Everyone I’ve met in Oslo has been incredibly kind and generous; my interviews here more often than not will spread out into hours-long, rambling, entertaining conversations. The only part I don’t like is the part where the Norwegians apologize for their English. It makes me feel like such a spoiled jerk. Here I am, coming into their offices and taking up their time, demanding that we communicate in the one language I speak, while Norwegians are without exception all fluent in English, Swedish, probably Danish, and either French or German as well.
When I go into a store here and someone asks me a question (like, “Can I help you,” or “Do you want your receipt”, or something) in Norwegian, I say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Norwegian.” Not only do they instantly switch over into flawless English, they always apologize to me, which is just silly. And I’ve been in three different countries so far on this trip, and so sometimes for a second I can’t remember which language to tell them I don’t speak. So I’m occasionally tempted to just say “I’m sorry, I’m American,” which would pretty much cover it.
Scandinavians’ pronunciation and range of vocabulary in English are just incredible to me. I was talking to someone here in Oslo the other day about radio, and he apologized for stumbling over the word “terrestrial.” One obscure word in an hour-long conversation. Another person I spoke to had a brain block for a second and couldn’t remember a certain word in English, a word which turned out to be “judiciary.” How often do most English speakers in America even use that word? Someone else I met yesterday had trouble with the word “rural,” which, you know what, I can’t really say, either!
Needless to say, I am impressed and shamed. I think I need to get on some Rosetta Stones or something, pronto.