Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) was something I have always intended on taking once I arrived in Stockholm. Over the years, I’ve done some studying on my own with Rosetta Stone, and even attended a few classes in Seattle at the Scandinavian Language Institute (SLI). Rosetta Stone was a good start but the challenge and effectiveness dropped off by the second level. The classes at SLI were terrible, and I lay all of the blame on the teacher (as nice as he was), who was scattered, absent minded, half deaf, and had absolutely NO lesson plan. In preparing myself for SFI over the past week or two, I had read more about the program on a few blogs and was disappointed to hear many people make the same complaints: unstructured and ineffective. But, being that the courses are free, I’m most certainly going to give them a shot.
I hopped on the metro and got off the red line at Zinkensdamm. From there, it was about a two block walk down Hornsgatan to the SFI office. The office is on the 3rd floor of Hornsgatan 124, and upon walking in, I took a number and sat down. There were many people in the waiting area- almost every seat was taken. I waited 10, maybe 15 minutes for my number to come up, and then proceeded to the reception counter. I had expected to need just my personnummer and my passport, but when the woman saw the temporary ID card document that I had received at Skatteverket, she didn’t even look at my passport. She typed some information into her computer and told me to have a seat, that I would be called shortly. Maybe 5 or 10 minutes later, a woman came out and called my name and had me follow her to an office. She spoke to me almost entirely in Swedish.
I tried my best to answer her questions. I could actually understand a lot of what she was saying, but had trouble responding appropriately and so, for most of the conversation, I answered her in English. She asked me things like how long had I been in Sweden, why I was here, if I was working, about my prior educational background, and my Swedish language exposure. After a few minutes, she led me back through the waiting area to another room where I was to take a placement test. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this test. None of the blogs I had read gave any indication of what it was like, and the woman had only described it in Swedish and quite vaguely. The small room was packed with several rows of computers on long tables that were sectioned off by small dividers. It was your basic testing room.
SFI is made up of 4 levels: A, B, C, and D. The first two levels are reserved for people with little to no educational background, who speak no Swedish, and little to no English. I was to test for placement in levels C or D. The test started off with a 4 or 5 paragraph mini-essay where a girl writes about herself. At key points in the essay, there are blank spots marked by yellow question marks. Upon clicking on them, a pop-up window would display a few possible statements that would complete the sentence. Pick the appropriate answer and move on. The essay was rather advanced, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was testing at the upper half of the curriculum. Other sections in the test required me to read various things and answer questions about the information within, while others, still, had me listen to audio and then answer questions. These were stressful because the volume was very low on the headphones, there was no way to turn it up, and you are only able to listen to the audio files twice. The final section of the test asked me to write a short bio and touch on specific topics. By the time I got to this section, I had probably been sitting in the testing room for at least an hour (maybe longer), and I was so ready to be done.
Upon completing the test, I took yet another number and sat back out in the waiting area. It was a little past 1pm (I had arrived there around 11am), and now it was standing room only as I waited for my result number to come up. This took only about 5 minutes or so, and I was led back to an office with another SFI rep. After more than an hour of reading, listening, and thinking in Swedish, I was much more comfortable answering his questions in Swedish, which was encouraging as, after three weeks in Sweden, I have yet to carry on a single Swedish conversation. The rep told me that I tested above SFI level in the listening section, which was surprising to me. I tested at level D in reading, and level C in writing and speaking. After a short discussion, the man decided it would be best to place me in the final unit of C level. I chose to attend the afternoon classes (1pm-5pm) at the Högdalen location (which is near where I live). My classes start on the 14th or April.
So, that’s yet another item to check off the list. I’ll, of course, go into much more detail about the program once I’ve attended at least a few classes, so stay tuned!