Swedes and English: when things go wrong

Joel Linde
Joel Linde - [email protected]
Swedes and English: when things go wrong

Swedes are generally thought of as speaking English fairly well, but for some, the pressure to perform can be too much, proving that not everyone can defend the flattering reputation Swedes have of being bilingual masters.


Below, The Local has compiled a number of YouTube clips to visualize things that can go terribly wrong in the meshing of the two very different languages.

This Swedish gentleman is trying his best to explain his political convictions in English. One wonders whether it's merely the language, or the views themselves that are muddled.

This next clip, from 2010, is perhaps one of the most famous examples of a language foul-up due to a small blunder by Swede Carl-Henric Svanberg, chair of energy giant BP, as he tried in vain to give voice to his company's compassionate side following a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

For many Swedes, being British is strongly associated with being polite. At least it was when English was first introduced in Swedish schools in the 1940s, and it’s easy to see that conception sticking after clips like this.

One might think that an accomplished news anchor with Sveriges Television (SVT) would have no trouble using English when interviewing people outside of Sweden. But as anchor Rikard Palm demonstrates, even people who speak out loud for a living can get tripped up by tricky words.

The clip is from SVT talk show Robins during which Palm is talking about a call he made to hotel in Tokyo to get news about a recent earthquake because the Swedish embassy wouldn't pick up.


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