Something Swedish


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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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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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S.F.I _ v s _ S.A.S

I started my next step towards Swedish fluency this week – Svenska som Andra Språk, S.A.S. (Swedish as a Second Language)

All throughout my S.F.I (Svenska for Invandare/ Swedish for Immigrants) classes I’ve heard about this awesome next level of learning and how much better and more helpful it is.

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The difference between the two schools is bigger than I expected, but I wouldn’t say one is better than the other – just different approaches for different levels.

S.A.S is sort of an extension of S.F.I,  only because you must finish S.F.I first and your ability in S.F.I determines your level in S.A.S.  Confused yet?

I knew SAS would be more formal and different from SFI as soon as we had to sign rules and a study contract during the orientation:

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SFI ranges from levels A – D, and SAS has levels E – H.

SFI covers the basics of the language so that you can function at an Elementary level, while SAS is considered Middle School level.

At orientation most people (about 25) went to the “E” level and a few of us (5) skipped ahead to “F” or “G” because of recommendations from our SFI teachers – I started in “F” – which means I am skipping 10 weeks of SAS!  The “normal” pace means that class takes 10 weeks, but you can take your time or work faster, since you have the whole schedule of assignments. If you work at the “average” pace, SAS takes a total of 40 weeks, I should be done in 30, but I’m aiming for sooner!

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The biggest difference in SAS is the amount of structure – every level focuses on specific chapters of the same book, has a weekly and daily plan, with pages of assignments and  goals.

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This type of structure is not found in SFI because so many people are at so many different levels and learn at such different speeds. Until you get the basics of the language, it’s hard to work on your own, which is 90% of SAS.

My schedule went from having 4 hour long classes to 2 hour classes, which consist of a lot of “egen arbete tid” – “own work time.” It’s easy to stay on track and know what you are supposed to be doing by following the study plan, where as in SFI it was common to switch between topics, assignments, and difficulty levels from day to day in an effort to include everyone and give a wide base knowledge of the language.

SAS is more specific and more like an actual class. Instead of talking about vocabulary and spending 10 minutes explaining one word for one or two students, we read on our own and discuss “why?” and “what do you think?” together.

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We are responsible for making our own study time plan, keeping track of books we read, listing words and definitions, using given verbs in sentences, and other things that are updated daily, along side with the homework assignments. It’s my second day of SAS and I’ve already finished 4 assignments and 7 out of the 59 check points there are required to complete level F. It feels good to have an organized work plan to follow.

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Within the next three weeks we will all be reading the same book, “Marie Curie”  and discussing it on Tuesdays – with a book report at the end. My “F” class is very focused on writing, which might be the teachers method or each level focuses on a different aspect of the language (speech, hearing, reading, writing). I think reading this book will be the hardest part of the class, but I’m pretty excited to start reading something other than children’s books.

Vocabulary

Test – Prov

Grades – Betygen

School – Skolan

Study – Studera

Learn – Lär


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Language Lesson

One of the most interesting things about being in Sweden is learning the language. My school has been closed and I go to New York the day after it opens, which means no Swedish classes for me for 6 weeks. I will have to study more and use the language on my own. Since this is a big concern of mine and is on my mind, I decided to go through my notes and see what I can share about what I’ve learned so far.

Something people should know about Swedish is that it a very particular and specific language, there are a lot of details, rules, and reasons that really make learning the language difficult but interesting. A lot of things cannot simply be translated. Many phrases or words are just said differently. There are words in both languages that simply don’t exist in the other. Letting go of needing to “translate” instead of just learning is the first step.

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When I tried to say “We will see” in Swedish as “Vi ska se” My husband corrected me: “vi får se.” Which technically means: “We receive sight.”

And when I tried to tell me friend that “I’ll find out” as “Ja ska hitta ut” She corrected me: “Jag ska ta reda” Which word for word translates to  “I will take clarity

Despite the words being different and seeming odd to an English speaker- the meanings are the same.

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“He is kissing his wife” Sounds like  a straight forward sentence in English – in Swedish they add a question, ‘Whose wife?”

His OWN wife, or his wife (that guy over there). Suddenly the sentence is scandalous!

Swedish clears this up by using more possessive language than  English.

“Han kysser sin fru” =  He is kissing his own wife.

“Han kysser hans fru” = He is kissing the wife of that other guy.

This applies everywhere – if an action is being done to someone, you have to be careful to be specific. Usually the confusion is more humorous than scandalous like accidentally saying your friend is brushing someone else’s teeth instead of her own, or your husband is shaving someone else’s beard instead of his own.

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When translating “Grandfather” and “Grandmother” to Swedish, you would need more information.

Nothing can be lost or confused when you talk about your grandparents in Swedish- your grandfather is either your mothers father or your fathers father. Your grandmother is either your mothers mother or your fathers mother.

“Morfar, Farfar, Mormor, Farmor.”

The language leaves no questions, which sometimes come up in English – “On your mothers side or your fathers side?” It’s already in the name.

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To think, to think. or to THINK?

In English we would say the following sentences:

“I think we should go on vacation” (Opinion)

“I think it will rain tomorrow” (Belief)

“I was thinking of you” (Thought)

In Swedish you specify the intent of the word “think,” instead of it being implied.

“Jag tycker att vi ska åka på semester” (It is my opinion that we should go on vacation)

“Jag tror att det kommer regna i morgon” (I believe it will rain tomorrow)

“Jag tänker på dig” (I was thinking of you)

These three different terms were confusing and easy to mix up at first, but it is now easy to make the connections and understand the why and when. It fills in gaps I didn’t know were there.

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“I will miss you!”  and “You will be fine!” are perfectly normal sentiments in English, but in Swedish you must  keep in mind that you don’t actually know if you will miss someone or if they will be fine. It is a feeling or state of being in the future that you can not control.

“Will” in Swedish = Ska. But that word is not used in this context as myself and the rest of my class assumed.

Instead “kommer att” is used to portray the future: “I am going to miss you” “You are going to be better”

“Jag kommer att sakna dig!” “Du kommer att bli bra”

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“I live with my husband” “I am shopping with her” “I have an appointment with the doctor”

While in English the word “with” can be used for all of these situations, in Swedish these sentences would be treated differently.

Most commonly “with” = med. But not always. If the situation is “there” and not “here” and/or “now” then the word used is “hos.” (I haven’t much experience with this, does anyone have a better explanation?)

“Jag bor med min man” “Jag handlar med henne” “Jag har en tid hos läkaren”

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“I am here” “I drove here” “He is there” “We are walking there”

Location, location, location. NOT. Its not only where you are but where you are GOING. “Here” and “there” are not so simple in Swedish.  If mode of travel is involved, the word changes from “här” and “där” to “hit” and “dit.”

“Jag är här” “Jag körde hit” “Han är där” “Vi går dit

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“He plays the piano” “She plays soccer” “The kids are playing in the sandbox”

In Swedish toddlers/young children do not “play” the same way one plays an instrument or a sport.

The common word for play in Swedish is “Spelar” but when you talk about young children playing, they specifically “Leker.” It’s a different type of playing.

“Han spelar piano” “Hon spelar fotboll”, “Barnen leker i sandlådan”

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Every language has its nuances, it doesn’t make a language better or worse- just more complex to learn. When I point these things out to a native Swedish speaker the response is often a shrug, “I don’t know,” or “I never noticed or thought about it” We don’t reflect upon our own language, it is what it is. Learning Swedish makes me see how specific it is compared to English, but perhaps English is unspecific compared to many languages.

Any other examples of a language being very specific? Any corrections or further explanations to the ones I listed?


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The Things I Tell Myself While Learning Swedish

Learning a New Language is a Long Journey on an Ever Changing Path.

It Takes Time: I need to constantly remind myself that this is one of those things that I cannot get really good at overnight- or even over a few months.

Every Word is an Accomplishment: When I feel like I should be further along than I am, I look back and count all the new words I’ve picked up.

Memorizing is Not Learning: It doesn’t count as a new word until you can use it, until it pops into your head when trying to form a sentence.

If you get it Wrong, it’s Okay: As long as you are in the ball park, it is an improvement- one step closer.

People Will Understand You: Even if you mess up, most of the time your message will get through. As long as you try.

Only Speaking Will Help: Even immersion doesn’t help if you don’t participate. Reading, writing, listening, and practicing in your own head won’t make it easier to actually use the language.

Perpetual State of Learning: Even after you are done with SFI, SAS, and what ever course comes after that, you will always be learning the language. It will take years to feel perfectly comfortable, it will take tons of practice and different situations to become adaptive and use the language the way it should be. You will learn new words every time you talk to someone new.

You Sound Different: Stop obsessing over the accent being “wrong” or “off.” It will never sound natural or perfect. Just like when someone is speaking English- it is easy to tell that they are from a different country, or even just a different state. So what?

Breath: You might feel like your anxiety is taking over, and that you are the only one who turns bright red while speaking Swedish, but you are not. Use your anxiety as adrenaline and run with it instead of freaking out and falling down.

Stop Comparing: Other people in class will be better than you. They will pick it up faster, have better pronunciation, and understand more. Don’t compete with them, everyone learns at their own pace. It’s not a race, it’s better to actually learn than to seem to be the best.

ä, ö, and å Are Real: These are actual letters. They are not A’s and an O with funny hats. Concentrate on dotting your vowels, it does change the meaning and pronunciation of a word.

You are Not Just Learning a Language: You are learning a culture and its traditions. It is not just the words you learn, but when it is proper to use them. Learning the nuances of the language is just as important as reading the context of everything around you.

It Won’t All Line Up: Let go of your understanding of language. Everything will not switch over perfectly, in fact most things will not line up at all. Sentences are formed in a different order, definitions of words are slightly different, tenses are different.

Translation Not Included: English has words that don’t exist in Swedish and Swedish has words that don’t exist in English. That’s just the way it is.

Stop Relying on Google Translate: Pick up a dictionary instead. That bad habit of double checking if what you are about to say or write makes sense by putting it through Google Translate- stop it. It’s better to get it wrong and be corrected. Don’t get stuck relying too heavily on something you can’t use in real conversations.

Stick With It: Swedes will switch to English if they realize you are not Swedish, or that you are struggling. If you are able to, continue speaking as much Swedish as you can even if they choose to speak in English.

Swenglish is Okay: For now. If you don’t know a word, or exactly how to express yourself, it is okay to substitute English words into Swedish sentences or vice versa while you are learning.

No One is Perfect: Native English speakers get English wrong all the time. People who have been speaking English as a second language for 30 years still make mistakes. It’s not rare to forget a word or mess up in your own language, of course you will stumble with a new one.

In their Shoes: Remember all the people over the years that have spoken to you in broken English. They must have felt the same anxiety, panic, embarrassment and struggle- but were brave enough to use their limited language skill.

In My Own Shoes: I always admired anyone for trying to speak English as a second language. I felt compassion, and tried my best to understand them or help them if needed. It helps to imagine others will feel the same way towards me – they will not laugh, or think I am doing it wrong. It’s all about perspective.

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All of these are easier said than done, but it is a start. 

  Hope my photos inspire you to take “The Road Less Traveled,” whichever path it may be.

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First Two Days: “Första Två Dagarna”

After months of talking about it, thinking about it, anxiously waiting and wishing it would begin- my SFI classes finally started this week. I’ve been excited and counting the days until I would be officially learning Swedish, but once the letter arrived in the mail … I panicked.

Suddenly I was nervous and stressed with an uncomfortable amount of anxiety. As quickly as it hit me – it disappeared. Once I got to the school and saw some of my classmates my heart was beating at a normal pace again and I wondered what I was so freaked out about. I’ve always enjoyed school, and have missed it the past three years- now I am finally back in a class room learning. I’ve been sitting at home day after day with nothing substantial to do for four months – now I finally have a schedule. I am now able to socialize more and most importantly I am learning Swedish.

We have two teachers who teach on different days, they have very different personalities so the change will be refreshing. The class is taught 95% in Swedish, only switching to English when something is crucial to understand or someone asks a question or says, “Jag förstår inte” - I don’t understand. I understand about 90% of what the teachers say (80% actually and 20% through context), it’s nice having someone who understands the limitations, knows the right speed to talk and which words we would grasp. It is a beginners class but you can tell that almost everyone has studied before. There are about 20 people in the class, all around 20 – 35 years old. For these first two days there was a lot of “presentera sig” – introducing ourselves (especially because of the two teachers) in Svenska of course.

Jag heter Meghan.
Jag kommer från U.S.A.
Jag talar Engelska
Jag bor i Halmstad.
Jag har bott här i 4 månader.
Jar är gift.
Nej, jag här inga barn.

We also practiced with the other students, both asking and answering these questions. It’s nice to be able to practice speaking and pronunciation, especially with people who are at the same level as  you. Most people have been in Sweden for a 4-6 months, the longest being a year and the shortest being one month. Some people are more advanced than others, some just pick it up faster. Most people in the class are bilingual or better, so learning another language is not as difficult. There are people from Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Dominican Republic, Peru, China, England, New Zealand, England, and a few others – I’m the only one from the States. So far everyone is social and friendly, which is a relief.

It’s only the second day so we are doing basics like the alphabet, sounds, numbers etc. The most important part for me is practicing speaking and pronouncing since it is a big mental road block for me.

A few interesting things about the Swedish alphabet:

W and V are basically the same letter – They both have the “V” sound.

G and K are “special” in that the G sounds like a soft “je” [y]  and the K sounds like a “sh” when they are followed by certain vowels.

“rs” combination in a word sounds like ‘sh”

There are basically no words in Swedish that begin with “Q” it is really only used in names. Some words used to start with Q back in the day such as”kvinna” which means woman, used to be “qvinna.”

There is a lot of emphasis on how your mouth is shaped to get the right sounds – this was pretty funny to watch the teacher repeat and do as a class.

The word for the relationship status of “sambo” is from “Vi bor tillsammans, “We live together”

It wasn’t all letters and sounds – Some useful words we learned to fill in for always saying “ja” or “nej”:

gärna – Yes, very much, of course, would be happy to
jaså – Really
jaha – Oh well, aha, oh yea?
javisst – Yes, for sure
tyvärr – No, sorry, unfortunately, sadly

The translations are lose because it is more of a sentiment behind each.

So, after this week I will hopefully adjust to my schedule – get up earlier, eat my meals earlier, get things done before 11 am instead of after 3. Go food shopping after school at 4 instead of at 1 or 2. Nap after 5 instead of sleeping until 10. I won’t be around for phone calls I normally get between the hours of 11:45 and 4:30. Soon I’ll get adjusted and won’t be as tired so things will be back on track. We get a 20 minute break and the class ends 40 minutes earlier than is listed – so it will be easy peasy! Once I’m ready I will start trying to look for work and see what I can do with school smack in the middle of the day. For now I am happy with finally getting started with SFI!


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Family Weekend: “Helg med Familjen”

Time flies! Hubby and I went to visit his family for the first time since Christmas to celebrate his nephews 12th birthday and to have some family time. It was nice to be with family since I am so far away from my own, it reminded me of home. Laughing around the dinner table, playing games and watching t.v. together, going for walks, just talking and hanging out. We are looking forward to going there more often from now on now that we are more settled. I was pretty nervous about the visit because I thought I would be further along in Swedish by now, a few months ago I thought I would be showing off my progress when we visited, but even without understanding most of the conversations I still had a great time and felt included.

Whenever we go to his family’s place I experience a different side of Sweden. I think I experience more “Country-side shock” than “Culture shock,” being from a city and not really familiar with a lot of things out there. Take my amazement over cows and horses for example. His mother points out flowers and asks what they are called in English, or if we have them, and I have no idea. I get excited when we spot a rabbit or a deer when we are driving along winding dirt paths – which scare me a bit with a side effect of motion sickness. I love going for walks and just soaking in the nature:

Yesterday I went for a walk to the water with my mother-in-law and stumbled upon this little  fellow:

When I say stumbled upon him, I mean I literately almost stepped on him on the side of the road when he jumped out from under my foot, scaring me quite a bit. Hubby’s mom says he is unusually colored and a lot larger than ones you normally see around this time of year. We moved on and a few steps later I nearly stepped on another one. Then I was on the look out for frogs/toads in the forest.

We celebrated his nephews birthday with a smörgåstårta, which means “Sandwich cake.” A full post about the Swedish treat later this week- today is my first day of SFI and I don’t want to be late!!


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Almost: “nästan”

I almost made a new friend today. Almost. At least I tried to.

Every so often I’ll hear some English spoken in a store or on the street, it’s not incredibly common but I wouldn’t call it rare. I went back to one of the bokrean in town to buy a dictionary since they are normally so pricey and I only have a pocket sized which is no longer cutting it. I was comparing prices and browsing when I heard someone ask the cashier for a Swedish – English Dictionary. I’m not normally the type to approach people or start random conversations with strangers but she was right next to me so I figured why not? I asked if she just moved to Sweden and the conversation went from there. She explained that she is an exchange student from China. We talked about the dictionaries and prices of books, she asked where I was from and why I was here. I asked if she had begun SFI, which it turns out she isn’t able to take because of student status. And just as I thought it would be neat to meet someone in town on my own who had just moved here and is also learning the language she looked at her watch said she had to go and disappeared. Oh well.

As far as my own SFI courses? Still waiting. They said “End of February or beginning of March” and that I would recieve a letter in the mail ahead of time. No letter yet. Called to make sure I hadn’t missed something and the director of SFI for Halmstad is on vacation until Monday. I just hope I am not missing classes and that I got into the next one so I don’t need to wait another 6 weeks.

In the meantime I finished my first book in Swedish. One of the children’s book I bought that the bokrea a few days ago.  “Sus och Dus gor en utflykt” is about two mice that go on a journey to collect things (I can really feel my literature background tingling!) Learning as I went along made it worth while, and who doesn’t love looking at cute illustrations of animals? Now if only life had drawings to help me understand! I made a list of words I had to look up along the way (80 words) and today I am studying that vocabulary and asking hubby to listen to me translate the whole book and see how I do. Later in the week maybe I’ll try to read it out loud in Swedish. That feels a lot less scary that actually speaking. I’m proud of my baby steps in progress- reading at a 4 year old level is better than none at all!

Favorite word in the book: Rollercoaster – “berg-och dalbana” Exact translation: “mountains and valleys”

I received my Swedish ID last week! The photo came out great- unlike ANY of my previous ID’s. I couldn’t stop looking at it, wishing I always looked that way! My best friend works in a store that deals with a lot of tourists and she said that Europeans all have beautiful ID photos, how strange.


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I do not understand: “Jag förstår inte”

I could feel my eyes widen as a tall man in his 50′s with glasses and gray hair politely pointed at the fruits and tried to make conversation with me in Swedish. I’m not sure I even tried to understand the words that were coming out of his mouth, as it took a few seconds just to understand that I should be listening because he was talking to me. I had just picked up a pack of dried apricots as I stood in line, and this man was also looking at the fruit, I assumed by his gestures that he was talking about the apricots and figs. I can guess, after it happened that maybe he was thinking the same as when I saw them, surprised that they were the same price, unsure if they were overpriced. He said only a sentence or two, and the tone seemed friendly enough, but then it was obviously time for me to reply and I was still frozen in place.

I knew what to say. I knew how to say it. I’ve practiced it in my head before,  “Forlat, min Svenska ar inte bra” or “Jag förstår inte.” (“Sorry, my Swedish is not good” or “I do not understand”) It was my chance and before I knew it my mind and my mouth had missed that connection and I blurted out, “sorry.” It was like a slap in the face, why can’t I do it? The words might not have been at the tip of my tongue, more like the back of my throat, you know that feeling when you are about to vomit? They were there, being uncomfortable and embarrassing. And so I swallowed the small amount of Swedish I could have conjured up and burped out a simple “sorry” to which the man smiled and nodded and moved on leaving me feeling rejected. I was annoyed with myself for missing the opportunity, and even more annoyed when the cashier rang me up in English. I’m not sure if he heard the exchange or if he has begun to recognize me. I need to start wearing a less identifiable hat, maybe. Either way I was pretty bummed by the whole thing. The last thing I want or need is for one of my regular cashiers to stop speaking Swedish to me. Even though I know that down the road I will be able to switch it back to Swedish when I am ready and able, but I need the practice now, even if it’s only hearing a few numbers and needing to understand them.

It’s certainly not the first I’ve said “sorry” to change the conversation to English (and it won’t be the last), I just wish I could muster up the courage to switch over to English in a way that indicates that I am learning Swedish and trying, which means…actually speaking a few simple words of Swedish. I know it’s an anxiety hurdle I have (and also had when learning Spanish) but I have been more and more angry with it over the past week or two, knowing that my Swedish classes hopefully start in about two weeks. This knot in my chest needs to go, I always figured it would be easier to blurt out a crappy Swedish phrase in front of strangers, but it’s still the same amount of scary.

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