I've told people offline, but I feel like I should proclaim this publicly since I've declared my love for languages here for over a decade (though I went off topic at times and didn't post much for a while), and I'm committed at this point.
What got me interested in Swedish and Sweden was watching Annika Bengtzon and thinking, "Wow, they're so restrained and cool and sophisticated," and I was impressed with the understated style of acting that we really don't see in the U.S. because so many actors are dramatic or exaggerated.
Then I watched the Swedish version of Wallander, which had a similar style, delivered with humility (which is also not typical of U.S. shows--the lead actors are usually brazen and arrogant, and it's all about them).
I was curious about the actors, but couldn't find much information in English. Example: The Guardian has Krister Henriksson's "only British press interview" about why he left Wallander, and there weren't a lot of English articles online about Malin Crépin, the wonderful, stylish actress who plays Annika Bengtzon. And when it came to actor Leif Andrée, who played her intense, stressed-out editor, forget it: a super-brief Wikipedia page, and the rest in Swedish, which of course I didn't understand at all.
So to find out more about this seemingly stable, refined, developed country, I decided to try to learn the language well enough to read about it (and read about those actors I like). I first tried Duolingo, which people have complimented but which didn't seem very helpful. I usually used the app on my phone, and got through a number of lessons. It would congratulate me on ridiculous achievements, telling me that I was x-percent "fluent." Such fakery wasn't encouraging because I know what fluent means, and it was like they were trying to "motivate" me into using their app more, like superficial cheerleaders on the sidelines.
Another problem I had with Duolingo was that a number of their sample sentences were nonsensical, like "the cow likes the dog's toy" or "the cat doesn't want to dance tonight." Ok, those aren't exactly accurate examples, but the sample sentences were often phrases that we wouldn't need to know in real life, and pretty much no one would use unless they were making goofy poetry. So why were they giving them to us? Why not have sentences that said, "Where is the post office?" and other sentences that we'd actually need (though many people have said Swedish people's English is so good, you don't need Swedish over there).
Also, at least on the phone app, there were no grammatical explanations. So I'd try to do the exercises by intuition, but I really didn't learn much about the language structure. It just seemed like I was going through the motions to get through the exercises, like consuming empty calories that are briefly satisfying but don't lead anywhere.
Even though I wasn't thrilled with the app, I guess I learned enough to understand the headline of a Swedish article about the suicide of Johanna Sällström, who played Wallander's daughter (because I was doing a search about why they changed actresses, and it was hard to get sufficient info in English): Krister Henriksson: "Jag älskade Johanna djupt". I made progress! But then I went back to the ridiculous drills at Duolingo, and decided to move on.
After the split (though I don't want to drop Duolingo forever), I read stuff online, got a grammar book, watched online videos, etc. But I still wasn't satisfied, so I looked for a class, and lo and behold, there was one starting within a couple of weeks at the Swedish American Museum.
I am the only person in the class who has nothing to do with Sweden or Swedish people. Other people have Swedish heritage, work for a Swedish company, or are married to Swedes. When it came to my turn to tell the class why I was studying it, I said, "I watched Swedish mysteries and want to know more." They laughed. But I still have that reason, in addition to wanting to go there at some point (though I apparently won't need Swedish anyway).
One student in the class has really good pronunciation and comprehension, and it's because he studies consistently, listens to/watches Swedish news...and uses Duolingo. He said it's really helped him. So maybe I don't "get it"?
An unintended consequence of studying Swedish consistently is the rush in my head of English and German, which have collided into each other and are getting in the way of my Swedish acquisition. There are many similarities with both languages, which seems attractive, but the killer is the pronunciation. Very difficult and not phonetically written.
Because English and German have been swirling in my head when I try to produce sentences in class or try to comprehend words, I've been pulled in the German direction, to the point that I cracked open a German reading strategy book that I used years ago in one of the worst language classes I've ever taken (the teacher basically never spoke German and didn't want to teach it either, just talked about politics and her own personal gripes that I couldn't care less about). So now I'm trying to read bits of Japanese, French, and Spanish (all which I used to translate), learn Swedish as a total beginner, and reconnect with German, because...I don't know. I guess the Swedish activated a desire to recover knowledge of the German I once had, and to reconnect with a language that is way more difficult than Swedish, but is much easier to pronounce. Now I just need to partition my brain so that I'm not going through German to get to Swedish, though I keep saying in class "that's like German" when she explains a grammar point, which could seem pretentious.
Post a Comment