Jag skrivar svenska inte so bra.

The nice thing about the schwa sound is that you don't have to spell it.

Many thanks to C-J Berg for fixing my Swedish spelling errors. I probably introduced some new ones here, though.

But why Swedish?

Well, it wasn't Swedish initially. Many years ago, I saw an ad in the local newspaper that read, "Free Norwegian lessons, Tuesday nights at Xyz Church, Ballard." (Ballard is the Scandinavian neighborhood in Seattle.) I read it and though Norwegian lessons would be a fun, borderline goofy, thing to do. Especially since I figured most of the other people in the class were there because their parents forced them. When the Olympics were held a few years later in Lillehammer I was again inspired to learn Norwegian, because the sound of the language appealed to me.

But it never really got past the "Gosh that would be fun" phase, until this year.

A friend of mine moved to Sweden, so I figured, "Well, if I'm going to learn a Scandinavian language, Swedish seems the better choice now. And besides, it means I get to talk to the people who work at IKEA in their native language!" (Nevermind that the people who work at the Seattle IKEA probably don't speak Swedish anyway.)

The hard part is trying to prevent Swedes from switching to English when they hear that your Swedish isn't native-fluent.

Comments (6)
  1. Jonathan O'Connor says:

    First point: For some reason the Swedish word for "good" or "well" is "bra". And the Irish word for well is "brea". They are pronounced similarily. I always wondered if the Viking invaders gave us that word.

    Second point: Because English has become the Lingua Franca of the world, almost everybody speaks a bit. So, if you start learning another language, the native speakers are very likely to know more English than you do. Now, after a while, when you can actually hold a reasonable conversation, especially one-to-one (groups are much harder), then you get everybody telling you how wonderful you speak the language. Of course, you feel great, but its a lie, so don’t be fooled. Finally, if you ever reach those dizzy heights of bilingualism, nobody notices your wonderful linguistic ability, except maybe to say "You’ve got a wierd name", or "Where did you learn to speak English so well".

    Third point: I love talking about languages and linguistics, so don’t stop.

  2. My grandparents spoke Swedish around me when they didn’t want me to understand… And then one day, I grew up, moved away, went to school, got a job, quit my job, sold everything I owned, and jumped on a plane to South America. After bumming around Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia for a few months, I ended at Cococabana on Lake Titicaca. There, I met a beautiful Swede named Malin who spoke Swedish to me as much as I wanted. Of course, her English was (and is) as good as my own. Malin and I traveled together for the next three months, from Cusco to Lima to Huaraz to Quito and then into Colombia where we finally split up. She went to Mexico and I to Venezuela. Several months later I picked Malin up in San Diego and took her on a grand tour of the western United States which ended in my hometown, several thousand miles away in sunny Anacortes, Washington.

    Now here’s the interesting part.

    My 91 year old grandmother, whose husband passed away many years ago, was very excited to meet Malin, especially since it would give her an opportunity to once again speak Swedish. Grandmother grew up in a Swedish speaking household and had spoken it daily for most of her adult life.

    When they met, Malin and grandmother spoke for approximately 5 minutes. Finally, Malin turned to me and said, "We can’t understand each other. She speaks "Old Swedish.""

    "Old Swedish" is Swedish as it was spoken 100-150 years ago. Apparently, the language has changed so rapidly and dramatically in that time (in Sweden) that the children and grandchildren of Swedish immigrants to North America who learned Swedish from their parents speak a Svenska that is foreign to living Swedes.

    For a taste of "Old Swedish", Malin recommends the ticket gambling scene in the move ‘Titanic’.

  3. C-J Berg says:

    Raymond: You *do* write well, no one would misunderstand you. The correct spelling is "Jag skriver inte svenska så bra." (the Swedish characters å, ä and ö can be written with ALT-0229, ALT-0228 and ALT-0246 – like you didn’t know that…). By the way, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are very similar, so we understand each other readily (with an exception for local dialects, especially Danish ones), so you can go to Norway and show off your Swedish skills if you want…

    Korby: Surely Swedish has evolved and changed over the last 150 years just as all other languages have, but it certainly hasn’t changed *that* much; reading Swedish written in the mid-1800’s is in fact not difficult at all. There are, however, many different dialects of Swedish, some of which are really hard to understand for most Swedes even today (but fewer and fewer speak with a distinct dialect these days due to the influence of broadcasted media). I’ve met several older persons speaking dialects I could barely understand myself here in Sweden. That is to say that I don’t believe your grandma spoke ‘old Swedish’, but rather a (perhaps uncommon) dialect. Do you know from which part of Sweden your grandparents (or your grandgrandparents) came?

  4. Jeff says:

    I picked up technical/business Swedish while working at Ericsson for 5 years in Dallas, Madrid and Aachen as a GSM software engineer. Every document had bilingual portions and, believe me, Ericsson loves documentation.

    So now I know useful Swedish terms such as "Kontor", "godkänna" and "vie kann klara deit!", and the horriffic "Surstromming".

  5. Johan Thelin says:

    "Surstromming" and "sill" is really two odd swedish traditions. Well Surströmming is actually a tradition in the northern parts (so I’ve just tried once, and didn’t like it).

    Surströmming is raw strömming (herring) that has been allowed to rot. Gives the taste a nice spin – my stoumack told me not to swallow in a very determined voice!

    Sill is also strömming that is eaten raw. Often will onions or mustard as spice. This is a summer tradition is all of Sweden.

    One odd thing is that many Swedes think that Sushi is odd. I must say that raw fish is odd, even though I’m swedish myself.

  6. Tracey says:

    C-J, "Old Swedish" really is difficult for modern swedish speakers to understand. Jag vet svenska och jag förstor inte min morfar…han prata gamal svenska och tjörnska. I know swedish and I do not understand my grandfather, he speaks only old swedish and the tjörn dialect. That’s only one generation removed! Also, he speaks and understands NO ENGLISH!

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