Something Swedish

2013-10-10 16.16.44


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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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Teaching English in Sweden

2013-04-03 08.31.44This month I was hired by Folkuniversitetet to teach an English class. Folkuniveritetet (The Peoples University) is an adult education foundation with over 100 locations all throughout Sweden. They offer tons of classes ranging from psychology to photography, but are probably best known for their language courses. The classes aren’t free like most education in Sweden, but they are more convenient. It’s specifically a great place to learn Swedish if you don’t have a personnummer and aren’t qualified to go to SFI.

I applied to Folkuniversitetet a few months ago, and while they were interested in having me onboard, my classes didn’t get any student sign ups. This time around they had a class with no teacher and called me. I was offered two other classes, but neither worked out for other reasons, but its nice to have my foot in the door and be requested.

My class is a 90 minute conversational English class three times a week and it has been a blast! I love helping people improve their English and seeing my students build confidence. It’s fun creating lesson plans and coming up with fun and interactive ways to use the English language. It’s very different teaching adults, but I am enjoying it just as much as teaching kids.

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I’ve decided to take my TESOLS certificate class this year and continue my education towards a pedagogy degree in January, which means a lot more Swedish studies this year so that I am on a High School level. Right now, it feels great to be teaching and putting my English degree to use. Hopefully I will get more classes, or even a job at a school eventually.

Another part of me is torn. It feels a bit like cheating to be working in English instead of Swedish. I want to use my Swedish skills and continue to improve them. Right now I appreciate the balance between teaching English, having a language internship at a restaurant, and substituting at a preschool all in Swedish.

All this temp work is coming to an end soon though, so we will see where life takes me! All I can say is moving to a new country means starting over again, being sent back to a 5th grade learning level, working hard to prove yourself, being busy studying your way up to an understandable level, trying new things, never turning down an opportunity, not being over qualified for anything, needing to make a lot of connections, enjoying new experiences, and going with the flow. Oh, and holding your thumbs. (Swedish way of saying crossing your fingers)


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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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Playtime Needs No Translation: “Tid för Lek Behöver Ingen Översättning”

Ages 1-5 is where language development is strongest and that’s where I would have to start. I’ve never worked with toddlers before, especially ones who couldn’t understand me. I didn’t know what to expect and I haven’t changed a diaper in years (and not many, at that).

I received a phone call asking if I could substitute for two days. Yes! Excited and nervous, I was given a full tour and introductions. The teachers were very nice and helpful. I met a couple of parents who were excited that there could be a native English speaker with their kids.

Playtime needs no translation, and neither do personalities. I didn’t learn many names but I learned which kids like to do what. I quickly picked up on which ones had a lot of energy and loved to dance, which ones liked to build, which ones played a little rougher and you had to keep an eye on, which ones loved to be picked up and held and never wanted to touch the floor. And which ones always had a runny nose.

Actions speak louder than words. Even if the kids couldn’t understand what I was saying, they understood what I was doing. When I start jumping Continue reading


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First Four Days: “Första Fyra Dagarna”

The day after my interview a classroom of ten year olds looked at me with curiosity and hesitation. I felt a bit like something brought in for show and tell (Does that exist in Sweden?). Finally they started asking questions and telling me about what they like to do. Some were better at English than others, some were braver or more excited, some would shy away and giggle.

The first two days I helped with math and geography, walking around and asking if anyone needed help, making sure they were doing their work, and starting small conversations in English. I didn’t force anyone to speak with me if they were uncomfortable, and sure enough, eventually they wanted to try.

I asked a group of boys who were ‘working’ together if they can explain the assignment to me, because I can’t read Swedish and don’t understand. They were excited to be the teachers, forgetting that they were hesitant to speak English. We practiced our English while learning about the geography of Sweden.

When a student was scared to speak in English I would try in Swedish, which made them relax, “I like when you talk Swedish, you sound funny.” It gave them the courage to ‘sound funny’ in English. Continue reading


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First Job Interview In Sweden

Two weeks ago I went on my first job interview here in Sweden at an international school called Vittra! While I have applied to many jobs over the years I have only been on nine interviews my whole life, this one in Sweden makes 10. But this time I didn’t hand over a resume like usual, I gave my newly created CV, “curriculum vitae.”  The first thing I had to do before my interview was make some adjustments. The format and over all vibe of the CV is much different than my beloved resume:

  • I stuck to English for now, because it is an international school and I was applying for an English speaking position.
  • I was surprised to have to include my personnummer (Equivalent to SS#, but used very differently and more public), and my date of birth and age. I’ve read that it is not uncommon to include personal information, such as marital status, kids, hobbies, and a photo. I decided to stay clear from that.
  • Less bragging. Unlike my resume, this CV was not a break down of every task, responsibility, and achievement. Only  the very basics and a brief outline of job description is needed/wanted. Anything more than that is bad form.
  • I also handed in a cover letter, which is somewhat common in New York but usually for larger firms and professional positions. I have dozens of cover letters for publishing houses I have applied to, but wouldn’t need one for any of my dental assistant or receptionist applications. In Sweden it seems like a cover letter is just as important as the CV, for any job.

Getting ready for my first interview in Sweden!

The interview was with the “Rektor” of the school, which is the headmaster/principal. The actual interview lasted about 45 minutes and was very relaxed and friendly. More of a talk than an interview. We spoke about the differences in private and public schools, between schools in New York and schools in Sweden, between tutoring and teaching. She told me more about Vittra: Continue reading

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