Heritage Language Programs - Scandinavian Languages

Scandinavian Language Institute

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Address: Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th St., Seattle, WA

Telephone: (425) 771-5203

Web address: www.sliseattle.com

Contact person

Name: Ed Egerdahl

Title: Director of the Scandinavian Language Institute

Address: Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th St., Seattle, WA

Email: info@sliseattle.com

Telephone: 425-771-5203

Languages/dialects taught: Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic

Grades taught: 4 levels, ranging from beginner to advanced

Program Description

Purposes and goals of the program: The Pacific Northwest has been heavily populated by Scandinavians. Now the Pacific Northwest area has a large second- and third-generation population of heritage Scandinavian. Our program responds to the desire and need to study Scandinavian languages in a classroom setting, not just in the home. Ethnological programs and cultural study play a major role in the program. In addition to the language, students learn about naming traditions and foods that are important to the culture. The purpose is to provide language and culture training for second-generation students and beyond. Norway is not just the “old country” anymore.

Type of program: Bilingual, heritage, foreign language program

Program origin: The program began through the interest of the director in teaching Norwegian language and culture. He formed a non-profit organization in 1978-1979. The program moved into the Nordic Heritage Museum and broadened its scope to include Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic.


Parents’ expectations for the program: Most students are adults. Some adolescents take classes with their parents, who expect them to learn their heritage language and culture.


Instructors’ and administration’s expectations for the program: Instructors expect students to study their language for the cultural experience. As one staff person mentioned, “People are more than the language they speak.”


Students: 200 students are enrolled.
1st generation: 1-5%
2nd generation: 60%
3rd generation: 30%
Interested and from other cultures: 5%

How the program identifies heritage speakers: Interested students come and express interest to the director. There is no language testing or screening.

Possible reasons for student withdrawal: The most common reason for withdrawal from the program is that students find it to be more or less academic than they thought it would be.

Students’ expectations of the program: Students take courses for long-term interests, not only short term (such as for travel). Some students have been with the program for twenty years.


Number of instructors in the program: 1 full-time and 7 part-time

Languages in which instructors are proficient: Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic

Proficiency level: Native, near native

Credentials: All teachers have had to learn the language. Some have a BA, one holds an MA, and another holds teacher certification.

Professional development opportunities instructors have: Instructors have professional development opportunities that are generally available to those working in the language education field (e.g., attending the annual conference of the American Council on the Teaching for Foreign Languages, ACTFL).


Total contact hours per week: 1 time per week for 2 hours (during the school week)

Student grouping: Beginner, Beginner 2, Intermediate, Advanced

Language skills

Skills developed by the program: The program develops skills in conversation, translation, and reading.

Additional comments: Courses focus heavily on language and culture.


Aspects of culture taught: Naming, food, holidays, touchstone events that immigrants have as reminders of home (national days), art, music, film

Kind of student identity program fosters: Melting pot identity and the changing of names when families live in the United States. Students discover their own identity by comparing their identity, and their names, in the United States to those in their home country.


Methodologies and instructional strategies used in the program: Program staff discuss instructional approaches and “what works” in teacher meetings. They also discuss how the teachers learned the language they are teaching themselves, but there is no formal methodology. Some consideration has been given to developing formal methodology, but no program has been established yet.


Other materials used for instruction: Locally developed materials

Technology used for instruction: Computer-based texts


Assessments used to evaluate students’ progress: For high school and college credit, teachers write a formal review of students’ work Quizzes are given in the beginning levels only. While formal tests are given at the International Summer School, this program has not given tests with any regularity.


How the program develops home/school connections or promotes parent involvement: Parents and their children take classes together.

Opportunities for using the heritage language and developing cultural knowledge outside the program: Community organizations, Sons and Daughters of Norway, Scandinavian art forums, folk dances, and a variety of cultural activities. Choruses, film, and programs are also available in the institute, since it is in the Nordic Museum.

What the program has in place

Financial support the program receives: Tuition and donations

Solicitation of funding: Donations

Assistance or funding the program would like to receive: We need a grant writer. We have corporate matching funds from Microsoft and Boeing, but we need the match first.

How students graduate and/or how they receive credit: High school and college credit is granted after a formal review by teachers.

Program completion rate: 95%

Program research or evaluation: The Board of Directors and teachers discuss the program, but there is no formal evaluation.

Special challenges

Challenges the program has experienced: The major challenge is ensuring that the program is affordable and that, at the same time, teachers are paid well. Space rental is also a challenge.

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