I did it :)! I finished Ny i Norge yesterday. 27 chapters in two weeks… The goal was a bit ambitious, but apparently, it is possible to learn a lot when going through a book so fast.
What have I learned?
- Vocabulary: lots of new word on all kinds of subjects. Introducing oneself, writing letters, shopping, buying a car and a house, traffic signs, sports, health care, booking holidays, school, and many more.
- Grammar: prepositions and when to use which forms, adverbs, word order in main clauses and subclauses, asking questions, the imperative, when to use which past tense suffix, articles, pronouns, etcetera.
- Background information: geography, the royal family, the importance of being on time in Norway, typically Norwegian food, Norwegian newspapers and news on TV, when and what a typical Norwegian eats and drinks every day, jobs, Hurtigruten, the Sami people, health care, public transport, the Norway cup, holidays, schools, and many more things.
I liked the project because I liked Ny i Norge. It is a monolingual course book: everything is written in the target language. This made it a perfect book for me. I do not like most other course books because they aim at pumping a lot of information into your brain by saying “this Dutch word is this Norwegian word” or “subclauses are formed by [insert rules]”. Using Ny i Norge was similar to reading a non-course book – I just had to follow what was going on in a story by looking at pictures and deducing the meaning of unfamiliar words by analysing the contexts they occurred in. This method works quite well for me. I learned much more in the past two weeks than when I attempted to learn grammar rules by heart a few years ago. The book does contain some explanation of Norwegian grammar. This came in handy when I was unable to understand grammar while reading texts.
Something else I liked was that you learn Norwegian with the help of a story about people who are learning this language. This sometimes made it seem as if I was in a classroom with these people and their teacher. In reality, I was going through the book on my own, but this approach made me feel responsible for my efforts and the results they produced. I was in a class with these people, so I had to be at least as good as they were. Of course, I knew that it did not matter how well I did, but the story made my approach slightly more serious.
I loved the fact that the book contains information on Norwegian culture and institutions. It made me feel more in touch with the population, which in turn made it even more fun to learn their language. Learning a language is learning culture: without background knowledge, one cannot understand a language completely, as its words and expressions are based on what people do, experience, and witness around them. Without variation in culture, all languages of the world would be exactly the same (apart from their phonology and grammar, naturally). Culture is language. If one is ignorant of a country’s culture, one will never be able to come across as a native.
In short: I have nothing negative to say. Monolingual course books seem to be my cup of tea. This method is hardly distinguishable from learning by reading stories in the target language, which is my favourite approach. I have learned a lot of things in such a short span of time. I know that the person who lent me Ny i Norge has some other course book (for higher levels), so I might borrow another one and start a new subchallenge soon.
According to Ny i Norge, I should be at A2 level now. My university has a computer programme for testing language skills, so I am planning to inquire whether I can do a level placement test for Norwegian.
I have decided to start a subchallenge: I must finish all lessons of Ny i Norge within two weeks. As I started yesterday, the deadline is 1 November 2012.
Normally, I really do not like learning languages with coursebooks. Last week, however, I had to read so many articles for my Master’s programme that I could not bring myself to read even a few sentences of Harry Potter og Fangen fra Azkaban. Coincidentally, my mother discovered that a friend of hers has taught herself Norwegian. When she told this friend I was learning the language as well, she offered to lend me her coursebook. It turned out to be a newer edition of a book I have in my possession, so at first I was a bit disappointed. Eventually, I decided to give it a try, to see if the writers had improved it. And they had. I became so enthusiastic that I finished six chapters yesterday. I was happy because I felt guilty doing nothing, but I was not motivated enough to read a story either. This was a perfect solution: something completely different that did not require much energy.
I have done chapters 1 to 10. According to the description in the book, this means that I have almost mastered Norwegian at A1 level. The book has 27 chapters. If all goes according to plan, the challenge should bring me towards A2 level. I will probably have to go through the lessons twice though, in order for information to stay stuck in my brain permanently.
I repeated chapters 1 and 2 first thing this morning and after that, I studied chapter 3. So I am on 1/10 of the book now. That is everything I can do today – my BA thesis is ‘slightly’ more important :).
Today, I studied chapter 1 and 2 of Ny i Norge to catch up. Very basic grammar and vocabulary, but that was just what I needed after weeks without opening the book. I am hoping to finish the book somewhere in may.