Nothing exciting this last week. Some progress maybe, and I know where my three classrooms are, plus Friday tests held in the Jussi auditorium. We had a Friday test this morning, doubt I passed it, but think I failed less than the last time. Some of us have started speaking Swedish to each other this last week. ‘How are you? Are you married? Do you have children?’ Scintillating conversations. But it’s nice. It’s good, and I’ve relaxed a bit, accepted how it is, this language thing and me. I can tell you my address on Foreningsghatan (fourteen letters!) and converse with a health care receptionist, or ‘emergency’ people over the phone. I’m sure anyone ending up on the other end of such calls will be able to speak English, but good to know, just in case.
I’ve learned how to use the coffee machine in the lounge, can say numbers up to the thousands, and tell you what time it is . . . in Swedish. Small steps, but progress. I have still not memorized the number of the cell phone that I never use, or my person number. Person numbers are about the same as one’s social security number in the States.
Teacher keeps telling us, “Stop speaking Arabic!” No problem for me, but we have five women in this class who like to chatter about things in the classroom lecture they don’t understand, or maybe something else entirely. We’ll never know. When more than two of them get going it’s a real cacophony. Their language seems incredibly fast, staccato. We are told to speak only Swedish while in school, and wherever possible. There’s no need to forbid English. No one is speaking English.
It would be great if could learn to talk in Swedish with classmates. I’m sure they have interesting stories, but so far our conversations tend to stall out while talking about family and cars.
“My dad had a Buick,” one tells me, and he had a car, also American. How the hell did these cars get to Syria? I don’t know much about Syria, except for the madness shown on TV news. Some kind of complicated civil war – 190,000 dead so far.
The Mind Boggles
She’s from the deep south and the wrong side, of Africa. Was part of a tribe. What was that like I wonder. In her late twenties now, been here for eighteen months. I’ve missed her this last week. Thought she’d dropped out, but saw her in the hall today, looking for one of our teachers. She’s been intent on learning Swedish, and been doing better at it than I am and speaks the best English of all my classmates. I don’t think she gets any money for attending classes – something to do with her status here, and getting her kid back. I hope she’s okay. She looks okay. Problems at home I guess.
I keep thinking about language as a thing in itself, beyond accents, countries, nationalities, and at the same time making things possible. The power of language . . . words. Is there thought without words?
“Language must be taken in a wider sense than speech, Jung says. “Speech is only the outward flow of thoughts formulated for communication. Were it otherwise the deaf mute would be extremely limited in his thinking capacity, which is not the case at all.”