Today's guest post is from Mariola Czupowska, who blogs at the Language Wanderer. She is from Poland and was recently inspired to learn Norwegian! She set herself an interesting challenge of recording videos in the language, and used a trip to Oslo to motivate her to make even more progress. I found her story interesting and worth sharing with you all, especially because she was able to record these cool videos you'll see embedded below!
Over to you Mariola!
I began to study Norwegian in October 2012. It was a spontaneous decision and I had never thought about learning the language before, nor did I have any interest in Scandinavian countries. However in October 2012 I met some Norwegians in my city in Poland and my new passion was ignited!
I remember feeling baffled the first time I heard the language, being surprised by how it sounded but at the same time I wanted to understand what the Norwegians were saying. I made up my mind on the spot: “I’m going to learn Norwegian” There’s no more to it. It’s as simple as that!
I still remember when I took out my Norwegian textbook for the first time; the list of beginner vocabulary was staring me in the face, and I had the feeling that Norwegian pronunciation had to be a joke! “How on earth can anyone pronounce words like this??” I said to myself discouraged, and a part of me didn’t want to continue. This wasn’t a good start to my journey!
The next day I took out my textbook and tried to memorize the vocabulary list and dialogue attached to lesson one. I focused on the pronunciation of words by repeating them slowly and this yielded great results! I realised that I could overcome what originally made me feel discouraged, and all I had to do was take it one step at a time.
I used to study Spanish and Russian and I reached points in both languages that resulted in me giving up; usually at about after three months of study. But this time something was different… I said to myself: No! You can’t let it happen again! Don’t give up and continue, no matter what. This time you’ll succeed!
It was and still is a constant battle, not only with the language, but also with myself. I’ve realised that I am the only obstacle that can stop me from learning Norwegian.
We’re all surrounded by vast amounts of technology that connects us to the Internet, which has made it easier than ever to reach out and grab whatever information we want about a language. There are no valid excuses. In today’s world there is nothing that can stop you from learning a language but you.
Motivation is extremely important and it’s what a lot of people find difficult to maintain. I’ve always had problems sticking to my new hobbies and it was no different with Norwegian. I really want to emphasize that it’s been difficult to continue with my study of the language because I know there are so many people out there who go through the same thing. Sticking to things is clearly not my strength, or so I thought….
Getting into it
Three months studying Norwegian went by and I started to enjoy my routine, as it became an important part of my day-to-day life.
I invested a lot of time into learning the language, and with that in mind I made a deal with myself to not take a break from learning until I reached what I consider a satisfactory level in the language.
What’s a satisfactory level for me? To be able to converse with Norwegians on a variety of subjects, to understand the news on TV and to read books without needing to constantly look up words. I’m not aiming for native-like fluency. Of course, I’d love to speak like a Norwegian, but I don’t want to set unrealistic goals because they discourage and spoil the pleasure felt from making progress.
So I came up with the idea of having a One Year Challenge. It’s my personal journey to mastering Norwegian to the degree of fluency described above. Of course, I’m not going to abandon the language after this period, but it serves as a target to aim for and to motivate me to work each and every day.
You may wonder how I went about starting my study of Norwegian. The language was completely new to me and it isn’t related to any of the language I speak. As well as this, I didn’t have much experience teaching myself any language!
I started learning with a textbook for beginners and after getting through it I switched to another book, “P å Vei”. Next, I tackled “Stein P å Stein” and” Her På Berget” and I’m actually still working my way through some chapters of the last two books.
I’m a strong believer in learning through genuine natural use of the language, so I tried to implement speaking practice into my routine early on. It was quite challenging because there aren’t many Norwegian speakers in my town, but I didn’t let that stop me!
I started by uploading videos of myself speaking Norwegian on my YouTube channel, and I found it to be a great way to practice using the language.
After uploading a few videos to my YouTube channel I felt like trying something new! I wanted to do something that would give me another jolt of excitement because I started to feel a bit fed up with my routine.
The idea was to create smaller challenges on my meandering path to fluency. These challenges would serve as checkpoints on my journey and they would be a way to measure my progress. That’s when I came up with the idea of the Oslo Challenge.
So… what’s the Oslo challenge all about?
It became clear to me that fully immersing myself in Norwegian would be a great motivator, even if only for a short period time. I booked a flight to Oslo with the intention of interviewing Norwegians about dialects in Norway, and about the importance of learning foreign languages. Of course, I decided to conduct these interviews in Norwegian! Recording videos can be a huge help to your language learning challenge!
Here's the first example (you can enable the subtitles if you don't speak Norwegian)!
All the Norwegians I met were very encouraging and quite curious about my project! I recorded a total of six interviews in Norwegian (however 3 of the interviews were recorded with bad sound which made it impossible to make out what we were saying). I thought it would be difficult to persuade people to take part in my project, but I was very much wrong on this point, since I didn’t have any trouble at all!
Here's the second interview:
The first question I asked everyone I interviewed was Hva synes du om fremmedspråk læring? (What do you think about learning foreign languages?). Everyone said they thought it was important to learn several languages. The impression I got was that Norwegians in general have a strong desire to learn languages however what holds most people back is time.
I was really curious about what their answers would be to my question about dialects in Norway because the country doesn’t have only one official dialect and each region has its own pronunciation. The Norwegians with whom I spoke told me that Norwegians understand all dialects spoken in the country, but that understanding dialects has proven to be challenging for foreigners.
Out of the three interviews that turned out well on video, I interviewed two people at a bookshop in the center of Oslo and another person at the airport. Here's that third video for your viewing pleasure:
How do I feel about the Oslo challenge?
First of all, I’m extremely happy that I flew to Oslo to speak with all these Norwegians! My purpose for going to the country was to test my language skills and to provide myself with more motivation to continue learning the language after I had been learning it for about 7 or 8 months already. For motivational purposes, that part of the challenge was a huge success.
It was indeed challenging to follow and understand Norwegians when they spoke however. Ordering a coffee was tricky and I had to take my time to make out what my waitress was saying until she switched to English 😛
I didn’t expect it to be so hard! It’s common for Norwegians to switch languages when they realize that it would be easier to communicate in another one such as English. They do it with the intention of being helpful, but if you are trying hard to use their language you’ll probably start to curse the fact that so many Norwegians are skilled at English! It’s extremely hard to get Norwegians to speak their language to a foreigner if the foreigner doesn’t speak Norwegian well, but even Northern Europeans can be convinced if you are persistent enough.
I’m not sure how to assess the level I’ve reached in Norwegian (perhaps A2 or B1). However, after thinking deeply about my mission I’ve realized that time with native speakers (in person, or even via Skype) is the most important thing, and that just listening to recordings created for students of a language won’t take you very far.
As scary as it may seem, taking the plunge and trying to talk to foreigners in their native language is the best thing a learner can do! You may feel that you are not ready to speak the language yet, but in fact that means it’s the best time to start speaking because there’s no way of getting over that hump without practice.
This project has taught me that this is just the beginning of my adventure and that I still have a long way to go; learning a language is a long-term project. Small missions such as mine can help you keep track of your progress, and can also provide you with valuable feedback, which you can use to adjust your approach to learning languages.
Well said Mariola! To see how Mariola is moving on in her Norwegian adventure, make sure to check out her blog and her Youtube channel. If you've any questions for her, make sure to ask them below in the comments, and otherwise definitely get busy with your own challenges! You don't necessarily have to buy a plane ticket to the country, but definitely do spend time with natives in any way you can for the best jolt of motivation!
If you have your own interesting language learning story to share with us, send me an email and I'll see if it's a fit for a guest post!