A Norwegian language course that works! – Customized programmes produce results

In 2010, the district of Alna in Norway started a Norwegian language course for foreigners using a new learning method and results have come quickly! The pilot included 14 Somali women whose length of stay in Norway was an average of 9 years and who had little to no knowledge of Norwegian language. After 5 weeks all women spoke Norwegian with a pronunciation that makes it easy to understand them and they were able to have conversations about various topics, tell stories, call a doctor and make appointments.

What happened? The course is short and intense from 9 am -2 pm 5 days a week for 2 months and uses the participants’ imagination to create motivation and eagerness to learn. The 14 women have created new identities and have made up a fantasy family, occupation, education, life. “The teachers also play the game and it is so much fun, we laugh every day”, says Lisa Hartmark, driving force behind the courses.

Music, humour, art, posters, competitions, games, poems, stories and even rap is used to develop and expand vocabulary and learn grammar.

A participating Somali woman explained: “Before when I spoke to Norwegians they said yes and no randomly because they did not understand what I said. Nobody told me they didn’t understand. Finally, I said nothing. Here the teachers correct us, we laugh and enjoy ourselves. I am learning how to pronounce difficult words and use grammar.”

The women enjoy the rhythms and the songs and barriers are broken because of the play-like nature of the learning method. “To speak the language improves self esteem. Here I feel I can be myself while I learn. I am seen and am part of the group”, another participant mentioned. 

Lisa Hartmark said: “The traditional method for acquiring a language is not functioning for illiterates and foreigners with low education skills. Municipalities have been calling to tell me that some immigrants have been on Norwegian courses for years and it is not working. The traditional method destroys their motivation and hopes for a better education and a future in a new country. These women have now got a new life in Norway, and they are an example for many others. Many of these women are taking up further education and others are in job training. They said they thought they were stupid when they were not able to learn Norwegian during the traditional courses. Then they understood that the traditional courses were wrong for them. They learned very fast with the new method based on suggestopedia and the art material developed.”

By Lisa Hartmark

http://www.bydel-alna.oslo.kommune.no/article167801-1043.html

 

Opinions about the programme:

“Before when I spoke to Norwegians they said yes and no randomly because they did not understand what I say. Nobody told me they didn’t understand. Finally, I said nothing. Here the teachers correct us, we laugh and enjoy ourselves. I am learning how to pronounce difficult words and use grammar.” – Somali women, participating in the course

“To speak the language improves self esteem. Here I feel I can be myself while I learn. I am seen and am part of the group” – Somali women, participating in the course

“The traditional method for acquiring a language is not functioning for illiterates and foreigners with low education skills. Municipalities have been calling to tell me that some immigrants have been on Norwegian courses for years and it is not working. The traditional method destroys their motivation and hopes for a better education and a future in a new country. These women have now got a new life in Norway, and they are an example for many others. Many of these women are taking up further education and others are in job training. They said they thought they were stupid when they were not able to learn Norwegian during the traditional courses. Then they understood that the traditional courses were wrong for them. They learned very fast with the new method of suggestopedia.” – Lisa Hartmark