Wang Center for Global EducationStudent Opportunities

Language and Identity in a Nordic Context

The Course:

In 2008 the director-General of UNESCO declared, "Languages are indeed essential to the identity of groups and individuals and to their peaceful coexistence."  This course explores the unique role of languages in Icelandic and Norwegian identities specifically. The role of language in the building of nations, the assertion of independence and protection of small languages in a globalized community are investigated comparatively.  As small and relatively young countries that achieved independence in the first half of the 1990's, Iceland and Norway have recognized language as the source of expression of the cultural and national self.  At the same time, both countries have approached languages as dynamic and, at certain points, in need of reform.  In the 21st century, globalization and the use of English exert their own influences on national efforts to preserve a unique identity through language. The course engages students in conversation with scholars, policy-makers, cultural curators and the common citizen.  We live and study in both urban and rural settings of Iceland and Norway in order to investigate such questions as:  How does national language policy respond to and influence language and identity?  How is the media key to language preservation and change? In what ways do Iceland and Norway develop identity through cultivating iconic works of fiction, historical figures, artistic images and places of cultural memory?  How are the contrasts and similarities between Norway and Iceland understood in their cultural and historical contexts?  Language comes to life as we study in the capital cities of Reykjavik and Oslo and the rural birthplace of Norway's minority "New Norwegian" language at Ørsta.

Course Description:

Culture and language are dynamic, ever-changing aspects of a society, and Iceland and Norway offer ideal settings in which to explore the importance of language as an expressing of the cultural and national self.  Language in Iceland and Norway has been instrumental both as a means to form and preserve national identity and as a means to challenge political and cultural dominance.  It is a contemporary barometer of change as the nations become more multicultural and globalized.  The course engages students in comparative study of the role of language in these Nordic nations.  As preparation for the course, there will be four mandatory meetings during fall semester 2012, and we will meet on campus the first three days of January 2013 term.  In these meetings, required readings and discussions will provide the basis to learn the theoretical frameworks for the study of language and identity, become familiar with Nordic narratives (an Icelandic sage, poetry/lyrics, short prose texts) that are instrumental in the language movements in Iceland and Norway, and gain a foundation in language history and reform.  In Iceland and Norway, we will combine meetings with scholars, language council members and cultural directors who study and live the work of language preservation and change in society with on-site visits to sites of cultural memory and identity.  We will have required site visits, class meetings to discuss readings and integrate experiential learning and lectures and written assignments to facilitate the learning process on-site.  A take-home final exam is due the first week of February 2012.  The course is taught in English and has no pre-requisites.  Students of Norwegian will be encouraged to read and resond to target-language texts appropriate to their level of Norwegian.  The course fulfills a cross-cultural General Education credit and may be considered for Global Studies credit pending approval of the Global Studies Chair.

Course Highlights:

  • Engage in conversation with scholars, directors of language councils and more;
  • Ride Icelandic horses, relax in a geo-thermal pool, and visit the site of the Icelandic parliament of the saga age;
  • Visit the places where literary giants like Snorri Sturlusson and Henrik Ibsen lived;
  • Fly over the mountains to the Norwegian northwest coast and the heart of Norway's minority language;
  • Experience Norway at the start of its celebration of "The Year of Language" in 2013;
  • Live the contrasts of urban and rural life in the north;
  • Explore on your own on an optional free travel weekend.


Course Objectives:

  • Identify through comparative approach specific ways in which language is integral to cultural and national identity in Iceland and Norway.
  • Demonstrate a contextualized understanding of language policy and debate in historical and contemporary Icelandic and Norwegian societies.
  • Articulate an informed insight into how language in its broadest sense can function as both a boundary and bridge between cultures in multicultural Scandinavia.
  • Acquire an openness toward, and understanding of, diverse views of the role of language as it functions to preserve and construct identity in contemporary Scandinavia and globally.

Course Credit:

NORW 331: Department credit.  Cross cultural perspectives requirement met.

Application Deadline:

April 13, 2012.  A non-refundable deposit of $50.00 is required with the application.  A $250.00 non-refundable program payment to confirm participation in the course is due within 10 days of notification of acceptance.  Maximum of 18 students.

Program Cost:

$5,295. Includes airfare, lodging, program related transportation, supplemental study abroad insurance.  Does not include meals.  PLU reserves the right to add a surcharge in response to unanticipated price increases. These estimated additional costs indicated below are intended to assist students and parents in budgeting for those additional living and discretionary expenses not included in the program fee.  Actual expense may vary according to student interests, individual needs, and spending habits.
  • Passport (new) = $110 / Passport (renewal) = $135

  • Visa fees (required for some non-US passport holders) = varies

  • Pre-travel evaluation at the PLU Health Center = $45 *All students are required to visit either the PLU Health Center or a personal health care provider to achieve the proper medical clearance.  Be aware that other medical providers may charge additional fees that may result in a higher cost to the PLU Health Center.

  • Immunizations = $0 to several hundred dollars **Vaccination needs vary on destination and individual medical history, and may be costly.

  • Airline baggage fees = approximately $25 for each checked bag

  • Books, supplies, course materials = varies

  • Cost of meals not included in program fee = varies

  • Cell phone & usage = varies

  • Personal expenses = approximately $600.  Check with your faculty leader for an accurate estimate for your destination.