The Light Fantastic

Sunrise/sunset: 09:02/ 15:02. Daylength: 6hr00min

I’ve had a peaceful week, working from home. Though the sun is still low in the sky, it is amazing how cheering it is to see its light ON things. It’s hard to describe, but during polar night, the shadows disappear, and though the air is clear and it can be very beautiful, the snow covered mountains lose their shape and everything looks flatter with less definition. I took some pictures of the sunlight from my garden while the house itself was still deep in shade. The camera on my phone doesn’t have a real zoom function, but hopefully you can get an idea. The effect is most distinctive on the mountains, but the bridge columns are golden, where they are normally grey concrete. The lift it gives me to see these things is quite visceral, even though I am not directly aware of missing the sun during the polar night itself.

I touched on the difficulties of writing official reports in Norwegian last week and this week, I came across another way the language barrier affects my performance. As a part of my job, I will eventually be expected to carry out audits. These are company audits to check for compliance with the law, but rather than an inspection, where I go out and look directly at animals and check they are being treated well, this will be an assessment at a higher level. For example, there are audits in the abattoir, not so much to assess how things are on the ground, but to check the management systems that are in place, whether they are appropriate and whether they are working as they should to ensure the law is upheld.

In order to start doing this, there’s an exam I need to pass. It’s a notoriously difficult exam, with exacting questions that require technically complex answers, and it’s limited to an hour, which means there is no thinking time. To give context, several people, including my boss, told me I wouldn’t pass it first time and I didn’t.

I’ve been so busy for several months that I hadn’t had time to think about having another bash at it, but this week, with my complicated case on the back-burner and another case that can wait a week or two, I thought I’d make a start. My brain doesn’t retain random information as well as it once did, so I will try to get through the entire course again and sit the exam as soon as possible afterwards.

Going through the course is exhausting. Though quite a lot of the language is becoming more familiar (writing those reports does actually help) there are still a lot of unfamiliar words in the revision texts, so it takes a while to look them up and understand what they mean in the context of an audit. So I have to flip backwards and forwards from the PowerPoint presentation to Google translate whenever there’s a word I don’t understand. It probably takes me twice as long to do that as it would if I was working in English, and possibly more.

I was quite pleased to have got through the first two (of ten) sections, particularly as the first contained all the basic words regarding the structure of the audit. So when I started section three, I was rather taken aback to find that I was having even more difficulty following the text. Bizarrely, it took me several minutes to realise that this was because the new presentation was written in Nynorsk and not Bokmål.

I’ve probably touched on this before, but there are two official types of written Norwegian: Bokmål and Nynorsk. For a long time, Norway belonged to Denmark and the official language was very much influenced by Danish. As Norway became independent from Denmark, efforts were made to document the way Norwegian was spoken and how that differed from Danish, and eventually those efforts became recognised as Nynorsk.

Both versions of Norwegian are taught in Norwegian schools, though when children start school, they will learn one or the other, and add the second in at a later date. Between 10 and 15 percent of Norwegians have Nynorsk as their official language form. Adult language schools also teach one or the other and I learned Bokmål. As an aside, this made it very difficult when Andrew started school as he learned Nynorsk, so helping him with homework was traumatic for both of us.

But back to the audits. As I read, I began to notice some of the basic words I had learned in section one were spelled differently. Other words I was familiar with in Bokmål had been changed to words I didn’t even recognise. So I found myself in the ridiculous situation of having to paste sections of Nynorsk into Google Translate, translate them into English, and then translate the English back into Norwegian so I could make notes. I will have to do the exam in Norwegian, so making notes in English wouldn’t help. Fortunately for me, Google Translate mostly gives the Bokmål version of things. Much as I approve of Norway’s attempts to preserve both forms of the language for reasons of fairness, there are times when it does make everything very complicated indeed.

Anyway, enough of that, and back to the topic of the returning light. On Tuesday morning, the sky was such a beautiful colour that I couldn’t resist going out and taking some photos.

Working from home has the advantage that I can see this wonderful view from my windows, and in my breaks I can take Triar out into the garden and play with him. Watching him enjoy the games is one of those small joys that makes the day much better. As you can see, the snow is really quite deep.

Triar loves his squeaky ball

And in that picture, up in the top corner, you just see the edge of the skrei cod my neighbours are drying. They very generously brought me down some fresh cod as well. The little hut isn’t an outside lav, by the way, it’s for smoking salmon in the summer.

Skrei cod hanging up to dry in the cold air

And on Thursday, I went out at lunchtime to discover that the sun had finally made it over the hill and was shining down on me. It was a wonderful feeling.

And now, with the sky clear, the aurora has become visible again. I will leave you with the glorious arc that greeted me on Thursday night when I took Triar out for his last evening stroll in the garden.

3 thoughts on “The Light Fantastic

  1. I can appreciate the arrival of the light. Living in Southern England our winters often have days, sometimes weeks, of flat pewter gray skies and it’s such a joy to have a crisp sunny day.

  2. Language and political history! So deeply interwoven. We have lived it, live it still, here in Canada, and I remember being fascinated, when I lived briefly in Indonesia, to see the imprint of successive cultural/political eras on that constructed language.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s