• Sweden's news in English


The journal of language rookie Patrick Reilly

Day 29 – Farewell but not Hej då

May 10th, 2010 by swedetalker

Old father time has caught me up with me readers. Due to circumstances beyond my control I’ve been forced to abandon my Swedish studies for the time being…and flee the country. My ultimate goal was to write an article in svenska when I completed the course in the summer but for now my accomplishment is scribbling an email with poor grammar to my teacher. I’ve enclosed it below for your amusement and yes I know it sounds like I’m on the run like the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music. I will post a proper update in the next few days to bring you all up to speed with what’s happened as trust me there is a lot to tell.

Hej Britt Marie

Det är slut! Jag måste flytta till Irland tidigt i morgon bitti. Jag vet inte när jag kommer tillbaka till Sverige just nu. Min flickvän söker job i Irland, Storbritannien, överallt! Ingen job för journalists i Sverige därför måste vi flytta.

Jag kommer att sakna SFI och minna nya klasskamrater. Tack för allt, du är en jätte bra lärare.

Ha det bra


P.S. Jag ska plugga svenska på Irland. Jag lovar :)

P.P.S. Jag ska titta svenska hollywood fruar på internet varje vecka!

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Day 28 – I’m Still Alive!

May 4th, 2010 by swedetalker

Rumours of my demise from Swedeland are incredibly premature. Yes I did sneak over to Germany to stock up on booze, which you’ll be reading about on this fine site, but despite some wild speculation I didn’t remain in the fatherland and start up a new blog called ‘Germtalker.’ That just sounds plain weird. Raus.

Two weeks have passed since that day trip to Sassnitz. I accompanied a bunch of auld fellas for the trip and got the chance to practice my svenska with the gamla gubbar. Quite a day was had but I must confess that was the last time I really tried to speak my adopted tongue. Since then I’ve been snowed under at home and had to skip class on more occasions than I would like to disclose. In a few wee hours I’m going to return and frankly I don’t feel optimistic. All I can cling onto is that I’ve had Gomorron Sverige on in the background while I beaver away at the laptop. There was a great segment last week about a famous Danish TV presenter who was parachuted into Malmö for a day and ended up in a local family’s house surrounded by kids playing the guitar. I’ve no idea what his name is so perhaps you can help? It was on last Friday.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow eh ;-/

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Day 27 – Where Did It Go?

April 14th, 2010 by swedetalker

After the breakthrough of last week the first few days of class have been a bit of a struggle. Over the weekend I indulged in more Swedish guilty TV pleasures (‘Så ska det låta’ och ‘Svenska Hollywoodfruar’) hoping that the immersion would continue. It hasn’t at least not that I’m aware of. I’m up to speed with the shopping habits of spoilt brats in California but my Swedish hasn’t improved. Jag är ledsen :(

Perhaps it was expecting a bit much that I could  just start nailing everything correctly on my return to the classroom. Things aren’t flowing the way they were a week ago but on the positive side my reluctance to speak remains a thing of the past. Even started to initiate conversation with Mrs Swedetalker’s auld lad in svenska, who chides me for my dialect, which is a bit rich coming from him. Today we had a chinwag about his booze cruise to Germany next week and whether I can squeeze into his jeep for the adventure with some of his pals. As it doesn’t fall on a school day chances are I’ll tag along for the ride which will also give me an opportunity to practice my limited Swedish with some proper Skåninger. With a bit of luck the billigt öl från Tyskland will loosen up the vocal chords although I’ll spare you all my singing voice.

Bring on tomorrow!

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Day 26 – The Miracle Of Malmö

April 10th, 2010 by swedetalker

Something strange has happened. It’s weird, peculiar, just downright odd. I can’t properly explain it but hang in there as I’m going to try as best I can to document my most memorable week of class.

After missing two weeks of lessons I was convinced I’d be relegated out of the group. Going back on Tuesday was difficult as I’d convinced myself that I’d forgotten everything and would be ritually humiliated (something involved whips presumably) in the weekly conversation part of the lessons. During my two week absence I wasn’t arsed to even open a book or speak a word of my supposed new language.

Nail chewing time in other words.

Our first two lessons were fine as the countdown to the dreaded conversation reached its climax. Then something happened when our quintet were dragged to the ‘bunker’ to be interrogated by a pensioner. Suddenly I was speaking without a trace of nerves, the angst ridden ‘please don’t say anything to me in svenska or I will die phase’ had amazingly passed. I was on a roll! This session lasts for an hour and I must have ranted on for a good 20 minutes or so. Don’t ask me what I was talking about but it all made sense at the time. The old lady kept prompting  me and somehow the words kept coming. I simply can’t explain how this occurred but it did and has continued ever since. Tis madness I tells ye.

Let’s be clear though, the Swedish I’m speaking is nowhere near perfect and is riddled with basic errors like mixing up the tenses and poor grammar BUT I have overcome the barrier. Now I actually WANT to speak and raise my hand to volunteer answers. Last time I raised my hand was to walk out of the Leaving Cert exam over a decade ago. New words and phrases are popping into my mind and I can feel that I’m REALLY learning. I can communicate. What the hell is going on?

Mrs Swedetalker has assured me that my brain has been soaking the lingo up like a sponge. I’m learning by, erm, not learning in some bizarre way. Perhaps I’ve been listening to too much tactical insight from former Swedish star Glenn Strömberg on Viasat Futbol but the svenska is sinking in somewhere. It has to be as I’m understandings things. When I’m working I usually have the TV or the radio on in the background and most days I glance through the local newspapers. By osmosis the transformation from anxious pupil to swedetalker is actually taking place. For someone who has never been able to communicate, even at the most basic level in a second language, please excuse my obvious astonishment at the events of the past week.

As I type I’m watching ‘Kunskapkanalen’ where there is some interview going on. All the other channels are broadcasting programmes in English so I’m forced to endure this tripe. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I wouldn’t dream of saying I’m thinking in Swedish when I’m in the shower. Heaven forbid…

P.S. The blog secret is out from my classmates. One of my learned friends discovered me on the auld interweb and the word has been spread. Even my teacher (hej snygging) is counted among the readers. Uh-oh

P.P.S. Word of the day ‘elak’ meaning evil or wicked. I was kidding around with a classmate who took offence when I used it and a potential diplomatic crisis nearly kicked off. Fortunately it was nipped in the bud before the U.N. had to be alerted.

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Day 25 – The Birthday Cake Challenge

April 5th, 2010 by swedetalker

Förlåt mig. My recent updates have been about as frequent as sightings of Elvis. No, I take that back as the King has been spotted in Malmö at least five times in the past fortnight. Rumour has it he has blagged a job at Hemköp working in the bakery section. Apparently sju bullar are always on his mind.

The sluggish blogginess (nya ord) is due to my absence from lovely Swedeland for a portion of the last few weeks. Having rocked back into town the auld svenska is getting rusty and erm, I haven’t been to class for a fortnight. Yikes. That didn’t cut any slack with the relatives of Mrs Swedetalker who dropped by earlier for some birthday cake (not mine in case you were thinking of putting some strumpor in the post) where I was mercilessly tested by the inquisitive Auntie. ‘Speak Swedish’ she commanded in her best headmistress tone whereupon I was forced to explain how I’ve progressed since we last locked horns at Christmas to the amusement of the gathered family who had one eye on the cake and coffee on the table.

Twas the first time I’d really spoken Swedish for a while and while my nerves remained I apparently sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Being away from the classroom has definitely made me anxious for tomorrow’s return but dare I say it I think I’ve still learnt a bit in my time away. Swedish is no longer this alien beast designed to confuse, bemuse and mystify. Instead of worrying of sounding like a ham sandwich I’m slowly getting over the hurdle of speaking in public and my comprehension is improving all the time. Perhaps tomorrow will be a rude awakening but I’m convinced of something – I am learning. (Ed: Keep telling yourself that Swedetalker)

I did pass the birthday cake challenge just in case you were wondering. The eating part mind you 😉

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Day 24 – Call The Police!

March 24th, 2010 by swedetalker

I’d like to report a crime. It occurred this morning in central Malmö. The offence – butchering the Swedish language.  Victim remains in shock. Perpetrator currently at large.

Now before you alert the authorities I am kidding. As always. Leaving lovely ‘Malmuh’ this morning I encountered another example of bizarre Swedish bureaucracy swiftly followed by some generosity. A brainwave to introduce a London oyster card system on the local buses has been a hit BUT for some reason at certain parts of the day you can’t pay for a regular fare with cash. Beats me. Rushing to catch an early flight I was denied access to the bus as I didn’t have said card with credit and was forced to plead my case in svenska to the hapless driver who clearly didn’t speak a word of English. Whether it was because he understood me or felt sorry for my plight he told me to sit down and ride the bus for free :)

On the flight the dramas didn’t end as some lady had managed to worm her way onto the plane using a day old ticket before it was discovered and promptly flung off. In fairness it seemed like an honest mistake but a pretty shocking lapse of security nonetheless. Anyway, this gave me the time to listen to some annoying Danish teenagers sitting in front of me. God I am a whine today. At first I couldn’t discern the difference between Swedish and Danish but now I can identify those bacon munchers at the drop of a hat.

Cows + Eating + Potatoes = Danish. At least the irritating teenage version. My cruel Swedish friends kindly pointed out that Danish people sound like they have potatoes in their mouth when speaking. Harsh but I’m starting to think they are right. I can’t understand a word and this particular teenager had an accent so hideous I considered smacking him in the back of the head more than once. It was all mooooo and goooo. I’m getting angry just thinking about it. Better stop then. Check out this clip for an idea of what I’m on about.

Now back in an English speaking land for a few days I encountered some Swedes outside Marks & Spencer earlier. Hearing the language seems natural now and was a pleasant contrast to the ‘Am I bovvered’ row I overheard moments before. Think I’m already starting to miss Sweden…

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Day 23 – I’m Tired Of Being Cute

March 23rd, 2010 by swedetalker

Yes ladies you did read that right. I am growing increasingly weary of being referred to as ‘cute’ and prompting collective ‘aahhs’ when I butcher yet another svensk ord. An American, who is also learning the language, pointed this out to me the other day and now I’m hyper aware I’ll get the ‘duktig pojke’ treatment every time I even try to say something in Swedish. It’s bad enough that everybody here speaks English better than I do but the collective pity when I screw something up is getting rather tiresome.

Since my last post we’ve had a quiz in the classroom where we had to use our new vocabulary to nominate words in an alphabet game. I say game but this was no timid contest, more like downright warfare as each table guarded their answers as if their life and last semla depended on it. On our table we scribbled furiously when each letter was nominated and in each case we had to have a word for a fruit or vegetable, an adjective, an item of clothing, a body part and an animal. Still awake? Right, so were romping away in the lead until the dreaded ä came up which knocked our score down a tad. Even it my contribution was marginal (I held our spare pen) it was fun to be part of a team although we did eventually finish second. In the mayhem of our defeat I acquired a new word, ‘fuska.’ Go figure.

All of which brings us up to the present day. Not a great deal to report from our first lesson of the week which this time round is my only one as I am leaving the classroom behind for a few days. As per normal I am bricking it that I will forget everything that I have, ahem, learned and return to find a rather large hat marked with the letter D on my desk.

Must dash the final semla of the year awaits…

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Day 22 – A Mongolian St. Paddy’s Day

March 18th, 2010 by swedetalker

During my misspent ‘yoof’ when I should have been learning Irish and French we used to quip the most random place you could be sent was outer Mongolia. Yesterday on the day my patron saint and namesake was being celebrated I found myself breaking bread with a classmate who hails from the country which has Ulan Bator as its capital. Yes I did Wikipedia that. Just to spice things up he knows as much as English as I do Gaeilge (that is feic all) so we were forced to communicate in a language we both know – Swedish – or to put it better a language he knows far better than me. Let the hilarity begin.

Having never communicated with my classmate before this was a daunting task yet I discovered we were both equally nervous and once the proverbial ice was broken we were spieling away. Our teacher got us to work together describing things we are afraid of ‘Vad är du rädd för?’ where I waxed lyrical about my fear of finding a horse’s head at the bottom of my bed and found out that new Mongolian friend fears neither death nor the dark. He was kind enough to omit chatting to random Irishman from his list. For the words neither of us understood we drew so I scribbled a cemetery (kyrkogården) made a balls of a crocodile (krokodiler) where my Dutch classmate intervened and produced something Van Gogh would be proud of. Multi-lingual and an artist too. Is there no end to the list of talents my classmates have? And yes it is annoying.

Things went well with the Mongolian so he joined a handful of us for our fika break. It was quite a bizarre sight to witness an Aussie, a Greek, a Romanian, a Paddy and a Mongolian standing around making polite small talk in our new language, like something from a comedy sketch. As we were outside braving the cold the janitor could overhear our conversation as he was on his rounds and turned around swiftly after hearing one nugget, I thought he was going to mock our bad grammar but instead he pointed out that you couldn’t smoke in that part of the school. Instead he pointed to a place about 12 yards away where it was permitted. Daft Swedish bureaucracy at it’s best or should I say worst.

P.S. The test results came back and my confidence was misplaced as I chalked up a miserable 10/25 being soundly thrashed by our top Polish pupils who even gave me a pity smile. Not sure what’s worse being pitied or laughed at. Ending on a positive note I think I’ve made a breakthrough with the grammar…

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Day 21 – Juvenile Behaviour

March 16th, 2010 by swedetalker

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I am in fact 28-years of age and not 12. Today in our weekly conversation class we were having a polite chat about Swedish customs when the word ‘prick’ entered the lexicon which in my adopted tongue means to ‘arrive on the dot’ being the timely Scandinavians and all. Our conversationalist kept emphasizing the ‘ick’ and it was inevitable I was going to crack, while my Croatian classmate who was au fait with the word, broke into hysterics also. I managed to explain in my limited svenska that in English it means something altogether different and then we all wet ourselves laughing. The joys of adulthood.

We’ve now progressed onto Kurs C and to celebrate we had a minitest. Today’s one went better than previous attempts as we had to use our imagination to complete sentences plus we had to recite the parts of the body. Went pretty well but then again I’ve said that before. By the time we complete this section in May I should be able understand forms, send a text and have some ‘kunskap’ of my new country beyond that of Abba and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Speaking remains the hardest part for me but yesterday I did overcome a tiny mental block by asking for cash back in the local supermarket in svenska. My heart was pounding as I expected the cashier to hand me my immigration forms if I screwed up but I wormed my way through and left my second home of Hemköp with a spring in my step. If you’re wondering why I spend an eternity in a supermarket it’s because I’m usually handed a list in Swedish and spend an age trying to remember the figure out the difference between ananas and banan.

Speaking of which I must make a swift dash as I hear there is a sale on Skånerost…

P.S. Picked up a copy of 8 Sidor in the school library. I hope I’m not imbuing the work of their newscrew but they’ve produced a quick, easy read which is ideal for us beginners. You can listen to the news on their website which is valuable way of learning and NO I’m not after a job with them. Ye cynics.

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Day 20 – A Major Change Required

March 9th, 2010 by swedetalker

In the immortal of words of John Major ‘it is time to get back to basics.’ Today was not good. Not good at all. Allow me to elaborate.

In our second session of the day our teacher asked us to work in pairs to complete a relatively routine exercise which was describing items in a typical Swedish kitchen. Now my classmate and I weren’t exactly au fait with what we had to do and to put it frankly, we made an absolute balls of it. A double act of Stevie Wonder and David Blunkett would have done better than us chancers.  At one point we started to draw random kitchen appliances in our notebooks. Embarrassing.

Twould be nice to think that was the nadir of the day but it got even worse in our weekly conversation class where a polite old lady attempts to gauge us into speaking Svenska. I hesitated with my answers and generally struggled to understand a word this old dear was rambling on about. I think she mentioned knitting at one point but then again I did resemble a lost boy in need of assistance. Bloody hell my head hurts…

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