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Luther Look: Norwegian Part I

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! :)

Amber Sorenson

Amber Sorenson

Amber is a junior from Newton, Iowa. She is majoring in communication studies and minoring in anthropology and Nordic Studies. Along with blogging for Luther admissions, she also works for Media Relations. She plays alto saxophone in Varsity Band and is the crew captain for Love Your Melon. One of her favorite things about Luther is the strong sense of community. During the 2018-2019 academic year, she'll be studying in Nottingham, England!

Read more about Amber.

View all posts
My awesome friend, Emily, is currently studying abroad in Norway this semester! Here's a picture from her time abroad so far. She's the one who convinced me to take Norwegian! ;) Photo credit: Emily Linder '19
Nordic Fest is a big celebration that Decorah has every summer, to celebrate the town (and Luther's) Norwegian roots! :) Here's a picture of the Nordic Studies student organization, Norskklubb, at the Nordic Fest parade during the summer of 2016. Photo credit: Maren Johnson
This is Emily's view as she walks to school this semester, while she's abroad...isn't it beautiful! It makes me want to go visit Norway. :) Photo credit: Emily Linder '19
Here's a picture of Maren and her husband, Elliott, skiing in Nordmarka (outside of Oslo). I'll share some of Maren's favorite things to do (and eat!) in Norway, next week! :) Photo credit: Maren Johnson

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  • February 21 2018 at 2:57 am
    Jennifer alex

    Interesting story Amber. love the way you describe your journey. you have the leadership quality. you can do leadership facilitation too.

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