Learning Norwegian With SKAM

I first started learning Norwegian ar the end of January (55 days ago, according to my Duolingo streak!). At this point, I had not yet heard of the Norwegian highschool drama that had swept the world, SKAM.

If you also haven’t heard of SKAM, it is a webseries-cum-television sensation set in a Norwegian highschool, and following the daily lives of a group of students. While it is somewhat dramatic, the series isn’t quite as on-the-nose with its themes as other, similar programs. Instead of Very Special Episodes devoted to “teen issues” such as eating disorders, sexual assault, drinking too much or bullying, these ideas are woven into the narrative naturally. The realism is striking, and allows the viewer to identify so much with the characters.

There are also a lot of modern twists here – show producers set up social media accounts for characters that are active while the series is airing. Want to know what your favorite character had for lunch that day? Check their instagram. The show also uses text messages between characters as another way to demonstrate what’s going on. Entire subplots take place through text alone. Another unique aspect of the show is that the episodes are titatrated out on the web throughout the week. A new clip¬†might be posted on a Thursday¬†night, where the characters are out at a party. The next clip might be released Friday morning, as the friends sort through the aftermath in school.

The series is interesting, and different, and so I thought I’d give it a try to help learn Norwegian – and was that ever a good decision!

For starters, the kids on the show speak like real, live teenagers. This is neat, because you quickly become exposed to slang, curses and other colloquialisms not taught in traditional Norwegian courses. You also get a variety of examples of the cadence of Norwegian. With such a musicial language, it’s nice to have many points of reference for how it is actually spoken. This is something that was certainly missing from the online newspaper and podcast, Klare Tale (still an awesome resource!).

SKAM is also a good introduction to other dialects of Norwegian. Norway has quite a few different dialects, which can seem overwhelming on paper. Listening to one of the other characters who speaks the dialect from Bergen, you get a better understand of how these dialects work.

SKAM also provides a good sense of how people text, and the abbreviations which have become present in all languages in written digital communication. There are likely not going to be many opportunities for me to actually utilize this, but who knows! Maybe someday…

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously not using only SKAM to learn, but this series certainly provides some new material, and a pretty fun plot. I’m definitely a fan, and can’t wait for the next season!

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