Swedish For Immigrants – Week 2



Holy Moley!

The teacher is teaching in Swedish. I thought I was here to learn Swedish! There are four class levels of instruction: A, B, C & D. They have put me in the B class. I suspect this is because I listed my degrees on the application papers, fourteen months ago. Did they think an MS in education meant I had a Swedish vocabulary? I have made some progress today, moving from humiliation to laughter. It’s getting ridiculous. She calls on me asking questions in Swedish. I have no idea what the question is, let alone the answer – though I do know some of the answers, if I knew what the question was. Teacher gives me a look that says, “How can you possibly not understand.”

Last week I answered, “I do not speak Swedish, that is why I’m here.” Said that twice, no reason to say it again. It got funny after a while today. Laughter is a great survival tool. My Somali classmates are getting a kick out of it and have become very friendly and helpful. They are doing all they can to help me understand, sometimes whispering the answer. Unfortunately they speak almost no English. I suspect they have all gone though the ‘A’ class and have a fairly good beginning Swedish vocabulary. At least I seem to be making some Somali friends. One of the two girls in class (from Gambia) speaks good English, but is having almost as much trouble as I am. I could probably transfer to the ‘A’ class, but assume that would be 95% Somali students and questions asked in Arabic. Nothing is easy.

The most concrete thing I’ve learned today: There is no ‘W’ in the Swedish alphabet.

Some good news: It has finally started to rain and the forest fires seem to be under control at last. Helicopters and planes loaned to Sweden from Italy, and Norway, have been sent home. Russia offered to send an enormous water plane last week, but it was refused.

Republicans here have decided such equipment is not needed in Sweden, and have made cutbacks in numerous other essential areas, such as fire fighters and police. Sounds just like the Republicans in the U.S. There thirty forest fires burning in California, Oregon, and other states, all of which are running out of money needed to fight the fires. The Republicans have refused to grant more funds and have now gone on vacation.

“As it is in Rome, it is in Athens also.” Canto the elder.

U.S Fire

About Bruce Louis Dodson

Bruce Louis Dodson is an American expat now living in Borlänge, Sweden with his wife, cat and dog. He is an artist and world traveler who writes fiction and poetry and practices photography in his less than copious free time. His work has appeared in: Barely South Review - Boundaries Issue, Blue Collar Review, Pulsar Poetry (UK), Foliate Oak, Breadline Press West Coast Anthology . The E-buffet, Qarrtsiluni, Struggle Magazine, Pearl Literary Magazine, Contemporary Literature Review: India, 3rd Wednesday, Sleeping Cat Books - Trip of a Lifetime Anthology, Northern Liberties Review, Authors Abroad - Foreign & and Far Away Anthology, The Path, Page & Spine, The Crucible, Sleeping Cat Books -Trips of a Lifetime, Vine Leaves, Pirene's Fountain,Tic Toc Anthology - Kind of a Hurricane Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Buffalo Almanac and mgv2.
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14 Responses to Swedish For Immigrants – Week 2

  1. Highly entertaining, self-effacing and gentle and wise writing. Bruce, this is great!

    • bldodson says:

      Thanks John!
      Doesn’t feel so great at the moment, but I’m managing to keep my spirits up.
      Who knows what tomorrow will bring.
      I think I’ve got the class on my side, if not the teacher. I suspect I am as frustrating for her as she it for me.

  2. I enjoyed and sympathized with your Swedish class experience, then like a dummy I tried to read the class notes and finally realized it would not focus because it was Swedish! Duh!
    Yes, our Republicans are just like your Republicans.

  3. Lovely piece of writing, Bruce, funny, witty, perceptive and reflective… and all so true !
    You’re wonderful not get get frustrated too… loved the quote…
    Politicians are incredible aren’t they… unbelievable that they could be so irresponsible…just like the British ones who’re all on holiday while Rome burns – I mean the Middle East !

  4. Chris says:

    Normally, as someone who’s taught ESL, and basic French and Vietnamese, I would say that the best way to learn a language is total immersion–no use of your own native language–but you have to start this at an introductory level, of course. At a child’s level, not a PhD student’s. But it seems that you are still learning. You may surprise yourself yet. Stick with it, and maybe try to study vocab on your own. Flash cards and labelling things in your abode can be very helpful. Good to hear the fires are under control.

    • bldodson says:

      Thanks Chris. Yes, I can see how total immersion would do the trick.
      Glad you mentioned flash cards, for some reason I had not thought of them, though I have used them before.
      Also labeling things is a good idea – I will do that.
      Class was a bit better today, though I am still lost most of the time.
      I turned 76 this year and short term memory is not as good as it once was.
      One of the two girls in my class is from Vietnam and seems to be having an even harder time I am.
      Is there anything I could say to her as a note from you? I would print it out and give it to her – something in Vietnamese?
      Really appreciate your thoughts.

      • Chris says:

        Let me think about this…I’ll get back to you. If I don’t reply in a couple of days, remind me on twitter or fb.

      • bldodson says:

        Okay. Not important. She just seems a little down, thought a surprise might give her a life if anything comes to mind.

      • Chris says:

        She probably needs a Swedish-speaking friend who is willing to help her with pronunciation (I know, most of them speak English…). That’s usually the most difficult part for Vietnamese people. Adjective declension and verb conjugation are challenging too. So different from Vietnamese grammar, which is very simple.

      • bldodson says:

        I’m sure this is true.
        They have us translating lists of vocabulary with Swedish/English dictionaries – not a fun experience.
        Thank God my wife is Swedish. I’ve been sharing my completed lists with her. We had a test today. I think she was unaware we were going to have one.
        Hope she hangs in.

      • Chris says:

        Not fun maybe, but one of my personal methods when studying a new language is to make lists of words on pieces of paper that I can fold in half lengthwise, with the English words on, say, the left half, and the other language on the right half. I connect each word pair with a line so that I can check when I forget a word. Then I look at only one side (one language) and try to remember the word in the other language. It’s like flash cards, I guess, but it seems to suit me. Not sure this info is helpful…
        In any case, whether you use flash cards or lists or some other method, it helps, when studying new vocab, to shuffle your words and study them in random order. Otherwise your brain starts to rely on the cue of the previous word or the word group.
        Hope your wife hangs in too–you’ll learn a lot faster if she can be patient and supportive.

      • bldodson says:

        Ha! That list you speak of is exactly what I have been doing.
        We had our first test yesterday. I think I aced it. Feel really good about that.
        Wife is hanging in, no problem there.
        Thanks again for your good advice.

  5. laurie27wsmith says:

    I have enough trouble with English never mind another language Bruce. It seems you got the short end of the stick with the class, so we know who isn’t going to be teacher’s pet this year. All I can say is Nero would have fit in very well with modern politics.

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