Don’t Let Your Kids Forget Their Norwegian

Don’t let your kids lose touch with their mother tongue when you move abroad. Children who stop reading, speaking and writing their native language are more likely to face problems when they return home than those that keep studying it.
     It is fairly easy to avoid the language trap. Most major South East Asian cities have Nordic language training. To learn more about this important issue, Scandasia met Norwegian teacher Signe Vangen in Singapore.
     “The importance of studying the native language is, that if a child stops reading and writing in Norwegian for a while, they will soon forget the use of it. Then they will have difficulties when they go back to Norway after some years,” says Signe Vangen.
     “Even if they attend the Norwegian school while they are abroad, they will lose something, but not that much. When they go back to school in Norway they will still know the Norwegian words and expressions, and they know something about the Norwegian language”.
     Signe is an experienced teacher, having taught students in different parts of Norway since 1982 where ever her husband Stein worked as a pastor.
     In 2002 Stein was assigned Port Chaplain at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Singapore and in December the same year Signe, Stein and their 16 year old son Sverre moved to Singapore.
     The couple’s 20 year old daughter Hanna is a student in Oslo.
     The Vangens reunites this July when the church assignment in Singapore is over for Stein, who continues as ambulating pastor in Asia from the family’s new base in Stavanger, Norway.
     “I was asked to take a job as a teacher before I came down here,” says Signe about how she became Norwegian language teacher in Singapore.
     “If you are a teacher you easily get a job in Norwegian Supplementary School if you want. We always need people with education as teachers,” she adds.
     “I took the job because I like to teach, and I like to work. After six months I took over the job as the administrator for the school, together with Marianne Thorstensen who has been a coordinator for the Norwegian Supplementary School since 1978.”
     “The school had around 60 students this year, from 6 to 16 years old. I had 11 students in my class that was grade 6 and 7. The next school year we have already more than 70 students on our list.”
     “The students are often tired when they come to the school on Friday afternoon,” Signe says, taking about a typical day for the Norwegian students, she is teaching.
     “One of the most important things for them is to meet Norwegian friends and talk in their own language.”
     “In the classroom we teach them the same subjects as children at their age in Norway learn. But we only have two lessons a week to cover subjects as Norwegian language and humanities. “
     “The most important thing is that the student uses the language in different ways, talking, listening, reading and writing.”

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