Incommunicated – My struggle with Swedish

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I was at a seminar today about entrepreneurship. Very cool, quite inspiring. The only problem for me? It was in Swedish. Now, I have been in Sweden for 4 and a half years in total. I have invested some spare time in learning the language, taking courses and now, reading and/or listening to it at least one hour every day.

Wait a tick, you have been in Sweden for so long and you still have issues with the language? Well my dear sir, yes. Learning a language is a very complex process. This is more so when it is not used so often. In fact, I can get by with just English during my daily life. However, lots of stuff are in Swedish around here and from an integration, cultural and even career point of view, it is important to learn the language.

Back when I was taking courses, there are four distinct areas one must focus on when learning the language. Namely: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, written expression and oral expression. The first one is the easiest, unless you are learning a language with a complicated writing like Japanese. The second one can be easy or hard depending on how you do it. I like listening to news in Swedish since the speakers are quite often very clear, using little jargon and there is little to no background noise. In reality is quite a bit trickier than that but hey, one must start from somewhere.

The really hard part is the expression part: writing and speaking. And that’s when I personally have the most issues. Reading I can do, listening I can get most things nowadays. The main problem comes with speaking and in particular, conversing among natives. Personally I have to spend all of my attention to trying to make sense of what they’re speaking. If there is just one person then I have some time to think about an answer and say it, but when there are more people? Impossible. By the time I think of something, I have lost the conversation so I have to keep on devoting all my attention to listening.

Now, back to the seminar, I was able to understand most of it but the problem was that there was some group discussion. It is very hard to come up with possible ideas during a brainstorming session when you can barely follow what your teammates are saying. It’s a shame, unfortunately. One can only hope that things will become better in the future.

Photo by Guillaume Baviere; CC-BY 2.0