Scandinavian course combines students from 3 languages

The class brings together students who have completed lower-level courses in Danish, Swedish or Norwegian.

Ed Swaray

When junior Thea Fleming signed up for Scandinavian 3012, she wanted to continue learning Swedish, her minor. Instead, she also learned two additional languages – Danish and Norwegian.

Scandinavian 3012, developed last fall, brings together students who have completed lower-level courses in Danish, Swedish or Norwegian into one classroom. The professor teaches in English or any one of the three languages while each of his two teaching assistants conduct discussion sessions in Swedish and Norwegian.

Professor Poul Houe, who teaches the course, said low enrollment in upper-level Scandinavian language courses classes has made the arrangement necessary.

However, because each language is historically and culturally linked, he said, knowledge of one language means understanding the other two.

“The purpose of this arrangement is to integrate the understanding of the languages,” he said. “Besides, students are going to get the best of all languages as well.”

Junior Colin Thomsen, a Scandinavian language student, said even though he is learning Norwegian, Swedish and Danish are more like other dialects of Norwegian than two different languages.

“It will be great if I can pass myself off as trilingual,” he said.

Thomsen, like Fleming, said he’s learning Scandinavian languages because he wants to connect to his family heritage.

“By learning these languages, I will not feel alone and lost, because I can affiliate with my heritage,” he said.

Houe said the class is divided into lecture and discussion sessions.

During lectures, students learn the history of Scandinavian languages, including the culture and social issues of the region, while in discussion, teaching assistants help students write the languages.

Houe said students are encouraged to speak the languages in any session.

Charlotte Melin, director of language instruction in the German, Scandinavian and Dutch department, said the decision to combine upper-level students was made last fall.

Despite the low enrollment in the Scandinavian upper-level classes, she said, the department is not concerned the trend will continue. Students who have personal interest in the region or whose heritage derives from the area will continue to take the course regardless of its format, she said.

In addition, she said the success of the current course format prompted the department to add another similar upper-level course.

Scandinavian 3011 will be offered during the fall semester, she added.

“It makes more educational sense to know that we can offer the course every year and bring these three groups of students together because the languages are similar,” she said. “Scandinavian speakers of these languages interact with each other.”