Language Barriers.


It has been said that trying to learn Swedish in Sweden is very hard to do.

Generally immersing yourself in a country is a good way to learn the language, but in Sweden the moment they hear you speak English, then they speak English. It’s not so much a second language over there, but a joint fist language nowadays.

To get in to college or university you must be fluent in English (so Alex will be fine!). If I understand correctly, the first language officially taught as a subject at school is English, then Swedish.

That being said, if you speak the language (or at least try) then you will be accepted to a greater extent than if you simply expect everyone to talk to you in English.

Certain nuances are lost in translation. Imagine a funny joke being stripped down to basics and then being read back by a person who has a reduced vocabulary and isn’t quite sure of the tone and sound of the words. This is how your English can come across in translation, and even though the story may be understood, the actually humour is lost.

There is a fish tank and it has two goldfish in. One of them asks how to drive a tank.

It’s all there… It’s just not funny. You need to buy in to the language to fully buy in to the country – and the language is pretty cool once you get in to it.

My trouble though is memory issues. I can listen to audio book lessons in 5 minute tutorials, and by the end when a quick pop quiz is given to test the couple of words I have been taught, I’ve already lost them from my head.

This is where immersion in the language works well. It hammers it home (probably using Mjölnir) if you can learn and try in real situations every day.


Anyway, I’m hammering away at the lessons, and little bits are sticking. Not as much as I’d like, but something is better than nothing. I’ve noticed certain words and sounds are similar to variations of the same word in English. This is due primarily to a great deal of English being born of the Viking traders and raiders that took over all but a little of England from 793AD onwards.

For example:

Can you speak English?
Kan du prata engelska?

It’s not a great leap from ‘can you’ to ‘Kan du’, and ‘prata’ is similar to ‘prattle ‘or ‘project’ as an alternate to speak. ‘Engleska’ is pretty simple in its own right.

‘Hello’ is ‘Hej’ (hey), so that’s simple enough. ‘Goodbye’ is ‘Hej hej’ – which is again, not to tricky to take on board after all, to hellos making a goodbye is like two wrongs making a right or something…

‘Tack’ is one of my favourite words. It is used for please and thank you. Similar to ‘ta much’, so that’s how I remember it.

There are variations depending on the level of thanks. ‘Tack’ on its own is quite formal (thank you), where ‘Tacka’ is more sociable (thanks!). ‘tack så mycket’ is a deeper thanks (thank you very much). Deeper still and you can show gratitude by saying ‘Tack, tack så mycket’ (thank you, thank you very much).

Little bits like that are quite easy. One word that can be used in subtle variations to mean a range of things. Not so hard to remember. In fact ‘tack’ can be used to buy things just by pointing & saying ‘tack’. It will get you by, and you’ll be respected a little more for trying.

Yet my memory is dire. It’s fine that I can tell you these things now, and those few words took a week to sink in, with about 4 hours of audio tape on repeat… I need a better way. I need to fix my memory!


Oddly, watching the TV series ‘Vikings’ about Ragnar Lothbrok (a composite of various historic Viking figures who features in several Nordic poems and sagas) helps a bit. When they are talking in the Norse language (Swedish is similar to Danish, Finnish & Norweigian, and as such can be understood across the board to a point) there are words that I am slowly picking out. Also with the ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ in its original Swedish version (so much better!), I watch with subtitles, but am finding I can pick words out. It’s a long way from understanding what is being said, or being able to have a conversation, but the blocks are there to build on.


I shall keep you up to date as we learn more!

Hej hej.