The president of the Sami Parliament, Vibeke Larsen, wants the Norwegian government to make the Sami language an obligatory part of the curriculum in the country’s elementary schools. Education Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen called the proposal unrealistic, because a lack of nationwide competence in Sami would make it difficult to implement.
Larsen grabbed headlines when she broadcast her first New Year’s address earlier this year in Norwegian, because she doesn’t speak Sami herself. She claims she never got the opportunity to learn Sami because of the Norwegian assimilation programs that were mandatory when she was young. Norwegian officials have since dropped such programs and apologized to the Sami people that they were forced to adapt to the Norwegian language and culture.
Now Larsen and several other party leaders at the Sami Parliament in Karasjok support mandatory Sami language programs in all Norwegian schools. They contend it would spread knowledge of Norway’s indigenous people, and should at least be offered as an elective to nynorsk, the other official Norwegian language that already is obligatory.
Isaksen said that wasn’t realistic. He said his ministry has an obligation to promote the Sami language and culture, “but I think it would be biting off more than we can chew if all pupils in Norway, whether they live in Flekkefjord or Alta, should learn Sami in addition to another languge.”