You know what the most amazing thing about Sweden is? There are many people here who speak Swedish! No, really, a lot of people speak it here.
Of course, I am kidding. But what I mean is that it is still very exciting for me to hear people speaking in Swedish. You have to understand that I was constantly thinking about (and in) Swedish back in San Francisco. I listened to Swedish talk radio, I listened to podcasts of the news, etc. And my ear was tuned to detect Swedish. Sometimes I actually would discover that I could hear someone speaking Swedish in San Francisco—once on the commuter ferry, once passing someone on the street, and when I attended Swedish cultural events.
But here I have to learn to turn my Swedish detector off because, well, Swedish is all around me. It’s really fun to listen to it. Or, I should say, it’s fun to eavesdrop and not have to participate or respond. My blood runs cold when I have to actually respond—especially at work.
This brings me to a special problem related to work and language. I am conflicted. I want to only speak Swedish at work and to have people only speak Swedish to me but I also want to understand things to a high degree. I want to perform well and to do that; I need to get all the information I can. I need to understand inferences and make connections between pieces of information.
When it comes to language, I wish I were more able to let my “freak flag fly” and just put it out there, correct or not. I wish I was not so concerned about speaking Swedish well. I wonder if people who are less self-conscious are better at learning/speaking languages.
Someone suggested I speak Swedish when the work conversations are easy, maybe at lunchtime to start and then switch to English when it is complicated and very necessary to understand the nuances.
A good idea, I think.
The good news is that contrary to what I have heard and contrary to what I expected, people are very willing to speak Swedish to me. Yes, I have had it happen that I speak Swedish to, for example, a shop person, and they respond to me in English because they hear my accent but for the most part, this doesn’t happen. This is very encouraging and I hope I have the nerve to pull the plug on speaking English in Sweden very soon.