UD-initiatives for North American Teachers of Norwegian
August 2000
Report and Evaluation

Participants: Jerome Coffey (Montana State University), Susan Larson (Center for Scandinavian Study, University of Minnesota), Margaret Hayford O’Leary (St. Olaf College), Ellen Rees (Arizona State University) , Frankie Shackelford (Augsburg College), Troy Storfjell (Augustana College), Ingrid Urberg (Augustana University College, Alberta, Canada)

I. Kurs for nord-amerikanske norsklærarar
Ivar Aasen-instituttet
Høgskulen i Volda

a. Orientering v/ Stephen Walton

Frankie Shackelford and Margaret O’Leary were met at the airport by Stephen Walton and spent a relaxing early evening driving around the area between Ørsta and Volda, enjoying lovely mountain views and getting our bearings in the area. Our first evening at Folkehøgskulen i Ørsta was characterized by exhaustion from travel and frustration due to some unfortunate miscommunications with other participants, but was otherwise a long-awaited orientation to the upcoming program.

b. Nynorskkulturen på Sunnmøre

This segment of the course began with Ottar Grepstad’s clear and helpful retrospective on the planning process moving from "ein laus tanke" in 1990 to a completed building by Sverre Fehn and the festive opening the Ivar Aasen kultursentrum in the summer of 2000. This orientation was followed by time to view the exhibits, try our luck with the dialect recognition games, listen to tapes of Nynorsk authors, speak with journalists from two local newspapers (cf. attached articles) and have a look at the earlier museum sites on Aasen-tunet. Fortified by our first of many enjoyable encounters with svele, we set out on a fascinatingbauta tour including brief, but intriguing introductions by Jostein Nerbøvik and Jens Kåre Engeset to local cultural icons, including Anders Hovden, the Egseth trykkeri, Aarflot-garden (=useful background for appreciating the Berte Kanutte house at HVO), Andreas Vassbotn, and Ristegarden with its infamous love-triangle between Per Riste, Synnøve Riste, and Rasmus Steinsvik.

Our first refleksjonsøkt was spent on more general information about the staus of nynorsk nationwide and the goals and hopes of the Ivar Aasen-institutt as a counterforce to the increasing numbers of NN-speakers who switch to bokmål after graduation from high school.





c. Språknormering og målrørsla

Rektor Gunnar Stave explained the 100-year academic history from the founding of the Volda Lærerskule in 1895 to the establishment of the current HVO as a "nynorsk høgskule." This was useful information in understanding the tradition of NN education in the community and the unique position Ørsta-Volda has nationally in this regard. Ølbjørn Øyehaug’s engaging lecture summarized the development of Noregs mållag and the goals, public activities, and publishing projects undertaken by the Ørstamållag. We were introduced to a number of their publications including letters of Ivar Aasen and a biolgraphy of Hans Moe, among several others, which reinforced our sense of the richness of the Sunnmøre cultural history and gave us first-hand insights into the challenges facing activists in the field of NN language politics. Jan Terje Faarlund and Ingar Arnøy provided a national perspective on language work from the standpoint of linguistics and politics and distributed handouts on legislation, orthographic reform, and statistics on the use of NN in schools nationwide. All the handouts will be useful for reference and teaching purposes. One of the large dilemmas of NN politics surfaced in these presentations, namely whether or not, as Arnøy claims, nynorsk has a better chance of surviving nationally precisely because it has no clear center (will the Ivar Aasen-institutt affect this in any way?) Further paradoxes in the language conflict were underscored by Odd Monsson in a lunchtime introduction to the program in nynorsk skriftkultur (e.g. that the development of bokmål has also been dependent on the work of Ivar Aasen and that the Aassen-institutt was by no means the result of a folk movement). By the end of this day we had a much stronger grasp of the cross-currents in Norwegian language history, their impact on national identity, and the particular tensions inherent in the establishment of the new program at HVO. All of these presentations were thought-provoking and left us wondering about the future of nynorsk nationwide.

d. Nynorsken i eit lokalsamfunn

A morning tour of Brænne brus, led by Martin Brænne, was entertaining and informative. We learned the difficulties and rewards of marketing and advertising in nynorsk and enjoyed samples of the products, including the special festival drink bottled for the opening of the Ivar Aasen kultursentrum in June. The visits to Volda v.g.s. and the Mayor’s office increased our appreciation for the local hospitality extended to our group and of the breadth of Volda’s commitment to nynorsk as a working language in all its public functions (and brought up another paradox: even Volda prefers to give initial Norwegian insturction to foreigners in bokmål).

e. Nynorsk samtidslitteratur: å omsetje til og frå nynorsk

Elisabet Middelthon and Andrine Pollen’s information on MUNIN and NORLA respectively was thorough, if repetitive for most of us. Sylfest Lomheim’s reflections on nynorsk and translation were both eye-opening as regards the process of development of the literary language and provocative in their assertion that nynorsk will probably only survive as a spoken language and be supplanted by English as a written medium (what does that imply for the future of the Volda program?). Solveig Aareskjold was a fascinating personality and equally provocative in her revelations of the role of "dyret i oss" as a source of "det åndelege." All four presenters were excellent travelling companions as we continued our conversations during for the evening excursion to Øyen.

f. Nynorsken i media

Although somewhat anticipated in our earlier lectures and meetings with journalists, the presentations by Jon Peder Vestad filled in more details in our understanding of the role of NRK in disseminating nynorsk nationally (additional paradox: Vestad’s assertion that speakers of NN are popular in the media, but NN itself is not!), while Svein Åm (Sunnmørsposten) and Skjalg Longva (Møre Nytt) added the experiences of local journalists to our deepening realization of the production and advertising difficulties, readership politics, and emotional dimensions of preserving nynorsk in the press.

g. Practical arrangements

Our accommodations at Folkehøgskulen i Ørsta were very pleasant and we had a spacious common area for watching the "Kursk" tragedy unfold on TV in the evenings and for preparing ouf kantareller for a late-night snack. Laundry facilities were appreciated by those who had been travelling beforehand and meals were good, though dinner was served on the early side. Odd Monsson and Stephen Walton were conscientious and safe chauffeurs. Our only repeated concern was with the timing of meals and breaks during the highly concentrated work days at HVO. Overall this was a thoughtfully organized and well-run seminar, much appreciated by all participants. Takk for oss!

h. Å Vestlandet, Vestlandet!

Friday afternoon proved to be a relaxing, scenic, and very informative drive to Nordfjordeid following in the footsteps of Ivar Aasen with brief stops to view stone bridges, bautasteiner, and modern-day vikingships. On our arrival at the Nordfjord turisthotell we enjoyed a wrap-up and brainstorming session crowned by an entertaining lecture by our guide and chauffeur Odd Monsson on, among other things, the (dramatic) difference between Sunnmøringer og Nordmøringer! Following a walk among historic wooden homes and around Viking burial mounds, we had a fine and final meal together on Friday evening and then departed early on Saturday with Stephen Walton as our guide for a day of sightseeing at Astrup-tunet and the Norsk bremuseum at Fjærland. Under the expert direction of Edmund, Stephen's son, we tested our endurance on the exhibit "Kor mykje kraft lagar du" and our nerves inside the "bretunga" simulation. We arrived late in the afternoon at the historic Solvorn Hotel and spent a memorable evening in the restaurant and museum there. Sunday afforded us opportunities for more sightseeing on the way to catch the express boat to Bergen.

 Report Part II. Norgesseminar Bergen-Oslo 20.08.00-26.08.00

Web version created by Margaret Hayford O'Leary (oleary@stolaf.edu) 20.12.00