Nordstjernan recently met with Aïcha Konaté and Lindsey Taylor Smith, two of Columbia University’s beginning students of Swedish. We wanted to know what made them pick Swedish, how much they hope to learn, and how they think they will incorporate Swedish in their future.
“Yesterday was your second class in Swedish here at Columbia, and your professor, Verne Moberg, already gave you quite a lot to think about. What are your thoughts on Swedish now?”
“What’s most difficult at the moment is that I don’t have a sense of the rhythm of Swedish,” says Aïcha, “I am not sure where to put the accent yet.”
“Right now it sounds like one mass of letters, it’s hard to know where one word ends and the other begins,” Lindsey says. “And some words have the strangest combination of letters, like ‘tjoho’. I mean, how are you supposed to pronounce that?”
Aïcha Konaté is originally from France but came with her family to the U.S. when she was eleven years old. She fell in love with Sweden in high school while working on a project.
“I chose Sweden because I liked the Swedish band The Hives, but I ended up really liking everything about the country. Then I heard the language, and I like the sound of it.”
Lindsey Taylor Smith fell in love with a Swede, and after having spent the summer in Sweden with him and his family, she is very enthusiastic about the country, too.
“I love Stockholm and how clean and well-organized everything is. My boyfriend always made Sweden seem like a paradise, and now that I’ve been there I kind of think he’s right.”
Both Aïcha and Lindsey blame the U.S. school system for not teaching enough foreign languages.
“And then when you do get to choose a foreign language,” says Aïcha, “it’s already a bit late, you’re too old already. I started German four years ago. To learn a language you have to be much younger.”
She says her German is a hindrance rather than a help in learning Swedish, however, because she confuses the two languages; but, she admits that she knows what she must do to learn a new language.
“I know I have to listen a lot, and I know I have to pay attention to grammar early on or I won’t get it.”
Lindsey studied French, but says all her teachers have been American.
“When I went to Paris this summer, I didn’t understand anything. I think it’s important to have a native speaker as a teacher. To me Swedish is like a secret treasure I’ve found. Instead of taking Spanish or French, I found this other language. I’m even thinking about taking Swedish at a university in Sweden.”
Aïcha is also interested in the possibility of perhaps spending some time in Sweden. She says she is thinking about becoming a psychiatrist or a therapist, and if her Swedish gets good enough she might want to try to get a job in Sweden.
But for now they’re mostly concerned about homework.
“How do you know if it’s an ett-word or an en-word?”
Good question. How do you know?