Enjoy Not Knowing

Just another American living in Sweden


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language arts

picture credit: itchy feet

Have you ever thought about this concept? For me the idea of language arts has gone somewhat unnoticed until my move to Sweden. We had a Language Arts building in high school. Let me explain that further, we had an open campus, which means multiple buildings and a nice little walk outdoors between each class. The outdoor time was especially appreciated during winters in New England. The Language Arts building is where students had their foreign language classes and some English classes (like Medieval literature – which I took senior year). Being the wonderfully cheerful teenager that I was I never put a lot of thought into the naming of the building, but it’s a concept I was reminded of during recent pondering.

What does Language Arts really mean, what about language is an art? Just as music is an art, where the reading and composing of notes creates the beautiful sounds that humans across the globe cannot get enough of, language is also an art. Though I never really understood the deep connections between say language and music (or painting, or what have you) until I really  learned my second language (and exited my moody teenage years).

When writing, and speaking, word composition is just as important as music composition, or the composition of a painting, et cetera. Just take that word “composition” in the previous sentence how it can be applied in so many contexts. What I’m getting at is the fact that I’ve recently been considering language, along with the other art forms, as a sincere form of expression. It takes skill and practice to be articulate. Even more skill and practice to be articulate in multiple tongues. Just as any art form takes skill and practice to perfect.

If language is a form of expression that begs the question: What do you mean? What is it that you really want to say? What is the best way of saying it? Are you going for clarity? Beauty? Irony? Melody?  I don’t think these questions need answers, I just think they’re worth considering. They are at least for me in my inner wonderings about self-expression, communication and how I use language to do it.

That being said, word choice is one of the most important aspects of language. I find saying what you mean to often be the goal of communicating, and I do think this is the essential purpose of language. All people across the globe use language as a way of finding one other and attempting to understand those around us. In that I see beauty.

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five years in sweden


Five years and one month ago today I moved across the Atlantic to be with my beloved.

I sort of can’t believe it.

  • There are full humans that have existed for a shorter period of time than I have lived in Sweden.
  • I meet people today who I only ever speak Swedish with. Never English.
  • I sing along with all the annoying jingles on the radio – in my second language.
  • I fika regularly and don’t get hung up about it.
  • I can name (and have visited) more than five cities in Sweden.

It’s madness. What once seemed unusual and extraordinary has become just a day in the life.

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swedish as a second language

Once upon a time a girl moved to Sweden. In Sweden the spoken language is Swedish. The girl embarked on a language learning journey though Swedish as a Second Language classes, also known as SAS.

In May of last year I touched upon the completion of my Swedish 2 class. Really what I did was allude to the fact that my final was coming up, and use that as a partial excuse for not posting in ages. At this point I’ve even completed Swedish 3. Which concludes my academic Swedish learning.


Since moving to the city where we currently reside I’ve almost exclusively taken classes online. It’s definitely something to get used to, but now that I’ve been doing it for two years straight I’d say I’m starting to get the hang of it.

Swedish 2 concluded with an in person essay test. We had an assigned book that we were to have read and brought with us to the exam. We received three essay questions upon arrival and had something like four hours to write our essay.

I’m going to reiterate. Read a novel in a foreign language, then write about that novel for four hours. Looking back I’m pretty impressed with myself! To be honest it wasn’t as hard as I may be making it sound, I like to retain hyperbolization rights in my writing.

Swedish 3 was like Swedish 2 but more. More reading, more writing, a bigger and badder final exam. The final exam in Swedish 3 was a national exam. Think MCAS for those of you acquainted with the Massachusetts public school system, or Google MCAS for those of you unacquainted with the Massachusetts public school system. (I was going to make a common core reference, but I’m so not touching that.)

The moral of the story is that I’M DONE! Done with my Swedish book learning. All done in just enough time to forget all my Englishing.

This girl can speak Swedish now. Or at least fake it really really well.

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book of september: harry potter och de vises sten

In my never-ending quest to fully grasp the Swedish language I have decided to read more in Swedish. I thought starting with what very well may be my favorite book was a good place to start. Seeing as I have read it over…well we don’t need to publicly publish how many times I’ve read the book – let’s just say it’s a lot of times…Seeing as I have read the book in English many many times I figured reading it in Swedish would be a good idea.

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To be honest, it was harder than I thought. Turns out I don’t know words like wizard, magic wand and Horcrux in Swedish. Just kidding, no one knows about Horcruxes in the first book. Probably Albus. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Also, Horcrux is Horcrux in Swedish. Now that that’s out of the way, I did get to learn a lot of new Swedish words! I just hope I’ll soon find a good use for “Benlåsningsbesvärjelsen” some time soon. (Leg-Locker Curse for those unfamiliar with Swedish spell names.)

If you haven’t read Harry Potter in your native tongue, get on that. I even recommend trying it out in your second, third or fourth language. All the languages!

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book of june: vi kom över havet

Hello and welcome to the first book of the month after my 25th birthday. That means this is the first book of the month for my 30 before 30 list. I hope you’re excited. I know I am.

Remember how I have been studying Swedish? Well in that post (the one you can read if you click that blue link) I tell you about my Swedish as a Second Language class. That class is officially said and done, and for that class we read a novel: Vi kom över havet by Julie Otsuka (which we then got to write our final exam on).

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The book has been translated into English, if my English speaking readers are wondering, in English it is titled The Buddha in the Attic. If my Japanese readers are wondering, I tried to check if it’s also available in Japanese, but I can’t read the Japanese Wikipedia page, so let me know if you find out.

I really enjoyed reading the book, and was honestly surprised how well it went to read in Swedish. As you know, I read Mödrar och söner by Theodor Kalifatides in Swedish, and that was actually pretty tricky. I was often looking up words, and asking Evelina to translate for me. This time it went a lot better.

Vi kom över havet is about Japanese immigrants having come to the US. It is in the perspective of Japanese women who travel by boat to husbands who have paid for their new wives. It is really amazingly written, and I highly recommend it. In any language.

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three. learn swedish

So, learn Swedish. A pretty tricky one, I think. When I wrote my 25 before 25 list, in late March of 2012, I had recently started on my journey of Swedish learning.

As, somewhat, preiously explained there are many levels of Swedish learning available in Sweden, completely free of charge.
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First, there’s Swedish for Foreigners (SFI). Yup, that’s me, a foreigner. Anyway. SFI is done in four stages A-D.
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In the spring of 2012 I was enrolled in SFI C. Seeing as my native tongue uses the Latin alphabet and I have attended more than 12 years of school, I was automatically placed in C. After attending night classes for 3 weeks my teacher thought I was ready to take the National exam. One must pass this exam after each stage in one’s Swedish learning. (Except one – more on that later.) I took the test, and patiently awaited my results. When they were returned to me, my teacher had some surprising news. Not only had I passed the National Swedish for Foreigners C Exam, I had done well enough to also use that exam to pass the D Exam. So with one fell swoop I had completed my SFI learnin’.
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The next logical step is to continue on to Swedish as a Second Language for Beginners. I started this class in the winter of 2013. After moving from one city to the next, and navigating the new application process that came with the change in city and course level I had been accepted to night classes.  These went farily well, until the New Year when a different school won the rights to teach SAS for beginners. Luckily, I was able to complete the requirements and pass the course.
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That brings me to my online studies of Swedish. This past fall I was enrolled in Swedish as a Second Language 1, and this spring I was enrolled in Swedish as a Second Language 2 (as mentioned my final exam was last Wendesday). For my SAS 2 course I posted a video for an assignment, after which it was again reaffirmed that I will likely always have an accent.  That’s fine right? Anywho I recently found out I need to also take Swedish as a Second Language 3 in order to fulfill university requirements. Basically prove that I know enough Swedish to complete university level work.
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My Swedish as a Second Language 2 course went better than the first, which is encouraging. And, although I will not be able to complete Swedish 3 before my 25th bithday, I am actually satisfied with my Swedish knowledge. I would say that I can speak Swedish now. Check off number three!
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The hapiness levels are high!
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an apology

I have been away now for over two months. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while can attest to the fact that this tends to happen occasionally.

Life gets busy.

In the recent months I have been wrapping up my Swedish as a second language course – the final exam is tomorrow. I’ve been running like a mad woman. I’ve travelled across the Atlantic, which was lovely, I’ve hosted a friend here in Sweden, and I’ve been party planning. I’m well on my way to taking my driver’s test at the end of the month. Work has also made a big appearance in my scheduling, as we’ve entered the busiest time of the year – the end of the school year. Meetings galore!

I would like to say that you’ll all soon get to hear more about these exciting events soon. But there are no guarantees. Especially with the exciting announcement that’s coming up.

Tune in tomorrow to see what’s in store!

In the mean time, I will leave you with this lovely thought from Brian Andreas:

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My own picture, Brian’s words.

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