On languages

Right now I’m taking Swedish classes on Mondays and Wednesday nights. It’s kind of neat that everyone in my class is of a different nationality: Chinese-Canadian (me), Philipino-American, English, Egyptian, Iranian, German, French, Italian, Singaporean, Dutch… It’s nice to meet people from different countries, and also nice to get out of the house and meet people period! But quite humbling that I’m one of the few near-monolingual people in the class along with the American and the English person, when everyone else in the class speaks two languages fluently – English and their mother tongue – at minimum. It seems a lot of the students also know many words in other languages, such as French. It cracks me up when I hear the other students trying to speak Swedish but accidentally speak a French word without realizing it, as I also do that when searching for words. Like when a student tried to say “thanks” in Swedish but said “merci” by accident.

Quite cute to hear that the grammatical mistakes Per makes are fairly common amongst Swedish speakers, as I found out from my Swedish teacher and from what my other classmates say of the Swedes they know, like “I’ll learn you to (do something)”, or “yes, that’s logic(al)”. When it comes to Swedish vocabulary, it does seem that Swedish is more logical than English, as new words were made up by combining existing words.


kyl (cool) + skåp (closet) = kylskåp (fridge)

Per said that when he’s unsure of a word in English, in most cases it would be correct to separate them into two words. Which is the cause of misunderstandings sometimes between us, when he sent me an email with the subject “buscard”… Think about that one for a second 🙂

(It was an email with the address of where I could buy a bus card.)

Conversely, I have to be careful to make sure I write the word WITHOUT a space, otherwise the following misunderstandings could happen:

Kassamedarbetare = tellers / cashier
Kassa medarbetare = bad workers

Skitgott = Awfully tasty
Skit gott = Shit tasty

I didn’t come up with those myself, they were stolen from http://www.slayradio.org/mastering_swedish_lesson_2.php which is a hilarious site which has helped me learn a few Swedish words!

As a side note, I finally checked out a Quebecois internet site, Têtes à claques, which is supposed to be very funny. I watched the English then the French versions, and I have to say, they’re not funny at all in English! Humor definitely gets lost in translation – it’s how the Quebecois accent sounds that makes it funny, I think. Watch the “Halloween” clip in English and French to see what I mean. But even with my limited French I found this one hilarious (“Le VJ”):

I’ve showed Per “Shaolin Soccer” which naturally we had to watch in Cantonese – Cantonese film version also. I think the humor is magnified by having it spoken in Chinese, even though my Cantonese is horrendous. I’ve also found the same with Japanese anime – I absolutely could not watch it with English dubbing – subtitles all the way. So now I wonder about the humor and feeling that gets lost in translation between Swedish and English… Perhaps another good reason to learn more Swedish.

Yesterday I went on a day trip to Norrköping, and this weekend we go to Götenborg, so I’ll be updating again later!


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