Something Swedish


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Riddle me this, Sweden

First things first…

Stay with me here – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th. In Swedish these would be 1:a, 2:a, 3:e, 4:e, 5:e, 6:e, 7:e, 8:e, 9:e, 10:e. I wasn’t able to recognize them either, don’t worry. But sometimes you do see “1st” in Swedish – usually in the produce section of the supermarket and you wonder what it is, “Is it the first crop of the season?” then you see “2st” and think it’s just a typo. “st” in Swedish means “stycken” a useful word that we don’t have in English which indicates how many of something, like individual pieces.

Time

Telling time is telling time, right? Wrong. It might be easy for those who know how to use military time, but I have literately missed a work meeting because of the habit of using AM and PM and mistaking an early morning meeting for an “after work” meeting. It takes a lot of time and finger counting to look at a clock and read 21.15 as 9:15, or vice versa, thinking 9:15 but needing to write 21.15, without getting it wrong a few dozen times.

Here’s a tip: if someone is meeting you for a drink at 10.00 they probably mean coffee, not alcohol.

But don’t worry, it’s only written this way, when Swedes speak they use the am/pm system, just to mess with my mind I assume. Not that saying the time is any easier – wrap your head around explaining 7:35 as “five minutes past half till 8,” More simply, dinner at 6:30? instead of saying “half past 6” you would say “half till 7”.

Oh, and 10.00 is how we write the time here in Sweden, I wasn’t accidentally talking about the price of overpriced drinks (coffee/alcohol) in Sweden.

Like so:

2013-09-30 09.12.15

Money

So, if a period equals a colon (10.00 instead of 10:00) to indicate time, then how do we deal with money? Commas, of course, ya know, unless there should be a comma, then we use a period ($1,000 = 7.000 SEK)

Buying a pair of pants? Price: 699,90 SEK. Don’t worry, that’s hundred, not thousand, don’t let that comma startle you. And good news, tax is always included in the price tags in Sweden, so what you see is what you pay! Except that the “öre” (think “penny”) hasn’t existed in many years, so prices are just “rounded” to the nearest kronor, so yes, you will be paying 700 SEK.

Dates

Have an important meeting on 5/4/2013? Don’t miss it, it’s on April 5th, not May 4th.  Oh, and don’t try to make it any easier by writing “April 5th” because it is really “5:e april” (You were wondering where they used that colon, if not for telling time, right? Me too) The colon is also used when you would add an ” ‘s ” to an abbreviation, but I digress.

Grammar

While we’re on the topic of commas, colons, and periods being used differently than what I’m used to – why not talk about apostrophes and semi colons, too?

It’s easy, they barely exist while writing Swedish. Big sigh of relief, eller hur? Semi colons not being used as often as in English I can understand – people use them incorrectly all the time anyway, but apostrophes!? That’s like the bread and butter to English! Well, here’s the thing – Swedish doesn’t use contractions. You’ll never find our beloved “I’m,” “you’re,” “she’ll,” “aren’t” “they’re,” “here’s,” “I’ll,” “he’ll,” and “won’t” in Swedish which means that 90% of the apostrophes we use every day are gone. The other 10%? Also gone: “Sweden’s soccer team” becomes “Sveriges fotbollslag” no apostrophe needed, and yes soccer in the U.S. is “fotboll” (football) here in Sweden.

At least one thing is just as important in Swedish as it is in English, don’t forget your capitalization, as in don’t forget to NOT do it  for months or days of the week.

Multiple choice time!

Why is there an X here?

1) “2” and “3” are way too similar to put next to each other

x) Swede’s thought they’d get the numbers and the letters mingling.

2) To be even more confusing to immigrants!


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Awkward & Offensive Language Mishap # 2

Not as offensive or awkward as #1, but too many mishaps in one week to ignore!

I’ve come to a language crossroad. This week I have been tongue tied and confused, making funny mistake after mistake in both Swedish and English. It feels like a speed bump, having learned so much so quickly, maybe I am at my brains temporary capacity.

  • So, while reading a Swedish children’s book out loud in English,I came across the word bajspåsar and kept nonchalantly reading it as “Blueberry pie.” While blåbärspaj is a tasty treat, “bajspåsar is certainly the opposite. If you read this post you will remember that “Bajs” means poop. The word that I was translating out loud meant poop-bag … as in the kind you bring with you when you  walk a dog. “When I bring my dog for a walk I make sure to have a blueberry pie in my pocket” doesn’t make sense but my brain really couldn’t understand poop-bag, two words I know but have never combined. I might never be able to order a blåbärspaj from a cafe again.

  • In class we were discussing clothing and whether it fits or not. The teacher asked “Är dina skor för stora” which I understood as “Är dina skor förstår?” In text these look so different but in speech they sound very similar. Instead of hearing, “Are your shoes too big?” I could have sworn my teacher was asking “Are your shoes understanding?”
  • As a friend was asking for a cigarette lighter in Swedish I misunderstood and thought she asked for teeth, which obviously boggled my mind. “kan jag ha tändaren” and “kan jag ha tänderna” are just too similar for me to ignore or understand, so after a stifled giggle I asked how to say lighter in Swedish and pointed out how similar the words are. If I was working as a dental assistant in Sweden I would certainly be talking about lighters all day.

Many people have jokingly warned me to not forget my English while I learn Swedish. Well, it seems that it has begun.

  • My husband and I hi-five a lot… we just like to, okay? The other day I turned to him and blurted out “Give me a hand-slap!!” Apparently my brain couldn’t manage the word “hi-five.” Not only did I call it a hand slap (Which I think is very Swedish by the way, joining two descriptive words to make a new word), I somehow managed to add a German twist to it and said “hand SCHLAPP.” Yep, there goes my English- right out de window.
  • Two days later I was trying to tell my husband that I couldn’t hear him because I had my ear plugs in. Except I called them ear muffins. Yep.

Meanwhile I found my two new favorite Swedish words that make me laugh whenever I think or hear them.

  • Ett handfat  means a bathroom sink, which translates roughly to “hand bowl” but when I see the word I can’t help but to imagine “hand fat,” as if all the disgusting fat from your hands can be washed away, which is just such a perfectly grotesque image for a sink that it made me laugh in class.
  • En sköldpadda is a turtle, which literally means “shield toad.” Now I think of turtle shells as shields and turtles as warrior toads. Maybe the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are actually toads? Nothing awkward or offensive about that, but it has just stuck with me.

Too many words swimming around in this brain, but so many more to learn- I think this is going to get much messier very soon.

Illustrations made by a bored Megalagom.


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Majblomman & A Step Forward

Today I decided to be a little bit braver.

Every April  in Sweden you will see or be approached by children between 10 and 13 years old selling Majblomman. For the past couple of weeks I avoided them, not understanding what they are saying or selling and not knowing how to respond. Today after passing a few girls by with the quick “Nej, tack,” I decided to go back and talk to them- in Swedish. I know what to say and how to say it, I need to start speaking. And who else is better to practice with than children?

“Hej, min svenska är inte så bra och jag förstår inte vad du gör. Kan du förklara för mig?” Hi, my Swedish is not so good and I don’t understand what you are doing. Can you explain for me? The girl froze and looked at me for a few seconds, I assume not knowing how to respond. Then I asked “Talar du Engelska?” to which she quickly looked at the second girl who ran to ask the third girl for help. At first I thought maybe my Swedish was so bad that they couldn’t understand a thing, but it was just that the third girl spoke the best English.

She explained that they are selling May flowers and that the money goes to children in Africa that have nothing, “As you can see there are many of us selling them.” I was blown away by her English, “Din engelska är jatte bra!” Your English is very good! I tried to respond to her in Swedish as much as I could, while she continued in English. She asked if I was from England and if I am visiting or if I live here. “Jag kommer från New York och jag bor i halmstad nu.I am from New York and I live in Halmstad now. I asked her how much a Majblomma is and bought one for 30 kr. There are a few different types available, ranging from a simple single flower pin for 10 kr to a large patch for 50 kr, showcased in a pouch the kids carry with some information and prices.

The Queen buys the year’s first Mayflower pin: http://www.kungahuset.se/royalcourt/royalfamily/latestnew/news /thequeenbuystheyearsfirstmayflowerpin. 5.4a3da1313658e148c3518.html

I wish I snapped  a photo of the three girls I bought from, they were so adorable and helpful.

Majblomman has been sold in Sweden since 1907, it is one of the worlds oldest children’s charities originating in Goteborg as a foundation where children could help children. Thought up by Beda Hallberg, the effort started off as charity towards children with tuberculosis, its success spread the cause to 17 other countries by 1932. Nowadays only Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Estonia still participate in selling May flowers, whose cause has adapted over the years to help support children in need. Right now the majblomman being sold are an effort to tackle poverty. The idea of majblomman was so that everyone has an opportunity to help, with a price so low that anyone could buy a flower. For a woman to try to sell  over 100,00 paper flower pins for 10 cents each (Remember this is 1907) was very controversial, even more so when that goal was exceeded and 139,000 were sold. Beda Hallberg was the first woman nominated by the Goteborg City Council election in 1912. The majblomman purchased today is not the same as from 1907, or any other year; every year the design for the Majblomman changes color and sometimes flower type (My favorites are from 1907-1922). The designs can be voted on by the public for next year here.

If you see children trying to sell you something from a little pouch in the month of April, know that it is for a good cause and to not hesitate because they are only collecting donations for two weeks. Not only does the money go towards a good cause but it is also an effort to get the children involved.

Min Majblomma:

I’m excited to have a memento to remember this small interaction in Swedish while contributing to a good cause and learning about an amazing woman who created such a long lasting charity that is now a staple of a Swedish April. It really goes to show that something small like making an effort and talking to a child for a few minutes makes a huge difference, I felt more comfortable and able – which is a long way from two months ago.


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The Things I Tell Myself While Learning Swedish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Awkward & Offensive Language Mishap # 1

Brought to you by the letter “K”

So maybe a Sesame Street reference isn’t the best way to start this topic, but I felt the need for balance.

Ever notice when someone is learning a new language that the funny stories about mispronunciation and failed communication include accidentally saying vulgar words? Well, this is one of those stories, so please excuse me and bear with me. Also note that this is post # 1, because I expect this to happen many times bringing me great embarrassment and laughter (both being laughed at and with) while supplying me with entertaining writing material for your curious eyes. Win win!

Today I decided to re-strategize my self-studying efforts with my new green post- its. I made a list of kitchen friendly vocabulary and phrases and stuck them to the cabinet so I can study them while cooking. You know, context and all that.

While compiling my list I consulted my husband if words were correct and how to pronounce them. This seems to be my best shot at speaking at this point, trying and then repeating vocabulary. I decided to only put the Swedish words without translation, so I was very serious and stubborn about this study session. And so I compiled my list, and then read each word or phrase out loud, rinse and repeat. I tried hard to pronounce everything as best as I could which was going great until a warning was set in motion that one of the words is dangerously close to something that has nothing to do with cooking or kitchen, but instead male genitalia.

And so, I tried again. And again. and again. And each time I repeated the word I got further and further away from the word “kokar” (cook) and closer to the word “kukar” (…cocks). Which, come to think of it are awfully alike in English as well. The more emphasis my husband put on the “oo” sound the more I pronounced the “uu.” Determined to get it right, through tears of hysterical laughter I couldn’t stop accidentally saying “coooc… (you get the idea).” Repeatedly. And Loudly. I was just thankful that no one could hear me (hopefully), and that my pronunciation was discovered at home instead of in two weeks when we go to visit my husbands family and I am always helping in the kitchen (one of my motivations for this list).

The good news is that after trying for 15 minutes straight I can now pronounce “kukar” perfectly (but “kokar” is still to be avoided at all costs).


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Almost: “nästan”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Melodifestivalen!!

Yikes! Second Saturday into February and I haven’t mentioned Melodifestivalen?! “The Melody Festival” is a huge event in Sweden and cannot will not be ignored! Melodifestivalen is the most popular, maybe most important, show in Sweden. Every year 3-4 million Swedes faithfully watch it (have I mentioned that the population of Sweden is roughly 9.4 million?). Melodifestivalen is tradition since 1959. But what is it!? It’s a competition.

Let’s just say that in 1974 a band named ABBA won the Melodifestivalen. That year Sweden came in first place in Eurovision. The whole purpose of Melodifestivalen is that the winner of the competition goes on to represent Sweden in the international Eurovision Song Contest, which is an even bigger deal… a huge deal, 100-600 million viewers world wide type of a huge deal. Four winners of the Melodifestivalen have also won the Eurovision contest, Sweden has been placed in the top 5 places 14 times. With four wins under its belt, only four other countries have won more often, so Sweden must be doing something right with this Melodifestivalen!

Melodifestivalen is something I’ve heard of but never seen, until now. Having remembered too late, I missed the first installment (Hence the post two weeks into the month) but I made sure not to miss today’s performances. I enjoyed it a lot- more than I expected considering I couldn’t understand most of it. Maybe next year I’ll be able to understand the introductions, interviews, and the comic relief, and all of the songs instead of half. Or maybe I’ll force my husband to watch it with me next week and do some translations (Ya, right! He’s not a fan of the competition)

Every Saturday in February the Melodifestivalen competition continues, and all across Sweden people watch it unfold. Over time and with a bunch of changes to the festival over the years, including the 2002 introduction of weekly semi-finals, the amount of competitors has risen from 5 to 32, thus stretching the competition out for the duration of five weeks  instead of a single night of two round elimination. A panel of judges along with a public telephone voting system now determines the semi finalists each week.  The semi final show and finale being the most watched segment.

If you are thinking somewhere along the lines of American Idol, you are half right but not really. There are no embarrassing auditions aired (the best part and the only episodes I watch). There are no obnoxious commentary from judges, although there is a few minutes between each performance of the hosts talking about something or other that I can’t understand, seems  to be comic relief filler. Each performance is well polished, rehearsed, with set design, wardrobe, back up singers, and back up dancers. Remember this isn’t just a competition for some money or fame, its to become the face of Sweden in the bigger international contest. However there is a trophy – “Den stora Sångfågeln” (The Great Songbird), and of course there is fame. Only days after the Eurovision contest ends does the selection process for contestants and song choices begin for the following year, thus taking 9 months to narrow down the competition for next years Melodifestivalen. There is a mix of begining and experienced performers, songs are not limited by language, but most are Swedish or English, and the genres have become increasingly diverse.

Each of the six shows are aired live, the first four shows consist of eight songs that are voted on solely by the viewers to determine which proceed to the final round or second chance round, which are then determined by judges.

Onto the  show!

Tuning in via webcast I was greeted with a count down of when the live show would start, with a photo of the hosts in the background:

After a small amount of talking and joking in the beginning for a few minutes the first performance was on stage rather quickly. It wasn’t until half way through that I realized that it was the hosts  in black vests and hats along with two men singing a melody of boy band songs such as “I want it that way” and “Larger than life.” (I’m pretty sure those are both backstreet?) I’m assuming that each show starts with a performance from the hosts.

The audience is waving colorful balloons which makes it feel like a party. It starts with showing photos of each of the eight contestants for the evening. I tried to get screen shots or each performance and jot down some thoughts. Each contestant is introduced by the host and they walk up the catwalk with a voice over and music. I assume the voice over is a short description of each performer, but I wasn’t able to understand it.

The first act was a teenage boy named Ulrik, I assume 16 or 17 since you have to be 16 to enter the contest. He went on stage armed with a guitar, a harmonica, a great voice, messy hair, and stunning eyes. He sang a song in English, “Soldier” which was very catchy and well done. He didn’t dance but he was multitasking instruments, so who can blame him?

The second performance was Five guys  with 60’s styled slicked back hair, called Top Cats singing a song in English, “Baby Doll.” They were extremlly energetic while each playing an instrument- piano, drums, guitars, and a cello. Fun old school rock and roll sound while the pianist is standing and dancing while playing and  the  cello player is standing ON TOP of his cello.

The third performance was a slow paced Swedish ballad by Sonja Alden. She was alone on stage, no back up dancers or singers, no instruments aside from her soothing smooth voice. The set was filled with smoke and lights for atmosphere and a bridge. She wore a beautiful flowing dress that moved in the wind as she sang. Seemed like a classic song, was a bit too slow for my taste.

The Fourth artist was a guy named Andreas Lund, he strutted and danced up the catwalk to a Jay Z song, which I found pretty amusing in his shiny gold and black suit. He sang a Swedish song called “Aldrig, Aldrig” and had a great stage presence and a lot of energy.  He had three back up dancers/singers all dressed the same as him but with reversed colors.

The fifth performance was a Swedish song by four young women, blond hair and beautiful- the stereotypical Swedish woman in an Americans eyes. Their set was filled with smoke and they were joined by 3 male dancers.  They stayed pretty close to their microphone stands but did break away and move a little bit twice. The unique part was their instruments: Guitar, accordion, violin, and flute- and they all sang beautifully in unison with perfect harmony.

Sixth up was David Lindgren who sang an English song “Shout it Out.” Upon first seeing him in his suit and sneakers fist pumping to the music I thought he was awkward but I was wrong. He was soon joined by four co-ed dancers and he starts to dance along while singing, before you know it he shed his jacket and starts break dancing! It was interesting to see him sing and dance mixing in and even being in back of the other dancers. He was fun to listen to and watch- I was a bit scared to look away after being surprised with Flames shooting from the set and him break dancing.

The Seventh contestant up was Mimi Oh singing a Swedish tune. She was wearing bright yellow and pink along with massive eyelash extensions and doe eyes. She was surrounded by four co-ed dancers but only managed basic movements, slight dancing with mostly jumping and walking. I can’t really recall the song or how she sounded.

Last but not least was the eccentric Thomas Di Leva, I wish I could understand the background information on him, I am guessing it was pretty interesting. He sung a Swedish  song and wore a long sleeved, floor lengthed “dress?” with a lightening bolt on the chest and long curly hair. He only sings  but has a male and a female back up dancers in white and gold who move somewhat unconventionally. He was the only performer to walk into the audience, shaking hands and singing into the crowd.

All eight performances with some short dialogue and introductions in between took about 45 minutes. Then there is a recap rundown of each performance with a 15 second clip of every song along with which number to call to vote for that contestant.

I expected that to be the end, but the show went on. There was about five minutes of some stuff I couldn’t understand and then it was back to the contestants waiting with some comic relief from the host with a sign pinned to her bottom saying “Do not touch” – too bad I didn’t understand the context.

Apparently the votes are tallied immediately and you only have a few minutes to vote. I expected the results to be reveled next show. Within ten minutes of the eighth song the five songs that are voted to stay are announced followed by a second vote. I found it interesting that the contestants wait on the floor sitting at tables, as opposed to standing on stage.

There is a bonus performance while we wait, a “mash up” with who I can only assume are previous contestants from last year or last week? I was admittedly confused.

And the winner is…..

Ulrik- the first performer! He quickly ran to the catwalk and posed for photos, jumping high with his arms stretched out. He was rushed to the stage to perform an encore of the same song he played before. I thought the winner would be Lindren, the cheers were loudest for him.

I thought it was over but then… to my surprise there was a THIRD vote. What the heck!? Then I recalled reading that there are two semifinalists from each week. The vote was from the remaining four contestants and seemed much quicker. and the winner is….Lindgren! So, my suspicions were spot on. When his name was called his eyes were filled with tears and there was laughter in his voice as he performed his song again. It really felt like a celebration. The winners were given huge bouquets of flowers and posed for photos together.

So, that’s the Swedish Melodifestevalen in a very big nutshell. It was enjoyable and I’ll probably watch it again,  however I will certainly skip the hectic gathering of notes and screenshots. Hope you all enjoyed this piece of Swedish Entertainment! Search for “Melodifestivalen” on youtube and watch some clips!


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Swedish for Immigrants: “svenskundervisning för invandrare”

Finally, the time has come! Kind of. I went to the “Vuxenutbildningen,” the school for adult education, to sign up for  SFI classes so I can start my journey into Svenska (Swedish). Thankfully I have a friend who is familiar with the school and accompanied me. As I suspected, classes did start yesterday. What I didn’t expect is that they were full. I was only eligible to start SFI a few days ago, so there’s nothing I could do. I guess you never really think about how many people are new to a country and need to learn the language at any one time. Thankfully the next class starts either the first week in March or the last week of February, which isn’t bad at all. I’ll get a letter in the mail when the class is formed, it will be five days a week for four hours a day, the time is to be determines but it is either 8:00 – 12:00 or 12:15 – 4:15. Not sure which one I would prefer, honestly. It’s about a 20 minute walk, maybe I’ll get a bike.

The meeting was simple enough, basic information and a signature. I didn’t understand why they needed the number of  years I’ve spent in school and what job position I held in America, but then it became clear. There are different levers of immigrants ranging from having never gone to school, to well educated. The fact of  the matter is you can’t learn a language if you don’t have any, or very little, formal education. There are more things that they need to learn aside from how to order food at a restaurant. I guess that’s something else I had never thought of. So, the class I will be in is “C,” being the more ‘advanced’ class, you can say. That level requires 490 hours of work to finish, which equates  to about 25 weeks of 20 hours a week.

On top of finally learning the language that will open up lots of doors and break down lots of barriers, it is free. And as if that isn’t good enough…that’s not all. Since I am married and have family here and am living here instead of only here to work or go to school, I am qualified to receive a “bonus” for learning Swedish. If I finish the required coursework and pass the exams within 12 months of the first day, I will get a bonus of 12000 SEK ($1,800) – tax free. I couldn’t believe it. I know that universities pay towards student educations in Sweden, but that is different. I didn’t expect it to apply to SFI, talk about extra motivation!

So, in the meantime while I wait until March crawls closer I do have a new way of studying Swedish. The SFI coordinator shared a website to use, which is very similar to Rosetta Stone, but since it is only Swedish it deals with more than just language, such as currency and geography. I have always highly recommended Rosetta Stone as a great way to start learning a new language, and I still do- however it is a bit expensive. They do have demos on the website which I recommend checking out. I took a few screen shots of each program to show you and to compare. Both only use Swedish (or the language you choose in Rosetta Stone), meaning not only are the actual activieties in Swedish but also all menus and questions. Rosetta Stone teaches by slowly introducing new words into the equation, Digitalasparet seems to focus more on learning vocabulary and then placing it in context, but I haven’t used it enough yet to say. Each have a large number of levels, in each one there is another selection of type of exercise or topic. On the left is Rosetta Stone and on the right is Digitalasparet.

So, for the next month I will be studying  using these two programs, I’m excited to explore the new one since I have gone through my first CD (the only one  I have, out of three) of Rosetta Stone and am pretty familiar with the questions and answers in 2 out of 5 of the learning methods. (Reading & reading/listening… I haven’t explored much of the speech and writing aspects yet). Aside from computer programs I always have my trusty books:


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Fun Swedish Idioms: Kul Svenska Idiom

Idioms are not only phrases or figures of speech, but they are cultural references. There are over 25,000 idioms in the English language (According to Wikipedia). Just like accents or dialects in a language idioms are not only different cross culture but even cross region. Sort of like the informal slang of a language, idioms are used to become more comfortable and confident in a new language or place. It is also the most likely part of language to be misunderstood, not only because of metaphoric references but because these phrases do not translate well. This results in some funny and interesting figures of speech that I want to share with you all. Add any that I missed and enjoy!

First, some idioms that we can relate to, the meanings are the same:

  • To Kick the Bucket: Trilla av pinnen = “To fall off the stick”
  • Easy as Pie: Lätt som en plätt = “Easy as pancake”
  • To have luck on your side: Ha millimetrarna på sin sida =“to have millimeters on your side”
  • To keep your fingers crossed: Hålla tummarna = “to hold your thumbs”
  • Heard it through the Grapevine: Höra via djungeltrumman = “Heard it though the jungle drum”
  • I’m giving you gold: Kasta pärlor för svin = “To cast pearls before swine”
  • Written like chicken scratch: Kråkfötter = “Crows feet”
  • To run for it: Lägga benen på ryggen = “To lay the legs on the back”
  • All bark and no bite: Mycket snack och lite verkstad = “Lots of talk and no shop”
  • To go too far: Måla fan på väggen = “To paint the devil on the wall”
  • To knock on wood: Ta i trä = “To touch wood”
  • To turn a blind eye: Se genom fingrarna= “To see through the fingers”
  • Now you’ve done it!: Skita i det blåa skåpet = “To shit in the blue locker”
  • To kill two birds with one stone: Slå två flugor i en smäll = “To hit two flies with one slap”
  • All talk: Stor i orden = “Big in the words”
  • Raining cats and dogs: Stå som spön i backen = “Stand like whips in the ground”
  • Speak of  the Devil: Tala om trollen = “Speak of the trolls”
  • To smell a rat: Ana ugglor i mossen = “To sense owls in the marsh”
  • Have a bone to pick: Ha en gås oplockad = “Have a goose to pluck”
  • To know like the back of one’s hand: Känna som sin egen ficka = “Know like one’s pocket”
  • The straw that broke the camels back: Droppen som fick bägaren att rinna över = “The drip that caused the beaker to overflow”
  • When the cat’s away the mice will play:  När Katten är Borta Dansar Råttorna på Bordet  = “When the cat’s away dancing rats on the table”

Now to some Swedish idioms we don’t have equivalents for:

  • Glida in på en räkmacka: “To slide in on a shrimp sandwich” = Refers to someone who has it easy
  • Ingen ko på isen: “No cow on the ice” = No stress or danger
  • Ha en räv bakom örat: “To have a fox behind the ear” = To be cunning
  • Göra en höna av en fjäder: “To make a hen out of a feather” = To exaggerate
  • Lägga en pizza: “To lay down the pizza” = To vomit
  • Låtsas som att det regnar: “Pretend as if it is raining” =  To act innocently, inconspicuously
  • Skilja agnarna från vetet: “Separate the wheat from the chaff” = To distinguish good from the bad
  • Falla mellan två stolar: “To fall between the chairs” = When two authorities can’t cooperate, someone will be forgotten by the both.


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When the Cat’s Away, the Mice will Play – “När Katten är Borta Dansar Råttorna på Bordet”

Min Katt, hon heter Delilah

Hmm, not really, but tonight is the first night by myself in Sweden. The hubby has to travel for work sometimes and so here I am while he is in Denmark until tomorrow. I wish the title of this post could be a little more accurate, but I guess we don’t actually have the roles of cat and mouse so it wouldn’t work regardless, I just really wanted to use it as a title and show a photo of my cat.

For anyone who knows some amount of Swedish will recognize that the Swedish title isn’t an exact translation of the English one.  Instead of translating word for word, which would be, “När katten är borta, möss spela” (When the cat is away, mice play). Swedish has a corresponding idiom as English which has the same meaning but is said differently, the text in the title translates to: “When the cat is away dancing rats are on the table.”

It is almost 8pm here (20:00- I don’t think I’ll get used to saying time this way) and the most “playing” I’ve done was to take a lovely two hour “tupplur,” which means “nap.” I learned that word yesterday- from twitter! And I certainly haven’t danced on any tables!! (I think I like being likened to a mice over a rat)

I suppose my version of “playing” will be staying up later than normal  to see if I can make some phone calls to some family and friends. With the six hour time difference it’s hard to get a hold of people who work until 5 or 6pm, since I am usually sleeping or at least off the computer at that point since hubby wakes up kind of early. The timing hasn’t been too hard to deal with though, it turns out that when I wake up early enough (7 – 8 am) a handful of friends are still awake in NY from that night before since its 1 or 2 am for them (Gotta love the night owls, the bar hoppers, the bar workers, and the insomniacs). And then there’s my Aunt who wakes up super early and is usually the first person I talk to once or twice a week around noon my time. Some friends and family don’t work or have traditional hours so I’ve been pretty lucky to get a few calls every once in awhile.

Technology is amazing, having Skype has allowed me to be in another country and not feel as alone. Sometimes its a 60 minute video chat and other times its a quick cigarette break phone call from a best friend. Skype is how we managed a long distance relationship for three years and its how I will keep in touch with friends and family now. Its cheap and easy and even allows me to buy a NY phone number so its affordable for everyone. I know I sound like a commercial, but that’s only because there are still people not taking advantage of it and it helps  me so much on a daily basis.

So, my other “playing” for today was actually pretty routine- shopping for the apartment. There are a few shops in town that I always go to because I love to buy little things to organize and decorate with. I shop carefully, knowing that money doesn’t grow on trees (Why, oh why!?), but it  IS my first apartment and I AM home a lot, so every once in awhile I’ll go to  AhlensLagerhaus, Clas Olson, or TGR to see if I can find something useful. Today felt like the colorful jackpot! Min nya kudde och tre nya korgar – “My new pillow and three new baskets”

Tomorrow I will force myself to study Swedish, I have been slacking; twiddling my thumbs while I wait for my “Personnummer” which will (Aside from making me a real person!) allow me to start SFI, Swedish for Immigrants, and start looking for work. I didn’t come here to wait, I came here to live and learn. And I will!

Reach for the moon, the worst that can happen is you fall short and catch a star.

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