When I got to Luther, I knew I wanted to start a new foreign language for the general education requirement. I was going to take Spanish, but that wouldn't happen until at least my second year here. The Spanish 101 class was completely full by the time I registered for classes for the fall of my first year.
I have my friend, Emily, to thank for convincing me to take Norwegian! And boy, am I glad she did. It's SO FUN. :)
I recently visited Campus House to have a chat with my fantastic Norwegian professor, and one that Luther is very lucky to have—Maren Johnson! :)
I seriously don't know how she does it, folks! I think it's all the coffee. ;) She taught all three Norwegian 101 classes last semester (that's 60+ students that are just beginning a new foreign language)! Yet, she still brought more energy to every class she taught than I could ever muster up to bring to even one of my 8 a.m.'s.
Amber: "What makes Luther an ideal place to study Norwegian, as opposed to a larger state school?"
Maren: "My line is that Luther is the absolute best place to learn Norwegian in the entire United States! :) We are founded on incredible roots that go back to the founding fathers and mothers of this college, that kept really strong ties with Norway. Over the development of the college, we started the Luther College museum (which then morphed into the Vesterheim).
There's always been this celebration of the connection between Decorah (or Luther) and Norway. Over 150 years, that relationship has really been celebrated. It's been preserved in historical means through museums. Now, we're focusing on the contemporary Nordic region here at Luther. So, we have this incredible dialogue between history and the contemporary.
Where else in the world can you find that? :) There are no other Vesterheims, and so we have this incredible marriage of the historical and the contemporary. That makes this an absolutely perfect learning lab, for anyone that's interested in any facet of Norwegian language or Nordic culture."
Amber: "What is your biggest piece of advice for students that might consider taking Norwegian?"
Maren: "Biggest piece of advice—just TRY. :) In the United States, we do not do a good job of language education in the K-12 system.
Students come to college and see that there's a language requirement, and there's a natural hesitancy to engage with any of that. Most of the time, their language experience has been drilling verbs—or just sitting there and not using the language, and trying to apply it in a real-world context.
So, my hope is always that you come into the classroom and start to see that language is meant to be used. Even though we are not in Norway, we're going to create simulated learning environments to where you feel like you can use the language. Just trying, just putting all our vulnerabilities aside, and trying—is number one. I think you'll be surprised by how fast you can pick it up, if you just try."
Amber: "What do you hope students will take away from your class, that they'll remember for many years to come?" :)
Maren: "Not "Hva heter du?"! *laughs* If students remember "what is your name" ("hva heter du"), "my name is ___"—great, that's a starting point. :)
I hope that any student that takes a class in Norwegian or Nordic Studies at Luther comes away with a curiosity about the world. I hope that something about learning a language, learning about a culture, learning about a piece of literature—makes them curious about what else is out there. I hope they feel either inspired to, or a strong desire to go and explore.
So, if they remember, 50 years down the line, "Hva heter du?", and that inspires them to want to go to Norway, and they get on the streets of Oslo and see somebody and say, "Hva heter du?"—I will be proud! :)
I will be proud, because something stuck—but it was also a springboard for them to go and try something different."
Maren's interview was so fun that I wanted to include as much of it as I could. So, I decided to make it a two part post! Stay tuned for part two of my chat with her, coming next week! :)