The journal of language rookie Patrick Reilly

Day 22 – A Mongolian St. Paddy’s Day

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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