Moira Uggla: ”A good librarian can be a great help”
I remember my first day in Stockholm very well. It was at the end of March, the sun was shining, and the air was clear. I was all dressed up, just like at home, in my elegant high-heeled shoes, but when I reached Stockholm there was snow everywhere - that was my first surprise!
Luckily enough I had brought more practical footwear as well, so the high heels soon found themselves back in my case .
To begin with there were many more surprises. Street signs were so strange, with their long, long names - I wasn't accustomed to write everything as one long word.
”My home was here, and I wanted to learn the language everyone around me used”Moira Uggla
I had lived at Station Road, which is quite easy to understand, but here it was one long word, Järnvägsgatan. And how on earth did you pronounce it?
'Listen and learn' was my motto. And all the other things you don't even notice once you know some Swedish - 'Open', 'Close', ' Pull', 'Push', 'Put your tray here' and many more. And what was the difference between 'close' and 'closed'? Was it important?
Here it was a question of being careful and testing the way ahead. 'Se upp' wasn't completely clear eíther - why look UP? Especially when it concerned steps and pavements, which are, of course, at ground level.
It all felt quite exotic, being surrounded by a language I didn't completely understand, but somehow or other I got by. At that time there weren't so many of us in the town who weren't Swedish, and people in general were most helpful. But all the same, my home was here, and I wanted to learn the language everyone around me used.
I was curious, and wanted to find out for myself what was going on around me, instead of having to make do with someone else's version of what was going on.
”What is the worst thing that can happen if you say something 'wrong'?”Moira Uggla
But how should I start? I used the radio to help me - it was on in the background all the time, whether I understood or not. I soon realised I could understand some things, for instance the shipping report, which was mostly place-names and figures.
Soon I could go on to listen to children's programmes on the radio - every morning people read interesting books aloud. The content was interesting, but the vocabulary was limited. And I'll never forget Astrid Lindgren reading from her own Bullerby books!
Borrowing children's books from the library was also helpful - they use words that are common and sentences that are not too complicated. And a good librarian can be a great help.
Don't be afraid to try to speak Swedish. What is the worst thing that can happen if you say something 'wrong'? Most often, nothing at all , the person you are speaking to understands what you mean anyhow. So keep on talking, the more you use your Swedish, the sooner you can find your place in the community. And that is something that is a benefit for everyone.