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Similarity and context

20 Jul

I’ve never studied any Norwegian, but that didn’t stop me from understanding some of it. During my trip to Oslo this Spring, two major things helped me to understand a decent amount of written Norwegian: the similarity to English, and the context. While Norwegian is officially a North Germanic language and English is a West Germanic language, there were enough similarities  in vocabulary to help me understand. The second thing that helped me to understand was context. For example, when I was in the Resistance Museum in Oslo, I knew that the whole museum was telling the story of how Nazi Germany invaded Norway and how Norwegian rebels fought back. Knowing that context, I was able to make sense of a lot of the displays, many of which didn’t have any English translation.

2013-04-06 10.46.04I have this picture of a bell to serve as an example of both the first and the second point. Both the context and the similarity to English nudge me to assume that it says like 900 year anniversary, May 14th 1950. The context here is a big giveaway: usually if you see 14 unknown word 1950, that unknown word is going to be a month. Aars for years and anniversary from jubileu are just guesses, because it seems similar to French’s ans and the English word jubilee. This is a major language learning and language using strategy that I’ve used while learning new languages: context and similarity. This is why Portuguese is so easy for me to learn, and it is also why I was able to read so much Catalan when I visited Tarragona. These strategies help me seem like a much more advanced language user than I really am.