Speaking Swedish in Select Settings

A few weeks ago I managed to get through a doctor’s appointment mostly in Swedish. It felt like a watershed. But it only happened because my doctor was young and patient and willing to speak Swedish with me. That is not the case, usually. In a follow-up with another doctor — older, wiser? — we flipped back and forth in Swenglish. Definitely a setback. But maybe I understood more.

It’s hard for Swedes to stick to Swedish when they hear my American accent. Even my work colleagues have a hard time not switching. I watched my friend Anders struggle the other day to keep speaking Swedish after he emitted a sentence in English. I happen to know he hates speaking English, so that’s an advantage for me if I want to practice.

But do I?

The other morning, I nearly threw the paper across the room — “fa” means “fewer,” but it also means “to have” or “to get” — oh dear me. Context is everything. Usually, I am lost, partly because I cannot get the context, but also because I am unaware of the many possible meanings of one word.

When I am with my officemates, I know their inflections and seem to be able to decipher their pronunciations of words that sound alike. Today, while sitting around the table at lunch with colleagues, I felt like I could comprehend more than usual. (It was a fairly simple conversation about cars, drivers’ licenses and parking costs in the city.) But when it came time to speak, even the simplest sentences emerged from my mouth in English. At least my colleagues didn’t switch to English, mostly, and kept talking on in Swedish.

What’s worst, at the moment, is that I seem to be forgetting English words. That leaves me rather stuck, as I usually don’t know the right Swedish word either!  I also have found myself trying to play Swedish words in my English word games, like Lexulous or WordFeud. Sometimes they are close to English cognates, but really, that’s rather rare.

Så ska vi se. So shall we see. Perhaps I’ll be blogging in Swedish soon?


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