Conversations with Real Live Bilinguals: Frøken Anna Maria Ricke


When I moved to Larchmont in 4th grade, my family settled in a double cul-de-sac neighborhood high up on the town limits, surrounded by four steep hills on all sides. When we moved in and met the neighbors, the first thing everyone asked us what, “What country are you guys from?” The last family in our house were from South Africa, and on the block were families from Kenya, France, Belgium, India, the Netherlands, and eventually, Norway. I’m not sure why all these foreign families flocked to our remote little dead end, but it made for one very multi-cultural neighborhood gang.

This is Anna Maria. I remember meeting Anna one summer evening on my front lawn, who had moved in from Norway across the street with her American dad, Norwegian mom, and her brother and sister. She had a little accent at first, but so did almost everyone else on the block, and soon Anna was as all-American as you could be, except for when she and her sister Monica would dress up for Norwegian Day in May in traditional Norwegian dresses and in white for St. Lucia Day. Highlights of our late-nineties youth included the annual trampoline sleepover, our conquest of “No-Man’s Land”, an abandoned foresty area down a slope behind Anna’s back yard, and, of course, “Hannimas”, our neighborhood’s pre-The O.C. version of Christmakkuh. Those were good times on Lundy Lane, but slowly we all left, either moving across town or back to the Motherland. Only the Silvermans remain. But we can thank Facebook for bringing us all back together. Here is Anna’s Real Live Bilingual survey (soon to be followed by Monica’s!).

Shout-outzzz to Emily, Nick, Susanne, Elana, Anna, Mattias, Monica, Priscillia, Gaetan, Sam, Emma, and Kate 😉

What’s your name (accents, characters and all)?

Anna Maria Ricke

Where were you born?

Washington D.C.

What languages do you speak? What’s your mother tongue?

I moved back and forth between Norway and the US a lot when I was little and I’ve spoken both languages my whole life so I consider both English and Norwegian to be my mother tongue.

When/how did you learn to speak English? Was it a hard and painful process?

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been speaking English my whole life.

What language do you think in? Dream in?

It depends on what language I’ve been speaking. After living in Norway for almost 10 years I mostly think in Norwegian, but I recently spent a month alone in Australia and New Zealand where my brain switched back to English. I also start thinking in English when we visit family in the states. The weird thing is, I always dream in English, at least I think I do. I don’t always remember my dreams but the ones I remember are in English.

What sort of things do you associate with your mother tongue?

Questions like this have always been difficult for me to answer because I consider two languages to be my mother tongue. With English I associate family and most of my childhood growing up in New York.

What I associate with Norwegian is also family, a beautiful country and summers at our cabin by the ocean.

What language do you feel most comfortable speaking in?

It depends. In the states I don’t really feel comfortable speaking English anymore after living in Norway for so many years, but in Norway I always want to speak English. In America I feel like a Norwegian and in Norway I feel like an American and in any other country I’m a proud Norwegian-American.

Lucky for me, Norwegians are really good at speaking English and watch many American movies so many words and phrases are used in the everyday Norwegian language.

Are there certain things you can’t feel you simply can’t translate into English? Like what?

Norwegian is very similar to English when it comes to grammar and the Norwegian language even has many English words in its vocabulary. Norwegians use many expressions that would be difficult to translate into English, but unfortunately I can’t think of any at the moment.

Do your parents speak English? What do you speak with them? With your siblings?

My mother is Norwegian and my father is American, but they speak both languages, as do my little brother and sister. At home we speak a mixture of English and Norwegian. I don’t even notice when we go back and forth.

Do you feel different when you speak your mother tongue?

Again, a difficult question for me to answer. I do feel different when I speak English and Norwegian. When I speak Norwegian I speak in a dialect that you would only hear in the very south of Norway, where I live. I guess this gives me a sense of belonging even though I haven’t lived here my whole life.

Do you feel awkward speaking your mother tongue in front of your friends?

I feel awkward speaking English in front of my Norwegian friends but I don’t feel awkward speaking Norwegian in front of English speakers. I guess it’s because the Norwegians know what I’m saying and my “accent” is better than theirs and for some reason that makes me feel uncomfortable. When I speak Norwegian in front of English speakers it just sounds like jibberish or German to them (I’ve been told) so I don’t mind doing it.

Do you think people who speak your mother tongue natively can see that you’ve spent a long time outside of that country? Do you think you sound foreign in your mother tongue now?

I have developed a tiny accent when I speak English now and it really annoys me when people point it out and call it cute. But basically I am fluent in both languages. If I moved to the states and lived there for a few years, my accent would probably shift from English to Norwegian.

Can you teach us a word/expression in your mother tongue? What does this mean and why did u choose it?

This expression is only used in the very south of Norway, Kristiansand, where I live so it is written in our dialect and is not grammatically correct:

“Æ æ a å eder” meaning I’m getting a bite to eat. The phrase is pretty old and is only used nowadays by my generation as a joke.

A naughty, naughty word please.

Norwegians curse a lot and they have a million different phrases and expressions to choose from. “Satan” is often used. It is pronounced differently in English but means the same. Norwegians might use “satan” the way English speakers use “shit” or “damn”.

Tell us a joke? Or a play on words?

En nordmann, en klok svenske, et troll og en heks satt rundt et bord. Det lå et eple i midten. Hvem fikk eplet? Nordmannen fordi det finnes ikke troll, hekser eller kloke svensker.


A Norwegian, a smart Swede, a troll and a witch sat around a table. There was an apple in the middle. Who got the apple? The Norwegian, because there is no such thing as a troll, a witch or a smart Swede.

Many Norwegian jokes pick on Swedes and Danes.

Any parting thoughts on taking this lil’ survey?

This was a great idea and thanks for letting me participate.

“Alice’s blog is as cool as a Norwegian winter…” Translate!

“Alice sin blogg er like kul som den norske vinter er lang”

About alicestockwellegan

Language and culture enthusiast from New York living in San Francisco.
This entry was posted in Conversations with Real Live Bilinguals, Dialects, Language, Multilingualism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Conversations with Real Live Bilinguals: Frøken Anna Maria Ricke

  1. Marian says:

    Hei Alice, denne artikkelen gav meg skikkelige gode minner fra året mitt i USA. Husker du den lille jenta som løste problemet med Christmastree / hanukkahtree? Appletree!

    • alicestockwellegan says:

      Hi Marian! I’m glad you enjoyed it, it made me nostalgic about the good ol’ days too. I have an interview with Monica coming up too! I don’t remember the christmas tree situation, but I do remember cooking you blue cupcakes for a surprise birthday party!

  2. Pingback: Conversations With Real Live Bilinguals: Frøken Monica Ricke | Language and other musings

  3. The Dude says:

    Sounds like you guys had fun neighborhood!

  4. alicestockwellegan says:

    Yes, some solid multilingual childhood fun!

  5. Pingback: NY Times & Being American | Language and other musings

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