Languages, Life & Work

Norwegian Resources for Children and Adults

Norwegian is an excellent language for children because it is relatively easy to learn. There are several children’s books available in Norwegian. Two fun stories are Det røde eplet and Engstelige Eddie får en venn.

Kan jeg …?  is not for the faint of heart. Readers follow the story of a curious (and not very bright) little girl, who in trying to find out what she can and can’t do, loses limbs, drills a hole in her head, and goes swimming with piranhas. Some find the book funny in a wincing sort of way. My seven year-old does not like it, but some adults seem to find it silly. It is best seen perhaps as a cautionary tale that makes odd adults giggle. These were gifts, so I can not speak to the shipping costs.

Vangsgutane is a bilingual book available in the U.S. without overseas shipping. The Boys of Vangen, as it is called in English, is a 1940s children’s series.

EuroTalk offers two inexpensive game-style programs that are, if nothing else, not a bad way for kids to spend time on the computer. They are not necessarily designed for children, but they are child friendly.

Teach Yourself Norwegian is the first tool I used to familiarize myself with Norwegian. It is surprisingly thorough and effective for so inexpensive and user friendly a set.

Janus’ Norwegian Verbs and Essentials of Grammar and Haugen’s Dictionary are excellent.

Sett i gang is the wonderful textbook series used at the University of North Dakota. It is very user friendly, and there are online exercises for testing one’s progress! My cousin, Ottar Dahl, happens to be one of the contributors, so I may be a little biased.

Languages, Life & Work

Teaching Children a Foreign Language

I have been experimenting with methods of teaching languages to children in a busy household. Some things work, and some things don’t.

What works:

  • Flash cards.
  • Following a textbook that teaches grammar.
  • Translating.
  • Working with your child about 20 minutes per day 4-5 days per week. Older children should work on their own as well.

What doesn’t work:

  • Rosetta Stone alone. RS is a fine way to help children become comfortable hearing, seeing, and pronouncing a language, but it is only a supplemental tool.

Years ago, I taught our eldest the basics of Latin and our middle child French in a structured homeschool environment. This was extremely effective. However, when we put our children into school, we no longer had time for languages. The children lost most of what they had learned.

The older two missed their languages, so at their request, we resumed language training in the summer of 2011. They each chose a language: Latin, French, and Norwegian from oldest to youngest child respectively. Using two homeschool textbooks for Latin and a friendly college textbook for French, I worked with the older two. Our youngest was only 6, so we used home made flash cards and children’s books from Norway.

When school started last fall, the kids’ activities soon eclipsed their languages. Eventually, I settled for daily Rosetta Stone for the older two and flash cards for our youngest. Now that we are returning to the more active language schedule of summer, I find that our youngest has retained the most. Surely his age had something to do with this, but it also seems that good ol’ fashioned flash cards are simply more effective than Rosetta Stone.

For specific language resources, see coming blog posts on French, Latin, and Norwegian.

Gunnerud House, Prairie Village Museum

Gunnerud Brothers at Prairie Village Museum!

What a delightful surprise yesterday evening to find a Gunnerud Bros. business in this wonderful scale model of Silva! Founded in 1912 as one of numerous railroad settlement towns, Silva had a peak population of between 100 and 125 around 1920.

(Click for a full size image.)

Below is a closer shot of the building itself. It was a bonus to find that it matches our house, and how fun that it is right next to the pool hall! Note the houses in the background. This is such a charming model!

The business appears to be a filling station. However, in an Allen’s Parlor Furnace brochure from the 1920s, I found: “Silva, N. D. We certainly think the ALLEN is the best parlor furnace on the market, and we intend to handle no other. It’s a line on which the dealer can make money. GUNNERUD BROS.” A parlor furnace seems the sort of thing one would purchase in a hardware store rather than from a filling station. Hence, this business may have functioned as both a filling station and a hardware store. I look forward to finding out!

The model was built by Bertha, Edith, James, and Lloyd, Lysne and completed in 1982. The model stands in the Silva School House which was moved to Prairie Village Museum in 1978.

Silva School House

Early America, Yellowstone (Joys of a Dissertation)

Regicides in New England

While I would like to narrow my dissertation topic as quickly as possible, I have been instructed to decompress after the thesis and simply read broadly on Early Modern Europe. This is sound advice and allows me simply to enjoy History for awhile. At present, I am finishing Huizinga’s beautifully written and translated The Waning of the Middle Ages. It is taking me far longer than intended, mostly because it is so delicious that I am savoring it. For instance, Huizinga says of allegory, “medieval literature had taken it in as a waif of decadent Antiquity.”

The expectation at present is that my topic will fall somewhere in Early Modern England. My first thought, given my background in Puritan New England, is the English Civil War. I find particularly fascinating the regicides who fled England after the Restoration of the Monarchy.


Hanging in the Forbes Library, this painting depicts regicide William Goffe saving Hadley, MA, in an attack during King Philip’s War. The legend of Goffe as the ‘Angel of Hadley’ goes as follows:

Goffe “leads a successful defense of the town and then vanishes as quickly as he had appeared, never to be seen again. While the grateful townsfolk were sure the man had been sent as an angel of God to save them, supposedly the real story came out years later as the pastor of Hadley, John Russell, lay on his death bed. It was only then that he admitted to harboring the English regicides, William Goffe and Edward Whalley, both with prices upon their heads for being the ruling judges in the decision to execute King Charles I. Allegedly they were hidden in a secret room in Russell’s home, where they both eventually died. Goffe emerged only that once to warn the town of the imminent attack of the Indians.”

This succinct telling of the legend comes from the Forbes Library. There isn’t much truth to the legend, but the flight of the regicides fascinates me. Many were captured, hanged, drawn, and quartered. Others spent the rest of their lives in prison. Some, however, escaped to the Continent and to New England, where they ended their days in hiding, some under false names.

Gunnerud House

Gunnerud House in Summer

From Earl Lokken, who has written a history of Brinsmade, ND, I learned that our home was built in 1914 or 1915 by E.O. Gunnerud. Gunnerud had a number of hardware stores in the area. Before building this house, he lived in a temporary shack for several years until he could afford to build. This was a common practice among the early 1900s residents of Brinsmade. The house was moved to its present location by Norell Lotvedt in, I believe, the 1960s. The view below is from the southeast. The southern section of the house was an addition in the 1990s. The section next just to the north used to be an open porch. Many originally open porches in North Dakota have been enclosed. Obviously, people found them entirely impractical for North Dakota’s long, harsh winters.

Below is a view from the northeast. The structure is probably a kit house like the Sears Houses that are so abundant in this region. The small north foyer seems to be a later addition. The central room downstairs, facing east, was the room where Lokken attended Lutheran youth parties when this house was in Brinsmade, ND. My hope is to document the history of the house as nearly as possible. More will follow.

Literary Project, Village Arts

O, for the love of language!

A year ago, I was asked to take on the literary project for our local arts community. Having lost track of this project during the academic year, I am planning to dive in again now. We would like a broad array of selections including personal reflections, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Below is one of my own writings that I plan to include.

O, for the love of language!

Yes, I am a nerd – a word nerd, to be precise. Having gotten that out of the way, I would like to share my passion for the English language. You see, we speak the single richest language on earth.

Because England was invaded and conquered so many times; because England, herself, conquered so many peoples; and because the United States took over from Germany in the world of science after WWII, English has the largest vocabulary in the world. An exciting tidbit like that doesn’t mean merely a bigger dictionary.

The largest lexicon in the world means limitless breadth and depth to any expression of thought. Human capacity for expression is remarkable; it is a gift. We can express thought and emotion in words, tone, body language, and, of course, through the universal language of music. But verbal language is our primary means of communication, and the study of other languages enriches our understanding of English.

Other languages expand our view of the world because words are wonderful things with layers and layers of meaning. The Russian word for ‘air’ is ‘vozdukh’. The prefix ‘voz’ adds ‘upward’ movement, and ‘dukh’ means ‘spirit’; thus the word conveys a ‘rising of the spirit’. What a marvelous way to think of air!

In our word ‘educate’, we have Romans drawing from Greeks. ‘Educate’ comes from the Latin ‘educare’ meaning literally ‘to lead out’. The Roman leading-out rather than putting-in view of education came from Plato, a Greek who believed that knowledge already existed within the student. For Plato, knowledge was inborn awaiting the teacher’s guidance to draw it out for recollection. ‘Educare’ has another layer of meaning — ‘to rear’ or ‘to bring up’. Again this carries the idea of leading the best out of a child.

In French, we have a new way to look at our word ‘formidable’. To us this word means ‘daunting’, even ‘threatening’. To the French, it means ‘excellent’. In these two words, we might see how great effort can overcome the most intimidating of challenges to produce something magnificent. Now, what was threatening has the potential to inspire.

German’s influence on English is so strong that many words are understood just by looking at them: ‘Freund’ means ‘friend’; ‘Buch’ means ‘book’; ‘Mann’ means ‘man’. In Old English, nouns were declined as they are today in German, and they had three genders as do nouns in modern German.

Germanic influence came to England with the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons a few decades after the Romans left the island. In this period between the fifth and eleventh centuries, Old English took shape and was influenced by Vikings as well.

In 1066, England was invaded by French-speaking Normans, descendants of Vikings who had settled in northern France. French became the language of the ruling class, and English was derided as common and inferior for nearly four centuries. The residue of this snobbery lingers today. Take, for example, the verbs to ‘reek’ and to ‘scent’. ‘Reek’ comes from the German ‘riechen’ while ‘scent’ comes from the French ‘sentir’. Both words in German and French mean ‘to smell’ or ‘to give off a smell’, neither negative nor positive. But ‘reek’ does not mean ‘smell’ in English; it means ‘stink’! That’s because German-origin words with French-origin equivalents took on a negative meaning in this period.

Every word in every language has history, but in English, words have both their English and foreign histories. The origin and evolution of each word’s definition add layers of meaning, leaving us with a language of nuance, depth, and delight. With so many rich words from which to choose, we can express almost anything. While centuries of invasion and later England’s own empire-building are tragic at best, what a gift both conquerors and conquered have left us. From them, we have an infinite palette with which to paint our human canvas.