Thursday, May 26, 2005

Swedish Lessons

I started taking Swedish lessons on Tuesday at the Folksuniversitet in downtown Stockholm. The course costs money but is attended by professionals instead of migrants like the SFI courses (which I can't get into until late August because everyone takes the summer off in Sweden). So far the course I am taking is good. The SFI course is funded by the government but is supposed to be appalling and the school is located out in Hagalund, which is Swedish for bumfuck nowhere.

I decided to take the course because I have been meeting a lot of Americans that have lived here for many years and still don't know basic Swedish. I know that sounds unreasonable but it really isn't.

The thing that bothers me is that they are so damn defensive about it.

"There is no need for me to speak Swedish. Everyone speaks English here."

"I speak English in the workplace and my wife is from the States. So speaking Swedish is out of the question."

"English is the international language. Just count yourself lucky you don't have to speak Swedish."

"My girlfriend and I spoke English for three years in America before we moved here. So why change now?"

I feel the truth is more like this:

"I tried speaking Swedish once but I couldn't. I sounded like an bumbling immigrant."

I admit its nice to be amongst Europeans versus Americans at the Folksuniversitet. Some of the students only plan on being in Sweden for a few months in total... and they are still taking classes. All of them speak their own language (duh) , English and at least another one like French or German. So that renders the Americans excuses null and void.

Why won't Americans learn languages? What the hell is wrong with us? Are we a bunch of xenophobes? I guess that answer to that is obvious.


Darren said...

Love your blog Sloth. We've got a similar sense of humour - are you sure we're not related?

I'm also blogging about living in Sweden (although I actually live in UmeƄ, which really is bumfuck nowhere!)

Drop by my blog at

As a fellow drinker, you might have some contenders for the best pub in Stockholm.....

myke said...

Sloth -- I for one would love to learn another language but I have to say this ... I'm terrible at it. I've tried two different courses while in university with both spanish & french and didn't do well with either. I don't know why but it was hard hard hard for me.

BTW -- if you still need help with moderators over at the bbofbb, I'll lend a hand. I used to moderate a board once many moons ago so I don't think it would be much to get used to the little quirks of phpBB again. just let me know.

Dafydd said...

Nice post Larry. Although it's true that some people genuinely experience problems learning other languages I think with Americans (and most Brits) it's more a case of linguistic apathy. So few British people speak any of the major European languages it's obscene.

Francis S. said...

I've had such a struggle with the language, which is crazy because it really is almost as close to English as another language could be, in terms of grammar structure and vocabulary. But it took 4-5 years before I really understood pretty much everything and could speak more or less fluently, albeit with a certain number of mistakes. But I'm still not at home in the language. And, we've given up trying to speak Swedish when we're home alone. And for my best friends, I've never gone over to Swedish either...

But, while I felt exactly the same way you do when I arrived, I'm no longer judgemental about people who never make the switch. It secretly makes me feel superior; of course I feel inferior to all those people who speak wonderful Swedish even though they've been here either less or not much more time than I have. My excuse is always that I'm an old fart: how do you expect someone to pick up a new language for the first time at age 40?