7_Vangsnes

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Early Language Learning and Multilingualism:
Scottish and European Perspectives
BILINGUALISM MATTERS
Norway:
Linguistically more diverse than you
may have thought!
Øystein A. Vangsnes
Flere språk til flere (‘More languages to more people’)
University of Tromsø, Norway
Norway
Population:
5 million
Official language:
Norwegian
• Bokmål (majority)
• Nynorsk (minority)
Historical minority
languages:
Sámi
Kven/Finnish
Romani
Romanes
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Scandinavia
• Norwegian, Swedish and
Danish are largely mutually
intelligible.
• the total number of (native)
speakers of (Mainland)
Scandinavian is about 20
million.
• Norwegians do best in studies
of inter-Scandinavian
comprehensibility (only beaten
by the Faroese).
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Language in the Norwegian educational
system
• English is introduced in the 1st grade (age 6).
• A second foreign language is offered from the 8th grade
(age 13).
 Spanish (31%), German (24%), French (14%)
• Third foreign language can be chosen in last part of 2ndary
school (age 16-18)
• Most Norwegian children become fully functional in
English; that is only rarely the case with the other foreign
languages that are introduced later: Too late and too little!
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Minority languages supported by law
• Sámi is offered by law as the main language of instruction
in elementary school in core areas; also Sámi 1st language
classes in cities like Tromsø and Oslo.
• Sámi as 2nd language is also offered in core areas.
• There are Sámi language kindergardens in core areas and
some cities.
• Finnish as 2nd language is offered by law in the two
northernmost counties (Troms, Finnmark) when number of
pupils > 3.
• Norwegian Sign Language is offered by law to children
who have it as their 1st language or who otherwise need it.
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Minority languages in general
• There is an increasing awareness of the benefits of
multilingualism and language stimulation in general in the
pre-school system.
• The education law focuses on raising the children’s
competence in Norwegian, and instruction in native
languages other than Norwegian and Sámi is primarily
used as a tool to reach this goal.
• Some 120 different 1st languages are taught to children in
Norway – the biggest ones are Urdu, Somali, Arabic.
• Bilingual children sometimes receive extracurricular
instruction in their “other” language on an ad hoc basis; not
a right by law.
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The indigenous Sámi languages
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Literacy rates are strikingly different in Norway and Sweden:
Norway offers primary education in Sámi; Sweden does not –
Swedish is always the main language of instruction even in
“Sámi schools”.
2nd language instruction in Norway does unfortunately not
produce
robust Sámi speakers
either.
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Two written standards of Norwegian:
Bokmål and Nynorsk
• Bokmål: A gradual adaptation from
Danish after independence from
Denmark in 1814; main break by a
reform in 1917
• Nynorsk: Established in
the middle of the 19th
century on the basis of
Ivar Aasen’s comprehensive documentation of
the rural Norwegian
dialects; currently mostly
used in the west and
valley regions of the east
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Municipality language:
Red = Bokmål
Blue = Nynorsk
Grey = Neutral
Nynorsk vs. Bokmål vs. Swedish:
The differences are small!
Nynorsk:
Nynorsk normaltalemål er lite utbreidd utanfor situasjonar der ein er
bunden av manus, som nyheitsopplesarar og skodespelarar.
Bokmål:
Nynorsk normaltalemål er lite utbredt utenfor situasjoner der man er
bundet av manus, som nyhetsopplesere og skuespillere.
Swedish:
Nynorskt normaltalspråk är lite spritt utanför situationer där man är
bunden av manus, som nyhetsuppläsare och skådespelare.
‘Nynorsk normalized speech is not used much outside of situations
where one is using a manuscript, such as news readers and actors.’
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Bokmål vs. Nynorsk
• Nynorsk is clearly the minority variety: 12,59% of the
pupils in elementary school have Nynorsk as their
language of instruction; 6-700.000 living Norwegians have
grown up with Nynorsk.
• Bokmål dominates mass media: Apart from the nationally
supported broadcasting, there is little Nynorsk; there are
no national daily newspapers in the language.
• All pupils receive instruction in the “other variety” from 8th
grade and onwards as part of the Norwegian curriculum,
and there is a separate exam last year of high school.
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Bidialectal literacy
• Kids who grow up with Nynorsk are also massively
exposed to Bokmål, hence acquire a much more balanced
proficiency in the two varieties than vice versa: Are there
“bilingual effects”?
• A recent study (Vulchanova et al. 2013) show that persons
who use Nynorsk actively (i.e. write it on a regular basis),
are better at reading both Nynorsk and Bokmål than
persons who only use Bokmål.
• Preliminary calculations (by Vangsnes et al.) suggest a
statistically significant correlation between good school
achievement and percentage of Nynorsk in the
municipalities when leveled for socio-economic factors
(education, income, single parenting).
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Summary and conclusions
• Norway is a linguistically diverse country, although it might
not seem like it on the surface! (Two standard varieties of
Norwegian, high tolerance for dialects, three Sámi
languages, other historical minority languages, a large
number of “new” minority languages.)
• Statistical figures regarding the minority variety Nynorsk
suggest that bidialectal literacy give positive effects.
• Literacy is also an important aspect of sustaining
threatened minority languages such as Sámi.
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