So, why are you studying Norwegian?

Photo courtesy University of Washington. The Norwegian 202 class at the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash.Students of Norwegian at the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash.

respond to the most commonly asked question

Denise Leland,

Seattle, Wash.

Not a day goes by without laughter emanating from the Norwegian 202 classroom at the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash. The enthusiastic group of 13 students starts each day learning Norwegian language and exploring the culture and politics of Norway.

Diverse students studying everything from Computer Sciences to Economics to Norwegian itself, come together with a common interest and passion for Norwegian. There is something about the language that captivates each one of us in ways we did not expect when beginning our studies at UW.

For many, learning Norwegian opened up the door to a warm and inviting department that has inspired the course of their college education. In the 202 class, there are seven Norwegian majors and six Norwegian minors. Each student studies Norwegian for their own motives, but the pure enjoyment and fun that comes with it is something shared by us all.

Below are answers to six different questions about the study of Norwegian language and culture. Four students responded to these questions and their answers provide a window into why they believe studying Norwegian is important in today’s global economy.

Why did you begin taking Norwegian at UW?

“I originally chose to take Norwegian because my family has a Norwegian heritage and I have always wanted to learn the language. It seemed like a perfect opportunity when I saw it was offered at the UW, and I immediately feel in love with the language and culture.” – Kristianna


“When I first transferred to UW, I learned that I needed a third quarter of a secondary language class to graduate. I took two years of Spanish in high school, and possibly could have tested into the third quarter of First-Year Spanish and fulfilled the requirement. However, three out of my four grandparents were full-blooded Norwegian, and I thought it would be cool to learn a little bit of the language that my ancestors spoke.”

– Jacob Monson

What have you gained from taking a language course in college?

“I have gained a new sense of confidence in myself. While most people in the U.S. can only speak English, I am learning a second language. When I apply for job positions in the future I will be able to put my Norwegian speaking skills on a resume and therefore stand out among the crowd.”

– Chrissy Hettich

“In the middle of my second year of classes, I am way more competent with Norwegian than I ever dreamed I would be. The only other language class I have experienced was taking Spanish in high school, which was a complete failure. After two full years I barely knew enough to form simple sentences with very limited vocabulary. On the contrary, after finishing two years at the college level, I am confident that I will be comfortable enough with Norwegian that I can easily continue learning on my own throughout my life.” – Jamie Pell

What is your favorite / what do you think is the most interesting part of Norway or Norwegian culture?

“Whenever I’m in my Norwegian language class or a Scandinavian history / literature class, I always learn about ways that Norway is connected to the world. People think that Norway is a boring, quiet country; there are even times when I encounter people who don’t know what Norway is (they think it’s called “Norwegia”)! Whether it is the paperclip or the troll under the bridge in Fremont, there is always something connected to Norway around you.” – Chrissy Hettich

“I am in love with black metal, and Norway is perhaps the largest, most important influence in the black metal world. Without the early influences of legendary Norwegian bands such as Mayhem, Gorgoroth, and Darkthrone, metal culture around the world would not be what it is today. My interest in black metal is the biggest reason I wanted to learn Norwegian. There are two bands in particular that motivated me the most: Keep of Kalessin, from Trondheim, seem to be very proud of their heritage and the musical impact their country has had on the world; and Kampfar, from Fredrikstad, write very moving songs in Norwegian about old-world pagan folk tales and mythology. I felt that I would be able to understand and appreciate these bands much better if I had more knowledge of the language, culture and history of their home country.” –Jamie Pell

What do you think about studying Norwegian? (i.e. Is it hard? Why do you continue taking Norwegian?)

“In my opinion Norwegian is easier than other languages I have studied, for example Spanish. I think this is because my desire to learn it is much greater, and I continue taking it because I want to be able to speak to my Norwegian relatives in their native tongue when I visit!” – Kristianna Anderson

“Studying Norwegian is fun and rewarding. It can be difficult, as can any secondary language, but it’s something that anybody can learn. I decided to take Second-Year Norwegian because I enjoy learning the language – I see it as building a bridge to my heritage, my people. I also developed real camaraderie with my classmates and instructor, and I don’t want to leave it behind.” – Jacob Monson

Why do you think studying Norwegian is important?

“Studying Norwegian is important because Norway is becoming more prominent in the world. With Norway’s multiple peace projects and its influence in foreign affairs, having more Americans who knew how to speak Norwegian is beneficial to the U.S. as a whole.” – Chrissy Hettich

“I believe studying Norwegian is important for anyone who has a connection to or interest in Norway. Learning the language will stretch your thinking in many aspects, besides vocabulary and grammar. In addition, I find that the more you learn about the beautiful country of Norway and its people, the more you want to continue learning and building that connection.” – Jacob Monson

What are you going to do with your Norwegian when you are finished at UW and done taking Norwegian classes?

“I hope to move on to graduate school and get a degree in Scandinavian history and / or Norwegian Literature.” – Chrissy Hettich

“I hope to continue learning Norwegian on my own, just by casual reading, listening, and speaking the language whenever I get the chance. I do not imagine that I will take any more formal classes after graduating. But I will continue to use my Norwegian for what I intended in the first place: to understand and appreciate the Norwegian music that is such a large part of my life – and hopefully keep finding new music as well.” – Jamie Pell

“After I finish my studies at UW, my Norwegian studies will have just begun…I want to travel to Norway and take in all that it has to offer, from the beautiful fjords to man-made wonders like Vigeland Park, to testaments to Norwegian impact on history like the Kon-Tiki Museum.Norway has always been in my blood, but now it is in my mind.” – JacobMonson

“I plan to study at the University of Oslo for a semester beginning in August, where I am hoping to achieve fluency in Norwegian. In the future I would love to live there for a while and travel around the whole country like my parents once did.” – Kristianna Anderson

The Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Washington was established in 1909 by a special act of the Washington State Legislature. During its history, the Department has grown from a one-person institution to comprise a teaching staff of twelve full-time faculty in Scandinavian and Baltic Studies. Adjunct faculty whose appointments are in other Departments make their expertise available in a variety of courses with considerable Scandinavian content. Affiliate faculty, likewise, occasionally teach and serve as valuable resources to our students. With a total enrollment of approximately 40,000 students at the University of Washington, the Department enrolls 1,600 undergraduates annually in its many courses.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 22, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.