The setting is a grey concrete building in Pasig in the middle of Metro Manila in the Philippines. Pass by the security guard and then up the stairs to the fourth floor and through the empty corridors. Suddenly you hear the loud Norwegian voice of Harald Frydenlund and then a group of bit more hesitating voices replying to Harald’s questions.
Harald asks: “Hvem er Esther?“ Then the students read out loud: “Esther er den søteste jenta på skolen.” Literally “Who is Esther?” “Esther is the nicest girl at the school.”
When entering JeaHa Norsk Foreign Languages Center in Manila you are met by a Norwegian and a Filipino flag put together on the wall in the small hallway.
Intermediate and newbies
There are two classes in the language school this day, beginners and intermediate. Harald Frydenlund is teaching the trained and his wife Jeane is teaching the newbies. Jeane is Filipina herself and has lived in Norway for 19 yeas, where she worked as assistant teacher in schools and kindergartens.
The classes go on in both Norwegian and English, but mainly Norwegian as answers and questions are written on the whiteboard in Norwegian:
“Papa sitter i stolen og soler sig.” Which the Filipino students then more or less cautious read out loud.
In front of the whiteboard Harald in his blue canvas trousers, blue polo t-shirt, brown deck shoes, and steel glasses perfectly fits the picture of the Scandinavian teacher.
Two worlds – Norway and Philippines
The subject for debate in the intermediate class this day is important moments in life. The Christian confirmation, the age of criminal responsibility, and the legal age.
One thing that especially surprises the Filipinos is the criminal responsibility age and how prisons are in Norway, according to Harald.
“The inmates have their own cell with television, bed, table, good food, and partly open doors,” he says. Which seems to be in sharp contrast to Filipino standards by the reaction of the students.
Allen Jawali is one of the students in the in intermediate class. Her dream is to work as a nurse in Norway. She is registered at a agency who helps her find the job overseas, but she will only be able to go if she improves her Norwegian:
“It’s like a big competition in my agency. Only the persons with the best language skills have the possibility to go to Norway,” says Allen Jawali.
Allen explains that the Norwegian pronunciation is very difficult for her, but that she hopes that she will soon go to Norway with help from her skilled teacher.
To know your background
Harald and his wife have lived three years in the Philippines with their two children, and for now the family doesn’t know when it will return to Norway:
“Originally, before leaving Norway, Jeane and I spoke about 2-5 years here and then back. But right now I think it could be ten years,” says Harald.
The couple decided to move to Philippines because they thought their children should know their background, as Jeane is Filipina.
And then after living a while in Philippines Jeane got the idea to start a Norwegian language school:
“I saw an ad in the paper about foreign language classes and got the job,” says Jeane and continues: “Soon I realised how high the prices and bad quality was offered the Filipinos. Then I proposed Harald that we should try to make our own. And so we did.”
The dream about Norway
The Norwegian government demands all new citizens to speak Norwegian, everyone has to pass a exam to prove their language skills.
JeaHa Language School has a cooperation with an agency who sends Filipino nurses to Norway. And for them it is a good opportunity to train language skills while staying in the Philippines, and then be ready for their new life in Norway when they arrive.
But also other types of students come to Harlad and Jeane’s school:
“Many of our students come here because they want to work in Norway, but others come here because of love. They have meet their Norwegian love and decided to move together in Norway and they also need to learn Norwegian.”
“We started this school to help Filipinos, who like Jeane, have a dream about Norway. We simply help them to make this dream happen.”