I am just about to set off to Sweden for Christmas and will be back 29th. In the meantime, I will be posting on Facebook during the Christmas period.
You can find me in there as Swedish Teacher Anneli Haake. Hope to see you in there!
Want to give someone a Swedish Lesson as a Christmas Gift?
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know the person’s name, and I will send you payment details. You pay for the lesson (£25 GBP), tell them to contact me to book the lesson themselves. I’ll give you a pdf voucher that you can print out and wrap up.
Lätt som en plätt! Easy peasy!
Today, many Swedish schools will celebrate Lucia. Well-known as a a very typical tradition in Sweden, the day (which is actually the 13th of Dec) commemorates Saint Lucy – a Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Persecution. But as the date is also close to winter solstice it has become a festival of light.
However, lately the tradition has frequently become a matter of debate. Traditionally, lucia has always been a girl and only girls have been allowed to take part in the lucia election process, but in several Swedish schools in recent years this has been challenged. This year, several boys have been allowed to be lucia.
There has also been debates around the lucia election process itself. Lucias are chosen on school level, county level and national level. Traditionally, a lucia would be chosen through voting. In my old high school, each class would present two candidates and photos of all the girls would be put up in a communal school area for everyone to vote.
This often turned into a very fierce popularity contest, with very narrowly defined criteria for what lucia should look like. This also often meant that girls who were perceived as not fitting the “lucia stereotype” look were ridiculed. I remember girls who were chosen deliberately by their class because they did not fit the stereotype, and so became bullied and ridiculed when their photo was published. I also remember girls who did have the classic “lucia look” but were not particularly popular in class, and how upset they were not to be chosen as candidates.
Above is my first Lucia at nursery – yep, that’s shorty me to the right. At nursery, all girls were allowed to be lucia if they wanted. It was only later on (around the age of 12-13), that the voting element was introduced where I went to school.
More recently, several students and other activists have started to criticise the popularity element in the lucia election process, and have pointed out that it seems old fashioned. Perhaps the lucia tradition is falling out of fashion? A bit like the Miss Universe contests in recent years, something harking back to a different era where beauty contents for women were common.
Some schools have responded by changing the election to a draw, thereby trying to remove the element of popularity contest. There are also reports that some counties in Sweden struggle to even find candidates who are interested in participating.
In November, Svenska Dagbladet debated this issue online, and some of the opinions were:
- “Skip Lucia in schools but keep the tradition on national level”
- “Introduce draws instead of voting for candidates”
- “Lucia is a classic tradition, which we should not simply remove because to the “Politically Correct Mafia” have issues with it”
- “Typically Swedish to remove good old traditions”
- “I don’t understand what criteria I should use to vote? I don’t know the girls so I can only go on their looks. Feels very old fashioned”
- “Can’t really see the connection between a cute blonde Swedish girl and an Italian Christian martyr”
- “The tradition contributes to several sexist structures – boys are excluded and girls are selected based on their looks”
What do you think? Is Lucia an old tradition worth keeping, or should it be a thing of the past? Or should some elements of the tradition be updated and modified?
The Lucia song, English translation:
The night stalks with heavy treads
around the homestead and cottage
Around the earth forsaken by the sun
the shadows brood
Then, in[to] our dark house
strides with candles lit
Saint Lucy, Saint Lucy
The night was large and silent
Now, listen, it’s swishing
in all the quiet rooms
soughing as if by wings
See, at our doorstep stands
clad in white with lights in [her] hair
Saint Lucy, Saint Lucy
The dark shall soon flee
from the dells of the earth
So she a wonderful
word to us speaks
The day shall again, new made
rise from a rosy sky
Saint Lucy, Saint Lucy
Natten går tunga fjät
runt gård och stuva
Kring jord som soln förlät
Då i vårt mörka hus
stiger med tända ljus
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia
Natten var stor och stum.
Nu, hör, det svingar
i alla tysta rum
sus som av vingar
Se, på vår tröskel står
vitklädd med ljus i hår
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia
Mörkret skall flykta snart
ur jordens dalar
Så hon ett underbart
ord till oss talar
Dagen skall åter ny
stiga ur rosig sky
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia
This is my childhood village – Saxdalen, where I grew up. Swedes may be mainly atheists, but I think it’s fair to say that nature is our religion!
Made by Johannes Graaf
I love languages. And I love maps. This is beautiful!
One of the most difficult aspects of learning a language is keeping up your motivation. So many of my students go through patches of lacking in motivation, and when you do it is easy to fall out of routine altogether, coming up with reasons not to learn (too much on at work, not enough time, etc), and the learning process might even grind to a halt completely.
In this blog post, I wanted to talk a bit about motivation and give you some hands on tips on how to stay motivated.
Internal vs external motivation
Internal motivation is basically enjoyment. It is the satisfaction of making progress, enjoying the learning journey, feeling curious and open, enjoying learning new pieces of information, feeling satisfied when understanding something tricky.
External motivation is some kind of reward, which could be real or symbolic. It could be achieving good results in a test, it might be the prestige in being fluent, or the rewards in being able to communicate with extended family and friends perhaps. The issue with external motivation is that it can lead to a situation where learners are learning even though they don’t actually enjoy it. It is therefore better to focus mainly on making sure your internal motivation is nice and strong!
How can we work on our internal motivation?
1. Make positive associations
Connect Swedish with your other interests. If you like politics, read the news headlines on dn.se or svd.se. Now is a particularly interesting time in Swedish politics, following the general election. Are you interested in history? Look into the history of Sweden. Like baking? Learn how to bake cinnamon buns, and translate a recipe from Swe to Eng. If you like music, research music with Swedish lyrics and try and translate them, and of course – sing along! I have a playlist on Spotify that you can have a look at: http://open.spotify.com/user/browwn/playlist/1ielXWVCjGa7cvYad7xWPc
Also try and associate learning Swedish with your favourite activities and places. Put a Swedish podcast on when you’re running, for example. Watch movies and tv series in Swedish. Look at youtube for Swedish clips. Go to sr.se (Swedish radio) and listen live or download a podcast. The channel P1 is news, current affairs, debates and culture. P2 is classical and jazz music. P3 is pop music and programmes for a younger audience. P4 is local radio stations. It’s worth checking out the programme Klartext, which is a daily news bulletin in easier Swedish (shorter sentences, reduced vocab). There is also a brilliant app for smartphones, called SR Play.
2. Don’t give up
You need a holistic and realistic view of the learning process. Many language learners start out with high hopes for achieving fluency fast, but their enthusiasm quickly dips when they find themselves making the same mistakes again and again, and maybe speak in an (often self-perceived) embarrassing accent.
This is definitely not the time to throw in the towel and admit defeat! These errors are 100% normal and actually a part of the progress. It is therefore EXTREMELY important to remember this:
Language-learning errors are not a negative reflection on your intelligence!
Instead, learn to love your errors. They are your friends, they bring you step by step closer to fluency and confidence. Smile, and learn from them.
3. Remember why you started
Was it to be able to speak more with colleagues at work? Or with your in-laws? Or to be able to at some point move to Sweden? Or to be able to speak like Saga Noren in The Bridge, just because it’s a cool thing to be able to do? Or because it’s cooler and more unusual than just learning Spanish or Mandarin?
Remind yourself now, maybe even write yourself a little e-mail to yourself with http://m.futureme.org/ to remind yourself in 6 month’s time.
4. Explore ways to monitor progress
The thing with learning in general, is that it’s hard to sense progress. This is because of something I call “Moving Goal Posts”. Just as you have mastered one grammatical aspect and feel quite pleased about that, you turn a page and realise a whole damn new section that you didn’t even know before! The goal post is constantly moving. As Einstein himself said: “the more I learn the more I realise how little I know”. This is completely as it should be, it’s part of learning.
However, what is worth doing, is to capture your level at certain points, so you have something to compare with. If you are following some kind of course, this will probably be included anyway. Writing exercises that you can look back at in 3 months time. Why not make a short audio recording on your mobile phone or computer? No one needs to know, but you can go back in a year’s time and see how much you have progressed.
5. Consider not having a schedule
I know it may seem sloppy or disorganised somehow in our society to not have a schedule, we are extremely goal oriented as a society. The problem is that having a too strict schedule can make learning a language into a chore. Chores = boring = less internal motivation and less likelihood to succeed.
Learning a language is a bit like going to the gym. You won’t notice immediate effect, and you’ll have good days and bad days. You can’t just work out like mad for 6 months and then go couch potato for 2 years and expect the same level of fitness throughout. But if you work on it regularly, you will notice a difference over weeks and months. Expecting quick improvements is to expect too much from your brain, it’s simply unrealistic. Learning a language is more like a marathon than a sprint, and remember that a flood is made up of raindrops!
Some more useful tips:
In the next week or so, I will post a list of some great Swedish films and tv series that are worth a watch.
Fancy booking lessons? The usual block offer of 9 for £199 (12 weeks) is still available. That’s exactly until Xmas!
Carolina comes from Spain, from a small town close to Barcelona. She did her PhD in Barcelona and moved to Umeå after that to work as a postdoc. Her research is focused on environmental radioactivity and peatlands. But that is not her only interests! She likes doing a lot of other (and, maybe, more normal) things.
During her free time she usually makes handmade crafts and also enjoys painting. She says she is not an expert but feels it is a nice way to relax and not think about science. She also really likes nature and tries to go hiking as often as she can. She is someone who likes smiling every single day and appreciates the small things in this world.
What led you to want to learn Swedish?
I got a position at the University of Umeå and moved there. Although all the Swedish researchers and employees speak perfect English, they usually talk in Swedish over fika or lunch time. Moreover, all the official documents and information that you get is in Swedish, as well as signs, labels in the products that you find at the supermarket, etc. So, I started to learn Swedish to understand what happens around me! And I also think that learning the culture and the language of the country were you are is quite interesting!
When and how did you start learning Swedish?
I started to learn Swedish as soon as I arrived to Sweden. The university offer some courses for free. But I thought that only one hour per week was not enough and I decided to take a course downtown which took place twice per week and two hours per lesson, and also some one-to-one lessons via Skype with Anneli.
How much do you currently use the Swedish language, and why?
I use the Swedish language every day. I try to talk to my colleagues and my boss at work and to some friends who know that I want to learn. I also try to write emails in Swedish. I force myself doing that because I think that trying and practising is the best method to learn a language. Maybe you make mistakes but realizing and correcting them is the best way for learning.
What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?
It has been a bit difficult for me to learn it since Swedish is completely different that Spanish. And it’s still hard because you realize how many dialects are here. But understanding official documents or meetings have been quite hard. The challenge maybe is also finding motivation sometimes and be consistent in your studies!
What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?
My proudest moment as a Swedish speaker (and I will always remember this) is when I answered the phone in the office for the first time! When you talk to someone it is easier to understand because of the body language. But by phone… ufff! But I could understand and answer!! And I remember that, as soon as I hung up the phone, I ran to my colleagues and boss saying: I answered the phone in Swedish!!! I was soooo proud of myself!
Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!)
Rivstart is a really good book to learn Swedish.
Can you recommend any online/media resources for learning Swedish?
Mmm I am quite bad with that… But the best option for me to learn Swedish is talking to Swedes!
Do you have any other advice for future, budding Swedish learners?
My advice would say: Dont be shy and talk! Talk even you know that your Swedish is not perfect. I always say: “Hi! I am Carolina and my Swedish is maybe not so good. But I would like to try!” And Swedes are happy when they see that you are trying to learn Swedish. So… try try and try!