Tag Archives: SFI

Learning Swedish

It is almost two weeks now since I started learning Swedish. I thought I should tell you a little about it as it really is an amazing experience.

Basically anyone who lives in Sweden can start on the SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) course. You go along to the office, once you have been allocated your personnelnummer and say I want to learn Swedish please. They give you a very quick interview, mine took about 5 minutes, to assess your need and location. Basically you are asked what education you already have had, where you live and what your current situation/availability is.

Off the back of that I was assigned a morning class at a college 10 minutes bus ride from my house. I study from 8:15-12:00 Mon-Fri – so 17.5 hours a week. Martin is also studying but he goes to evening class twice a week (7 hours).

On day one you turn up at 9am for an introduction. At this point you are all put together, regardless of your education or experience. For the first two weeks you remain together and then are put into other groups.

In my class there are 15-20 people – I haven’t counted. There is a range of nationalities with about half of arabic origin. So in my class the people have come from Syria (about 8), Lithuania, Afghanistan, Chile, Thailand, Morocco, Eritrea and Ethiopia. I think I have forgotten a few. English is the common language but I am the only native-English speaker. Everyone else speaks at least two languages and in some cases many more.

The ages range from 19 up to late 50s. Some have families, some don’t. Some are refugees, some have married Swedes, some are here because of work.

We are approaching the end of the two-week block and in that time we have learnt a huge amount. Grammar, phrases, vocabulary. It really is incredible. I don’t yet have the confidence to go out and speak fluently to a Swede but I have noticed that my ear is tuning in much more in spoken language. I can hear where the sentences start and end and where the verbs and nouns are. A huge leap from two weeks ago when it really did sound like this:

The same is true when I am looking at Swedish text. I can see the sentence structure and although I may not understand some of the words I am starting to recognise, and read, much more.

Continue reading Learning Swedish

Speaking Our Language: Registered for SFI (At Last)

What’s it like living in a country where you don’t speak the language? Well, it’s like this:

A wall of sound that you know contains meaning. But you have no idea what it is, even when the intonation and facial expression carries the general direction and mood. So you can have a go at making the appropriate face to keep up your end of the conversation and pretend to be a great listener (I have gone a good 10 mins as one of three or four in a conversation), but you get found out eventually, and confessing to be a big faker who laughed at the jokes he didn’t understand isn’t pleasant.

On a good day, it’s a bit like this old Larson Cartoon

And very, very slowly, I can hear a few more words as time goes on. But it’s too slow.

And it leads to being very confused in places like the supermarket. Some things you really don’t know what they are. And what you think you know, you get wrong. Like the time we bought 6 cartons of yoghurt instead of milk. Or the time we made pizza with shortcrust pastry. And you can’t work out how to get the self-scanning working. At least I can ask Ursäkta, kan du hjälpa mig in Engelska? when things go truly wrong, which is huge advance on where I was 6 weeks ago (ie: Engelska?)

And while I do have enough very simple phrases to ask for things, I’m far too nervous to use them. Not because I fear my pronunciation would fail critically and laughably. Well, OK, not just because of that, but I’m much more afraid that the person behind the counter will ask a clarifying question, which will wash over me in an impenetrable wall of blah blah blah blah GINGER! blah blah blah.

So I’m very relieved that both Lucy and I have finally bitten the bullet and registered for SFI classes. Lucy has hers 3 days a week in the day (starting at 0815) totalling 15hrs, and I have 2 evening classes of 3hrs. Both are a short bus ride away from the house (actually just across the car park from our nearest big supermarket, which is handy). Both of us start in a couple of weeks.
Continue reading Speaking Our Language: Registered for SFI (At Last)