Monday, August 2, 2010
IV. The Swedish Language
Jag tycker om svenska. Jättemycket.
In fact, I think I love Swedish.
Anyone who knows me will know that I have a wild penchant for languages. My mother taught me French as a little girl in bits and pieces while she taught two older girls and I picked it up quickly.
Later I spent hours writing coded messages in the footprint language of Dinotopia to my cousin so he could try and figure them out.
I've dappled in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian, Danish, Icelandic, Indonesian, Thai, Czech, Latin, Japanese, Chinese, several African languages, Morse code, Egyptian hieroglyphs, talking to dogs, talking to horses and am fluent in both English and schoolyard Pig Latin.
Language is most certainly a passion of mine and experiencing and beginning to understand a language gives me a high like nothing else. I love what language means. I love that language can represent communication, and just as easily the lack of it.
I love what little secrets can be discovered by learning a language, like scratching off the silver film on the little windows of a lottery card. Each one gets you close to something big. (Maybe the lottery wasn't a good consistent example..)
When I was younger I visited my first high school after having left for a different school the year before. Since I'd been gone they had acquired an exchange student. He was Danish.
I immediately fell in love with this young Scandinavian stranger of course. He was absolutely nothing special, it's just that that's what I did. I "fell in love" a lot. Probably from ages two to forever.
Anyway, having fallen in love with this amazing (not at all amazing) guy, I immediately had to absorb everything about him. My first port of call was his language. Danish.
I can still remember going home and, probably with a view to impressing him and winning him over and understanding him on some deep cultural level, going online and clicking on as many "learn Danish online free" websites as I could.
It was here that I first learned about the cruel snobbishness of Swedes when it came to language. In an introduction to Danish pronunciation, it was explained that Danish is often likened by the neighbouring Swedes to someone talking with a potato in their mouth.
I've since come to understand that that is very true, but I would like all Danes to know that I think it's a particularly nice potato, and I personally happen to love the sound of Danish (Especially when I'm having an internal fight with my beloved Sweden.)
But screw Danish! This is a blog about my love for Sweden, and let me assure you, my love for Sweden is only heightened when it's in Swedish.
I love Swedish! Swedish is a wonderful language. It makes me laugh, because it is slightly ridiculous. It makes me frustrated, because it is relatively limited in vocabulary. But both of those only with the highest respect, because when it comes down to it, Jag gillar verkligen Svenska.
I love to listen to Swedish and will sit through an entire Bergman film, or even some terrible, awful Swedish pop or hip-hop just to hear it and slowly try to figure it out. (Just to clarify, I'm not saying the wonderful Ingmar Bergman is in the same league as crappy music..)
My ears are involuntarily fine tuned to pick out Swedish on the rare occasion it's uttered on the streets of Melbourne or anywhere else I happen to be that isn't Sweden. When that happens I am magnetically drawn to the precise area/individual who happens to be speaking, just to somewhat creepily hang around in that aura of Swedishness and hope to be mistaken for a fellow Swede.
It's happened before.
When I was actually IN Sweden, my language happiness center in my brain went completely off the charts and I found myself blissfully submerged in all the chatter around me. The only sadness being that I couldn't immediately fire back in conversation. In fact I spent the whole time in Sweden going around saying that I couldn't actually speak Swedish.
One day though.. One day..
For now, thank Odin (and Steve Jobs) for my Macbook and its foreign keyboard capabilities, which are permanently on the Swedish Pro settings, so I can go around cyberspace whipping out one of these: Ö. And one of these: Ä
So fast you can't stop me, look at me go. Ä å Ö!
I want you to understand just how amazing Swedish as a language is, and I think I can sum that up with just a single word.
This is the Swedish word for bat. Literally translated it means "Flapping Mouse".
Do you see what I mean?
And now, in the style of Sesame street:
This post today was brought to you by the letter: Å; my own personal favourite Swedish vowel.
And by my very favourite Swedish word: