Something Swedish

The Things I Tell Myself While Learning Swedish

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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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27 thoughts on “The Things I Tell Myself While Learning Swedish

  1. I enjoyed reading every little bits of this post ! I love the language and would need to give it a real start but I am also very interested in the culture. It is such a beautiful country. I wish you all the best on your language learning.

  2. I am several months further along than you and my default position is: Fy fan, svenska är jätte svårt! You attitude is much better than mine, that’s for sure! Ulf, though, is a superb teacher. Take advantage of your time with him.

  3. Lovely shots!
    Practice makes perfect. 😉

  4. Yup, yup, yup, and yup. I know I’ll be feeling all this again when I move back to Denmark and expect myself to just speak Danish constantly and understand what’s happening on television.

  5. Excellent advice, all of it. Probably something I need to keep in mind. I’ve stopped speaking German at all lately because I mess up so often and I just end up feeling stupid and then G gets upset that I won’t even try. I hate feeling dumb, but I guess you can’t learn anything new if you don’t.

  6. Min svenska är fruktensvärd (and I am going to look that spelling up in Google translate because I can, but you’re right, you have to separate from that mother-ship at some point and break out on your own!). You learn a few phrases like this, and learn how to pronounce them passably, you end up having “conversations” with Swedes who think you really can speak Swedish when you actually cannot. This situation is only funny in retrospect, or when it happens to someone else and you can look on.

    Thanks so much for reading my Fika blog! Fika is an attitude, cultivated by slowing down and seeing the roads not taken, if you ask me. 😉

    • Tack! You taught me a new word- I had to look it up! (Although I’m pretty sure fruktansvärd is the right spelling? with an “a” otherwise I think it means “Fruit sword!” Which is awesome btw 😛 ) It is an interesting experience, using a new language- if you can speak a little it counts!! 🙂

  7. I’ve just started teaching English to some Burmese students, and would love to show this to them! So many true points- I think they’d find it a useful reminder that everyone struggles to learn a new language, not just them…

  8. Hej, we must speak Swedish 🙂 not just in writing, actually speaking 🙂

  9. For some reason German was different for me (and I’ve forgotten most of it), but with Spanish I can remember where I specifically learned so many words. It’s like a thousand little stories pop into my mind as I speak. So, yes, take a deep breath, practice and read. Reading helps build vocabulary 😉

  10. Oh those photos are so beautiful! We are Australian, I found it hard learning Spanish when we lived in Europe but now we are in Bangkok and learning Thai I think Spanish was easy! Our long term goal is to move to Sweden, we are so keen to get there that we are all planning on learning Swedish together…as soon as we work out how to have a conversation in thai.

    I just realised how all over the place this comment is…I hope you understood what i meant 😉

    • Thank you! I was quite please to find I have taken a collection of “path” photos over the years! Yes, I would think that compared to Thai Spanish would be a breeze! Good luck on your journey towards Sweden! Beautiful country and language! One step at a time!

  11. “They” say that when you start dreaming in the target language, you’ve made the shift! You’ve got the right attitude — keep up the good work. You can tutor the rest of us this summer : )

  12. Thank you for this! It’s just so tough for me since I am learning on my own, I don’t have a tutor, nor enough learning materials, never been to Sweden, nor even have a Swede friend nearby to converse with. I just love Sweden though so I shant let all these hindrances stop me.

    • I’m so happy to help! Wonderful to hear how determined you are! If you want it- you can do it! I find it much easier to read and write, but speaking and listening are certainly the key to fully learning the language. Once you are ready to you should definitely look into finding people to converse with! Good luck and feel free to check back and update with your progress!! Lycka Till! (Good luck)

      • Yeah! I can actually read quite a bit and can construct basic sentences… mostly involving I want, I am, you are, it is.. haha. Anyway, I love your blog. So nice to live vicariously through you (and others too). Tackars!

  13. I love this part, now i have an idea. But is it true that Swedes knows how to speak English?

    • Absolutely! Most Swedes speak very good Swedish and will switch to Swedish very quickly. Young children and many older (70+?) won’t know English, but others are usually very good at it. Lycka till! (Good Luck!)

  14. Megalagom,
    I am absolutely in love with your photos. In this blog entry, the very first photo you have is of those red outbuildings and green, shady countryside with the footbridge. Can you please tell me where this photo was taken?? It is absolutely hauntingly beautiful. I am half Swedish and live in Wisconsin. In a few years, I will retire and at that time, I want to travel abroad – and I would love to be able to find this magical looking place in Sweden. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Keep blogging. You give me something to look forward to reading and I have learned a great deal from your experiences. I also have to say that I learned the word “lagom” from my Grandma, who really lived the Swedish way – very simply, very “lagom”. I grew up knowing that word and its meaning, and it was wonderful to see you post on your blog about it. I wish everyone knew, and appreciated, “lagom” living. 🙂

    Thank you,
    Anita Jagodzinski

    • Thank you so much for your comment! Your appreciation makes me so happy! The picture you are looking at is from Apladalen in Värnamo, its an open air museum- very beautiful; it’s where we celebrate midsommar sometimes. Lagom is a nice way of living – even if it has taken me sometime to get used to. I hope you get to explore Sweden and travel – I know you will love it!

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