azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
posted by [personal profile] azdak at 08:02pm on 04/10/2011
Wolfgang and I had our first Swedish lesson last night. We are attending a series of 11 beginners' lessons at night school in Vienna in the hope that this will enable us to consult our guide to all the best natural anchor spots in the Stockholm archipelago (apparently it is the bible of archipelago sailors, but of course it is in Swedish, though I suppose there might conceivably be a Finnish edition available, not that that helps) without worrying whether our translation, achieved with the help of the fickordbok on the boat (it means "pocket dictionary", so get your filthy minds out of the gutter, all you German speakers) has accurately distinguished between "great place to anchor when the wind's from the west" and "terrible place to anchor when the wind's from the west". The teacher started out by asking us all if we knew any Swedish words. We knew the least in the class, but the ones we did know were all things like "north", "south", "island" and "halyard", which at least no one else knew. We have now learned how to say things like "What is your name?" and "Where are you from?", none of which will be any use at all, because all Swedes speak perfect English, and even the ancient fisherman we met out in the wilds of the outer archipelago, who clutched his head in horror when he heard we only spoke English, managed to tell us that his family had always been fishermen and that he lived in the most beautiful place in the world and that we had a beautiful boat, which is more than I will be able to do in Swedish after my eleven lessons. However, I went into kindergarten this morning and said to one little boy whose mother is Swedish "Vat hetter Du?" and he looked at me in astonishment and said, "Philip" so something must have stuck.

Swedish grammar and vocabulary seem reasonably simple so far, but Swedish spelling is a mystery. "Det" is pronounced "de" and "de" is pronounced "dom" and every third letter is pronounced sh (k is sh and sh is sh and sj is sh and j is sh and s is sh). Or not. Depending on where in the word it crops up. I can see, given my passing acquaintance with phonology, that Swedish has a thing about palatalisation before front vowels and after liquids, but this sh obsession goes far beyond that.

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