The Quantum Angler
He never gets Bohred of fishing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Det Svenska språket

My swating-up on the Swedish language is finally starting to pay dividends. This week, for the first time in my life, I had a full conversation with somebody in a foreign language.

Sure, I have been speaking Swedish to people for a while now, but the subject was always limited to the kind of tedium you practice in language class. Whenever I spoke Swedish it was essentially for the purpose of practicing it. But this week I found myself using Swedish to have regular, worthwhile conversations with people about stuff we actually wanted to talk about, and that feels extremely liberating! The fact that we are speaking Swedish no longer has to be acknowledged during the conversation, and people act as if everything is normal.

The weird thing is of course how it doesn't feel weird at all. I have often wondered how strange it must be to hear a real person speaking a foreign language and actually understand it, but now I find myself doing double-takes whenever I overhear and understand things people say when I'm not even even paying attention to them. To most young, educated people in this world this would all seem rather pathetic, but I suspect many of my compatriots would sympathise. After five years spent taking German and French at school I was not even close to being able to speak or comprehend those languages, leaving me with the illogical feeling that it was all but impossible to learn a language, so this feels like quite an achievement.

I have to give the Swedes credit though. They can all speak near-perfect English, and I haven't met a single one that seemed to resent speaking English to me. But once you try to speak a little Swedish to a Swede, no matter how bad it is, they will keep the conversation going in Swedish for as long as possible. Initially I thought I would just be wasting people's time if I insisted on using my slow, bad Swedish, but now I realise that is nonsense. Everybody wants to hear others learning their language, especially if it is as small and uncommon (and funny sounding) as Swedish.

So for now I'm happy. The chance to learn a foreign language and to actually immerse myself in it was one of the main reasons I was so excited about coming to this country, and now after nearly a year it is finally starting to happen!


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