3. Started working on Norwegian pronunciation

Michal Ryszard Wojcik (2001 July 27):

For 20 days I have been listening to a tape with a course for beginner learners of Norwegian. I spent less than one hour per day listening to this tape. And there were some days when I did not listen to it at all.

I usually listened to the tape in the morning after waking up. I was still in bed, listening for about half an hour. I sometimes listened to the tape while reading in Norwegian, or even while doing something else, not related to Norwegian. In each case, I listened casually, without focusing my attention, without re-playing the tape to hear something again.

I do not have a transcript of the tape. In other words, I cannot read the contents of the tape. I can only listen to it and try to understand.

In the meantime, I was reading a textbook for beginner learners of Norwegian, and I was reading a normal Norwegian novel. The tape and the books were my only input of Norwegian.

I learned to understand parts of the tape. From time to time I can understand whole sentences from the tape and in many places I know what's going on, what the people are talking about. For example, I can tell when they are talking about food; I can tell when they are introducing themselves, giving one's names and asking for other person's names.

I find it interesting that I learned to understand some of the tape by listening to it so passively, so casually, even carelessly. I feel that reading the Norwegian books helped me understand the tape.

Today I started working on Norwegian pronunciation. I have a book about Norwegian pronunciation for foreigners: Norsk fonetikk for utlendinger by Aase-Berit Strandskogen. It's a theoretical book. The sounds are described and phonetic transcription is given. The book is written entirely in Norwegian and I like this fact.

Today I spent over 90 minutes on this book and so this day marks the beginning of my acquaintance with the Norwegian phonetic transcription.

I want to describe how I used the book today. Every sound in Norwegian is described separately in this book. I started reading the book from the description of the first sound and finished after reading the description of the last sound. Consequently, I went through all the sounds in Norwegian.

I skipped the theoretical descriptions of the sounds. The descriptions were dealing with the position of the tongue inside the mouth. I was not interested in this. I only cared about phonetic transcription.

The book gave many words together with their phonetic transcription. I copied the words with their transcription by hand into a notebook. In all, I wrote down over 200 words with transcription into my notebook. Below you can see a scanned sample from my notebook.

Now I know all the symbols that are used to transcribe Norwegian pronunciation. And I know about some of the regularities in Norwegian pronunciation. I find it interesting that I can learn much about pronunciation by studying transcription without listening to any sounds. Listening to sounds will be essential sooner or later, but my point is that I find it useful to study transcription even without audio.

I am curious if my ability to understand the tape has increased. I haven't listened to the tape since I finished reading the phonetic book and I wasn't listening to the tape while reading the phonetic book. Perhaps tomorrow I will notice my increased understanding of the tape, or perhaps not. I don't know today.

the next day

I woke up the next day and started listening to the Norwegian tape. I listened for about 40 minutes. I have a strong impression that I understood significantly more than before. My impression is so strong that I'm excited. I can tell for certain that I understood words and phrases that I had not understood before.

My certainty comes from my two impressions presented below. I recognize the parts which I have figured out before. And I recognize the parts which I have just figured out for the first time.

Today, as I listened, I was constantly noticing that I had just figured out something for the first time. The frequency of this phenomenon made me use the word significantly:

I have a strong impression that I understood significantly more than before.


I received reader feedback for this report and decided to include some of it on this page.

taken from this report:

In the meantime, I was reading a textbook for beginner learners of Norwegian, and I was reading a normal Norwegian novel. The tape and the books were my only input of Norwegian.

Krzysztof Cichy (2001 August 02):

Your "only input" is I think quite big! I think that most people usually have much smaller input of a foreign language and they also tend to use less effective methods. Hence, your progress must be quite fast, I suppose!

I have a feeling that you are fully devoted to Norwegian. The effects you've had so far are quite astonishing! You say that you sometimes listen to the tapes casually, without full attention and your progress seems to be like of a person learning with full attention for 10 hours a day!

Michal Ryszard Wojcik (2001 August 11):

Thanks for bringing my attention to the amount of time I spend on Norwegian. Some people devote only four hours a week to learning a language. And they say that they are learning a foreign language. In contrast to them, I am speed-learning Norwegian.

The phrase is confusing, "to learn a language". It is important how much time and attention one devotes to the language.

I must admit that I spend little time on Norwegian. I used to spend much more time on English long ago when I was a beginner. I treat Norwegian as a relaxing way of spending my time.