Three years after the first publication of A Fairytale for Everyone, the Hungarian authorities are still obsessed with the censorship of books with any LGBTQ+ threads. This is what inspired our article, which wants to reflect on the topic of LGBTQ+ themes in books, within the Norwegian language context.
“Hei hei!” Literally meaning “hello”, this is one of our favorite phrases in Norwegian. It just sounds so cute to hear someone say “hi” twice, like they are extra excited to see you. After taking a few Norwegian courses, we’ve learned that Norwegians actually don’t like token greetings. If they say “hi”, then they really mean it!
Learning a language is a roadmap to exploring a culture. Not only does the language embody what’s most important to the people who speak it, but the language classroom is a good venue to learn about the values a society has and wants those who live there to share, or at least respect.
We were pleasantly surprised to use several Norwegian language textbooks that have articles about LGBTQ+ themes. Usually, language books tend to project very simplistic and clear-cut messages about a country or certain topics, but we were surprised that these Norwegian textbooks weren’t afraid to bring up difficult discussions.
In one chapter about human rights, the article headline reads: “Living in hiding: Not everyone dares to choose a lover or spouse according to their heart”. The article talks about how, although there are equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community in Norway, some people choose to keep their sexual orientation a secret because it’s not legal in their home countries or just not socially acceptable. We can only imagine what kind of conversations this might spark in a language classroom (unfortunately, neither of us partook in such conversations because we checked this book out from the library for self-study). It’s so important as an LGBTQ+ community to remember that we are not alone, we are part of a bigger global community, and these cross-cultural discussions can bring us strength, new ideas, and hope for change.
Another article title declares “Children need parents who love them”. The article defines rainbow families and gives the perspective of a woman, Siv-June, who grew up with two mothers. She says that she had a good upbringing filled with love and security, the two most important elements in a home for children. According to her, rainbow families are normal in Norwegian society. We liked this article because it avoids the nasty politics usually surrounding this topic and focuses on the fact that all children need love and safety, and LGBTQ+ couples are just as capable of providing that as hetero couples.
We both have studied many languages (Norwegian, Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, German, Korean, English, and Hungarian) and these Norwegian textbooks are the first language books we have ever seen with LGBTQ+ topics. It’s encouraging to see that it is possible, and someday maybe such books will be the topic of discussion in the classroom, not in the censorship department of the government media!