UC Berkeley News
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Web Feature

Scandinavian language smörgåsbord

– Want to learn how to say "I love Cal Day" in Swedish? How about in Norwegian, Danish or Finnish?

On Cal Day in Room 33 of Dwinelle Hall, the Scandinavian Department will offer free, 30-minute lessons starting at 11 a.m. that essentially offer highlights of the first day of UC Berkeley classes in beginning Finnish, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian.

Karen Moller poses in The Scream
Karen Møller, a Danish lecturer in the Scandinavian Department, poses inside a cutout of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" at Cal Day.
Learn how to say your name, to ask someone his or her name and pick up a few prepositions, verbs and occupational descriptions to help you introduce yourself at a party or in a sauna.

When the department opted last year on Cal Day to explore new territory by offering these micro-courses, the plan generated a nearly packed house for each session, said Karen Møller, a UC Berkeley lecturer who teaches Danish. "A remarkable number of the participants stayed for all four sessions," she said.

This Cal Day, she is preparing for another strong response. Many participants last year came from the off-campus community, others were just checking out the campus, and many wanted to learn a sampling of a "heritage" language that reflects their family background, Møller said.

Danish, Swedish and Norwegian "are very easy to learn for any English speaker," she said, adding that Finnish - which is not a Germanic language - is more difficult.

"The sessions actually work pretty well if you have people not getting bogged down in the grammar, but using the program as a trampoline" for further language exploration, Møller said.

A few points seem to snag some new learners, Møller said, noting that the Danes don't have specific words for "please," "I'm sorry" or "excuse me." And don't expect to learn how to say, "Have a nice day."

"Are we rude?" she asked rhetorically. "Well, no." But to fully understand her reply, students will need to learn more about Scandinavian culture, Møller said.

On the way to the mini language classes in Dwinelle Hall, Cal Day visitors should stop by the Scandinavian Department's information table in the Dwinelle Plaza area where they can also pose for a photo inside a cutout of Edvard Munch's "The Scream."

UC Berkeley's Scandinavian Department is one of only three independent Scandinavian departments in the United States. Faculty members teach Old Norse, which was first offered on campus in 1892, folklore and modern Swedish, Danish and Norwegian; lecturers give instruction in Finnish; and graduate and undergraduate students are pursuing degrees in Scandinavian language, history, culture and literature.

More information about the department is online.