Anne-Marte Denk Ravnestad
Norwegian (Norsk) is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway (but also in the USA, as the map on the left shows). Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants.
Norway is unusual because the majority (and official) language, Norwegian, has two written forms that are equally recognised by law: Bokmål and Nynorsk (Lovdata, 1981). The two forms have different geographical origins, and which form you use still depends a lot on where you live.
I write Nynorsk which is only a majority language in four out of nineteen counties (Språkrådet, 2011). Nynorsk closely resembles my spoken dialect, and I feel comfortable using it for that reason. There are often strong links between identity and language, and this is crucial to the understanding of minority language users' feelings about their language situation. Although have no issue with being identified as “Nynorsk”, I’m still aware that,
language varieties (…) can trigger beliefs about a speaker and their social group membership. (Garrett, 2010:33)
In my case, the social group I am likely to be identified with is “uneducated country folk”, and while I might not feel that this is problem, I understand that other Nynorsk users may not feel the same way.
Norwegian law requires that pupils learn both written forms of the language at school – and it has been hotly debated whether we should change this practice. Bokmål users have claimed that it is difficult to include both forms in school. I believe – both as a teacher and a Nynorsk user – that we should maintain this practice, not only because we would lose some of our cultural heritage if we didn’t, but also because of the effect it would have on Nynorsk users’ self-esteem, potentially further weakening Nynorsk’s position in society.
Teaching additional languages in school is both a challenge for teachers and an opportunity for them to think about their teaching methods. In the case of Nynorsk, it’s important for teachers to create awareness of this living language through showing examples of it in literature, newspapers and other media.
In my opinion the most important thing, when it comes to government-regulated additional language teaching and learning, is the teacher’s attitude towards the language. This attitude will be reflected in the pupils' motivation to learn and will ultimately determine the success of their learning experience. I believe languages reflect the huge variety of people and cultures in the world, and I want to pass my enthusiasm for that variety on to my pupils.
Garrett, P. (2010). Attitudes to language. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Lovdata Mållova (1981). Lov om målbruk I offentleg teneste [målbrukslova] (Law about language use in governmental services). [Internet] Oslo, Lovdata. [Accessed 21 October 2011].
Språkrådet (2011). Språkstatistikk – nokre nøkkeltal for norsk (Language statistics – some key numbers for Norwegian). [Internet] Oslo, Språkrådet. [Accessed 21 October 2011].