27 January, 2010

Learning Swedish

Its late January, and Stu & I have now lived in Sweden for almost 6 months. There are so many aspects we love that the stuff we don't is still somehow not that bad. I think we both feel we have found a good fit here, and though we miss a lot of things, we definitely think of Stockholm as "home." Looking ahead, we will both have shiny new master's degrees in spring 2011, and the plan so far is to apply for jobs at various locations in the US, in London (because I *loved* it) and, of course, in Stockholm. One of the biggest hurdles to our eventual job search here is the language.

We have had a lot of people ask how our Swedish is coming. Well, its, kind of, not. At the moment, anyway. When we decided in April 2009 that we would move to Sweden from DC, we bought the Rosetta Stone language program. I recommend it...pretty pictures, easy to understand, total immersion in the language. It helped with the basics and with pronunciation, putting us roughly on the level of a 3 or 4 year old (which sounds demeaning, but kids ain't no dummies!) If we see an uncommon word we learned on Rosetta Stone, the exact phrases we learned it in still comes back to us. Its a bit weird, actually.

So in getting here, I signed up for SFI, Swedish for Immigrants, which is offered for free to nearly anyone. The government used to pay immigrants to take Swedish classes, and though they stopped that a while ago, I read that they tweaked the system and are piloting a version of the pay-for-learning plan in a few places, including Stockholm. I am not sure I'd qualify, but I'm sure I'd do it if I they threw a little money at me! I didn't start until late October, and only lasted until December. It wasn't terrible; they were educated, smart people taking the class with me, and it was nice to have nothing but Swedish spoken at me for a solid 3 hours. But it wasn't great, and after two months, I didn't feel like I learned all that much. Not to mention, all the art galleries in Stockholm hold their opening parties on Thursday nights, and I was either missing the openings or the class once per week. So it just didn't work out for me. And I have taken a month or so off from active Swedish learning.

But next week is when it all starts up again! Stu and I are paying to take a course at a local school together, once per week. It promises to have only a few students, and we took a placement test that will put us with other people on our level. Thankfully, we placed higher than total beginners! I would have been a little embarrassed otherwise. At once per week, we aren't going to become fluent anytime soon, but I might feel a little more comfortable talking to the grocery cashiers, and maybe later step up to the next course. I'm taking a beginner class at Stockholm University, mostly just to get more class time with professional professors (as opposed to the not-so-professional SFI professors.) And because it is for school credit, there is a bit more incentive to go to class and to do well. I think I'd also like a "language buddy" or something, too. A Swede that could get together for an hour or so a week to just practice the everyday phrases, etc. I could pay in cookies. Once I learn how to bake them here, that is. Or maybe Swedish pancakes. They are at least supposed to be super thin.

I was chatting today with Patti, a friend who just moved with her bf (and Stu's best friend) to Utrecht a week or so ago, and they are facing some of the same issues we did when we first got here...starting a new life, settling in, finding things, communicating with the locals, learning Dutch. I guess that is why I started writing this post. To acknowledge that its been 6 months! It feels like so long ago, but we definitely feel settled in Sweden. Even if we aren't fluent in Swedish (yet).

Oh, shameless plug, Patti just started a blog to keep up with everyone: http://goedgouda.blogspot.com/


  1. way to make it to 6 months!!! just think, you've made it through the crappy, cold, dark part, now you get to experience the sunny and warm part :-)

  2. Not out of the woods yet. At least the long underwear I wore today would beg to differ! But soon!

  3. I'm moving to Sweden in April, and planning to take SFI classes. I'm actually a university language professor myself, so I'm a little worried I'll be disappointed in the way the classes are run. I'll give it a go, anyway.

  4. I have to admit, I've also been here for 6 months and my Swedish is shamefully beginner as well! So don't feel bad, there are others in the same boat as you ;)

    I, on the other hand, have still not done the SFI course yet, though I guess I better get on that soon. From what I've heard, it can either be hit or miss. You will probably learn more from the courses that you have to pay for, and I'm interested to hear more about your Swedish progression!

  5. Both of you should definitely *try* SFI, like you said, it could be hit or miss. I also hear that if you take the morning courses (they generally run from 8:30-12 every day) you do get more out of them and your classmates are probably more serious. But who has that kind of time? I was taking an evening course twice a week.

    And swedishyogi...are you an instructor here in Stockholm? Stu (my husband) is a hatha/vinyasa instructor, but hasn't found a studio to practice or work at here yet. Any recommendations?

  6. HAHA I was going to ask you guys the same thing!

    I wrote a post on my blog about the price differences between Swedish and Canadian yoga studios....yikes!


    I have resorted to doing yoga at home (mainly from yogadownload.com) and have joined SATS which have some yoga classes. The ones I went to were pretty weak (well, to be fair they were a) in Swedish so hard for me to understand and b) done in a gym when I'm used to an awesome studio space). I would love to try a *real* studio but cannot afford the high costs on a student budget :(

    I am, however, teaching a few classes to KI students for free mainly to keep my teaching skills and also as a karma yoga project. I have a super heavy school workload (probably like Stu??) and am not sure if I would have the time to teach even if I wanted to. BUT, that said, during my research of yoga studios I didn't see any advertisements for English yoga classes. Untapped market?? or does that mean the likelihood of getting a teaching gig is next to none?? I never tried to find out.

    I did however go to a really awesome kirtan a few months ago, with Dave Stringer from the US, so all his dialogue was in English! BONUS! I'll let you know of any future ones (if you're interested of course!) cause its always fun to go with other yogis (and english speaking ones at that!)

    See why I reserved this comment for another time?? Its so easy for me to ramble when talking about yoga :)

  7. ok like 2 minutes after I posted this I thought about a cool yoga studio that I've never been too, haha, but check out their website all the time. I wanted to go to a workshop that they were hosting with Sharon Gannon and David Life founders of jivamukti yoga, but it didn't work out with my school schedule. (hopefully they will come back, they seem like really interesting people!)

    Well I just checked their site now and they are having an open house on February 6 with free yoga classes all day! Wow, talk about timing! The schedule is on their website:


    Nothing is better than free if you're a student. unless it includes free wine!

  8. We were at yogayama. It was packed, of course. Seems like a good studio! And I love the cafe idea.

    It was good to get going again. Think it's time to teach again soon...