• Sweden edition
 
Learning Swedish from Russia with love

Learning Swedish from Russia with love

Published: 14 Mar 2013 14:30 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Mar 2013 14:30 GMT+01:00

Marina Astashevskaya may not have perfect Swedish herself, but when it comes to her students' learning, she is a perfectionist.

"Do you say 'He's a widower or he's widowed' in Swedish?" she asks on the phone from Kaliningrad.

"They both look right. I'm not going to say it to my students unless I'm certain it's correct."

Since February, Astashevskaya has been meticulously teaching the finer points of Scandinavia's most widely spoken language to a class of almost 30 Russians.

But why are dozens of local Russians so keen to learn a language that’s essentially only spoken by nine million people in one cold country to the north?

"There's a whole range of reasons why they want to learn Swedish," the 27–year-old teacher explains.

"Some are older grandparents with family over in Sweden. Their children have married Swedes and have had kids of their own. But these kids don't always end up learning Russian."

As a result, there is a communication barrier between the Russians and their own grandchildren, Astashevskaya explains.

"So some of my students want to learn Swedish as it's the only way they can communicate with their grandchildren.

"But it's not just for family. Some of the students want to be travel to Sweden and actually converse with the shopkeepers, the locals. And some just find the language exotic."

But Swedish language courses abroad don't stop in just Kaliningrad. Students around Europe are flocking to similar classes, according to Erika Lyly, a language advisor and linguist from the Swedish Language Council (Språkrådet).

"Universities are really into teaching Swedish right now. There's a strong background in Swedish culture to thank, with (author) Astrid Lindgren and (director) Ingmar Bergman of course," she tells The Local.

"But it's also become a language for people wanting to talk business with Swedes. Another benefit is that Swedish is also understood in Norway, and some parts of Finland."

When told of the Kaliningrad classroom, Lyly says the story is "moving", and that it's the first time she's heard of older students wanting to learn Swedish to bridge a love-refugee gap.

"But I do know that Swedish lessons are getting more and more popular in Russia, with university courses in both Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Many people learn for business purposes, but there are also a lot of Russians who get married to Swedes and want to learn the language before they come here."

Astashevskaya herself is a fan of the vernacular, and picked it up almost fluently over eighteen months while exploring and studying in eastern Sweden.

"Swedish sounds like a melody when you listen to it, and it was easy for me to learn because I already know English and German," she explains.

Now back in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea, the 27-year-old runs the classes voluntarily, with no funding for any official textbooks.

While she occasionally asks students for some small change to cover printing costs, Astashevskaya runs the whole thing in her own time and mostly from her own pocket. She puts together worksheets and even audio tapes from memory, online courses, and her extensive class notes from her own time in Sweden.

"My style involves a much more creative approach and the students respond really well to it," she beams.

The other students in her class, which is held twice a week in a library in central Kaliningrad, range in age from as young as 13 to as old as 65.

She even teaches a mother and daughter who are both obsessed with what they call a Nordic "paradise" and who plan to eventually relocate to Stockholm. It's only a matter of time to determine if they can get residence permits, Astashevskaya explains.

While the 27-year-old teaches students who don’t know a word of Swedish, she finds that the class members are all quick to learn.

"They want to speak a third language. They usually speak English, German, or Polish and want to use their time to pick up another one."

The best thing about her class, according to Astashevskaya, is that the students are motivated more than the typical language student in Sweden. They have come by choice, she says.

Astashevskaya, meanwhile, who doesn't pocket a single rouble for her work, admits that she heads home after each lesson with a smile on her face.

"I've always enjoyed helping people, even with the knowledge that I'm not getting anything for it," she tells The Local.

"But knowing that these Swedish lessons may help my students in the future in some way is enough to leave me satisfied."

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Preschool teacher arrested for child rape
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape

A man has been arrested on the suspicion of raping a child at the preschool where he is employed. READ  

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting
Police at the scene. Photo: Niklas Luks/TT

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting

Seventeen people were arrested during the early hours of Tuesday after a man was shot dead in central Sweden. Several of the suspects were already known to the police for gang crimes. READ  

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

A 35-year-old woman faces charges for aggravated narcotic crimes after police found 15 kilogrammes of unusually high-concentrated cocaine in her car. READ  

Opinion
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

Back home in the US and with a solid Swedish stint under his belt, contributor Steven Schier has listed what he thinks are the six biggest differences between Sweden and the states. READ  

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert
Terrorism expert Ranstorp and a policeman in Norway. Photos: TT

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism expert has come forward criticizing the way Norway has handled its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total problem in intelligence". READ  

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

A nurse in southern Sweden has been reported for abuse at a senior care centre after she allegedly waved to a colleague with the hand of a recently-dead resident. READ  

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo
Plopp and Polly, the offspring of Pandora the panda. Photo: Kolmården

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo

A pair of red panda cubs have been born in central Sweden, a wildlife park announced on Monday. READ  

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

The Green Party's views are 88.6 percent "LGBT-friendly", a Swedish LGBT rights group claimed on Monday, making the Greens the most gay-friendly of all Sweden's parliamentary parties. READ  

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife
Police on the scene. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife

Updated: Police arrested a man in Copenhagen on the suspicion of killing his wife, whose body was found at the couple's home in southern Sweden during the weekend. READ  

Arlanda, Stockholm
Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Swedes bound for New York learned on Monday morning that their plane had been cancelled after it was hit by lightning during Sunday's thunderstorm. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

729
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se