jump to content immediately

Language learning tips

I will mention only the two most important tips which helped me effectively learn two languages:

1. Listen and speak before reading: If the textbook comes with recording for example on a CD, listen attentively and repeat after each line or phrase as best as you can until there is no longer stress. Only then, open the book.

2. Don’t stress about remembering words: When encountering an unknown word, look it up, make a mental note of it, then move on. It is neither necessary to stress about not being able to remember a word after you have seen it seven or eight times nor painfully cram vocabulary.

This site offers many good tips.

lily in Languages on August 03 2011 » 0 comments

Motorcycle at the nursing home

A simple story about an ordinary person was told on the Norwegian national radio last month. Somehow I can’t keep my mind off it.

It is the end of June, and most Norwegians start to go on vacations, many travelling to other places. But some cannot travel due to physical constraints, for example the elderly people at nursing homes. So, a nurse who likes riding motorcycles came up with an idea – bundling a sidecar to his motorcycle and offering residents personalized trips, with comfort and fresh air.

It’s a beautiful day in June and it’s an elder lady’s turn to travel with the motorcycle nurse, Michael Raaberg. Michael is a strong man, and he lifts her up and puts her down in the sidecar like a child. During the ride, Michael asks how she does. She says, “Good, very good, never better!” with a youthful and cheerful voice. They drive through the Oslo city centre, they talk about different places they pass by, like old friends who haven’t seen each other for a long time.

The issue of safety, especially with residents with heart diseases, has popped up in the heads of the staff team once, but they decided that it’s much worse “locking up” the residents all year long. So far, there hasn’t been one single incident and the residents have never been happier.

Michael talks about himself. He was educated as a graphic designer and designed catelogues for Ikea. At the height of his career, he found his work lack of meaning and decided to become a nurse instead. Now he’s a happy nurse, bringing happiness into other people’s lives.

When people follow their hearts, they easily come up with simple and yet ingenious solutions to big problems, they naturally make a difference. I hope more and more people follow their hearts like him. I hope I become like him.

lily in Thoughts on July 26 2011 » 0 comments

Thinking of Anders Behring Breivik

If everyone just had one single person in his life who says, “I will love you no matter what”, then we’ll never end up in mental institutions.

– Leo Buscaglia, “Living, Loving and Learning”

I passed by the centre of Oslo today, the day after the tragic events. The streets are fairly full again, although the never-before-seen armed soldiers guarding the parliament building bring people ever closer to what happened yesterday. There is nothing in the news, or on the national TV channel, other than coverage about the incidents. The nation, which had not hated anyone since WWII, has one enemy today – Anders Behring Breivik, the (or at least one) culprit, a native Norwegian who grew up in Oslo, and who is described by his neighbours as being “sometimes overly polite”.

But right now, I’m thinking of Anders Behring Breivik.

Who is he? Did his parents spend time with him, both playing and learning, when he was young? Does his family still live close to him, visit him and laugh with him? Did he, or does he have a mentor he could talk to when he’s stuck? Did he ever meet someone who would love him unconditionally, instead of saying “I will love you, if …”?

I thought of these questions when they said in the news that his schoolmates remember him but have not kept in touch with him. I found out that Timothy McVeigh, who detonated a bomb which killed 168 people in Oklahoma City (Oklahoma, USA) in 1995, did not feel he had a home and was rejected by women he sought relationships with. I found out that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the high school students who shot their fellow students at school in Columbine (Colorado, USA) in 1999, were bullied at school and turned to bullying others as a way out. I wonder what Breivik’s life was like.

Of course, everyone has had bad experiences and some people can shake them off better than others. But as family, friends, and fellow citizens, it is our responsibility to minimize these bad experiences and to help those who have had a bad experience to come out of it. I feel that we, especially those in Western developed countries, are not doing a very good job at it. We are not doing a very good job at preventing these incidents from happening.

Tonight, I’m thinking of Anders Behring Breivik.

Military guards behind the parliament (“Stortinget”) building in Oslo on July 23, 2011.

lily in Quotes,Thoughts on July 23 2011 » 1 comment


Where fishermen from Northern Norway traded dried fish with the rest of Europe for hundreds of years …

Where art fills the air …

And where the wharf keeps all the sweet and bitter dreams of the thousand-year-old city …

lily in Photography,Travel on July 10 2011 » 0 comments

Confirmation interjections

Learning Norwegian in the last while, my interest in languages has been re-ignited. Among other things, I’m been noticing the small words, or maybe non-word sounds in the three different languages – Chinese, English and Norwegian. One of them is confirmation interjection (I’m actually not sure if that’s what they are called), that is, the sound people make when they confirm something someone else said, instead of saying “Yes” or “I agree”. I would love to learn about variations in other languages; send them to me or teach me how to say it so I can add them to the list!

Here are the confirmation interjections in the three languages I know (click to hear them):
Chinese (Mandarin)
English (North American)
German (no weak confirmation interjections similar to the ones above – Thanks, Sophie)

lily in Languages on July 03 2011 » 0 comments

Norwegian spring wildflowers

lily in Photography on June 22 2011 » 0 comments

I’m lucky

I saw someone today and realized how lucky I am.

It was at the ceremony for the Abel Prize (a prestigious annual prize awarded to an internationally renowned mathematician by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters). There he performed one of his most common job tasks.

When everyone was seated and the door was closed, the door opened again and he came in. Everyone stood up. After he sat down, everyone sat down again. After some speeches and some music, he went up the stage, gave the prize to the laureate and said “Congratulations”. Then there were more speeches and more music. The ceremony ended half an hour after he came in. He stood up, everyone stood up, he exited the hall, everyone followed.

Since he was born, his destiny was determined. He could not choose a career he desired and could not freely express his opinion. He attends ceremonies, shakes hands and says “Congratulations”. He may be one of today’s typical workers – he has to do a job that he does not particularly enjoy; but his situation is worse than the others – he can’t decide to quit.

He is the King of Norway.

lily in Thoughts on May 26 2011 » 0 comments

A very Norwegian Easter

Geir’s grandma’s cabin, built in the traditional Norwegian style with grass rooftop. Many farmhouses have grass rooftops where goats graze in the summer.

Skiing on the mountain – a typical Easter activity in Norway.

All around us, it was just endless mountaintops and silence.

Resting with the family by a “sunwall” (a literally translated Norwegian word, meaning “the one outer wall with direct sunlight on it”).

lily in Photography,Travel on May 19 2011 » 0 comments

The book I was looking for

I think I have come across a book closest to what I have been looking for: To find a well-written book about an average person or an underprivileged person’s own life in a tumultuous society (see my earlier post Looking for a book). It’s called Illegally Norwegian (original title is “Ulovlig norsk”), written by Maria Amelie.

The book tells the author’s own story about being an illegal resident in Norway. Although the society is not “tumultuous”, her own life is full of fear and uncertainty. At age 16, she fled from Russia first to Finland, then to Norway with her parents, seeking asylum. After their application for refugee status was turned down several times, they decided to go into hiding and keep staying in Norway, and thus risking being deported at any moment. Even without ever knowing what is going to happen tomorrow, the author finished high school, went to university, and got a master’s degree in science and technology. She tells the ruthlessness of the legal system that does not treat her as a human being, and the kindness of people that give her hope for the future.

The book is written in Norwegian (book language, or Bokmål in Norwegian) and does not appear to have been translated to any other language.

lily in Books on April 03 2011 » 0 comments

Skiing on the sea

Even at almost -10C, the sea salt melts the snow just enough to make the ski tracks slushy and unpleasant. Although not the best place to ski, definitely a great place to take pictures.

lily in Photography on February 28 2011 » 0 comments