Learning ‘Svenska’


When I considered Europe as a possible place to pursue higher studies, and was seeking some advice on the matter, almost every other person pessimistically pointed towards one common hurdle; language. It was not the first time I was hearing that lack of linguistic ability would haunt my chances of having a future there, but somehow I was never convinced this was true. No, it was not because of self-belief, optimism, confidence or any other glittering trait people associate with themselves when they voluntarily run into trouble. It was just that I never pondered over this issue hard enough.

Sweden remains a popular choice for international students

Sweden remains a popular choice for international students

Then I landed in Sweden and I realised instantly that I had a long way to go when it comes to wisdom and thinking things through. Sweden is not exactly “trouble” when it comes to language; almost everybody even the elderly speak perfectly good English. One can even sneak into the job market without knowing Swedish if he is smart and markets his skills well enough. But it was never the thought of ‘my future in Sweden’ that made the idea of learning Swedish daunting, but just the realisation that I was terrible at learning new languages. I could not fathom a reason why I used to think that it was an easy feat to achieve. When the ghost of full time post graduate studies looms round your shoulder, learning Swedish does seem bit of an adventure.

But then as time went by all the negativity started to shun and I started seeing things more clearly. I met people from similar backgrounds like my-self, who had mastered Swedish during their stay here. I started basic Swedish courses and also came across various opportunities to practice and refine my linguistic abilities. I was perplexed to discover how some students were fluent in three or four languages; it was something novel for me and very inspiring to see. This injected a lot more positivity and motivation into me and now I am on course to learning Swedish.

One idea I really admire is that of a language cafe. It is an informal gathering of people who want to polish their speaking skills in a particular language. So, you sit down as groups with each group practising a different language. It takes out the element of shyness and hesitation and you can attempt to speak what-ever you have learnt and feel free to make errors. With every such session you fell you have grown a lot in confidence and your control over the language. Right now, there are language cafes being organised at different times during the week at Chalmers, and one can easily spot them and take a kick-start in any new language. Then, the Swedish government offers free courses as well, but you have to wait for a few months before getting a chance.

Site of one of the language cafes in Gothenburg

Site of one of the language cafes in Gothenburg

I still don’t trust my sense of wisdom and ability to see things through, but hope that if so many other people can do it, then I can also scramble through and learn Swedish. Wether or not I stay in Sweden after my masters is irrelevant since it is more about feeling good about your-self; it would be a proud moment if I can add something more to my arsenal apart from my native language and English. Let us see what time has in store for me!

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