Language police enrage teenagers

19th April 1996 at 01:00

Norway's Council for Language is attempting to do battle against the flotsam of Hollywood English washing in from America.

Terrestrial television in Norway is almost entirely composed of imported English language programmes, and, as they are not dubbed, youngsters quickly learn to mimic Sylvester Stallone and other stars.

The council has been so worried by the trend among teenagers to litter their speech with "cool" English slang words they have used a television advertising campaign which says: "Use your head. Use Norwegian."

Now, in a fresh effort to shore up their threatened language, the council has announced that a whole range of English words commonly used in everyday speech are to be written according to Norwegian pronunciation and spelling. This has created a new vocabulary composed of words like snakkbar and taksi. The council believes these borrowed words can be written precisely as they are pronounced and awarded full Norwegian status.

It seems they are alone in thinking so. The young consider the measure laughable and utterly confusing since they will now have to learn two words instead of one: the newly constructed Norwegian form and the original English word. The tourist industry is incensed because they fear that visiting foreigners will fail to recognise service signs.

Teachers are concerned for several reasons. They believe that dyslexics in particular will find writing harder. And English teachers are afraid that pupils, who are suddenly able to write a set group of words they recognise and associate as English in a Norwegian form, will now begin writing English vocabulary in general in this way.

Therefore, it seems likely that the council's measures are doomed to failure.

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