One of the many perks of studying at Uppsala University is the opportunity to learn some basic svenska. Having never embraced the chance to study a language at ANU, I thought it would be a fun new experience, especially since I’d be living here for a few months.
I haven’t attempted a language since my brief interaction with Latin and French in Year 7. Safe to say it wasn’t my life’s passion, and my teachers agreed. Going into a classroom style environment once again proved quite a challenge. In class, I was surrounded by German and Dutch students. Between their native language and impeccable English skills, they basically knew Swedish. Speaking only one language is a unique – and unbeneficial – position to be in whilst living in Europe.
The first problem was the alphabet. Svenska alfabetet has nine vowels (yes – nine). They are all soft sounds, which is not compatible with the harsh Australian accent. 12 weeks later and I still struggle to tell the difference between a, å, ä, and e, i, y, ö.
I found I was relatively okay at vocab – too many years of memorising university notes had taught me that much. The second problem lay, instead, with classifying words. I realised that I knew very little about verbs, adjectives and pro-nouns. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about what they meant since primary school. This meant learning where they fit and how to change their tenses was a struggle.
The third problem, related to the above, was word order. The verb must always go in the second place. However, it took me so long to figure out what a verb was, this was not a helpful fact.
As semester went on our class numbers dropped from 35 to 10. All my friends in other classes had also dropped out. I persevered on my Swedish adventure, and have managed to come out successfully on the other side. I am nowhere near being able to hold a proper conversation with a Swede, but at least I can count to ten, and order kaffe and kanelbulle at fika.
It’s been an experience which has enriched my exchange. And hopefully I can remember enough to use in the future – even if only to shop at IKEA!