NHH researchers from all over the world are learning Norwegian
Ten international NHH researchers have gone through a linguistic transformation. ‘They truly are amazing,’ says Kari Johanne Oma, who teaches Norwegian at NHH.
‘Are you worn out from cooking?’ asks Xiang Zheng, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law. He is from China but came to NHH with a doctorate from the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management.
‘I think perhaps the correct thing to say is that you get tired of cooking if you have to do it all the time,’ says Kari Johanne Oma, the NHH researcher who is about to give a Norwegian lesson.
STRONG COMMITTMENT TO TEACHING NORWEGIAN
Oma is responsible for NHH's new language training initiative. Ten researchers from all over the world have been offered tuition and follow-up for three semesters. Today Oma is teaching a lesson on the welfare state. The researchers are sitting around the table at the Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication at NHH.
They are working on reading comprehension and the words and phrases that appear in the text.
It is in this department that language researchers equip NHH students with the language skills necessary for a career in the international business world of today, whether in Norway or abroad. The department's staff teach English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.
This is also where foreign academic staff at NHH learn to speak and read Norwegian.
NHH RESEARCHERS TO BECOME PROFICIENT
The language teacher has been working with the same ten researchers for a year and a half. Oma tries to use the participants' own interests and progress as starting points for the course. They have many experiences in common and appreciate the chance to get to know each other across departments and disciplines.
‘How are they progressing?’
“I find the participants to be extremely motivated and unusually fast learners, but it takes time and practice to feel comfortable and confident in a new language. Many of the students have high standards and hold back because they don’t feel they’ve mastered the language well enough.’
The aim is for the candidates to reach level B1, which is the level required at NHH. Researchers who have been appointed to a permanent position must be able to communicate in Norwegian. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to teach in Norwegian, but they should be able to talk to colleagues and students in Norwegian.
‘What does B1 actually mean?’
‘When our researchers are at level B1, they can understand the main points of a conversation, be it about news, work or leisure. They can read texts written using common Norwegian words, hold a conversation, and understand and communicate in most situations of daily life without preparation.’
INDIA – FRANCE – NHH
In the classroom, they continue to talk about Norwegian words, adverbs and adjectives.
The course participants, who come from India, China, Finland, Hungary and Germany, meet twice a week to learn Norwegian. Although their geographical starting points are very different, they face some common challenges:
‘I think it’s difficult to speak Norwegian often enough. When I try to speak Norwegian, people respond in English. If I speak Norwegian when I go to the shop, the people working there often respond in English and not in Norwegian,’ says Vidya Oruganti.
Oruganti is from India. She has a doctorate from Université Savoie Mont Blanc and Grenoble Ecole de Management in France. Last year, she was offered an associate professorship at the Department of Strategy and Management at NHH.
A BIT EASIER FOR US GERMANS
‘Coming from Germany, it's probably a bit easier for me, compared to people from India. But I agree with Vidya. It's difficult to get enough practice. The researchers in the departments speak English to each other,’ says Björn Schmeisser, associate professor at the Department of Strategy and Management.
Tomi Rajala is from Finland. He is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law.
‘Do you think it’s easier for you, coming from a neighbouring country?’
‘The Finnish language is very different from the Norwegian language. It takes time to get accustomed to the intonation and get the tempo of the spoken language. The fact that we don't hear much Norwegian spoken at work doesn't really help us to learn.’
Several of the researchers struggle to understand many of the Norwegian dialects.
‘One of the most difficult things is the range of different dialects in Norway,’ says Mohammed Mardan, who was born in Germany. He is a professor at the Department of Business and Management Science.
‘There are so many different dialects and some of them are really difficult to understand. People speak in very different ways,’ says the NHH professor, who is very happy to be able to learn Norwegian. It is not only useful at work but also at home:
‘When the kids have friends over, I can understand more of what they say, so it's very useful!’