liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Another trip to present the Stockholm Progressive group to a small provincial Jewish community yesterday, this time in Uppsala. It was a fairly exhausting evening, hard work but I think productive.

itinerant preacher )

Since old Polish guys generally have less English than native Swedes, we were using a kind of muddle of English and Swedish (with some Russian and Yiddish thrown in for good measure and Polish for comic effect). There was much general encouragement for me to attempt Swedish, and since the group are almost all immigrants or children of immigrants, they were very firm in pointing out that I would never improve unless I got over my self-consciousness about my flawed speaking. So I was managing mostly in Swedish, even with several people talking at once about quite complex topics. I had to fumble for vocab a few times, but I was certainly communicating. So when it came to drawing the group together to make grace after the meal, I staunchly carried on and made the announcement in Swedish. So that's the first time I've done that, actually made a public speech (albeit a fairly short one) to an audience in Swedish rather than just one-to-one conversation. That feels like a big step forward!
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
There aren't very many false friends in Swedish. Or at least, few that aren't transparent with a knowledge of Scots and German. But most English speakers take a while to get past the initial shock of seeing SLUT written everywhere in large letters. In fact, it simply means end (and is pronounced to rhyme with shoot, not with shut).

examples, some of which are naughty )

Anyway, the point of this is that my inner eight-year-old found this banner disproportionately hilarious; it's a combination of the unfortunate to an English speaker URL with the picture of someone's bum that set me off. (The website is actually a directory of builders and handymen, if you're curious.) So I'm posting about it for the delectation of anyone else who happens to find this kind of childish stuff amusing...
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I've been so distracted by all the gossip-related stuff going on recently that I've forgotten to update my booklog. So have reviews of:

Rebecca Wells: Divine secrets of the Ya-Ya sisterhood
Zora Neale Hurston: Their eyes were watching God

Right now I am attempting to read a classic Swedish YA novel, Frans Bengtsson's Röde Orm (the literal translation of the name is Red serpent, but the English title is The Long Ships). It's fun, and it has Vikings. But it's slow going, at least partly because it's written in an intentionally archaic style.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
So we were discussing the matter of how people are perceived by others versus what their character is actually like. And somebody mentioned that I come across as being nicey nicey and unassertive at first, she said, I think it's because you're quite... frum. She fumbled for the word, and decided it didn't exist in English. But I got very excited as she was defining it for me because it turns out that the Swedish word frum means exactly the same as the Yiddish word, the lack of which I frequently deplore in English: religious in the sense of being committed to the rules and formal observances of the religion. Like pious but more specific. Cool, huh?
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I've been intending to write this post for ages, cos I want to babble about learning Swedish. I found out today that I passed my second level Swedish course, and that seems as good a motivation as any to actually get on and post this.

(In theory, the European A2 level of language competence means that I am supposed to be able to manage simple shopping conversations and ordering food in a restaurant; discuss hobbies, interests and jobs using simple questions and answers; understand the gist of written texts if I'm familiar with the subject matter; understand simple statements spoken at normal pace if I know the context; write simple notes and texts though not without errors. So it's probably a bit below GCSE level, I'd estimate. In practice my comprehension of both speech and writing is quite a bit ahead of this, but my active Swedish lags rather a way behind as yet.)

Anyway, yeah, Swedish is a great language for me, because it has lots of elongated vowels! It sounds slightly comical until you get used to it, something like if an Italian learnt English from a really plummy-voiced Etonian. In fact, it's more "lilting" than the languages that are traditionally described as such, because it has intrinsic tone. Apparently proto-IE had it, but I've never come across that feature in any modern day Germanic languages. Apart from that and a few other unique features, it's somewhere between English and German, but closer to English, particularly archaic and regional forms. So relatively easy for a native speaker of English with a smattering of German and an even smaller smattering of Yiddish. And lots of words that don't have obvious cognates in standard English do have them in Scots: barn -> bairn; grata -> greet [to cry].

more babble )

Anyway, yes, Swedish is cool. I'm having a lot of fun learning it, and I think I've got over the initial hump and know enough of the basic structure that I'm picking up new vocab, and feeling more natural with the grammar, as I go along just by being immersed. My accent still sucks, but I can make myself understood if people are prepared to overlook that.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
So I took my mezuzah, my Granny's silver one, to the local jeweller today to ask him to repair it. Unfortunately, he only speaks about 10 words of English, while I only speak about 10 words of Swedish.

It's reasonably easy to explain using gestures: please repair this broken object. It's somewhat less easy to explain that no, he shouldn't touch the funny papery stuff that he can see through a window in the back. I just about managed to pantomime "no, you don't wear it as a necklace, you nail it to the wall". I completely failed to convey "no, it's really not an amulet".

He was showing me a bunch of amulets that he writes and makes, written in a script that looks similar to Arabic but I'm fairly certain isn't. He said something about Aramaic, which if we weren't just completely talking past eachother would make him the second Aramaic speaker I've met here. And he attempted to convey something about how his religion teaches the unity of humanity and he respects all religions. And I think what he was saying is that he is some kind of sofer, for a religion which certainly isn't Islam (he was vehement on that point) and I don't think is Christianity either, though he did keep saying "Yeshua! Yeshua!". But now we're getting into pretty abstract topics for a conversation with no common language!

Anyway, it was trying to be a nice fuzzy intercultural encounter, of the sort that sometimes occurs when a non-Jew notices a mezuzah. Except that our level of linguistic competence it became somewhat farcical.

After all this, I should probably get the writing checked, shouldn't I?
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Today I finally managed to do something I've been planning to do for ages: I joined the local library. I was a bit nervous that I would look ridiculous asking to join the library when I don't speak a word of Swedish, but [ profile] hatam_soferet pointed out to me that the sort of people who become librarians are generally the sort of people who approve of using libraries for their intended purpose of looking for information to educate yourself.

She was right; the librarian was delighted with my request, and was extremely lovely and helpful. We kept grinning at eachother like two people who have just discovered that their secret crush is mutual. (Actually, she reminded me quite strongly of [ profile] loreid; she's about my age, with dark hair and fair skin, and has the appearance of a goth who is obliged to dress respectably for work.)

So she helped me to choose some suitable children's books which are simple to read without being dire. Pippi Longstocking yay. My new favourite word is julgransplundringskvällen, which means "the evening of the party celebrating taking down the decorations from the Christmas tree". The nice librarian also mentioned that they have a few English books if I get tired of working hard to learn Swedish and just want something to read. And she explained how the library system here is terribly convenient and mostly online and self-service and I can even order books from other libraries in the city, if I run out of the meager collection of English books in Älvsjö.

I have something to read. *happy dance*


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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