Something Swedish


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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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Lately & Two Swedish Words That Explain Why I’ve Been Missing

Remember when Something Swedish was updated all the time? Those were the days. I’m not complaining though – I’m finally more settled into my Swedish life with things to do, places to go and people to see.

I always have things to write about Sweden, because everyday is still an adventure. I read the newspaper more and learn more interesting things that I want to share. I have tons of ideas about posts, some half written, some scribbled in a notebook. Some time sensitive ones that slip between my fingers.

Then why have I been missing?  I’ll describe it with two Swedish words:

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“Hinner” & “Orkar”.

These words don”t have direct word to word translations from English to Swedish, but are easy to understand and explain.

Hinner = to have time.
Orka =to have energy to/to be able to/to manage to

So, when “hinner” or “orkar” are negated (inte) it means that I can’t find the time or the energy.

“Förlåt, jag hinner inte. Jag orkar inte att skriva idag.”
(Sorry, I don’t have time. I don’t have the energy to write today)

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Lately life has been centered around studying, working, and socializing – the way life should be!

Firstly, St. Patty’s day. Last year (here) I pointed out that it’s important to hold onto traditions even in a new country that doesn’t do things the same way. I started to create St. Patty’s day instead of just celebrating it. This year I extended our celebration and made a bigger dinner and celebrated with friends. A St. Patty’s Day care package from family arrived, we drank green beer, ate corn beef and cabbage, soda bread, colcannon, stekfläsk, and a chocolate Guiness cake! (Click photos to enlarge)

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Secondly, this month was Bokrea – which I wrote all about last year: here. Basically, it’s a country wide book sale. We picked up a mix of books, some English, some Swedish – not that I’ve had time (Jag har inte hunnit) to open any of them yet. We found Swedish graphic novels of Dracula and Tom Sawyer, a pile of Swedish audio books, and a young adult novel by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, translated to Swedish. Once I’m done with Svenska som Andra Språk (which is going smoothly – I’ve stared the third level) I’ll make sure that my “studying” consists more of leisurely reading of the Swedish books I’ve bought.

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This month has been filled with new friends and a lot of fikas! Both at cafes and at home with the hubby:

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Life is good. I promise to share it more often again. I was being greedy.


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All About Working in Sweden

A few weeks ago I managed to find two part time jobs (Actually, one found me)! Not only are they in a new country with me speaking a new language, but also in fields where I have little to no experience – a restaurant and a preschool. Read about my job hunt Here.

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Snack Time (Mellanmål) with Name Tags

Lärare Vikarie (Substitute Teacher): I’ve taught children before as an English tutor, but never ages 2-5, and certainly never in Swedish. It’s fun to play with the kids, help them build and figure out puzzles and read to them in Swedish, even if I sometimes struggle to understand (sometimes it’s simply baby talk). It’s great practice for the language, I pick up a few new words each time I am there.

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Hair up. Rings off. Hat, Apron, and Smile On!

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             Språk Praktik (Language Practice):

More often I am at my other part time job, which is more like an internship to train my Swedish in a workplace. (Explained below) While I do a lot of what a normal worker would in the restaurant such as working the cash register, serving and preparing food and cleaning, I work less hours each shift and focus on improving my language by interacting with customers and co-workers in Swedish. This helps me become more comfortable with conversations and descriptions.

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          About Working in Sweden

It feels great to finally be part of the work force again, socializing with new people, doing different things, and learning something new every day. Expats tend to get in a funk somewhere along the way, but once working is back in the equation it helps a lot.

When you start looking for work in a new country you have to be open to try new jobs or career paths; even if you have experience, education, and comfort doing something else. It’s about adapting to a new environment, training your new language, getting your foot in the door, networking, and picking up new skills along the way.

Remember:

You never know what you will find, so just go out there and try.
Don’t be picky – Any Experience is Good Experience.
Don’t expect to (or count on) finding a job within your first six months – learning the language is priority and makes everything easier.
Don’t get easily discouraged, it’s hard for everyone.
Networking is super important, especially when you don’t have any experience or references in your new country.
Be competitive – Take initiative and be persistent.

So, What are Some Differences of Working in Sweden?

Swedish Resume: Swedes are very humble and modest, especially when it comes to work experience, responsibilities and achievements on a resume. Unlike in the USA it is considered rude and pushy if you start to list every one of your responsibilities and show off that you were the best at everything. The Swedish resume is much simpler with fewer and shorter bullet points for each job description.  Most important thing about your resume is the cover letter and when you get called in for an interview remember that being punctual in Sweden is a must.

Payday (Lönedag): Instead of weekly or bi weekly paychecks, Sweden revolves around it’s monthly payday – The 25th. This method really shapes the way things function from paying bills to going to the movies. A lot of people are pretty much broke by the 20th and life seems to slow down, it’s especially noticeable in restaurants when less people spend money to eat out. It’s a whole different way of budgeting and handling money, after the bills are paid off by the 27th, anything goes for a couple of weeks – it’s like the town comes back to life. I’ve heard very positive things from Swedish workers who love being paid a bigger sum on one day instead of a little at a time, they say it is easier to budget and save. Payday is a big deal here in Sweden, something to adjust to – it does feel like more of a celebration!

Language Competence: One of the big complaints about Sweden and finding a job here is that your expected to have very good Swedish to do anything at all. Even if you are applying to a cleaning or maintenance job where speaking, reading, and writing is not required, your Swedish has to be much better than what most people can manage within their first year or two of studying. The thing that aggravates people about this is that Sweden has the best English fluency in Europe, but being able to speak English doesn’t help in most cases. Great Swedish is usually required. In fact, it means very little that you are fluent in English in Sweden since so many people are, meaning English is not the huge asset that many people think it will be when they move here.

Breaks: Something that many non-Swedes notice and need to adjust to is how often the Swedish workplace allows/expects breaks. Fika is a very strong tradition here, and is not only limited to after work, but during it as well. Several times. When I volunteered at a school last year I couldn’t wrap my head around the staff and kids having 15 minute fika breaks other than lunch time. When I am in Svenska Som Andra Språk a two hour class has a 15 minute break, which seems unnecessary to me since I’ve never had such breaks unless the class was four hours long.

Minimum Wage: There is no national minimum wage in Sweden, but it is instead agreed upon between the different unions (Fackit…pronounced like “fuck it”), which are very important and active in the Swedish Labor market. Wage is often dependent on age brackets, experience, and what time the shift is (Night/Weekend vs Daytime/Weekday).

Paid Vacations: After being employed for a full year  at one location all employees are entitled to five-weeks of paid vacation, by law. July has always been a very popular and expected time for this vacation leave, and many businesses close during the month. Lately, vacation weeks have been more spread out over the year to decrease downtime of companies. Vacation time can also be accumulated for every year you work at a company for a total of ten weeks. In comparison: The U.S. has  ZERO paid vacation time on a legal federal level – any paid vacation you receive is directly from your employer/Union agreement.

Paid Sick Leave: Your employer must pay about 80% of your salary for 13 days sick leave a year after the first sick day which doesn’t count (no payment) because it is considered to be a “waiting period.” You must show a doctors note if you are on sick leave for more than seven consecutive days.

Paid Parental Leave: Stay home with your newborn child for 480 paid workdays without worrying about losing your job. This time is offered to both parents and is often split between both mother and father for better equality. Must be employed for at least one year. In comparison:

Paid Home with Sick Child: There’s even a special verb for this which comes from “Vård av barn” which means care of child, which is “Vab.” Where is Inga? Hon vabbar idag = Shes home with her sick kid today. If your sick child is under 12 years old and you take off of work to take care of them, there is also a type of paid “Temporary Parental Leave” that can be applied for which is paid by your employer and the state.

Arbetsförmedlingen (Job Center): This is a really helpful tool for anyone new to Sweden (with a personnummer) who doesn’t know how to get started. It could be compared to the U.S.Unemployment Office, but with a lot more to offer, easier to maneuver, and no negative connotation. It is considered to be a “Placement service” centered around helping you find a way into the workforce through meetings, workshops, or classes. You are given a case worker, can schedule a translator if needed, can place your resume on their website, search though jobs according to location or career, print helpful resources and forms, attend vocational training programs, receive help to set up your own business, go to nationwide recruitment meetings and job fairs, translate documents such as school degrees into Swedish equivalents, find information about what level of education is needed for which careers, research which careers have a good future prognosis all around Sweden, and more. Website Here. Remember that only 1/3 of available jobs are listed on Arbetsförmelingen, so use other means such as handing out resumes and trying different job searching websites.

Praktik, Step In Jobs, New Start Jobs: These are the best ways to get your foot in the door. Set up by Arbetsförmedlingen for people who are new to the country or have just graduated high school, been unemployed, or have been in prison.These ease you into a job by providing a percentage of your paycheck or a stipend which increases the chances of getting a job with a business that is unsure of your skills, language, or if they can afford another worker.

Instegsjobb: Arbetsförmedlingen can pay up to 80% of your paycheck. Only available if you arrived in Sweden less than three years ago from a non-EU country and currently studying SFI (NOT SAS).  If you work less than 51% this set up can last up to two years, if more than 50% then only 6 months.

Nystartsjobb: Arbetsförmedlingen pays 32% or 64% of your your paycheck depending on age. If you arrived to Sweden less than three years ago, have been unemployed for 6-15 months (depending on age), or were in prison for at least one year. Can last 1 – 5 years depending on age and other factors.

Praktik: If you are unemployed and collecting unemployment benefits Arbetsförmedlingen can set you up with an obligatory praktik that they find for you or you can find one on your own. A praktik lasts 3 to 6 months and provides a daily stipend instead of a hourly wage, ranging from 100kr/day ($15) to 680kr/day ($100) depending on full time or part time hours and weather or not you are collecting unemployment benefits. Suggesting that you are looking for a praktik when our job searching is a great way to get started since the business owner is getting extra help for free.


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Swedish Keyboards, Letters, and Words

For the past year I’ve been stubbornly hanging onto my laptop not wanting to switch to the scary Swedish keyboard.  A lot of the keys are in different places and there’s new letters and symbols that my fingers and eyes are just not used to! Once I get over accidentally typing _ instead of ?, ” instead of @, + instead of -, and åöä instead of whatever keys are normally there  – it’s actually been great!!

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Lets compare Ö (Oh, that’s where the colon button was…let’s try again :

keyboards

After using my Swedish computer for just a day I can tell that it’s going to improve my Swedish a lot! First of all, programs and websites are in Swedish now including Microsoft Word – which means that my spelling mistakes are getting pointed out instead of me making the same mistakes time and time again.

Until now whenever I typed Swedish I would simply leave out the öäå because they were too hard to copy and paste into my sentences. For a long time I didn’t realize it made such a big different and thought Well, they are just ‘a’ and ‘o’ with accents, people will understand what I mean.”

My husband tirelessly corrects me and reminds me that they are actually letters and not ‘ ‘A’ with two dots,‘ ‘ ‘O’ with two dots,‘ and ‘A’ with the bubble.

Now that I have this new keyboard and can start saying what I actually mean to say in Swedish it makes a huge difference.

Skipping the Swedish letters? This is what you can be saying (more or less):

Jag väntar i kön = I’m waiting in the queue
Jag vantar i kon = I gloves in the cow

Jag gillar räka = I like shrimp
Jag gillar raka = I like straight

Ska vi käka? = Shall we eat?
Ska vi kaka? = Shall we cookie?

Min får är mjuk = My sheep is fluffy
Min far ar mjuk = My father is fluffy

Hon behöver båda = She needs both
Hon behover bada = She needs to bathe

Receptet kräver kräm = The recipe requires cream
Receptet kraver kram = The recipe requires hug

Vill du höra nyheten? = Do you want to hear the news?
Vill du hora nyheten? = Do you want to whore the news?

med hela min själ = with my whole soul
med hela min sjal = with my whole scarf

Var testet svårt? = Was the test difficult?
Var testet svart? = Was the test black?

Jag tar ett tåg =I’m taking a train
Jag tar ett tag = I’m taking a while

Köpt du en båt!? = You bought a boat!?
Köpt du en bat!? = You bought a bat!?

Can anyone help me out and think of some more funny or awkward sentences when you skip the accents?


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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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Job Hunting: “Jobbsökande”

The search has officially begun. For the last year I have applied online to a couple of jobs here and there, but I haven’t put too much emphasis on working since I was still learning basic Swedish. Today, that changed.

I decided to finally get going and make it happen for myself – after all, my word for 2013 isSuccess.” Let’s start by getting my foot in the door, training my Swedish, and networking.

Going around and handing out resume’s has never been my strong suit,  as I had the same job for 8 years and found all side jobs online.  So, not only have I only done it once in my life, now I had to do it in Swedish. 

After tinkering with my CV to make it as Swedified as possible –  including a photo, my date and city of birth, my personnummer (SS#), and my hobbies  – I headed out to town. If you read a lot of forums or expat articles/blogs like I do, such as The Local, you’ll know it is hard to get a job in Sweden if you are new here and still learning the language. The  amount of negativity and horror stories overshadows the successful ones; so, naturally I was terrified and expecting the worst.

I practiced what I would say, repeating it every step along the way. It’s only an opening sentence, but it helps. I went into my first target, a book store, walked around, and left too scared to talk. I’ll come back, I promised myself – it was too crowded anyway. Second store – same thing. Third store – success! I introduced myself, gave my resume, and told her to call me if they need anyone. Short and simple. I can do that! Next up is another book store – short and sweet again! This is getting easy!

I handed out 10 resume’s today and spoke to everyone (but one fellow American) in 100% Swedish! Not only that, the resume drop off’s started getting longer and longer – like 5 minute mini interviews – as I got more comfortable! I started “revealing” that I am new to Sweden and would  like to get a Praktik (similar to a paid internship) to train my Swedish more and the responses were completely positive with many complements to my Swedish! I even went back to the stores I was too scared to go into at first!

It’s only a first step, but I couldn’t have asked for it to go better. Maybe I will find something sooner than I thought? What a great day, and perfect way to start the year.

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Potluck dinner (Knytkalas) with some friends last night – was delish and a blast! Pasta, pasta, noodles, rice, and salad. Next time we’ll plan a bit better!


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Pastries, Parties, and SFI Kurs Test

Today my SFI class had a party for those of us moving on to the next course (D kurs). This type of party is an Avskedsfest – “Departure party”. In the Swedish spirit of things (Read here), the four of us that are leaving brought cakes, cookies, chocolates, soda, etc., for everyone to enjoy. We listened to music and spoke to each other about our lives and played a game in Swedish.

I decided to bake some sweets for the class, as I had a recipe (here) that I wanted to try but didn’t want to eat so many pastries at home by myself! They are a spin off of cannolis, a popular Italian pastry, which I was shocked to find that no one has ever eaten or heard of. I already knew that they are not known in Sweden, as I introduced my husband to his first cannoli, but with a classroom filled with people from around the world I thought someone would know.

It really put the American melting pot into perspective, I appreciate that I have eaten so many food from different cultures.

The test to go to the next level course is available every 5 weeks, which means having an Avskedsfest again soon, hopefully! Something to look forward to!

A little about the C level course test:

There are 5 parts you get graded on (split into two days):

(VG) Reading comprehension
(VG) Listening
(G) Speaking
(G) Writing
(G) Word comprehension

Grades in Sweden range from Underkänd “U” (Fail), Godkänd “G” (Passing), and Väl Godkänd “VG” (Passed with Distinction)

Above are the grades I received for each section. The teacher said my writing could be “VG” if I stopped forgetting the accents over å, ö, and ä.

Reading: (40 mins each) Two very straight forward, multiple choice tests based on text. There are different types of texts, such as newspaper articles, time schedules, menus, advertisements, letters, and stories.

Listening: (40 mins) You will be able to read all the questions and multiple choice answers before listening to the recording, which  you will hear two times. Pay attention to details as most of the answer choices are mentioned but not exactly related to the questions being asked. This part is a bit difficult as they speak quicker than our teachers prepare us for, I suggest listening to the radio or tv to prepare.

Speaking: (20 mins) Pretty laid back and informal group conversation about a given generic topic, for example: is better to live in a city or in the countryside? Our teachers helped move the conversation along if we got stuck.

Writing: (60 mins) Write a page about one of four topics. Make sure to follow the instructions and stay on topic. For example, if you need to write a letter make sure to structure it properly. C level test had simple topics like driving, childcare, job interviews, or computers. D level  moves onto things like town hero’s and politics.

Word Comprehension: Based off of your writing and speaking tests and a few vocabulary questions in the reading test.

Hopefully that will help anyone who is testing soon! Lycka Till! (Good Luck!)


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Awkward & Offensive Language Mishaps # 3

Language is all I think about nowadays. People say that in the beginning you learn the basics quickly, but then you plateau for a few months, which feels like an eternity of not absorbing a single thing, but then after that halting rough patch, you start picking it up faster and more fluently. I feel like I’m finally there – gaining more insight, understanding more, being more comfortable speaking, while learning more grammar and vocabulary every day.

With this progress comes more and more mistakes:

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  • When you want someone to be quiet, you would say: “Tyst!” Instead I told my husband, “Tysk!”  – I called him a “German!
  • While cooking one day I was excited to use a new vocabulary word that I thought meant to pull something apart, to separate it. So, I tried to ask my husband if he can cut up the whole roasted chicken: “Kan du skilja for mig?” Instead of asking if he can divide it for me, I asked if he could divorce me. Make sure you understand new words!
  • While eating fish sticks, my husband pointed out that they call it “Fish fingers.” Taking this literally, I went into a supermarket and asked someone “Vet du var jag kan hitta sås for fisk fingrar?” Do you know where I can find sauce for fish fingers? Met by an odd look and a shake of the head, I thought nothing of it. The actual name for fish sticks is “Fisk pinne,” meaning… fish sticks.  (Apparently he meant they call it fish fingers when they learn it in British English, comparing the variation of English names- not in Swedish.)

  • Trying to learn all of the many ways you can use “slå” [roll dice, mow the lawn, hit, beat, knock on, bang on, ring…], I wanted to tell my husband to hit on me, as in flirt. This doesn’t translate too well; “slå på mig” is literately “beat me.” Whoops, nevermind.

Sometimes these language mistakes leak into and combining with my English vocabulary. I now make mistakes like:

  • The capital of a country is called “huvudstan” – translating to head city. Combining Swedish into my English I said Athens is the “Head capital” of Greece.
  • A nipple is called a “bröstvårtan” – translating to breast wart, (*giggle*) resulting in me saying, “Nipple wart.” Lovely.

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Enjoy past blunders:
Awkward & Offensive Language Mishaps #2
Awkward & Offensive Language Mishaps #1


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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