Ever had the dream where all of a sudden you switch from walking along the beach or in the forest, to being swept into a wave and then trapped. Locked in a water chamber. You’re trying to communicate with people, they see you but they can’t understand you.
That’s how I felt when I first moved to Sweden. I wanted to fit in automatically and try my hardest to learn the language but when you get to my age it’s not so easy. I definitely wore my vulnerability on my sleeve.
In this day and age, it felt hard becoming an expat, mainly due to all the issues we are currently seeing regarding immigration. I remember the surprise on the tax workers face when I told him I did not need immigration papers as I was British. With the current, a lot of the time unfair, stigma attached to immigrants; I felt an overwhelming urge to fit in ASAP – learning the language would allow me to do that! My thinking was, “if I learn the language fast enough, first impressions with strangers would be better. Otherwise, I feared I would come across as “a lazy immigrant who wasn’t bothered about adjusting to their new homeland”. Luckily, those feelings subsided as I began to meet other expats who had felt the same way but had positive experiences and advice to share.
Learning my husband and child’s language is of the utmost importance – I don’t want them plotting against me, right in front of my face!
I felt, and at times still do, I have a duty to learn Swedish as quickly as possible. I live here, I work here, and I am raising my child here so why shouldn’t I become fluent in my home country’s language. Yes, I am used to putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself, albeit a lot of the time unnecessary as I do in pretty much every aspect of my life.
However, the reasons for me pushing myself to learn Swedish, apart from the obvious of wanting to fully immerse myself in my new home and become a Malmöit (person from Malmö), have developed as time goes on. Three years into our new life path and I have three very special reasons that have kept me pushing forward with this incredibly hard task for someone at my age. Yea I said it! I’m not 18 anymore!!
When we moved here Eva was a 2-year-old sponge!! She soaked everything up and was pretty much teaching me Swedish.
Learning my husband and child’s language is of the utmost importance to me for that reason alone – it’s their language. It’s our home’s language and it is a part of us. Not to mention I don’t want them plotting against me right in front of my face! That’s reason enough!
I am lucky enough to say that according to Swedish opinion I have married into an “exception to the rule” large Swedish family. By all accounts, I married into a Caribbean family, with so many siblings, cousins and all of their kids. I got lucky they are loud, crazy and loving just like my lot around the globe.
My gorgeous niece and nephews who ranged from 1-11 (when we first moved) spurred me on to want to learn.
They are such amazing kids, I went from seeing them once or twice a year to every day. Add on my in-law siblings and cousins, it didn’t feel right not being able to communicate with them as freely as I could with my English family. I wanted them to get to know their fun crazy English aunt/sis/ cousin/niece.
The biggest motivator came when my brother in law became ill. We all went to the hospital and it pained me to not be able to understand everything the dr was telling us regarding his condition.
When you love someone and they are hurt you want to know exactly what is happening so you can help in any way you can. Whether that’s supporting the loved one who is ill or those closest to them at that time. That’s where I was stuck in a place of desperately trying to understand and not wanting my family to have to play translator.
In those moments it made me realise how easily it could have been Kevin or Eva in that situation and me listening to a doctor who may not want to, (more likely) prefer not to speak English. As a mother and wife that is the last thing, you should need to be dealing with if you are in that sort of situation. Let’s face it, in those situations most of the time the information that comes from the dr can be hard to digest, even when you speak the same language. You struggle just to follow the words as you come to terms with the situation. The fear, worry, stress and anxiousness begin to drown those cognitive senses you normally use to understand such complex situations. There is no way I want to add lost in translation to that. It’s not a situation I want to find myself in and I am the only one who can do the studying to ensure I won’t be.
It’s funny if I was asked before I moved to Sweden “do you plan to learn the language” I would have said, “of course it’s my daughter’s language”. Since then the reasons have grown and evolved the same as our Swedish life does. I’m excited to see what happens next and to read this piece in 3 years time and see how far I have come.
At this moment in time I would say I understand 95% of Swedish when a person is speaking to me. My Swedish speaking could be at 80% but I shy away at times, and when I’m stressed I find it incredibly difficult to speak in anything other than my mother tongue.
In 3 years I hope to be fluent and only speaking Swedish with my family instead of the 70/30 Swenglish we have going on now.
Now back to to the studying! Hey då! Puss och kram (kiss and hug)