Jag kan inte Svenska! – I cannot speak Swedish.
This was the first Swedish sentence to survive in those dire ‘lost in translation’ moments. Sweden is one of the European countries where people are comfortable with the English language. You can find an English-speaking job; you can find friends and even a Swedish partner. But it is not that smooth! You will realize it when you will find yourself alone, bored, and awkward during different interactions. For example, your lunch breaks, fika breaks, parties, announcements at the station, and that random guy who will stop you on the street to ask directions and keep on talking until you tell them that – hey hey hey, jag kan inte svenska! He would probably pause, smile at you, and leave.
You will feel like a bad egg with whom every Swedish person is bound to speak English just because of your existence. Ouch! yeah. I found it extremely hard during gatherings. I saw that people were putting great effort into switching the languages just because of me. I was not able to understand different jokes and references. Somebody always had to translate everything for me. To be honest, it sucked! It was boring and tiring for both for me and others.
So finally I enrolled in SFI at the beginning of 2019
Besides English, I have never learned any other language, neither thought of doing it. I was nervous about it and was sure if I am capable of learning Swedish. But if I try to insert some positivity here then I will see it as a new year gift to myself. I decided to take an intensive course rather than going to the regular one. It was a full-time and highly intensive course. There were tons of reading material and writing exercises. The first three months, it was grammar. Then the focus moved to literature and essay writing. It took a year to have a decent level of understanding of the language. It was interesting to observe how people really speak and think. How language is impacted by their attitude and culture. It was extremely satisfying to see my own improvements. But it could not go that smooth. In the end, I was exhausted.
So, what went wrong?
After 4 to 5 months, I was not motivated anymore. I avoided doing my homework; I was not paying attention to the class. I was only focusing on getting the course done by doing compulsory exercises. That was a huge mistake. And the reason behind all this exhaustion was I started to expect so much from myself. I wanted to speak or write good Swedish! It became less of a hobby but an imposition on myself to fit in Swedish society and find a job. I understand people have trouble settling in a new country. Language is one of the main challenges. On top of that, immigration stress takes over the mind, financial situation, housing, and less social life can be a hurdle in the way of having fun. It is inevitable, but there are ways to fix it. In my case, I had to be true to myself that it takes time to speak a new language comfortably. I applied for the jobs where English is the required language than Swedish. In my field, luckily there were jobs in English. My strategy to continue learning was to read the literature and watch shows. It will improve gradually.
Was it worth it?
Well, besides not understanding the mysterious en and ett, making silly faces to pronounce fancy letters and confusing people with your errored grammar. Yeah!
It is not easy for me to understand the complexities yet. Irony, sarcasm, and even passive-aggressiveness is hard to identify. But sure. I can put effort into my best ability. I can understand most of the conversations going on. I can respond with English during those conversations (since my insecurities come in the way). It is just a matter of practice and putting effort into the daily routine to accommodate a language.
Should you consider learning a new language?
It is fun to know a language if you are traveling or move to a new country. It provides a better cultural perspective. It also makes it easy for the natives to have a conversation with you. And they always appreciate that you are trying to integrate into the country. For me, the whole experience unveiled many perspectives around learning a new language. It helped me understand the small complexities in the culture. Best of all, I found amazing friends from different continents.
So, any similar fun language experience you had? Share with me in the comments.