Something Swedish


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Holiday Greetings in Swedish

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What do these Holiday greetings mean? How do we translate them? When do we use them?

God, Gott, and Glad

These are all different ways to wish someone a holiday greeting, depending on which holiday.

It’s hard to not see an English word and its meaning when you read a foreign word that is spelled the same way. The word ‘God’ in Swedish is not referring to the religious entity. ‘God’ in Swedish means Good/Happy/Merry and is pronounced like ‘Good’.

Sometimes you will see ‘Gott’ instead. This is purely a grammatical difference and means the same exact thing thing. An example: ‘God Jul och Gott Nytt År’ means ‘Merry/Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year’. In Swedish the word ‘Year’ (år) is an “ett” word, making the whole sentence sprinkled with ‘t’s’. Otherwise people would say ‘God Ny år’, which means the same thing, but is not proper Swedish. Mystery solved!

So, we know what God Jul and Gott Nytt År mean…but what about these?

‘God Fortsättning’

If you know a little bit of Swedish you’ll catch that ‘att fortsätta’ means ‘to continue’, so the literal translation to this is ‘Good Continuation!’ But what does it mean!?
For weeks after Christmas you will hear people greeting each other with ‘God Fortsättning!’ as a way to wish each other a belated holiday. In NYC we would simply wish someone a Merry Christmas if we hadn’t seen them since. That doesn’t work here in Sweden though, hence this special greeting. If you wish someone a ‘God Jul’ on December 26th it would be considered strange, because…well, it’s no longer Christmas.

The ‘God fortsättning’ greeting lingers around until about the 7th of January (the 12th day of Christmas/Epiphany), but after January 1st it is a continuance of New Years that you are wishing people.

This time of the year isn’t the only time people use the phrase ‘God fortsättning.’ It could be used to wish someone a continuation of any holiday, but Christmas and New Years is when you hear it in mass amounts.

‘Gott Slut!’

So, this is another one of those ‘it doesn’t mean what it looks like’ words. The word ‘slut’ has nothing to do with sex, the same way the word ‘god’ has nothing to do with religion. ‘Slut’ in Swedish means ‘end’ and is pronounced like ‘sloot’. A very innocent word that everyone gets a good chuckle out of. So what does it mean? This is very specifically used to wish someone a good end to the year up until the clock strikes midnight on Dec 31st. This isn’t a very common phrase, but it exists nonetheless.

‘God Helg’

‘Helg’ means ‘weekend’ in Swedish, but this is not how you tell someone to have a nice weekend (That would be ‘Trevligt helg’). This is how you would wish someone a Happy Holiday – even though the word for ‘holiday’ is ‘högtider’ (high times).

I hope that everyone has had a good holiday season. I have a lot planned for Something Swedish in 2015 – so keep an eye out (And sorry for not being around more in 2014)

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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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Swedish Cartoons

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

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

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

Mickey Mouse: Musse Pigg

Minnie Mouse: Mimmi Pigg

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

Goofy: Jan Långben – Jan Long Legs

Donald Duck: Kalle Anka (Anka = Duck)

Daisey Duck: Kajsa Anka

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

Ducktales: Ankliv – Duck life

Huey Dewey and Louie: Knatte, Fnatte, Tjatte

Scrooge Mc Duck: Joakim VonAnka (Von Duck)

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

Talespin: Luftanshjältar – The Heroes of the Sky

Chip n’ Dale: Piff och Puff

Rescue Rangers: Räddningspatrullen – The Saving Patrol

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The Carebears: Krambjörnarna – The Hug Bears

Heathcliff: Nisse

Garfield: Gustav

Popeye: Karl Alfred

Cinderella: Askungen – The Ash Child

Fox and the Hound: Micke och Molley

Calvin and Hobbes: Kalle och Hobbe

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Bugs Bunny: Snurre Sprätt

The Road Runner: Hjulben  – Wheel legs

Wile E Coyote: Gråben – Grey legs

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Super Heroes:

Batman: Läderlappen – Leather patch

Superman: Stålmannen – The Steel man

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

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

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

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


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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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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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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


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Right Word, Wrong Meaning.

Last summer I noticed a joyfully jibber-jabbering toddler atop his  fathers shoulders up above the crowd in an amusement park. Amongst his noises he kept repeating “Bye-bye” and to me it seemed like the opening and closing of his tiny fist was a wave. I giggled and exclaimed how cute it was that the baby was saying bye-bye to everyone who passed, not really thinking it’s unlikely he would be picking up English at 2 or 3 years old. Through fits of laughter my husband explained that “Bajs bajs” is common child speak for “poop,” the child was announcing to the world that he needed to, or already had pooped and there I was thinking it was adorable.

When I  misunderstand Swedish because I jump to a familiar meaning too quickly, this is the scene that always pops into mind.

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From google images.

The most popular three words that are recognized for being spelled like English words are Sex, Slut, and Fart. But it’s not what you think, really.

It’s likely you will see sex everywhere in Sweden, but don’t blush- it’s just the number six.

Everyone has their own fart, it’s nothing to be ashamed of- we all move at own speed, or pace.

Every Swedish story has a slut – an ending.

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And so I decided to hunt for more words that might cause confusion:

  • When a family talks about their barn it doesn’t mean they own a farm animals – they have children.
  • Being stung by a bi is more literal than being hurt by a person interested in both sexes – bee stings can be lethal.
  • When buying from the fruit stand and a sign saysask it doesn’t mean that you can bargain for the price- it is the price per case or pack.
  • If someone asks you if  you want a gift, be careful- they are either offering you a marriage or poison.
  • Being invited to the bio isn’t as odd as it seems. You aren’t being asked to use the bathroom, or for your autobiography- Movie theaters are a fun source of entertainment!
  • You’ll hear a lot of chatter about bras, but its not lingerie – bra means good.
  • Don’t ask your chef to make food for you – it’s your boss.
  • Tack!” isn’t a warning that your about to sit on something sharp – it means thank you.
  • Being full in Sweden doesn’t mean that you’ve had too much to eat – it’s having too much to drink, being drunk.
  • When someone says they are going to spy on you don’t be nervous – but do move out of the way because they are about to vomit.
  • Bland is not boring – it means mix.
  • When someone tells you that they go to gymnasium, it doesn’t mean that they play sports or games all day- they attend high school.
  • Wiping your feet on a mat isn’t as polite as it sounds- no one likes dirt on their food.
  • If your friends sign an email sending you lots of puss don’t be grossed out- they are sending you kisses.
  • And when you think they’ve started to called them kisses but messed up and said kissa, they are actually talking about taking a piss.

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Surprisingly a lot of the words that look the same in English are actually the same. Skimming through a pocket dictionary, this is about 1/3 of the words spelled identical to English but the others had the same meaning, and then add another bunch that were spelled close enough to be recognizable. Sometimes the spelling is off just because the language, alphabet, and pronunciation is different- many C’s are K’s, I’s and Y’s are mixed up, W’s and Q’s are rare, and ending E’s disappear. Often when I can’t think of a word for something in Swedish it’s because the word is too similar to English and being obvious, I overlook it.

But beware of some- this list is just the beginning, can anyone think of any others?