Category Archives: Svenska (Swedish language)

Christmas Research and a Birthday

I missed this when it happened, but my former supervisor Svend Erik was profile on Swedish National Radio on Christmas day.  You can check it out and listen to the report here.  Even if you don’t speak Swedish, I think the authority, expertise, and pondus shines through in the interview. 🙂

Svend Erik had a big birthday this week, and today may be resting up after having a party with lots of family and friends.  Happy Birthday SvE!

Restroom, WC, Toan

A hilariously straightforward bathroom reminder: the second point reads 'do not leave a trail behind you on the porcelain!

My friend Andrea says that here priority travel phrase when visiting a country where English is not the primary language is: ‘Where is the bathroom?’ This makes sense, as you might not have time to translate back and forth by the time you need to ask. In Sweden, a public restroom is labeled ‘WC’ like in the UK, although no one ever calls it a ‘water closet’. Actually, when anyone in Sweden refers to that room in English, it gets called ‘the toilet.’

I didn’t think I carried a lot of Anglo/North American uprightness, but I have to admit that the phrase ‘going to the toilet’ has always thrown me off a bit. I fully recognize that ‘bathroom’ doesn’t make sense since there is no bath in public washrooms (or even in most apartment washrooms.) ‘Washroom’ itself is a bit euphemistic, like ‘powder room’. ‘WC is as anachronistic as ‘horseless carriage.’ I was a bit taken aback at the airport when I asked where we should set up the measuring equipment, and our host suggested the restroom as the perfect place since it was the right size and private. He meant the room where resting happens (picture a nice first aid room with a sink and cot), not the room where ‘restrooming’ happens. This is really an unfair idiosyncrasy of the English language, making it unnecessarily hard for folks who speak English as a foreign language. It has strong roots as a social convention, but it just does not make for an accurate picture. In polite company, anglophone Canadians talk about animals ‘going to the washroom’ (they don’t) or people ‘ going to the washroom behind some trees’ while camping (luxury camping?).

However, I still find it hard to excuse myself from a group of people and say ‘I have to use the toilet.’ I don’t have a problem with ‘toilette’ in French or ‘toan’ in Swedish, but in English it just seems like an over-share that no one has asked for. You have to know someone pretty well to announce ‘I am going to take an epic dump, don’t expect me back for a few minutes’; outside of a locker room or shared dormroom in a frat house, it just seems a bit disrespectful. Some Swedes asked me about my ‘washroom’ vocab, and I had to own up to just being a little stuck to the euphemisms. ‘Toilet’ to me is the specific plumbing fixture, and is far too specific to describe my destination or activities. As irrational as it is, I still use ‘washroom’. Even though it is out of step with what everyone else says, and even though it is not very accurate. Maybe ‘toilet’ will grow on me… or maybe I can compromise and just say it in Swedish.

Kanadensisk Fru

Oh, the humanity

I have started a new blog to give me practice writing in Swedish.  The intended audience is really my  Swedish class buddies, and long-suffering Swedish friends who will get a giggle at my iunintentional mistakes.  Hopefully it will also  show my Swedish teachers I am not a total slacker even though I have been away so much.

The name is a bit of a play on a popular Swedish reality television show: ‘Swedish housewives in Hollywood‘.  This is a show about lovely (trophy) Swedish expats who have married wealthy Americans and follows them through their various non-dramas like “how will I fit in a tanning session and manicure before the big party?” and “my husband doesn’t like my precious purse-doggie, but I adore purse-doggie! Katastrof!”

If you want to check it out, you can use Google translate for some great Engrish.  You can also make some Swedish comments using Google translate (or use your mad Swedish skillz, Graham!)


When you borrow a word form another language, what really integrates it?  How do you pluralize or conjugate a foreign word?

In English we do this all the time, and as a french student I would occasionally take and English word and conjugate it as a regular
french verb… half the time it was right.

Swedish has LOTS of ‘loaner-words’ and since so many people are fluent in English, it can get a bit tricky how to integrate these words.
one such word is ‘muffin’, and Swedish Radio has a linguist in this week to discuss how it should be pluralized, and perhaps also gripe about what is the world coming to and how back in his day, people spoke the king’s Swedish!

PS the king eats muffinar.

Sista gången på svenska kurs C

Today was my last Swedish class before the summer break. It was great! One of my classmates and I organized a little avslutningfest (final party) and everyone brought something to share. I made a strawberry and marzipan tart. It might have been better with raspberry, but strawberry is more fitting with the season.  We had tea and coffee and treats (en liten fika) and talked about our plans for the summer. One of my classmates took a picture, I will update this with a picture when she sends it to me.

We also learned and sang a song written by Astrid Lindgren of Pippi Longstocking (Långstrump) fame.  It is in the voice of a little girl who wants summer to come, and it describes everything that is great about a Swedish summer.   Enjoy!


Lingon (or blueberry?) flowers - how Swedish!

Yesterday in Swedish class we learned about some of the hardest Swedish sounds to make – sj and tj. These are sounds that a lot of people have trouble with, because they (especially sj) don’t exist in a lot of languages. The analogy we had in class was about trains. ‘Tj’ is the sound of a little train giving little short puffs. ‘Sj’ is the sound of the a big train giving great big puffs. WTF?

It was actually fun to try them both out, we all laughed a lot and got some good coaching from our teacher.  I can hear the difference between the sounds and can make the ‘tj’ sound plausibly, but ‘sj’ is still a bit hard and I don’t always know if I am doing it right.  The big test is whether you can do the Swedish tongue twister:

sju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju sköna sjuksköterskor

This means: “Seven seasick seamen were cared for by seven beautiful nurses”.  You can here it here.   I take spinning and other fitness classes in Swedish, and counting back from 8 is pretty universal.  How can anyone yell the word ‘sju’ (seven) when it is really a whipser? They manage.

In other Svenska news,  I passed my Swedish exam and am now in ‘D’ level Swedish.  I did well on the written part and need to work on the speaking a bit more.

I think  I can I think I can… sj-sj-sj-sj-sj.