Norwegian people grow up learning languages. They start learning English from the age of seven at school, but are exposed to both English and Swedish regularly, and much earlier courtesy of television, films and games.

So it’s not surprising that most Norwegians are very accomplished linguists by the time they step into adulthood. For those of us who are not native to Norway this can be of great help when we first arrive – but a real challenge later on as we try to practice Norwegian. When trying t practice Norwegian you will probably be met with a reply in English. Not out of arrogance, but because Norwegians love to speak English and because they can, and because they want to help you in your attempts to communicate. The intention is good, I believe. The outcome on the other hand is not – frustration.

It’s important to remember that this is not a free pass to only speaking English. Learning the language is as much about integration as it is communication. You can learn a lot about a culture by learning the language – How do they address each other? what expressions do they use? What is their humor like? There are many important nuances that you will only ever pick up on IF you can speak Norwegian. And you will never become fully integrated unless you can demonstrate an understanding of at least a few of these traits.

How do I know all of this?

My name is Kelly Palencia, I am the founder of Handmade in Norway and I have lived in Norway for 13 years. I speak Norwegian – and I am integrated in Norwegian society. I am not made to feel different, I am included in conversations, I can have fun with Norwegians, I can have serious conversations with Norwegians and I can talk business in Norwegian, with Norwegians. It is important to claim your place in a new society and to level the playing field so that you are equal to everyone else. Learning and speaking Norwegian tells Norwegians that you need no special concessions and that you plan to stay. This is the best way I know of to make a smooth transition to living in Norway.

I highly recommend learning in a relaxed environment like at suzalingua. In small groups you get more one on one time with your tutor and you are not fighting for guidance amongst people that are at either a higher or lower level than yourself. You can be at the right level for you, with the right guidance to help you succeed.

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