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Moira Uggla: ”A bit more empathy and understanding, please!”

I remember exactly what it was like, now, 57 years on. I was newly married, and about to start my new life in Sweden. I had visited Sweden a few times earlier, both Stockholm and Kristianstad, but now it was the real thing.
Kristianstad • Publicerad 11 juli 2022
Detta är en personligt skriven text i Mosaik Kristianstadsbladet. Åsikter som uttrycks är skribentens egna.
Moira Uggla, volontär f d språklärare mm, från Skotland
Moira Uggla, volontär f d språklärare mm, från SkotlandFoto: Peter Åklundh

My native language was English, and I spoke fluent French and German, but all I could manage in Swedish was 'God dag', 'Tack så mycket' och 'Solen skiner'- and you don't get very far with that!

”It was quite embarrassing to sit among other people , hear my name and not know whether I was being spoken to or about”
Moira Uggla

At that time not so many people had learnt English at school, and I realised that if I wanted to have contact with people around me, it was up to me to learn Swedish. It was quite embarrassing to sit among other people , hear my name and not know whether I was being spoken to or about.

There was no Sfi at that time, so the solution lay in my hands. For example I tried to find shops where they took time to try and work out what I was looking for and taught me the words I needed. (That's more difficult now, I suppose, with self-service shops and scanning, and fewer staff around.)

”Her stories offered not only language training - I learned a lot about how things are done in Sweden, which is very important”
Moira Uggla

I watched TV, tried to read the newspaper and listened a lot to the radio. Later on I listened to radio programmes for children - for example when Astrid Lindgren read from her books about the children in Bullerbyn. Her stories offered not only language training - I learned a lot about how things are done in Sweden, which is very important.

After a while my Swedish was so good that I didn't have to think about which language I was using. And when I had an operation to mend my broken ankle and came round from the anaesthetic SPEAKING SWEDISH - that was bingo!

”How many of those who are particularly critical of new Arabic-speaking arrivals because they don't learn Swedish, are able to read all those Ukrainian signs without difficulty?”
Moira Uggla

I've spent all my working life working with languages, first thirty years teaching English and German at Fröknegårdskolan, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and now translating into English at Kb Mosaik. And I don't regret a second of it. I've been able to meet so many interesting people - instead of missing the chance of new, exciting acquaintances.

Just think - what will happen if you say something 'wrong' ? You may get something better than you expected!

To round off, I'd like to ask you to think about the demands some Swedes want to make on the people who come here. Putin''s war is raging in Ukraine, and people are fleeing for their lives.

In pictures from Ukraine we can see, every day, signs and other texts written in Cyrillic letters. How many of those who are particularly critical of new Arabic-speaking arrivals because they don't learn Swedish, are able to read all those Ukrainian signs without difficulty? The war has been going on for more than four months!

They've had time to learn! The Cyrillic alphabet is much closer to our Swedish alphabet than the Arabic one is. And the languages are totally different in themselves, you can't simply transfer grammar from Arabic to Swedish or vice versa, you need to use a completely new way of thinking.

Hard enough under peaceful circumstances, bordering on the impossible for people who have had to flee from everything that is familiar. A bit more empathy and understanding, please!