Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Grind...

Been a while, but nothing much has happened in a while. Cecilia started working and is already too busy. She has some fun projects though. Working with the Brittish Embassy and a beer importer to launch Fuller's new beer for the Swedish market and doing the opening of the new Kosta Boda glass hotel(http://www.kostabodaarthotel.se/). Me, I'm valuing the Trade name of a swedish chewing tobacco product. Fun times.

My classes at Svenska för Invandrera (SFI or Swedish for Immigrants) started. I think usually people on contract get private language lessons, but my company didn't want to and I didn't really want to push it...after all they gave me a job without a proper interview, so....Besides, I wanted the "real" immigrant experience. By that, I mean what all the political refugees from countries not-friendly with the US experience.

SIDENOTE: It’s a real debate here on the efficacy of their integration process. Swede's are being accused/accusing themselves of being racist, the integration programs are failing and highly skilled workers in areas of need are being left on the sidelines while they deal with the Swedish bueuracracy. Case in point (which is sad or hilarious depending on what mood you're in): A friend of Cecilia's works at a large engineering firm here. They are experiencing a severe shortage of qualified engineers, so what do you do. You go to where you know the engineers are. Where is that? Driving taxis in Stockholm, of course. They gave their engineers some jingle and had them go jump in taxis in Stockholm and see if the drivers were engineers in whatever country they came from. No joke.

So back to the Swedish lessons...They've gotten off to a very slow start. Have to get your personnumer (SS#) to sit for an assessment. Got that after a week. Went for my test the week after. Waited 2 weeks after that for class to start. 1st class wasn't class, but another assessment test that concluded exactly what the first did with regards to my placement. I show up for my first "class", and the group was going for a field trip...ice skating. I'm not against ice skating, but at 5:30pm, in my suit (yes, this isn't Seattle with chino's and fleece jackets) mentally prepared to begin my long journey to fluency, a jaunt around the rink with my new classmates is not what I had in mind. How does that lesson look? (Foreigner: Oj, jag faller!/Ow, I fall Teacher: Nej, du föll/No, you fell). Anyhow, me and a Cuban guy I met at the first class/2nd test who was supposed to start in my class was of the same opinion as I was, so we sat in on another class while ours went off gallivanting around central Stockholm.

In my first "real" class that wasn't ice skating, things went very slowly. We went through some exercises, sat around a table in groups where we were supposed to be conversing in Swedish, but mostly just staring at each other and speaking English when we did talk. How the hell do you describe what you do in Swedish when you've been here for 3 months and what you do is bioinformatics. What the hell is that you ask? Me too. I'm still not sure, but apparently it involves genomes and writing computer programs (so the people in my class aren't dumb). Anyway, when you struggle to come up with "Jag är hungrig/I'm hungry" describing bioinformatics is a ways off.

Once we were done staring at each other and speaking English, the teacher went around the room and asked us how we learn best to figure out how to structure the class. Normal answers all around, going through exercises, speaking with the teacher, etc. Then we come to 2 Indian IT consultants. We spent the next 45 minutes while they told the teacher how to teach. I could go into details, but the whole process exhausted and frustrated me and I don't want to relive it. I ended up gnawing my fingernails to stubs to keep me from jumping out of my chair and bludgeoning them. Suffice to say, they desired a bit more structure in their lessons.

After all this, I've come to the conclusion that my quest for Swedish is going to be largely an endeavor I embark on by myself. Free lessons are great, but if they go too slow and cause near aneurisms, I think I can do better on my own, with the help of my live-in tutor. Since then I've been reading and translating whatever material I can get my hands on and just last night found Lätt Svenska Nyheter (Easy Swedish News or as I call it, Svenska Nyheter for manniskör som är dum i huvud/Swedish News for idiots). I'm reading that and reading the articles out loud for Cecilia and doing a bunch of Swedish-talking in the house, so things are progressing....in spite of SFI.

Here is a picture I took from my phone on the way to the tube from home this morning. Nice and snowy.



Karin said...

OMG Brad! I laughed my head of reading your description of the swedish course! and the newspaper for människor som är dumma i huvudet really sounds so so great!!! :)
stackars, stackars dig... :)
ses om typ en vecka, lycka till så länge!!!
// karin

t$ said...

when did you get so contemptuous? fyi - you can switch your keyboard between languages by pressing alt+shift; you have to set up the alternative language in windows control panel, if that's what you're operating. hej do amigo!

Brad said...

How would you know about alt+shift? You don't speak any other languages "hombre". I thought you would know how full of contempt I am after sharing a 10x10 cube with me for a year.

Märy said...

Hey Brad!
Du är duktig på svenska!!! Funny I read this post today....this pm I read an article in DN about immigrants trying to adjust in Sweden and the first part was about SFI and the problems of trying to find "appropriate" jobs for immigrants. You might have read it already or Cecilia might have.
Ha det bra och fortsätt skriv i din blogg!
Kramar från familjen Winjum

travis said...

πιγα στι ελλαδα, μαλακα. εισαι για τον βουτσο! Seriously, it's that easy.