Summer School All Year Round

When I tell people that I work at the Summer School, they sometimes wonder what I and my colleagues do the rest of the year. One would think we could do as the bears in the deep Norwegian forests: creep into our dens and hibernate till next summer. It is not, however, as simple as that.

Photo: John Hughes

It is now four weeks since the summer session finished and we said goodbye to the 582 students that made up the class of 2016. Exams are now graded and results published, and next year’s session is almost 10 months ahead of us.

When I tell people that I work at the Summer School, they sometimes wonder what I and my colleagues do the rest of the year. One would think we could do as the bears in the deep Norwegian forests: creep into our dens and hibernate till next summer. It is not, however, as simple as that.

First, the staff is considerably reduced during the regular semesters, both because our summer staff members are gone, and because those of us who work at the ISS all year round have to take our vacation outside the regular holiday season. Secondly, there is a lot of evaluation work to do, and preparations for next summer. We are already well under way working on the 2017 catalog. Thirdly, we do actually have a lot of students not only in the summer, but also during the fall and spring semesters. This fall we serve around 450 students, and they are all taking Norwegian language courses. In addition, we host a fall semester program, called The New Norway, focusing on challenges for the Norwegian welfare state, for 18 undergraduate students from the US.

Norwegian language has always been an important part of the ISS course portfolio. In the summer session approximately half of the student body take Norwegian language courses, sometimes in combination with other subjects. As a matter of fact, during the first decade of its existence, the Summer School was responsible for all Norwegian language courses for international students at the University of Oslo (UiO). Today, we only serve fall and spring semester students who are not attending UiO within the ramifications of mobility or exhange agreements with particular partner institutions. The ISS fall and spring semester students are either international researchers and their spouses, or people who, for personal or professional reasons, have settled in Norway. And that is a growing group of people.

As my own academic background is in Scandinavian studies, I take a particular interest in the language courses. Before I began in my position as Director of ISS, I taught Norwegian language courses at different levels, and also courses in Norwegian and Scandinavian literature.

Learning a foreign language is a cumbersome task. The most frustrating aspect of it, at least at beginner’s and lower intermediary levels, is that one’s language competency does not match one’s intellectual level. The beginner feels like a child when talking, and that is not a pleasant feeling. It is so tempting to resort to a language one feels more at ease with, one’s mother tongue, or maybe English, which is today’s lingua franca, or most commonly used language.  

My best advice to all Norwegian language students is to insist to yourself and others to use Norwegian. Maybe you have to force yourself to do it, but it is necessary and worth it. The only way to learn a new language, is to use it: listen, read, speak. And then, gradually, you will experience that the child starts walking – faster and faster, then running, and finally it grows up, so that your mastery of the Norwegian language is on a par with your intellectual capacity. 

Lykke til med norskstudiene! Og til dere som gikk på norskkurs sist sommer: fortsett å lytte på, lese og helst også snakke norsk, hvis du har familie, venner eller kollegaer som også kan norsk.

By Einar Vannebo
Published Sep. 2, 2016 10:31 PM - Last modified Nov. 1, 2016 7:53 PM