Hen – the debated Swedish pronoun

A note on hen

Hej! Anneli here. You may have heard of the gender neutral Swedish pronoun “hen“. It has been debated in Sweden during the past decade, and some people feel strongly about it. So what’s the fuss all about?

Swedish gender and pronouns

The Swedish language, like German, used to have three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. This started to change during the 14th century and the Swedish language today has two grammatical genders: the common gender (indefinite article en and pronoun den) – a merged form of masculine and feminine, and neuter gender (indefinite article ett and pronoun det).

Swedish also uses the third person pronouns han he and hon she for humans, known animals, and when biological gender is of interest. But what if you don’t know the gender of a person? Or if it is irrelevant? Consider a situation where you say you need to book an appointment at the dentist, and you hope that he/she/the dentist will be able to help you with your toothache. You may not want to assume that the dentist is a woman nor a man. Some people find saying ‘he or she’, or ‘s/he’ to be pretty clunky (especially in speech – how on earth do you pronounce ‘s/he’?), and to say ‘the dentist’ again may sound repetitive. So what can you say? In English, you can of course say ‘they’ – you hope that they will help you with your toothache. However, in Swedish, you do not use the third person plural for a singular person. In other words, you cannot say de they in this case.

Kivi and the monster dog

Lately, a new, gender-neutral pronoun has started to become more popular in Sweden – hen. The pronoun hen is defined as a gender-neutral personal pronoun intended as an alternative to the gender-specific hon (‘she’) and han (‘he’). It can be used to avoid a stated preference to either gender, and also as a way to referring to individuals who are transgender, agender, non-binary or those who reject the idea of binary gender. Even though this is a relatively new phenomenon in Swedish, several languages have gender-neutral pronouns. Finnish, for example, only uses a gender-neutral pronoun in third person. The word has been proposed in Sweden several times, first time in 1966 and again in 1994, but it did not receive wider acknowledgment until the book Kivi och Monsterhund came out in 2012. It is the first book that only uses hen as a personal pronoun, instead of han and hon. And the book caused a widespread debate in Sweden.

 

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The author, Jesper Lundqvist, wanted to write a book for children – rather than for girls or boys, and that was the main reason why he used hen in his book. He said he found it liberating to write directly to children, without having to think about all the stereotypical associations that surround boys and girls. Jesper says that some have misunderstood the whole idea of hen, and thought of it as a way of replacing han and hon. But this is not correct. Rather, it is more about having an “extra tool in the tool box”, linguistically speaking, he says.

Reactions to hen

The reactions among the Swedish native speakers were both mixed and passionate, to say the least. Those who did not like it usually fell into one (or several) of three categories:

  1. Those who felt that this was an attempt to linguistically eradicate male and female gender roles, perhaps highlighted by its use in a particular pre-school in Stockholm, something which sparked debate and controversy in Sweden and also received media attention internationally.
  2. Those who felt that there already existed functioning words like personen the person or vederbörande the person in question.
  3. Those who associated hen to the English word for a female bird. This argument is perhaps a little problematic, given many other Swedish words that mean something else in English (barn childfart speedbra goodprick dotpuss kisskiss urine, and so on).

Interestingly, another reason for the resistance to this new word may be that personal pronouns belong to what we may call ‘closed word categories’. Typically ‘open word categories’ are verbs, nouns and adjectives. These are categories where most people welcome new additions and creative solutions. The closed categories, like personal pronouns or prepositions, not so much.

The gender-neutral pronoun hen was included into the Swedish Academy Dictionary in 2015, with the advert slogan ‘Hen är här nu’ (Hen is here now). The debate is still on going, although we can probably assume that it will fizzle out with time and the pronoun will be fully absorbed into everyday Swedish.

Swedish vowels – hard and soft

Swedish vowels

Hej! Anneli here. Today we will be talking pronunciation. As you may already know, the Swedish language has 9 vowels: A, E, I, O, U, Y (note that y is always a vowel in Swedish!), Å, Ä, and Ö. However, there is another way of grouping the vowels, rather than just alphabetically – according to whether they are ‘soft’ or ‘hard’. Categorising vowels in this way will help with the pronunciation of many words in Swedish, as it can give you clues on how to say certain words.

feather stone

 

Hard and soft vowels

When we say that vowels are either hard or soft, what we actually mean is that different vowels will affect certain consonants before them – giving the consonants either a soft or a hard pronunciation. So, actually, it is not the vowels themselves that are pronounced in a soft or hard way, but instead they affect consonants to be pronounced in a soft or hard way. And which consonants will they affect? They will affect words beginning with K-, G– and SK-.

This actually happens in English too. Just compare how you say café and city. The words both begin with C, but they are pronounced differently. From a Swedish language perspective, I would say that café has a hard kind of C, whereas city has a soft-sounding C. Another example is the different pronunciation of G in the words guest and gist, where I would say guest has a hard-sounding G and gist is soft. So let’s see how this works in Swedish.

Soft vowels: E, I, Y, Ä and Ö

Hard vowels: A, O, U, and Å

If you have any of the so-called soft vowels following either K-, G– or SK-, these consonants change to a softer sounding sound.

For example:

G– : göra (to do) – is pronounced with a soft y sounding sound: “yöööra”, whereas gammal (old) – is pronounced with a hard-sounding G, a bit like in the name Gandalf.

K– : köpa (to buy) – is pronounced with a soft sounding ch: “chööpa”, whereas kan (able to/can) – is pronounced with a hard k, like in the English “can”.

SK– : sked (spoon) – is pronounced with a soft sounding sound, the same as in the number 7 (sju): “scheeed”, whereas skola (school) – is pronounced hard, like it reads (a separate s followed by a separate hard k): skola.

Because of theses pronunciation rules, there are some Swedish words that seem familiar to the English ear, and may even mean the same thing, but will be pronounced differently. I call these types of words “false friends” – they seem easy and familiar, but are in fact something else. For example:

kilo – means the same thing, a measure of weight, but is pronounced soft because of the I: “chiiilo”

sky – means sky in Swedish too, but is pronounced soft and with a long Swedish Y (like an English “ee” but with a more trumpet/forward-shaped mouth): “schyyy”

sko – means shoe, but this one is hard, because of the O: “skooo”

Of course, there are some exceptions, as always. Look out for the words kille (guy – should theoretically be soft, but we pronounce it hard), and (queue) or en kör (a choir) – again, should theoretically be soft, but is instead hard. Many students also struggle with the word människa (person, human being), and try to pronounce it as it reads, although we actually pronounce this “sk” in a soft way: “männischa”.

Here is a summary of the structure of hard and soft vowels after G-, K-, and SK-, taken from my new book Teach Yourself Complete Swedish.

 

 

The Swedish sin

The Swedish sin

The Swedish sin is an internationally known phenomenon that has influenced foreigners’ views on Swedish women for years. The source of the epithet is a speech given by US president Dwight D Eisenhower in 1960, in which he claimed that “sin, nudity, drunkenness and suicide” in Sweden were due to welfare policy excess. People soon forgot the link to welfare policy and the rest but the sin remained or remains.

However, today we’ll be discussing a different kind of sin. 🙂 The reflexive possessive pronoun sin.

It is a grammatical issue in Swedish that many, especially English speakers, find difficult;  how to use the reflexive possessive pronouns sin, sitt and sina.

I personally think that the Swedish language is pretty neat in this way, that we can easily distinguish between:

  • Hon pratade med grannen om hennes bil. She spoke to the neighbour about the neighbour’s car.
  • Hon pratade med grannen om sin bil. She spoke to the neighbour about her (own) car.

Isn’t it pretty cool to be able to clarify that with the uses of hennes and sin? This distinction does not exist in English, which can give rise to confusion (and require clarification about who you are actually referring to).

We use this reflexive possessive pronoun when we say that the noun belongs to the subject in the sentence. Hon talade om sin bil. She talked about her (own) car. The word sin links back to the subject (hon), and means that the car belongs to the subject.

We use sin in this example, because sin is the en-word version – and the word bil is an en-word. If it was an ett-word instead, let’s say hus, then the sentence would look like this:

  • Hon pratade om sitt hus. She spoke about her (own) house.

We would use sitt, because this is the ett-word version of this reflexive possessive pronoun. Sin and sitt are used when the noun is singular (just one thing).

If the noun is in plural, you would use the plural-version (regardless of whether the noun is en or ett in singular) – sina – like this:

  • Hon pratade om sina bilar. She spoke about his own cars.

But if she was talking to the neighbour about the neighbour’s house, or cars, the sentences would look like this:

  • Hon pratade med grannen om hennes hus. She spoke about her house(s).
  • Hon pratade med grannen om hennes bilar. She spoke about her cars.

So the important thing is that the noun belongs to the subject of the sentence. If so, you use sin, sitt, or sina.

Sin, sitt, sina are only used in this way for the third person – both singular and plural. So, in other words, this only kicks in when you talk about someone else (not jag or du). It could be han or hon, or de. It could also be when you use people’s names when you talk about them in third person.

However, it is important to remember that we only use sin, sitt, sina when it is in the object position. We do not use it when the noun is a part of the subject.

Hon pratade länge med sin granne. She talked for a long time with her neighbour.

Here, hon is the subject and sin granne is the object.

Hon och hennes granne pratade länge. She and her neighbour talked for a long time.  

But here, hon och hennes granne are together the subject. In this case, we use hennes instead as sin/sitt/sina can never be a part of the subject in a sentence.

Interestingly, according to research, this distinction is become more blurred – especially among young people who do not have Swedish as their mother tongue. They are less likely to use sin, sitt, sina and would instead use hans, hennes or deras. They are also particularly likely to use hans, hennes or deras after a preposition, such as or av. So for example: Vem är han arg på? Who is he angry at (/with)? hans mamma. (At) his mother. Whereas those who have Swedish as a mother tongue are more likely to say sin mamma, in this case.

But does this mean that this grammatical rule is slowly changing? Researchers are divided, but it seems that this kind of use of the reflexive possessive pronoun does not influence “mother tongue speakers”, so it seems unlikely that the rule will change within a near future, even though examples of alternative uses may become more common in the future.

Learn Swedish study group on Facebook

HEJ! 

We are very excited about our new study group – Learn Swedish with Swedish Made Easy – that we launched last weekend on Facebook.

This is a community study group for those you are studying Swedish with Swedish Made Easy, or those interested in studying with us. In this group, you can find some company, inspiration, help and motivation! I (Anneli) and Daniel are both there to help, and you can also connect with other people around the world who are also studying Swedish.

Studying via Skype/on your own can be a bit lonely sometimes, so in this group we can share recommendations, tips, tricks and ideas with each other.

Hope to see you there!

/Anneli

Letters we don’t pronounce

Letters we don’t pronounce

Hej! Daniel here!

In this week’s blogpost, we’re talking pronunciation. We have a saying in Sweden that goes Har man sagt A får man säga B (If you’ve said A, you should say B). However, this doesn’t translate into how Swedes actually speak; the saying continues with …så får vi C vad D E (…and we’ll see what it is). The letters C, D, and E represent “see”, ” it” and “is”. Depending on the region, we like to drop letters differently to how they are spelt. Today we’ll go on a journey through Sweden and delve into our peculiar speech.

A classic Swedish children’s book is Astrid Lindgren’s Emil i Lönneberga. This story takes place in Småland, a region in the southern part of Sweden. The following is a dialogue between the young Emil and his best friend, a farmhand called Alfred:

Dä ä du å ja Alfred. (It’s you and I, Alfred).

Tro ja dä, du å ja Emil. (You’re right about that, you and I, Emil).

In written form, this exchange would look different:

Det är du och jag, Alfred.

Tror jag det, du och jag Emil.

Note that the pronunciation here is typical of the Småland municipality. In most other parts of Sweden, we would say de (=det) and e (=är) instead.

Here you can watch that particular scene from the old Astrid Lindgren movie.

A popular way of saying good morning in Gothenburg is Gomorron, which also was the name of a television breakfast program for many years (Gomorron Sverige).

Here the ‘d’ is dropped and stuck together with the word morron. Correct spelling is god morgon.

Another classic is a series of comedy films from the 80s and 90s called Jönssonliganthat take place in and around Stockholm. One of the characters there, Dynamit-Harry, (played by the same actor who plays Alfred in Emil i Lönneberga) enjoys dynamite and beer a little too much. After each successful operation, he has this to say:

Vicken jävla smäll! (What a darn blast!)

The correct spelling is vilken, but it’s easier to pronounce the world without the ‘l’, especially when you’re excited.

The municipality of Närke, Östergötland, Västmanland and Värmland in the middle of Sweden are jokingly called Gnällbätet (The Moan Belt, because of how people sound). They often drop the ‘r’ at the end of a word, such as körkort (driver’s licence) which instead becomes kökot.

Common for most Swedish regions is the drop of ‘g’:

Något (something) becomes nåt.

Någon (someone) becomes nån.

Några (some) becomes nåra.

It happens often that a Swede would contract several words in speech (similar to good morning), especially when the expression is common and the sentence only consists of a few words. This means that a Swede who hasn’t seen anything (Jag har inte sett något) would say Ja:nte sett nåt.

To explore more pronunciation patterns, book your lesson here.

Ha det gött! 

Daniel

It’s Valborg on Monday!

Happy Valborg!

Valborg is the name of the 30th of April in Sweden. In Sweden, this is celebrated by lighting bonfires (majbrasor) all around the country in the evening, and people gather to watch the bonfires. Some places have fireworks (fyrverkerier). Once the bonfire is lit, it is traditional for a men’s choir (manskör) to sing traditional songs about the spring, and for someone to hold a speech.

Valborg

Valborg, Stockholm (Hammarby skidbacke) 2012

Valborg got its name from an Anglo-Saxon missionary, who lived during the 700th century BC. According to legend, she was an English princess who were called to Germany to help evangelise the pagan Germans. She was made a saint year 870, and during medieval times, a cult developed in her memory. This cult believed in protecting themselves from witchcraft, and in order to protect themselves from witches, people started to light bonfires in Germany.

In Sweden, people thought that the night between 30th of April and 1st of May was a magical night, when witches and other magical beings appeared to meet the Devil. Therefore, they lit bonfires and made noises to try and scare the beings away.

It also happens to be the birthday of the Swedish King – Carl XVI Gustaf! Grattis kungen!

Carl XVI Gustaf

Grattis på födelsedagen!

Valborg is one of the main days of festivities at universities and colleges, as this is the time when the students put on their traditional student caps (which marks the end of the final exam periods and the beginning of celebrations). In university cities, especially Uppsala and Lund, the whole day is packed with activities and celebrations and begin already in the morning with champagne breakfast in nearby parks.

studentmössa på Valborg

Pic from http://www.lexiophiles.com/svenska/studentmossor-och-skumpa

The most traditional song is “Vintern rasat” (it’s actually called “Längtan till landet” but it most known by its first two words: Vintern rasat). Herman Sätherberg (1812-1897) wrote the lyrics and the music was written by Otto Lindblad (1809-1864).

Vintern rasat

Swedish and English lyrics (translation from semiswede) – and here you can listen to a performance of the song.

Vintern rasat ut bland våra fjällar,
Winter stormed out among our mountains,
drivans blommor smälta ned och dö.
snow drifts melt down and die.
Himlen ler i vårens ljusa kvällar,
The sky smiles in spring’s bright evenings
solen kysser liv i skog och sjö.
The sun kisses life into the forest and lake.

Snart är sommarn här i purpurvågor,
Soon summer is here in purple waves,
guldbelagda, azurskiftande
gold-coated, azure-shifting
ligga ängarne i dagens lågor,
lie meadows in daylit flames (strong sunlight on a spring day),
och i lunden dansa källorne.
and in the grove dance källorne (the light streams and dances). 

Ja, jag kommer! Hälsen, glada vindar,
Yes, I’m coming! Greetings, cheerful winds,
ut till landet, ut till fåglarne,
out to the country, out to the birds,
att jag älskar dem, till björk och lindar,
that I love, to birch and linden trees,
sjö och berg, jag vill dem återse,
lake and mountain, I want them see again,

se dem än som i min barndoms stunder
see them like in my childhood memories
följa bäckens dans till klarnad sjö,
follow the dancing creek to the clear lake,
trastens sång i furuskogens lunder,
the thrush’s song in the pine forest groves,
vattenfågelns lek kring fjärd och ö.
waterfowl play around the bay and island.

Glad Valborg! / Anneli

Lessons, prices and online booking system here.

Verb comes second – Swedish word order

Verb comes second – Swedish word order

One of the major issues with learning Swedish, especially for English speakers, is word order in sentences. People nearly fluent still sometimes make word order mistakes in Swedish, and for beginners this is really difficult to get your head around. These kinds of mistakes sound pretty ugly to Swedes: no native Swede would do this, so it is a very obvious clue that someone is not Swedish.

Compare these two sentences in English:

1. I eat breakfast at 8 o’clock.

2. At 8 o’clock I eat breakfast.

In number 1, the time (at 8 o’clock) is placed in the end. In number 2, the time is placed in the beginning. Regardless of if you place it in the beginning or the end, the “core sentence” (I eat breakfast / subject-verb-object) remains the same in terms of word order.

Now look at the same sentence in Swedish:

1. Jag äter frukost klockan 8.

2. Klockan 8 äter jag frukost.

From an English perspective, this looks odd. In number 1, the time is placed in the end, just like in the English version. But in number 2, something happens when the time is placed in the beginning. The word order of the “core sentence” has changed (äter jag frukost / verb-subject-object).

Instead of trying to remember to speak the core sentence backwards, many find it easier to think about the positioning of the verb: the verb comes second. Look at these sentences again:

1. Jag äter frukost klockan 8. (subject-verb-object-time)

2. Klockan 8 äter jag frukost. (time-verb-subject-object)

In both sentences, the verb comes in the second position. And when I say second position, I do not mean that the verb is the second word. Time expressions, like klockan 8 in the example above, can be short one-word expressions (först, sedan, nu, ibland), two word combinations (på kvällen, i går, nästa vecka) or even longer (klockan fem i halv nio på måndag morgon). However long or short they are, they are all time expressions. And if you start a sentence with them, then the verb must come in second position after the time expression.

The same also happens with place expressions. They can be short (här, där, hemma), longer (i Sverige, hemma hos oss, på jobbet) or really long (på soffan i vardagsrummet hemma hos oss i Nottingham). Regardless, if you start a sentence with a place expression, verb must come in second position, just like with time expressions.

A good way to practice this, is to actually alter the rhythm in which you speak. I have noticed that many English speakers have a natural rhythm when they speak these kind of sentences in English. It goes something like this:

“Yesterday I………. stayed up late.”

“This weekend we……..’re going away.”

“Tomorrow I…………. finish work early.”

The time/place and subject are said in one breath, followed by a natural pause while finding the verb, and then the sentence continues. If you apply the same rhythm while speaking Swedish, you end up in trouble. And once you’ve got to the verb, the damage has already been done – the word order is incorrect.

Instead, practice making the pause immediately after the time or place expression, and look for the verb. Then add the subject, and then continue. Like this:

“I morgon……(look for the verb)……….. jobbar jag… hela dagen.”

“I helgen……..(look for the verb)………. ska vi… åka till London.”

“I köket……….(look for the verb)………. finns det… en extra stol.”

If you practice this slightly different flow and rhythm in your speaking, you’ll get into a new way of constructing your sentences, and it will become easier to do it correctly.

Lycka till! /Anneli

verb comes second

 

Who let the cows out? Kosläpp season starts now

Kosläpp

In Sweden, we do appreciate signs of spring (vårtecken). It could be spotting the first tussilago, listening to the dripping sound of melting snow, or visiting art galleries when they open for the season. Another fun and enjoyable vårtecken is that of kosläpp.

Throughout April and May in Sweden, there will be kosläpp on many farms in Sweden. This is a rather lovely event, where the farms let the cows out for the summer. Not surprisingly, the cows are very happy about it – and they show it too. They turn into playful little puppies! Apart from the sheer joy of being able to be outside and eat fresh grass (grönbete), the cows also work out their hierarchies in the herd.

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Many farms open up to visitors, so they can come and enjoy the spectacle. The events have become real tourist attractions, and many farms are already fully booked in terms of audience capacity. It’s a fun and enjoyable way to celebrate the arrival of spring, visitors bring picknick and spend a bit of time looking around the farms. And the interest for these events is apparently increasing year by year. In 2005, only a few thousand people came to the farms of the producer Arla, whereas around 150,000 people came in 2014. Some believe the interest is growing as there is a larger divide between city and country today. Only a few decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to have a grandparent who ran a farm, whereas today it is not quite as common. Perhaps many people feel an urge to get closer to nature and animals.

There is also an idiomatic expression that stems from this occasion: glad som en kalv på grönbete.

Here are some of the Arla farms schedules for this year’s kosläpp.

 

Tycka, tänka, tro and how to use them

Hej!

Daniel here! Today, I’ll be discussing something many Swedish learners find difficult.

The English word think corresponds to three Swedish verbs: tycka, tänka, and tro, something that likely causes confusion for non-native speakers. It can be tricky because the translation of the verbs can sometimes overlap each other. However, it’s not as complex as it might sound, but takes time and practice to get used to. In this post, I will clarify when and how to use these words.

Tycka (inf.):

Use this verb when you want to express your personal opinion about something.

Example: Jag tycker choklad smakar gott.  I think chocolate tastes good. (Your opinion is that chocolate tastes good.)

Example 2: Jag tycker du ska komma hem.  I think you should come home. (Your opinion is that the person should come home.)

If the preposition om is added, the word then simply refers to the state of liking something.

Example: Jag tycker om choklad. I like chocolate.

 

Tänka (inf.):

Use this verb when you want to express that you are thinking, or a specific action you intend to take.

Example: Tyst! Jag försöker tänka. Quiet! I’m trying to think.

Example 2: Jag tänker åka utomlands.  I intend to go abroad.

Example 3: Jag tänker ta en dush nu.  I’m going to take a shower now.

Similar to tycka, adding a preposition changes the expression. I’ve used the preposition om here, which then gives tänka a meaning similar to the English word “imagine”.

Example: Tänk om vi vinner på lotto. Imagine if we win the lottery.

Another preposition you can use is . In this case it means to think about someone or something.

Example: Jag tänker på dig. I’m thinking about you.

 

Tro (inf.):

Tro is related to the English believe, suppose, presume, and guess, depending on context. A hint of opinion is involved, but it’s mainly a belief or a guess in regards to something you are not sure about. Imagine a scenario in which you are going to the cinema with a friend. You have read reviews, watched the trailers, but you can’t have an opinion about the film until you have watched it.

Example: Jag tror filmen är bra.  I think the film is good.

Once you’ve watched the film, you will have an opinion and therefore use the verb tycker instead.

Swedes love to talk about the weather, so you could also think of this verb as the “weather word”, as it’s always used to predict the weather in a conversation.

Example 2: Jag tror det blir vackert väder i morgon. I think (believe) the weather will be beautiful tomorrow.

Once the next day arrives, you will have an opinion on the weather when you look out the window, and therefore use tycker.

The most common preposition to use with tro is , and is always followed by the object you believe in.

Example: Jag tror på dig.  I believe in you.

I hope this has clarified some confusions about how to use these words. But remember to not get too frustrated with them, it takes a little bit of time to get used to the distinction between them.

If you would like to book a lesson with me, head over to our booking system.

Ha det gött! 

Daniel

The Plate Spinner

The Plate Spinner

When we talk about the process of language learning with our learners, we often refer to the concept of a plate spinner. We use this metaphor because we think it captures very well the process of language learning.

Some think of the process as building a house (laying a solid foundation, adding brick upon brick, adding new floors on top of each other). The problem with this notion, is that it assumes that you need a solid and sturdy foundation before you can add any more on to it (to prevent it from coming crashing down). And what this usually means, in practical terms for language learners, is a sense that they must remember everything they have learnt so far, in order to move onto something new. “I don’t dare to start a new chapter, because I cannot immediately recall everything I learnt in the previous chapter.” This, we believe, is not a useful language learning strategy, as the learner will develop unnecessary anxieties relating to short-term memory failure, and an impossible ambition to be able to recall every single word in the new language vocabulary (often without any context). A bit like a computer.

Instead, a much more constructive analogy is that of a plate spinner. The plates can represent the different language skills (speaking, reading, listening, writing, grammatical knowledge), and the spinner is the learner. The goal is to spin all the plates as evenly as possible, at the same time. Of course, sometimes a plate spinner may focus on one or two particular plates, which results in another plate beginning to slow down and wobble. But the plate spinner turns their attention to that plate, gives it a little bit of a spin to stabilise it, and things are ok again. And it is ok for plates to be a bit wobbly sometimes. It may just be because you have focused hard on something else for a while. All you have to do is to identify the plate (speaking, listening, or whatever it may be), give it a bit of a spin, and just keep on going. As long as all the plates are spinning in some shape or form, then things are going just fine.

plate spinner

Andrew Van Buren, a famous plate spinner