- -  Day # 67  + +

EU > Sweden > G?vle

Speaking Swedish

G?vle, SE (View on map)

As a foreign tourists in Sweden, basic knowledge of English will be sufficient to get you around the country. While many other countries struggle to improve education in foreign languages, Swedes take pride in speaking the accent of their choice in English. Making a difference requires a second or possibly even third foreign language. A bless for tourists, but what does the Swedish language itself actually look like?

Marita (26):

`I speak English, French and Finnish and would like to learn Portuguese`
Compared to Finnish and Estonian, Swedish is a fairly easy language to learn. Grammar is simple with no cases. Even verbs don`t conjugate. Compare it to: I am, you am, he am, we am, you am, they am. Obviously, there are different tenses, but these do not change along with the subject either. Like in English, there is only one form for you. Regardless of gender, social class, marital status or age, the other person is du. Titles are often left out, because it`s easier and helps reduce differences between people to a minimum.

Swedish as a whole is a very efficient language. Many words are compositions other words. In adjectives for example, the opposite of many words is simply composed by putting `o` (un-) in front. The word for grandchild is barnbarn: two times the word child behind one another. `Please` and `thank you` are compiled into the single word `tack`, which is widely used under any possible circumstance. You may be expected to specify what you actually thank the person for, a random `tack` risks disappearing in the blue.

Words and expressions
Some Swedish words risk being recognised across the globe. `Skol` for cheers and `kn?ckebr?d` for dry crackers. Swedes further like to tease foreigners with their unpronounceable G-sound in `sjukhus` (hospital). The devil is also likely to take a glance around the corner: hell and its protector form the basis of the most popular curses.

When I ask people for popular expressions, they spontaneously come up with sayings that refer to people judging on each other`s behaviour. `Hon ?r inte alla h?star hemma`, suggests Terrie (41). The sentence literally translates as `She does not have all the horses at home`, meaning she`s a little crazy or doesn`t behave properly. Another saying tells people that they should not think they are worth anything. It is one of the popular Jantelagar, the commandments of modesty. The Jantelager preach equality and reasonable behaviour towards one another. Today is definitely not the first time I come across them, in the same way as the struggle for equality has been coming back throughout all articles about Sweden.

Other languages
Swedish is quite similar to German and Dutch and even very similar to the neighbours` Norwegian and Danish. Norwegian is thought of by Swedish as possibly the most happy language in the world, while Danish is mostly thought of as a retard version of Swedish. When Swedes speak English, you can most of the time recognise them for not being able to pronounce the English Z (becomes S) or words starting with G or J (becomes Y). The English combination th also gives some Swedes a hard time and the word kilometre may also come out wrong. As said, Swedes take pride in their language and in the foreign ones they speak in addition to it. There seems to be no fear whatsoever for the Swedish language to become a marginal sublanguage, even though some frequently used English words have Swedish alternatives to them. A computer, for example, is referred to as a dator. Most of the time, the Swedish words is the same as the English one, but spelled in such a way that is can be recognised as a Swedish word.

Marita (26, photo) tells me that English courses start when you are 10 years old. French is added at the age of 12, and those who wish have easy access to German and Spanish from the same age onwards. Marita herself likes the sound of Portuguese, although she does not speak it herself. The foreign languages she does speak include English, French and Finnish. As a singer-songwriter, she uses English to accompany her melodies. Swedish remains her favourite for writing poetry and everything that is designed to be read rather than listened to.

Foreigners learning Swedish are likely to meet the biggest challenge in pronouncing the words right. For consonants, that`s the combination sj which is pronounced almost like a Spanish J. The combination rt also produces a sound that is not very familiar in other languages. Vowels can be long or short and change whenever marked with an accent. Be prepared to find differences depending in regional accents from North to South and from East to West.

Finding the right stress is quite a task as well: there is no fixed location like in Finnish (first syllable), French (last) or Spanish (one-but-last). Guess your way around! And be puzzled when somebody from the North of Sweden inhales a tiny bit of air in reply to what you just said. It is a wordless way of saying that whatever you just said is agreed on.

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