So as you know I am a new parent in Stockholm. This carries a number of privileges, including easy access to public transport, lots of parks and nature all around, baby changing facilities literally everywhere. Not to mention every other woman in the street, especially now in the summer, is either pregnant or is pushing a bugaboo. Now that the days are long and relatively sunny I have also had a number of older people in the bus trying to chat with me. (Rarely does this happen in the winter). They usually start by staring at the baby and smiling and then making some comment. I always feel a bit guilty and embarrassed when this happens: I don’t understand what they say because my Swedish is very basic. However I always smile and nod back at them. They are after all sweet old people and they are trying to be nice. (As long as they really say “Your baby is cute” and not “a booger is hanging on your baby’s nose”).
Every time I speak with someone back home they want to know “how my Swedish is going”. The truth is it is not going anywhere at the moment. It has been stuck at Elementary level since I had my Swedish language course more than a year ago. The only explanation that comes in mind is that my hard drive is full.
Lame as this explanation might be it comes from a person who once travelled to the other side of the world to have a 6 month 8 hours per day intensive Mandarin course . Which meant that when the others finished class after midday and were off to enjoy Beijing, I (together with two other headcases) had another two “ bonus” hours to memorize Chinese characters. And as if that was not enough, to kill time during a heavy Beijing Winter, I read Fallaci’s “Un Uomo” in Italian in the afternoons, (pen in hand to draw lines under unknown words and everything) in order to “clear my head” from the hanzi induced mental fog.
That is how it had been. In and out of language schools to study Chinese, German, Italian, Spanish, English… Always studying/carrying/purchasing textbooks, dictionaries, novels, magazines… So what went wrong? Why am I not feeling motivated this time?
When I try to de-stress about Language and shake off language guilt I think about the following story.
A British friend who met his wife a few decades ago in Greece once confessed that when they first met they did not speak a common language. In the minds of most people this lack of communication would deter any serious relationship. However not only did they succeed in having an intimate relationship but soon after that they got married relocated to Asia together.
“Oh my God that must have been really hard for you both!”. I told the wife in shock when I first heard the story.
“Not really” she replied “For that particular time in our lives not talking was the best thing. In fact It really helped us”
Having this story in mind, I figured what a wonderful opportunity I have been given to shut up and shut down in Sweden.