Interview with a Swedish learner – James

Learning Swedish – interview with a learner

James is a radiographer working in an NHS hospital in the UK. He was raised in Southport, Lancashire, but currently lives in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, UK, but he is hoping on finding work in Sweden in the not-too-distant future. James likes to ride his bicycles a lot and successfully completed Vätternrundan, a 180 mile ride around Lake Vättern, in Sweden in 2015.

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What led you to want to learn Swedish?

I’ve always been interested in Nordic history and culture, the cause of which was probably being exposed to a 1980s adventure game I used to play on my computer as a boy called Valhalla. More recently, I had been looking at job adverts for jobs in my profession across Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and wishing I could apply for them. But after separate trips to Sweden, Norway and Finland, and enjoying experiencing life as a tourist in those countries, in 2014 I thought I’d bite the bullet and give learning a language a go. I plumped for Sweden as I felt the size of the country would be good.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I started using the Babbel app on my iPad, in May 2014, and shortly after started taking lessons from Anneli over Skype.

How much do you currently use the Swedish language, and why?

I try to use it when I can. The chances to use Swedish in the UK are limited but there’s a few groups across the country that arrange meetings through the meetup.com website, in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Other than that, if I visit Sweden I try to use my language skills there, but this is made more difficult by the natives’ excellent English skills and their eagerness to use them in conversation with an Englishman!

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

Trying to fit my lessons and homework around my job and other interests.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

When arriving on a campsite in June 2015, I did manage to hold a good conversation with the management telling them my name and that I had booked a pitch for a few nights. I think they may have been confused by my arriving in a right hand drive car!

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish?

Swedish: An Essential Grammar, by Philip Holmes and Ian Hinchliffe, is an excellent grammar book for those starting out in Swedish.

Can you recommend any online / media resources for learning Swedish?

The aforementioned Babbel app, which you can use on iOS and Android, plus their version for desktop computers, is excellent but you have to pay a monthly subscription to use it. You could consider switching your phone’s language setting to Swedish, although it may be a good idea to memorise how to switch the language back to English should you need to. Swedish TV shows seem to be quite in demand on UK television these days with Wallander and The Bridge being shown on the BBC and there’s plenty of DVDs of Swedish TV shows available too, with English subtitling of course, plus you could consider watching English language films with Swedish subtitling. Listen to Swedish records, from the likes of Melissa Horn and Linnea Henriksson, and have a look at the lyrics booklet with the album.

Do you have any other advice for future, budding Swedish learners?

Learn little and often, maybe try and think about what you’re doing in Swedish rather than English, maybe keep a written diary in Swedish and write about your days.

 

Ways to think and be drunk in Swedish

This month’s installment of Speak Like a Swede features different ways of saying “think” in Swedish: “tycka”, “tro”, and “tänka”; slang words for being drunk; a Swedish saying about having many names if you’re popular, and learning Swedish by singing.

Read it on Nordic Spotlight here!

Vasaloppet

This Sunday is the day of the annual cross country ski race held in Dalarna, Vasaloppet. The main race is 90 kilometers (56 miles), starting in Sälen and finishing in Mora. It is apparently the oldest and most popular cross country ski race in the world. But Eurosport still won’t broadcast it…. Grrr.

The race is inspired by King Gustav Vasa, who allegedly fled on skis in 1521. This was in the days when Christian II of Denmark was union leader for the Kalmar union (Sweden, Norway, Denmark). Christian was a nasty piece of work, and organised a reconciliation party with the Swedish aristocracy. How nice of him. However, the not-so-nice Christian instead killed between 80-90 people – including Gustav Vasa’s parents, and this event became known as Stockholms blodbad (Stockholm Bloodbath).

Gustav Vasa

Gustav escaped through Dalarna and tried to drum up support for a rebellion against the Danish king in the town of Mora, Dalarna. Initially, the men in Mora turned him down, and Gustav continued skiing towards the Norway border to seek refuge. But the men in Mora changed their minds, and caught up with Gustav in the village of Sälen. Eventually, in 1523, Gustav Vasa was crowned the king of Sweden, after having successfully fought in the Swedish war of Liberation and dissolved the Kalmar Union with the Danes. And in remembrance of the election of him as a king, Sweden celebrates their national day on June the 6th.

The classical Vasa race is preceded by a ‘Vasa week’, which includes a number of different ski races (Women’s Vasa, Half Vasa, Youth Vasa, Vasa Relay etc).

The average winning time is 5:11:38 (a per-kilometer average of 3:28).

Women were banned from 1924 to 1980. The ban was introduced since it was considered bad for women’s health to participate in such a competition. This ban was criticized especially after 1960. Some defended the ban saying that allowing women would reduce the reputation as a tough challenge (!). Several women have participated in the race during the ban, disguised as men.

Vasaloppet 2012 was incredibly fast, and saw the breaking of records from 1998, for both men and women. The record winning time is 3:38:41, set by Jörgen Brink, Sweden. The fastest woman was Vibeke Skofterud from Norway (4:08:24). Only ten winners have finished in less than four hours. For more statistics, read this.