December 4th, 2010

The Failed Experiment: Tweeting in Swedish

A while ago, I wrote about how I'm learning Swedish, and that setting up a separate Twitter account and tweeting everything in Swedish seemed like a great way to learn the language.

It's not.

The whole idea of Twitter is that it's short and fast. Typically, when I'm tweeting, I'm in front of the computer working away at code. Breaking from that for a couple of seconds to bash out a tweet in English is fine — it doesn't break my concentration and I'm back to coding again before I know it. Then again, I don't spend all day arguing with other people on Twitter, so maybe it's just me.

However, since I have to sit and concentrate for a good few minutes to translate a tweet into Swedish and gain something from it (i.e., not pasting the whole thing into Google Translate), it becomes broken. I break my concentration from coding and everything goes to hell.

Learning Swedish in Sweden

Since I've arrived here, my conscious learning of Swedish has dropped. We still haven't got back into regular lessons, and everyone in our local shops know we're English. Since pretty much every Swede I've encountered knows English pretty much as well as I do, learning Swedish in day-to-day conversation is difficult. Here's how it tends to go in, say, a shop:

Me: "Hej, tjugofyra tim för min SL-kort."
Shop assistant: <Visible pause as they shift their brain into English> "One hundred krona, please."

Obviously, my Swedish is bad and English enough for them to be able to figure out I'm English as soon as I open my mouth. Therefore, it's logical that to be spoken to in Swedish I should keep my damn mouth shut! Indeed, this works — I've found the trick to actually talk to someone in Swedish is to let them speak first — it seems if they're thinking in Swedish when they start talking to me, it'll stay that way. So, in a shop:

Me: <Stand there in uncomfortable silence>
Shop assistant: "Hej, kan jag hjälpa?" 
Me: "Ya, tjugofyra tim för min SL-kort."
Shop assistant: "Ett hundra krona … tack."

Obviously, the fact that I can go into a shop and ask for credit for my public transit card, or my phone or whatever means that I seem to have picked up a fair amount of Swedish though osmosis. Still, I need to pick up my game — although it seems I'll be able to do fine here without learning any more Swedish, I feel awful for not doing so, especially since my Swedish is roughly equivalent to a native Swede's English at age ten or so.