Something Swedish


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Swedish Scrabble – Alfapet

Whenever I teach an English course I always suggest different ways to practice the second language casually at home:

1) Read books you have read before in your own language
2) Read magazines or blogs about topics you’re interested in
3) Read or watch the news in your second language
4) Watch TV or movies with subtitles
5) Listen to music or audio books
6) Play games

Since I’ve moved to Sweden and started learning Swedish I have tried to integrate the language into my day to day life by doing as many of these things as possible. I especially like to use my Swedish while playing games – it makes language learning more fun, social and casual:
(As a sidenote: board games in Sweden are way more expensive than in the U.S., 300-500kr in stores, depending on the game)
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I’ve always enjoyed Scrabble, so I figured: What better way to work on my vocabulary than playing scrabble in Swedish? After being here for 2 years and refusing to pay 400kr for a board game that I’ve bought for 100kr in the past, I finally found one at a fleamarket for 40kr. Score!
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Now, Scrabble does come in Swedish scrabble as well, but more popular is an almost identical game called Alfapet. (The Swedish spelling of “Alphabet” is actually “Alfabet”)
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As you can see, the board and premise are exactly the same, but there are a few differences:
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In Afapet, not only do you try to build on tiles that give you bonus points, but you try to avoid tiles that take away points. (Note the dark blue tiles)
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Naturally, there are a few new tiles due to the different letters in Swedish. I was surprised that there weren’t more of these, as they are commonly used letters in Swedish.
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Like in Scrabble there are blank tiles, that can be used as any letter without collecting value.
Now it gets interesting, as these next tiles don’t exist in Scrabble at all:

The black tiles represent stops. Once you use this tile you can spell a completely unconnected word next to or after another word: no common letters needed.

The arrows make it possible to turn your word another direction, making space constraints a thing of the past. This also allows you to turn your word so that you can collect bonus tiles that normally wouldn’t align.
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We played for the first time last week, and it was a lot of fun. We initially agreed to use both English and Swedish words, so that I would have a fighting chance, but we played 95% Swedish words, anyway. It was a really great way to practice my Swedish – and I thought this variant of Scrabble was a lot of fun.


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Studying Swedish in Sweden – Comparing EVERYTHING about SFI, SAS Grund and SAS Gymnasiet

SFI vs. SAS Grund vs.  SAS Gymnasiet

This comparison chart is based off of my personal experiences studying in Halmstad 2012 – 2014 and researching information online. Things might vary by town or teacher but most things are regulated by skolverket. If anything has been updated or changed, or if you have anything to add or ask, let me know!

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Today is two years since starting Something Swedish, and in two months it will mark two years since I started going to school to learn Swedish.  Since then, I’ve tried to keep my progress in school up to date, without overloading the blog. Catch up here:

Applied to SFI Feb 7, 2012
Started SFI  March 27, 2012
First SFI National test  Sept 20, 2012
(Finished SFI Dec 15, 2012)
Started ground level SAS/Comparing SFI and SAS  Jan 16, 2013
Finished SAS (18 weeks early) June 27, 2013

Being back in High School:

I somehow failed to mention that I started taking high school (gymnasiet)  level Swedish in August. So, here’s an update and an in depth comparison post that I hope helps people just starting out!

Three weeks ago the first level (1/3) of SAS gymnasiet ended. I had mixed emotions about the class, and put in a mixed amount of effort. This was partly because of being tired of studying, being bored with the difficulty level, being busy working, and focusing on a more difficult class (civics/political science) I was taking at the same time. I got an overall grade of B in the class, as well as on the national exam (oral presentation = A, reading comprehension =A, essay = C)

I was excited to start SAS1 because I read that it would be challenging and center around literature, which I love. Finally I would be learning Swedish on a level where other Swedes study! I was a bit disappointed to find out that this first class is a mix between a repetition of SAS Grund and preparation for SAS2. I understand it’s purpose, but I was bored – and unlike all of the other classes I’ve taken, you don’t have the option to go through the material quicker: 20 weeks means 20 weeks. If I had known that, I would have taken a test to be places in SAS2. Thankfully I had a teacher I like and find easy to learn from and understand (and have had before) and was in a class with some people I knew from SAS. Even if it was a bit slower than I would have liked, it fit my schedule perfectly and still challenged me from time to time.

I’ll be updating the chart and writing more in depth about the national exam once I complete the whole course and have more insight – which feels like forever away.

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Lessons Learned

If you’re wondering where I’ve been these last  two months, the answer is: LIVING LIFE! As terrible as I feel about not updating the blog, it feels great to be too busy to post!  When you first move to a new country you have so much free time because you have nothing to do: no job, no social life, no schedule. Now though, especially this past month, life has been filled with studying for tests, working here and there, fikas, writing papers, socializing, and everything in between.

In the spirit of enjoying working and studying a little bit more, I thought I would share some recent learning experiences since I’ve been away.

Lesson #1: “Det finns ingen dåligt väder, bara dåligt kläder.”

One of my part time/substitute jobs is at a daycare/preschool (2-6 year olds) a few times a month.  Working at a “dagis” in Sweden has opened up my eyes to many cultural differences about how we raise our children. A few weeks ago, one of these differences taught me a lesson that I will not soon forget.

Something we do with the kids everyday is go outside for an hour to a nearby clearing in the forest where the kids run around, play, and climb trees. It took me a while to adjust to this, but now it seems natural. What I didn’t think about is that we do this EVERYDAY, no matter the weather. Growing up, if the temperature is too cold or if it rains, or snows, or even looks like it might, we stayed indoors. A few weeks ago on a particularly cold, rainy, and windy winter day I went to work completely unprepared for this difference. While the kids were putting on their rain pants, rain boots, rain jackets, and rain hats, I realized that my jeans, sneakers, hat and jacket aren’t going to cut it here in Sweden.

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Another, sunnier, day outside with the kids.

For the next hour, I stood in the freezing rain – soaked – watching the kids splash in puddles and play in the mud and all I could think about was a well known Swedish saying to live by: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing

Lesson #2: You never know when, where, or how an opportunity can happen.

Moving to a new country often times means starting over. It also means a fresh slate. There are opportunities everywhere that you maybe wouldn’t have ever considered before because they aren’t in your interest or field. Moving can be a chance to expand.

Last month an opportunity was given to me that I never would have thought of pursuing on my own, offered by someone who I wouldn’t have suspected. One day I received an email from a classmate who, at the time, I’ve only spoken to once, who recommended me to a friend who was looking for an American voice for commercials. Sometimes opportunities are just that random and out of thin air.  I’ve recorded twice so far and it has been a lot of fun. It’s uplifting to know that new experiences are out there and that people try to help, even if they barely know you.

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Recording

Lesson #3: Volunteering is networking

Last week I went to a middle school to give some presentations to students aged 12-16 about my transition to Sweden, the differences between the two countries (size, population, animals, holidays, sports, food) and all about NYC. When my husband saw how many hours and how much work I put into my slideshow and found out that I committed to presenting for 5 hours without getting paid, he seemed concerned. Yes, it was a lot of work and I was exhausted afterwards, but I got to do something I love: teach. Best of all, I got to meet five wonderful classes of interested and curious students that were full of questions. I got to see how it is to teach this grade (I’m try to decide between pursuing middle school or high school) and got more of a feel for the school environment in Sweden. I met a lot of teachers and got a tour of the school. As a result of investing my own time into doing something for “free,” I’m now on the list of substitute teachers for that school. You have to put yourself out there to get something in return. Just the experience was rewarding enough, but you never know.

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Presenting

Lesson #4: Part time is okay

I can’t wait to get a steady full time job, but until then, I’m happy with what I have. It’s not easy getting started, and beggars can’t be choosers. Even if I only work once a week plus when someone is sick or on vacation, it is still experience and something to do. It’s still a way to stay in the loop and have a foot in the door. Nothing is too part time or too small when you relocate. For eight years I had the same job in NYC and this year alone I have: Tutored teenagers, prepped and served burritos, taught adult education classes, changed diapers, edited English research papers, done voice acting, helped kids with arts and crafts, spelling, puzzles and reading. I edit from home, tutor at the library, ride my bike 6 km/4 miles to get to the daycare/preschool,  walk to the office, and take the train to the next town over to teach – and sometimes a combination of those in one day. Even if it sounds chaotic and hectic – it’s better than last year when I had absolutely nothing to do. Part time jobs are a good start, especially if you are studying.

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Teaching

Read more about working in Sweden here.

Lesson #5: Don’t underestimate

Just because you have an education that doesn’t mean that starting school over again won’t be difficult. By the time I started my Swedish high school level adult education classes I was over the whole “back to school” thing and wanted no part of it. It felt repetitive, tedious and unnecessary to be back in school when I’ve gone to school my entire life. I just want to learn the language! Why do I have to do research and read books and hold speeches if I already know how to do these things? Because I don’t know how to do them in my new language. Little by little I’m learning to not underestimate how important these exercises are in order to improve my Swedish. Of course, I already understood this, but it’s about having the right attitude. Even if I feel like the assignments themselves are easy and below my level, it’s still good practice. Even if I am tired of studying and just want to start working, being in these classes are my best shot at getting a job. I complained of boredom when I first started my current classes, but in the end I had tons of challenging work to do. The level didn’t change, but I pushed myself harder – to read more difficult books and do deeper research to learn new words. It’s frustrating being back in school, especially high school, but it’s worth it.

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Learning

That was a little taste of what has been keeping me away from updating, more details to come!


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Riddle me this, Sweden

First things first…

Stay with me here – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th. In Swedish these would be 1:a, 2:a, 3:e, 4:e, 5:e, 6:e, 7:e, 8:e, 9:e, 10:e. I wasn’t able to recognize them either, don’t worry. But sometimes you do see “1st” in Swedish – usually in the produce section of the supermarket and you wonder what it is, “Is it the first crop of the season?” then you see “2st” and think it’s just a typo. “st” in Swedish means “stycken” a useful word that we don’t have in English which indicates how many of something, like individual pieces.

Time

Telling time is telling time, right? Wrong. It might be easy for those who know how to use military time, but I have literately missed a work meeting because of the habit of using AM and PM and mistaking an early morning meeting for an “after work” meeting. It takes a lot of time and finger counting to look at a clock and read 21.15 as 9:15, or vice versa, thinking 9:15 but needing to write 21.15, without getting it wrong a few dozen times.

Here’s a tip: if someone is meeting you for a drink at 10.00 they probably mean coffee, not alcohol.

But don’t worry, it’s only written this way, when Swedes speak they use the am/pm system, just to mess with my mind I assume. Not that saying the time is any easier – wrap your head around explaining 7:35 as “five minutes past half till 8,” More simply, dinner at 6:30? instead of saying “half past 6″ you would say “half till 7″.

Oh, and 10.00 is how we write the time here in Sweden, I wasn’t accidentally talking about the price of overpriced drinks (coffee/alcohol) in Sweden.

Like so:

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Money

So, if a period equals a colon (10.00 instead of 10:00) to indicate time, then how do we deal with money? Commas, of course, ya know, unless there should be a comma, then we use a period ($1,000 = 7.000 SEK)

Buying a pair of pants? Price: 699,90 SEK. Don’t worry, that’s hundred, not thousand, don’t let that comma startle you. And good news, tax is always included in the price tags in Sweden, so what you see is what you pay! Except that the “öre” (think “penny”) hasn’t existed in many years, so prices are just “rounded” to the nearest kronor, so yes, you will be paying 700 SEK.

Dates

Have an important meeting on 5/4/2013? Don’t miss it, it’s on April 5th, not May 4th.  Oh, and don’t try to make it any easier by writing “April 5th” because it is really “5:e april” (You were wondering where they used that colon, if not for telling time, right? Me too) The colon is also used when you would add an ” ‘s ” to an abbreviation, but I digress.

Grammar

While we’re on the topic of commas, colons, and periods being used differently than what I’m used to – why not talk about apostrophes and semi colons, too?

It’s easy, they barely exist while writing Swedish. Big sigh of relief, eller hur? Semi colons not being used as often as in English I can understand – people use them incorrectly all the time anyway, but apostrophes!? That’s like the bread and butter to English! Well, here’s the thing – Swedish doesn’t use contractions. You’ll never find our beloved “I’m,” “you’re,” “she’ll,” “aren’t” “they’re,” “here’s,” “I’ll,” “he’ll,” and “won’t” in Swedish which means that 90% of the apostrophes we use every day are gone. The other 10%? Also gone: “Sweden’s soccer team” becomes “Sveriges fotbollslag” no apostrophe needed, and yes soccer in the U.S. is “fotboll” (football) here in Sweden.

At least one thing is just as important in Swedish as it is in English, don’t forget your capitalization, as in don’t forget to NOT do it  for months or days of the week.

Multiple choice time!

Why is there an X here?

1) “2” and “3” are way too similar to put next to each other

x) Swede’s thought they’d get the numbers and the letters mingling.

2) To be even more confusing to immigrants!


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Swedish Cartoons

When my Swedish was good enough, about six months ago, I started watching TV to train my new language. My level at the time was pretty limited unless I had Swedish subtitles to follow along, which required my full attention. I wanted something passive to listen to while I did other things. So, I started watching cartoons.

Sweden is one of those countries that doesn’t do a lot of dubbing – except when it comes to the younger audience who hasn’t yet learned English – which means cartoons are in Swedish.

Some cartoons have the same name, but most use a Swedish title and character names. Sometimes these names are direct translations, which aren’t interesting enough to mention. These are a little different; sometimes the translation is just off, other times it’s completely replaced by something seemingly random. It’s fun to see the proper names change from American names to Swedish names.

Mickey Mouse: Musse Pigg

Minnie Mouse: Mimmi Pigg

(Especially interesting because “pigg” does not mean mouse or pig, but ” alert”)

Goofy: Jan Långben – Jan Long Legs

Donald Duck: Kalle Anka (Anka = Duck)

Daisey Duck: Kajsa Anka

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Donald Duck/Kalle Anka is a huge deal here in Sweden, especially around Christmas time. Not only will you always find Donald Duck (not mickey mouse) comics in stores all year round, but it is a Christmas tradition to watch  Kalle Anka every year.

Ducktales: Ankliv – Duck life

Huey Dewey and Louie: Knatte, Fnatte, Tjatte

Scrooge Mc Duck: Joakim VonAnka (Von Duck)

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Sometimes the text stays the same but the theme song is in Swedish, keeping to the same beat:

Talespin: Luftanshjältar – The Heroes of the Sky

Chip n’ Dale: Piff och Puff

Rescue Rangers: Räddningspatrullen – The Saving Patrol

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The Carebears: Krambjörnarna – The Hug Bears

Heathcliff: Nisse

Garfield: Gustav

Popeye: Karl Alfred

Cinderella: Askungen – The Ash Child

Fox and the Hound: Micke och Molley

Calvin and Hobbes: Kalle och Hobbe

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Bugs Bunny: Snurre Sprätt

The Road Runner: Hjulben  – Wheel legs

Wile E Coyote: Gråben – Grey legs

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Super Heroes:

Batman: Läderlappen – Leather patch

Superman: Stålmannen – The Steel man

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Aside from the intro songs being changed, which didn’t phase me that much, naturally each character has a new unrecognizable voice (especially if you don’t understand the language, in which case – listen to some swedish!):

If you are looking for an authentic Swedish cartoon though (which you should!), then your looking for Bamse, “The worlds strongest bear.” If you live in Sweden, you need to know about Bamse.

Through adventures to help others with the company of his friends and boost in strength by eating magical honey his grandmother makes, Bamse teaches moral values, like kindness,  equality and responsibility through real life issues, while still being the most popular cartoon in Sweden. The television clips are from 1972, but the comic books that started being printed in 1973 are still being printed today. Read more about the beloved Swedish classic HERE.

Just a little something fun for a Saturday post – might be helpful for anyone moving here with kids! (Also, I do still find them fun to watch myself for practice …really just a good excuse to sit on the couch and watch cartoons all day)


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Meeting and Greeting in Sweden: Handshake, Hug, or Kiss(es)?

I started writing this post almost a year ago, when it was more relevant to my newness here in Sweden and attending SFI:

When I first started visiting Sweden I wasn’t familiar with the small details of Swedish culture, like what you do when you meet someone new, or when you say hi to a friend.  I was always a little annoyed with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, because he never introduced me to people that he was talking to in front of me that I hadn’t met yet. I thought it was rude, but it was simply a difference in culture.  In NYC, It’s more common to be introduced by the mutual friend, “Meg, this is Randomname, Randomname this is Meg” handshake greetingwith pointing and gestures to indicate who is who – usually received with a wave and a smile or a handshake. It’s a lot less common to introduce yourself in NYC and comes off to be a little too forward.

In Sweden, however, you have to take it upon yourself to step up and reach out your hand and announce your name with a solid handshake and eye contact. Naturally, I never did this the first few times I visited and it got to be pretty awkward as I didn’t officially “meet” a lot of people.  Finally, I confronted my then-boyfriend-now-husband who explained it all to me. After that, I started doing it Swedish Style; introducing myself right away instead of awkwardly standing around waiting for him to do it.

Once I got over the hurdle of MEETING people in Sweden, I realized that I’ve been GREETING people all wrong. When researching how to greet people around the world, Sweden is usually not on any of the lists, because there is nothing too specific about a Swedish greeting – except maybe moderation. There is no special way to hug or shake hands that could be rude, offensive, or embarrassing. It is good to know that they generally don’t kiss on the cheek though, singlekissgreetinglike many other countries do. It wasn’t until our wedding in Sweden that my mother-in-law pointed out (in a friendly, shy and giggling way) that my family kisses on the check, which was a little strange to her and she failed to reciprocate since it’s not something normal for her. Meanwhile, this is something I have always done since being in Sweden, but it’s never been pointed out to me. Thankfully, I’m a ‘light contact’ cheek-to-cheek air-kisser which might have gone undetected or else I might have been making a lot more people a lot more uncomfortable. Towards the bottom of this interview HERE I mention it as one of the most embarrassing mistakes I’ve made in Sweden, going around kissing stand offish Swedes who generally like their personal space; at least until you are good friends.

So, I’ve braced myself and committed to being a little gentler with my hello’s and goodbye’s, reserving hugs till I’ve built up a friendship instead of freely handing them out to people I’ve only just met – and then I started making other expat friends and had to start all over again. I never thought any of my anxiety would be over how to say hello or good bye to friends and classmates, but there it was.

The thing with being an expat is you generally tend to hang out with a lot of people from different countries, we go to school together, learn the language together, and socialize together more than I’ve ever hung out with any Swede aside from my husband. This is especially true in Sweden, as anyone new to the country is given the opportunity of free language courses (SFI) everyday. Expecting SFI to be all Swedish and Swedes, I wasn’t prepared to find so many people from around the world. I thought I was well diversified coming from NYC, but it is a whole different thing when everyone has just moved to Sweden straight from from their home countries – Iran, Thailand, Africa, Iraq, Turkey, Spain, Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria, Russia, Lithuania, Korea, Croatia, Egypt, Romania with a light sprinkle of New Zealand, Australian, UK, Canada, and the U.S. All trying to adjust to living in Sweden, while bringing in their own traditions and cultures, such as how to greet one another.

Every country naturally has their own way of greeting friends, so I was thrown back into the whirlwind of what to do with who; not just “stop kissing Swedes”. I always try to take the other persons lead, but sometimes slip and turn a hatriple kiss greetingndshake into a panicked cheek kiss because there was a moment hesitation from both of us and I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes it is a light hug, a wave, a smile, or a strong embrace depending on where someone comes from. A handshake varies from a light gentle graze or a very firm grip. In some cultures it is offensive to kiss on the cheek, and in others it is offensive not to, and then you never know how many times to do it, once twice or thrice. Throw in everyone’s effort to integrate into Sweden and no one seems to know what to do outside of their own culture groups. Greetings become a little blurry and shaky, unless you have the same traditions and already know how to handle greeting each other. For my birthday I was given  triple or double cheek kisses by some cultures, hugs from others, handshakes from the rest as they congratulated me.

Upon saying good bye to new found friends from England, Canada, and USA (Places with the same customs as myself, so this should be easy) I froze and automatically (read: awkwardly) stepped back and offered a hand shake instead of what would be a friendly wave or a hug. We stumbled through it, laughed it off and ended up hugging instead.

All in all, it’s just a funny observation of a sometimes awkward situation that maybe you’ve also experienced while learning the Swedish language along side other people learning the same thing, all from different places around the world, speaking different languages inbetween classes and bringing in all sorts of delicious food that I’ve never seen or heard of before for class parties. SFI is a unique place; a smörgåsbord of cultures all brought together to learn about one thing we all have in common: Sweden.

List of THINGS TO SAY to Greet People in Sweden

Hej! or Hej Hej! = Hey/Hi – Most common, appropriate for both formal and informal.

Hallå = Hello

Hejsan = Hey

Tjena = Hey – Less formal, between friends

God Morgon/Dag = Good Morning/Day

Trevligt att träffas!  = Nice to meet you!

Hur är det? = How is it? (Whats up?)

Hur går det? = How goes it? (How’s it going?)

Hur läget? = How are things?

Vad hittar du på? = What are you finding? (What’s are you doing/up to?)

Hur mår du? = How do you feel?

Hej då! = Good bye!

Adjö! = Bye!

Ha det så bra! = Have it so good! (Have a good day)

Vi ses snart! = See you soon!


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Success: Swedish as a Second Language (SAS)

It’s official! After 22 weeks in Swedish as a Second Language and Civics (Svenska som Andra Språk och Samhällskunskap), I’ve made it! – 18 weeks early and with the highest grade for the course (A)!

In January I wrote a short comparison of SAS and SFI (Here) and six months later here I am telling you about the end!

One thing that I learned is that there are two options for S.A.S: Komvux and Learnia, which are very different. My experience is based off of Kumvux, which I found to be much more rewarding. Learnia goes by much quicker (20 weeks) with less/no assignments, no tests, and hardly any teacher interaction.

S.A.S. typically takes 40 weeks, that’s ten weeks for every course (E, F, G, H which each include two chapters) but anyone can go faster or slower depending on how much work they do. Having class 12 hours a week and studying an additional 15 hours a week let me go through it quickly (hence my infrequent blog updates lately).  There is a test at the end of each chapter, and a bunch of assignments in between ranging from simple questions to book reports and essays.

Even though there are less formal lessons from the teachers when compared to SFI, and more “egen arbete” (Own work) I felt I learned a lot because the teachers instead give more one on one time to review your tests and anything you write, focusing on your specific problems. My work had drastically improved by the time I got to the last course, even being excused from a whole chapter because the teacher thought my level was beyond it at 20 weeks into the program, which gave me more time to focus on my final assignment.

My last few assignments in the course included a seven minute speech and a power point presentation in Swedish on a topic of our own choosing without the use of notes (I spoke about the benefits of running), an in depth short story analysis, a research paper from a limited choice of topics (I wrote nine pages on Norse Mythology/Religion), and a final exam.

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From my final research paper: “You have written a work that meets all the requirements on a ground level and a little extra. You have chosen relative facts, detailed facts, done comparisons, checked sources and structured the work in an easy to understand way. The reading was interesting! The language is fantastically good with a rich vocabulary and very good grammatical structure… simply a brilliantly good work that gets the highest grade: A. Good job!”

Now I get to enjoy my vacation, until I start my next step in August: SWEDISH HIGH SCHOOL. (Well, high school level work, anyway)

Upcoming updates:

Something Swedish in NYC
Video: Studenten (Swedish graduation)
Video: National Dag (Sweden’s National Day)
Video: Midsummer (Sweden’s most beloved holiday)

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