Learning a new language is exhausting. Reading, writing, listening, recognizing, speaking – it will make you tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed. You don’t understand the road signs, you can’t tell if your neighbor is a gentleman or a shyster, and when you try to relax with some TV, even the children shows seem to be mocking you. Åse-Berit and Rolf Strandskogen are professors at the University of Oslo, Norway, and they teach Norwegian as a foreign language. Thankfully, from their experience has come a book for us foreigners (utlandinger).
I Parts of Speech
II Sentence Elements
III Sentence Structure
IV Word Order
Why is this book important?
Test Case: Prepositions
You don’t think much about prepositions until you have to learn another language. In Norwegian, the word “om” means “about” in English. So the phrase “Boka handler om en stor hval” would mean “The book is about a great whale.”
Yet propositions are tricky.
- In English, you can sit in a chair or you can sit on a chair, but books always go in a bookcase and on a shelf.
- Or, you were born in 1990 on July 4th. You wouldn’t say you were born on 1990 in July 4th.
That sounds wrong, and when you hear a foreigner mix up their prepositions you know they’re either still new to the country, or they have a ways to go in the English language (unfortunately, this fault is also found with many Americans themselves). But in order to impress your Norwegian neighbors and family, learn your prepositions (and everything else for that matter).
So what about Norwegian? The word “om” doesn’t always mean “about.”
- “Jeg skal på ferie om to uker” = “I am going on vacation in two weeks”
- It does not mean “I am going on vacation about two weeks.”
If you don’t know any better, hearing this in a sentence will throw you off, and you will lose precious words in the conversation leaving you wondering why everyone except for you is nodding their heads. Reading this book as you continue in your Norsk immersion will help you to nod your head and laugh right along with everyone else, and [as well as] it will help you avoid sitting in a corner alone eating the rest of the lefse at the next juletrefest.
The grammar and terms in which the book is written was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. I could actually understand the grammar the authors were explaining. This is essential in a grammar book. It is a huge help to be able to read this book and understand how the grammar works without needing a teacher to explain it to you (though if you’re living in Norway and learning Norwegian, you will probably need go to through a language course. However, reading this book will put you much farther ahead than if you began school without any prior knowledge of the language). The authors not only provide many examples, but they also provide plenty of subtle, idiomatic phrases. You’ll never need another Norwegian grammar (though others would be beneficial as well).
Section I (which is made up of 10 parts) is 169 pages. Each piece is filled with explanations, examples, and comments. Sections II-IV are only a few pages long each, but they’re essential. What goes first in a sentence? Why? Where do the adjectives go? Adverbs? Time references? All are essential to becoming a pro at reading, hearing, writing, and speaking Norwegian.
The Stranskogen’s aim has been to provide the non-Norwegian with a “simple, step-by-step presentation of the grammatical rules and systems of Norwegian” (Preface). It is a “practical guide to modern Norwegian as it is used in an every day context” (Preface). Grammar is essential to learning a foreign language, and this book is essential if you are learning on your own, if you want to be ahead in class, or if you just want to understand what your mail says. And for me, if I ever want to be able to express the gospel to anyone, it’s best to learn their mother tongue or else I”ll be just another American with wacky ideas.
You won’t want to have only this book on hand. While slowly working through this book you should also be going through workbooks such as Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day, Teach Yourself Norwegian, and Colloquial Norwegian. A good website is also Norwegian on the Web.
- Authors: Åse-Berit og Rolf Strandskogen
- Series: Routledge Essential Grammars
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; Reissue edition (December 22, 1994)
(Special thanks to Routledge for sending me this book to review!)