Yoga in Norwegian

16 Aug
Here is a little reflection that I wrote several months ago about an experience during my springtime visit to Oslo:
Similar to taking aikido class in Chinese or capoeira class in Spanish, I understood a very limited amount of what the teacher said. A far more limited amount, in fact, than in China or Spain, because I speak no Norwegian at all. But I could still pick out a few words, just due to the similarity between Norwegian and English. I remember hearing something that I clearly recognized as meaning ‘push down.’ I find it amazing that with no study at all, I could understand a few Norwegian words. This experience was repeated at museums where I also recognized various Norwegian words in the context of their displays.
 
But my familiarity with yoga routines helped me, too. If this has been my first doing yoga it would have been much more intimidating, but I could imagine what the teacher might be saying in Norwegian because I had heard other teachers say it in yoga classes in English years ago. The fact that is was a physical activity helped a lot, too. I never could have taken a history class or a followed a political discussion in Norwegian, but with yoga I was able to follow the movements of the teacher and of the fellow students. This is a major reason why learning dance or martial arts in another language is a relatively easy way to join a target-language activity: it is language-light and context-dense.
 
It was the first time that I had attended a yoga class in more than a year, and it felt magical. The relaxation and calm that I got from the class, combined with a bit of work and pushing myself, was one of the best things of my whole trip.

 

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