Learn Norwegian from your phone!

Part of the "ABC for Adults" team. Svein Sørslett, Maximiliano, and Elizabeth Navarro.

Elizabeth Navarro and her team bring their creativity and entrepreneurial skills from Mexico to Norway with the creation of “ABC for Adults”

Jess Larsen
Norwegian American Weekly Intern

In today’s world, with technology becoming an increasingly important part of our lives, education and language instruction must keep up. The newest wave of education instruction is by way of Smartphone applications or “apps.” Elizabeth Navarro, who currently lives in Mexico with her Norwegian husband (and works remotely for a Norwegian company), helps to advance the learning of the Norwegian language through her Smartphone app “ABC for Adults” which seeks to reinforce the knowledge of everyday objects. Below is an interview with Navarro in which she explains her love of Norway and her ideas on the importance of foreign language education.

What inspired you to learn about Norway and the Norwegian language?

I was inspired to learn Norwegian, because I lived in Norway for nearly nine years with my husband, who is from Norway. During the time I lived there, I wanted to learn the language, not only because I was an immigrant, but also because of my background as a social anthropologist. I found the language inspiring and poetic. It’s the heart of the Norwegian culture, and I found it interesting from all its cultural connotations: political, historic, religious and geographical. Norway is such a wonderful country, and I believe if anyone is going to spend some time there, learning and understanding the language, in all its aspects, is a requirement to fully appreciate the Norwegian culture.

What are your connections to Norway and/or the Norwegian language?

My connections with Norway are both personal and professional. My husband, my husband’s family and many of my friends are from Norway, as well as my current employment. I work remotely, from Mexico, as an information Consultant for a Norwegian company, so my relationship with Norway is very strong. It’s a place that I admire and have very close to my heart. The Norwegian language is a language that I speak almost daily in Mexico.

What inspired you to create a Norwegian language app?

Most of us have the experience that when we start to learn a new language, we have to reinforce the knowledge from school with educational tools at home. In my own case I did that: I saw movies, cartoons and read children’s books because they were easier to understand.

In this case, I started to think about a book for adults. As an adult with this particular app, one sees the image, and as an adult, you know what it is. In the technological world we are living in we have endless opportunities to develop apps, so we’re talking about a huge universe of apps about sports, photography, food, and in this case of language learning tools.

After some years with the idea in my head and the first manuscript in paper, I decided to use my experience in Norway and take it as inspiration for the making of a Norwegian language app, based in the necessities too of several cultural groups in Norway.

How did you build the app? (Did you already have experience building apps? Did others help you?)

I built ABC for adults after I understood the importance of the Norwegian language to socialize, as a key to joining a society. Many people speak English in Norway, but the official language is Norwegian. At the time I saw the needs of others and my own, and that inspired me to draw, and to make a sketch of what would become the first manuscript.

The application development has been a cocktail of different backgrounds. As I said, I studied social anthropology in Mexico and partly in Norway, and besides that I have a big interest in trying new technologies. I started to imagine my first manuscript as an application, as a new tool.

Already with the specific idea, I had the task of contacting people who might be interested in working on this project. We became a great team. Svein Sørslett, my husband and advisor, played a key role, not only because he is Norwegian but because of his experience as an immigrant in Mexico too. We also received advice from his parents who both are teachers.

The visual part for the app was carried out by visual artist José Carlos Peña Zubiaur. We worked together in every detail of the images, and the development part was by an engineer, Maximiliano Ivan Martinez Lopez, who also worked on all the details from the beginning. Since this Mexican-Norwegian project was created independently in all aspects, we made everything from scratch. All the prose has been very creative and educational, especially by the combination of backgrounds. People can only see an “app” but a lot of work is behind it, educationally speaking, because it is based 100% on the needs of groups who do not speak Norwegian.

What are the key features of your app?

A foreigner who is a beginner in a language has to pass several levels to be able to manage the language, and based on the experience of many who learn a new language, many students borrow childrens’ books to practice vocabulary, especially if they are beginners. But books like these show objects relevant for children, such as: ball, dolphin, orange, etc. ABC for Adults is a card book for adults, which displays images and audio of relevant objects of an adult’s daily life. You can browse images in a specific category, hear the pronunciation, and watch a video of the body: male and female. This is especially important if you have to go to the doctor, gynecologist, or visit the pharmacy.

How do you think your app can help with Norwegian language instruction?

The app is based on the needs of foreigners in Norway, and the challenges that one can experience in daily life. But either as a exchange student or as a foreigner in Norway it will be very useful to use this app to practice vocabulary, learn private body parts, and learn grammar. The application is introductory but adult level, which means that you can learn things that you really use.

I had the opportunity to work with people from around the world, but also to study a little about border areas in the Barents Region. I realized the importance of visual tools. There are groups that are learning Norwegian, and the Latin alphabet is not a reference to start learning Norwegian in some cases. In other cases, for example I had contact with researchers and exchange students from Spain, Germany, and other European countries, and they showed a great difficulty in learning “banal things” like kitchen utensils or tools, because they did not know its meaning in Norwegian.

Therefore, this app starts with something basic, practical and useful, for example see how to write a word, especially the article + noun, which most of us have trouble starting. And if you are shy to ask about body parts, you can check this app too. Many people are interested in learning Norwegian, and I think this app can contribute a lot at the beginning of the language learning process. Because at the beginning, we all have the same problems.

Do you think foreign language instruction is important? Why or why not?

Teaching a foreign language is essential, especially in the times we live. English as a second language, Spanish, or Chinese, all the international languages already have their place in the world and it is important to learn foreign language to communicate with others, to travel and have more job opportunities, but it is also very important to encourage language learning, especially the languages with fewer speakers, because a language is a part of a culture, and language is culture.

Do you plan on making additions to the app? Or making any future apps at this time?

Yes, I would love to develop a series of educational, language, and cultural apps. I recently released a Spanish version, “ABC for Adults –Mexico.” I’m also interested in collaborating with other developers in Norway and Mexico.

What do you like to do with your free time?

In my free time I love to watch movies, read books, and surf the Internet. I also enjoy visiting museums and art galleries. And if I have the opportunity, I do volunteer work (this I learned in Norway), for example at music festivals.

“ABC for Adults” and “ABC for Adults – Mexico” are both available for download on iTunes. Visit this link: https://itunes.apple.com/hk/app/abc-for-adults/id475189764?mt=8 <https://itunes.apple.com/hk/app/abc-for-adults/id475189764?mt=8Or search “ABC for Adults” in iTunes.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 22, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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