Tag archives for Swedish

Lost in Translation?

My experience with the Swedish language is a topic that I could probably write a book on. I’m not saying it would be the most compelling or best-selling book in the world, but I think I could come up with enough material to fill a couple hundred pages at this point if my life depended on it. I wrote more about the mechanics of the language in an earlier post, but here I’m going to focus more on some of the linguistic quirks I’ve noticed both from others and myself during my time in Göteborg.

My first observation is one of the most surprising to me: some days I feel like my English is deteriorating more than a little bit, which I was honestly not expecting. I sometimes forget words that I haven’t used in a long time, and I also tend to unintentionally appropriate speech patterns and sentence constructions that aren’t very common in the US.

Unrelated but delicious. It’s semla season in Sweden. Photo: B. Seward

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Learning Swedish


As promised this post is all about learning the Swedish language,

When I arrived the Karolinska Institutet provided a 3-day intensive Swedish language course for all new master students free of charge. It consisted of Swedish classes the week before classes began and continued once a week from 6-9pm for 4 weeks. We were split into groups and assigned to different teachers. This was a great introduction and I was very lucky to get a great teacher who had a lot of passion and energy. However, now this course has ended, I have already enrolled in SFI (Swedish for immigrants) a free language course with a good friend from my class.
In order to enroll you need a personal number. This is attained from the tax office. However you need to be staying/studying in Stockholm for more than 1 year to be eligible. I have already started my classes which I attend every Tuesday and Thursday. In addition to swedish classes I have in the Karolinska on Wednesday nights, a very fun student initiative with swedish students as our teachers. The very first time I went to SFI it was was quite the experience, every new student arrives 1 hour before class begins. Every new student is tested on their level of swedish, this is achieved by having a chat på svenska in front of everyone :/ Thankfully I was placed in the intermediate class along with my friend. This is exactly my level of Swedish I feel. What I liked about this class was that it is taught primarily through Swedish and very little english is spoken. While it was tiring having to concentrate so much so that I understood it was very reassuring and satisfying that I found myself.. actually understanding.

I will now give some small tips which have worked for me and which may work for you in your home country or when you arrive here. I have found very kind friends (native swedes) who are willing to converse with me if I ask, who also correct me and answer any questions I may have. However be careful.. previously I was speaking with a swedish friend and asked her ‘du är sjuk?’ which I intended to mean ‘you are sick/feeling unwell?’ I had mispronounced ‘sjuk’ and said ‘tjock’ which meant I had just said ‘you are fat’, never a more awkward moment or a better way to learn :/ It is ingrained in mind now and I will never make that mistake again… thus you learn from your mistakes! (förlåt Malin!)


många nya ord :)

I also have a beautiful notebook which a very close friend gave to me, I write every new word or phrase in there and carry it with me at all times, this way I can look over each new word while on the metro or walking to and from classes if I am alone.

Another way is to speak swedish whenever you can, I always speak swedish when in a shop or ordering a coffee or food. It is important to try, before i came here I was told and had read that swedes will immediately switch to english when they sense you are not a native swede. In my experience this has happened only once. I think they see I am at least making the effort and so respond in kind.

However one of the most helpful is finding friends who also want to learn, in my class I have 2 good friends who I always speak swedish with. Every morning myself and classmate read the ‘metro’ a newspaper here in Sweden which you can find at every metro, we pick five words we don’t know  and use them in conversation. It is a very good way to use new vocabulary and really learn through using the word or phrase in context.

Additionally, we send each other weekly emails in swedish, for example he will correct my email of any grammatical/spelling mistakes and send it back to me, and vice versa. In this way he learns and so do I. A great idea which was not my own (tack Paul!)

In regards to learning from abroad, watching swedish tv on my computer has also really helped, sites such as SVT or swefilm are great. Klartext is another great site for listening to swedish radio in easier swedish with clearer pronunciation and much less ‘slang’. A movie in your native language but subtitled in Swedish is another good way to learn.

Well that is all I can think of right now. I will leave with one word which you should always follow, perhaps not just in learning Swedish but also in life,


Thank you for reading,

Hej då


Learning the Language

Over the past 9 months I’ve told nearly everyone that has asked me about the Swedish language that as far as languages go, it’s easy to learn for a native English speaker… yet I can only read at a pretty basic level and can speak and understand even less spoken Swedish. So what’s the deal? One of the primary problems for me is that everyone here speaks English. Like literally almost everyone. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone here prefers to speak English – far from it – just that they’re more than capable of doing so when the occasion strikes. The only person that I encounter every so often that I simply must (try to) speak Swedish to is my barber, who immigrated to Sweden some years ago from Iran. Thankfully he is very patient with me and through these experiences I have developed a limited haircut-related vocabulary (sax, frisör, hockeyfrilla, etc.). At school, all of my classes are in English, which is also the only language our international cross-section of students has in common. I would say that lunch and fika are the only real times that Swedish is widely spoken in my department, so I try to take advantage of these brief windows of practice time.

But enough with the excuses; I need to make a more concerted effort to learn the language. This summer I’m hoping to find a couple of willing friends who will help me practice. At this point, I need ruthless people who won’t break character and speak English to me. That’s the thing with most Swedish people, they’ll switch to English as soon as they hear you have an accent in Swedish. I think I need to start acting like I’m from Eastern Europe or somewhere where English isn’t as widely spoken, though it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there on an island like that.

I count watching Arrested Development on Netflix with Swedish subtitles as practice. Photo by Brett Seward.

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Homemade Sushi

What do you do with yourself when you find a free weeknight? Well, get together with friends and make some sushi of course! At least that’s what a few of us thought last week.  You can buy all the ingredients for making your own sushi from a local grocery store, although shopping at a local Japanese market will save you money and will probably get you better quality items. To do this, you will definitely need sheets of the seaweed covering (nori), some short grain rice, vinegar and lime, and whatever else you want to put in your rolls.

To start with cook the rice as you normally would. When it is done add some salt, vinegar, and a little lime juice. Lay out the nori and add a layer of rice. Then add whatever sliced ingredients you wish. You will end up with something looking like this:

Now you cut it up into slices and eat! Simple, right? To be honest I don’t know if this is the exact recipe for making sushi, but this is what we came up with. What fun is making food if you can’t be creative? :)

Widerströmska-more than just a name

Walking to the KI everyday is an ever changing experience. The area is the center of extensive building work as such it’s always interesting to see progress from one day to the next.

Several weeks ago I was asked if I might be interested in helping to host the opening ceremony to a new building which had recently been completed. Sure why not I said. All too quickly the day of hosting arrived. I donned by pretty black polka dot dress, a bit of lipstick and packed my pair of black high heels (you didn’t think I was going to walk through the snow in heels did you?)

My role was to be moderator, chairwomen, “most important person” as someone put it. But what do these words mean you might be thinking? Well I was going to be the person introducing the ceremony, welcoming the audience and then in turn presenting each speaker. It was my role to “MC” as my cool friend remarked later.

“Ladies and gentlemen, a very warm welcome to you, to this the opening ceremony of the Widerström building. I am Naieya Madhvani, a student on the Global Master’s programme and I will be your host for today. The ceremony will begin with a few short speeches, followed by the cutting of the ceremonial ribbon and then some light snacks and drinks will be served. I hope you enjoy the next 30 minutes to an hour.”

In Karolinska colours. Photo: Naieya Madhvani.

In Karolinska colours. Photo: Naieya Madhvani.

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