something would go awry and I’d end up feeling dumb. What was wrong with me and why couldn’t I learn this damn language?! I was sinking.
Six years after moving to Norway and desperately wanting to fit in, I signed up for another Norsk course. The instructor informed the class that the only way to learn the language was to practice. “Drop your own language and speak Norwegian all the time,” he said. What did I have to lose, my humility? That was already long gone.
I threw myself out there and didn’t let my limited vocabulary or American accent stop me. I was tired of feeling bad about myself and was determined to conquer the language barrier this time!
That was seventeen years ago and guess what? I speak fluent Norwegian, with an American accent, and the occasional mistake thrown in every now and then for good measure.
So next time you meet someone speaking with an accent remember, they’re not thinking with one.
Something that makes a physical connection between two other things.
This is Egerøy Bridge; it was built in 1951 and it connects the small island of Egerøy to the southwest coast of Norway. Before the bridge was built the only way over to the mainland was by boat. My father was born on the island and then immigrated to America in 1955.
I crossed the bridge for the first time in 1969. I was eleven and can still remember how excited I was to be going to Norway to visit my grandmother.
Crossing the bridge on my second trip in 1971, I was less than enthusiastic. I wanted to go to Florida that year, but my parents had other plans.
In 1973, I crossed the bridge looking for adventure. After meeting a boy thats exactly what I found. Driving over on my way back home I made a vow to return the following summer, and I did…
When I crossed the bridge in 1974, I was unknowingly put on the path to my destiny. A destiny that would take years for me to find, but first I had to go home and make all my mistakes.
It would take ten long years for me to find my way across the bridge again and yet, it still wasn’t our time.
Two years later in 1986, destiny called me back.
In 1988, he made his first crossing to my side of the bridge, in America.
Then in 1989, after twenty years of crossings, the bridge became a threshold to a new life and I made his side of the bridge, in Norway, my permanent home.
Its already 1:30 in the afternoon and I’m sitting here at my Mac, trying to write my tenth blog entry. Both the dryer and dishwasher are finished and now annoyingly peeping away. The dogs are lying by the door, still waiting for their morning walk. I haven’t taken anything out for dinner, my grandchildren are coming by later and I promised to make brownies. Oh yeah, and I’ve had five cups of tea, and I’m still in my pajamas!
I’ve always been a control freak and the thing I controlled most was my house. A place for everything and everything in its place. That was my motto. Well, things have changed.
I am now trying to write a blog, which I’m finding to be a very new and exciting challenge. I’ve made oh so many mistakes, which I will not point out in hopes that you haven’t noticed. Along with this, I’m constantly on the look out for something to tweet and have become hooked on Pinterest (its like shopping without spending any money). I dedicate hours to all my friends on Facebook and I’m trying to find people to review my book. Hint, hint…
The best and most surprising part of my new adventure is the ‘other’ blogs I’ve discovered. You see, not only am I a first time blogger, its also the first time I’ve read any blogs. In the past few months I’ve literally combed through hundreds of blogs before clicking the follow button on sixteen of them. I’d love to follow more, but as you can see I’m pressed for time.
Instead of giving out the names of these blogs, I thought I would tell a little about them and hopefully you’ll understand why they have come to mean so much to me. Maybe you’ll even recognize yours:
- A father telling his childhood stories to his children, and we’re lucky enough to listen.
- A sweet twenty-something working through depression and trying to change her life around.
- A fellow tea lover who’s gearing herself up to chase a dream.
- A poet sharing her sadness, yet finding the good in everything.
- A blogger on the threshold of forty and coming to terms with personal purposes.
- A former expat wife sharing her expat/repat experiences.
- An old classmate of mine sharing beautiful pictures and craft ideas.
- A fashion savvy Norwegian living in London.
- A feisty woman blogging about life, love and the occasional shitty day.
- A life from a writers point of view.
- A grown up TCK (third culture kid).
- An expat writer who also happens to be a white muslim living in a post 9/11 world.
- A multitasking Californian who’s into everything.
- A blog about living overseas, away from families and beyond comfort zones.
- A young American married to a Norwegian and starting a new life in Norway.
- The adventures of an American family living in Norway.
I love true stories about real people. Thats why I now rush to my Mac every morning eager to check my inbox. If anyone’s curious to find the name of one of these blogs, just ask…
I really can’t remember what the first sign was, or at what point my child began to quietly slip away from me. For some reason it was easier to deny, than to ask why.
Did I dare become aware? After trying unsuccessfully to shake the awful suspicions from my mind, I finally gathered the strength to face the unknown enemy.
Nothing could have prepared me for the devastating news. My worst fears were confirmed. I felt so desperately helpless and overwhelmed that I couldn’t imagine ever laughing or feeling good about anything ever again. There were no magic potions to take this pain away.
Once the shock wore off I was paralyzed with fear, anger, grief and resentment. How could I fix this?
That was fourteen years ago and my son is now seventeen. There was no recovery or cure, but in some ways he’s like every other teenager. He likes loud music, junk food and computer games. He also hates to clean his room or listen to his mom. In other ways he’s different than other teenagers. His inability to interact socially, robotic speech, one sided conversations and obsession. There have been ups and downs, good days and bad, triumphs and tribulations.
My son has autism and I can not change that fact, but I have learned to see through the autism. To see the child, my child.