Svenska 102

So, in this post, I talked about why you should consider learning Swedish while you’re here. Now, as much as I would like to teach you the language myself, pigs will fly before I reach that point in my Svenska journey.

Instead, this is the story of one of my proudest moments in Swedish class.

It was about 3 weeks into the course and we were learning about phrases you may encounter in offices if you were to work in Sweden. The task was to discuss how important certain parameters (a good boss, distance from home, good pay, good work environment etc.) are to us – mycket viktigt (very important), viktigt (important) or inte så viktigt (not so important). Now, keep in mind, I’m an Indian. Who lives in Mumbai. So it’s no surprise, really, that my mind instantly jumped to the astounding traffic in my beloved city. I can quite literally reach Stockholm from Borlänge faster than I can travel from South Mumbai to North Mumbai.

I tried to structure a really complicated sentence in my head, which translated to mean that since I’m from India, ‘distance from home’ is a very important factor for me when considering work opportunities,  because there is a lot of traffic in Mumbai. It took me a good fifteen minutes and some serious Google Translate (let’s face it, we’re all guilty Googlers) to finally get the sentence out. Turns out, it was a quite a good sentence, in my professor’s words.

I was on cloud 9 while leaving class that day, as though I’d conquered the language. In my delirious state, I walked into the cafeteria, spotting my husband with a few friends. I plopped down on one of the empty chairs, grinning happily. I told them of my triumph in class that day and proudly regaled the sentence for them. Except this time, there was a Swede in the crowd. He heard my sentence and confusion flashed in his eyes, before he quickly asked me a loooong (and to me, incomprehensible) question. I blinked and stared at him blankly, the balloon of my pride deflating instantly. I hadn’t understood one single word he said!

Is there a point to this story besides my personal humiliation? Yes! There is much more to learning a language, than attending classes and making sentences with Google. Especially when it comes to a language like Svenska, which uses a few different alphabets and a whole world of different pronunciations. Books and classes will only get you so far. The key lies in practicing at any possible moment. Talk to people, tell them you’re learning, practice, practice and oh yeah – practice. It’s really not as hard as it seems. For example, to get you started, the Swedish Hej! Hej! to greet someone is just a hey spelt with a J! Much like Phoebe’s ‘joker is poker with a J’.

A good start, after all, is a job half done.

My favorite Swedish phrase – Tack så mycket! (thank you so much!)

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