I feel like I’m tailed at the moment? Some to dog me on my own blogs? Well, what can one do? I lives on and spend my days as I use to do – read and write, eat and sleep, watching the news and a walk my dog…
I begin my day with reading news on the web. After Trump’s pompous entrance on the world stage I also try to read American web papers.
Reading, one could think would be a good training to improve the English. And I’m always on a try to read a novel to improve my English – but I usually hit the wall at the first page, because my vocabulary is (still!) too limited. Novels are actually harder in practical reality than writing.
Well, poetry is what works for me in writing, not the prose. And web papers are easier to read than novels – but lazy, I in this likewise in writing I get away with online dictionaries and support of translate google.
But idioms are hard. A headline got my brain to drop dead the other day: “How the FBI tailing Trump could dog his presidency”.
I certainly knew what “tailing” means. It was the introduction of a dog in the sentence that got my intellect to collapse. Because dogs have tails my primitive brain told itself… and my silly brain made a somersault and lost grip or footing (?) and I sat there starring in blank at the headline for at least 5 minutes – deadlock, I understood nothing!
What a shame it was for me! (Having this blog since years back writing in English!)
It took some time to understand what the headline asked. It was actually the same question I had asked myself earlier after I had watched the hearing of the FBI man on TV.
I started to write in English first in 2011 after I had joined an online pen pal site … A daily writing to pen pals in English led to I began to think in English! And soon enough I became unable to conclude a written sentence in Swedish. It always ended in English. And it was beyond my will and instant awareness!
I’m not something as elegant as being bilingual as it is often defined as the ability to effortless switch between two languages, and/or use them equally well. I masters Swedish, but I’m not the commandant over my languages! Yet my limitations, in the English I’m free from repressive life experiences “made in Sweden” and able to write freely. But the Swedish language – it’s of course my base and bridge.
I wrote poetry in younger days, but I lost it. I couldn’t write in my native language for many years. The English language gave me the writing skill back as it provides me with an anonymity allowing me to be free to say whatever is on my mind.
It seems I lost this anonymity? What will be now, I wonder!
I have a British pen pal since many years thinking I’m good in English. But I certainly never have to use dictionaries writing mail in Swedish and seldom spell words wrongly! Looking closely, it’s the access to internet that makes me able to write at all! (And be read, of course.) (I never write mails in Swedish, by the way.)
I made an online proficiency test some years ago checking my skill in the English language – and the result was worse than I ever had believed. But it didn’t stop me from using the language. Now I have again made a test and got more gratifying results:
Summary of English skills
You have a relatively good knowledge of English but still require training in order to master the most complicated aspects of the language. Your score demonstrates a decent command of many aspects of grammar, while you don’t yet feel fully confident with some of the other grammatical categories. Your responses show that to a large degree you are able to understand complex texts that can be encountered in an academic or professional environment. Below you will find a summary of your score that can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in English. When reviewing your scores, please remember that this test was designed for an advanced level of English skills in preparation for higher education.
The result shows I have problems like with prepositions and some verb forms, which I was aware of – and pronouns, which was a surprise. I have according to the test 100% knowledge of asked idioms. But that is not true in reality! It is real hard to understand idioms.
Especially when “tailing” and “dog” comes in same sentence. 😀
Prepositions and idioms is also the hardest for migrants in my country learning Swedish. I have often seen how this cause problems when I talk with people from another country. The migrant person become suddenly very silent and get the empty face you get when you don’t understand what your are told and feel very stupid therefore. It’s a very unpleasant communication experience to be exposed to – and a reason why many who have been affected by it avoid to put themselves into the same situation again, if possible. But then the necessary the language training goes missing!
To master your language or not master it, is strongly linked to feelings of confidence and having a space or the total opposite – feeling uncertain and uncomfortable.
It seems to me the official education in “Swedish for immigrants” focus too much on grammar training. And too many migrants in Sweden have a real lousy conversation capability in Swedish even after living many years in Sweden.
One problem is of course the teachers for migrants, native teachers are not good enough (sorry hard workers, but it’s what I’ve heard and read) and too many teachers have Swedish as second language and seems to have no feelings for the language at all. (Yes, and this is terrible – people spend years training a language they are forced to learn to get a job and learn nothing, when all they want is to get a job and be independed!)
It is a bit embarrassing – or comic? – migrants who get education in the Swedish language on SFI (Swedish for immigrants) on one hand hardly learns to speak or write Swedish effectively – on the other hand tells with their poor Swedish that I, a native Swede and skilled in Swedish, can’t speak Swedish correctly… 😦
I don’t argue – as I have never learned grammar. No, I play by ear. Language is rhythm like in music. And English is the only other language I can play and have ears for. I can’t learn Spanish, German or French.
In the 60s Sweden had many guest workers coming into the country. There were by then no demands or obligatory to learn Swedish or to be assimilated – neither any such were offered! People lived here for a while in camps and then they returned to their home countries. Those who choose to stay had no other choice but to socialize with Swedes, learn the language and assimilate. The way is to get a steady job, marry a Swede and raise a family.
Theodor Kallifatides is a Greek man and he is a Swedish writer. He was born in 1938 in Greece and immigrated to Sweden in 1964. He deputed as a writer (writing in Swedish) in 1969 with a collection of poems and he has thereafter for nearly half a decade written over 30 novels and worked with translations, etc. – in Swedish.
At the age of 77, he sudden suffered writer’s block. So he went “home” to Greece on a vacation – and got there the idea to start writing in his native language, the Greek. It worked out well and the result is a book with essays about writing. This book he has now translated into Swedish and it was released in March this year, 2017. Kallifatides is now 79 years old.
And he was now in March interviewed for his latest book in a literature program on Swedish television.
The following is what he said on TV:
A point of migration that is rarely talked about, that is what you lose. You lose your sensitivity, you lose your memories – you lose parts of your heart, actually. Especially if you have made it to your program to at all costs get into the society. But everyone pays a price – no, but my only way to not pay that price was to start write in Greek – and it was a feast! It was a feast – my whole head opened up. This thorn wreath, I have always had around my head when I wrote in Swedish – it disappeared: all those “do I write it right or wrong?”, “Is this how it is said in Swedish?” And if you ask a Swedish person, you never get a response other than “we don’t say like that in Swedish.”Well, thanks for that!
(Asked by the TV host if he experiences any difference in writing in Swedish or in Greek he said:)
I am much more confident in Greek, even if I make a mistake in Greek, it is my fault (…) but the secret behind my language ( Kallifatides refers to his writing in Swedish) are the enormous lack of security. I must think back a thousand times at every sentence, to be sure that this is as how it is said in Swedish.
(In a playing mood Kallifatides then smiled and asked to the program host:) Do you understand what life I have lived?
(The host ignored the issue and thanked Kallifatides for the interview and went ahead with the show.)
Talk about reading novels, by the way. I just started to read John Grisham “Roque Lawyer” translated into Swedish. My first impression was that he writes exaggerated scenes just to get his book filmed – and earn even more money? – the second impression is that his descriptions of the American legal community is absolutely disgusting. And I wonder if what he writes is true (terrible if so), or if he is a conspiracy theorist? Or a populist, raking the way for people like Trump? How can the American book market stand this man telling so horrible stories about the own society? Just giving him credit?
Anyway, reading this the book seems to me to be a pitch black highway to depression. But in Sweden the lights has returned out my windows, the spring is around the corner. There are other routes to follow. And I’ll go downtown tomorrow and return the book at the library – unread.
As I don’t have to read it, if I don’t like it. And – to close the circle – what’s the good with curiosity reading? Tell me?