I learn Swedish. I go to classes and everything. I’m not entirely sure why, but hey, it keeps me out of trouble. (Actually, I am sure why: once upon a time I developed an unhealthy obsession with Alexander Skarsgård which lent itself to a slightly more healthy obsession with Sweden and I still entertain ideas in my head of being swept off my feet by a tall Viking type. Also, it’s high-LAR-ious to listen to.)
Of course, Swedes speak English a bajillion times better than I could ever hope to speak their tongue, so it’s all in vain to be honest. But I try!
I thought Swedish would be easy. It has the same sentence structure as English about 7 out of 10 times, it has no verb conjunctions (you remember the hours of chanting ‘Je suis, tu es…’ in a stuffy classroom, yes? Swedish has none of that!) and it’s Germanic, like English. HOW HARD CAN IT BE? I thought. (Always a mistake. Has Top Gear taught me NOTHING?!)
Very FUCKING hard, it turns out.
Last night we were learning about passive verbs. Oh god. They don’t exist in English. At least not how they do in Swedish. But I thought I was getting it in class. I sit up the front like a teacher’s pet, and I sat there, nodding my head like a nodding dog (or an idiot) because YES! I totally got it!
And I come to do my homework after the class and… NO! I totally don’t get it!
And the internet is very patronising:
This passive construction is very simple to make in Swedish: You just add an –s to the other endings of the verb.
Does. Not. Help.
There are lots of other quirks in Swedish like this. They’re a fan of adding things to the end of words up north. (So much so that you end up with words like ansökningshandlingar which means ‘application documents’, according to Google.) I’d write them down, but I can’t, because I’ve forgotten them all. But I think they add a -t to a word when it becomes an adverb. Or something. And there are special rules when it comes to secondary clauses, which I think means a sentence that can’t stand on its own, but who really knows. It doesn’t help that my knowledge of grammar goes no further than knowing that “a verb is a doing word, an adjective is a describing word and a noun is a naming word.”
I’m pretty intelligent and I know my apostrophes, but man, I’m an embarrassment when it comes to primary school English.
Swedes also have different forms of ‘you’ – sort of like the difference between ‘I’ (jag) and ‘me’ (mig), they have ‘du’ (you) and ‘dig’ (you). I haven’t had too much trouble with this one, but success is still only achieved when I think about it in English first, which I’m pretty sure is not the goal when learning a language.
This is why I hold people who aren’t monolingual in high esteem. Because this shit is hard! I suppose ease comes when you start thinking in Swedish, instead of in English and then translating it to Swedish, because a language can never be translated fully. I put this down as the reason that the Millennium trilogy is so mind-numbing, but that’s probably more to do with my attention span than anything else.
But I stick with it because when you finally get something; when you watch a Swedish film and notice the subtitles have been mistranslated (surprisingly common) or when you ask a Swedish bus driver where the tunnelbana (underground) is and they commend you on your accent – it’s worth it. All the frustration, the headaches and the tongue twisting. Learning a language actually becomes fun!
I shall leave with you my favourite stupid Swedish song. You’ll even learn some.
All together now!
Ett, två, tre, fanta och rosé
En, två, tre, ge mig fanta och rosé
En, två, tre, fanta och rosé
En, två, tre, alla brudar ner på knä.