Why I Study Sweden Posted by Marcus Cederström on Sep 24, 2010 in Culture, Swedish Language
My mother is American, my father Swedish. For as long as I can remember, mamma speaks English with me, pappa speaks Swedish with me. It’s just the way of the world.
That world was turned upside down one day when I was about four. Being the oldest child, I also doubled as a guinea pig. So they decided to play a dirty trick on me. My mother, the American, spoke Swedish to me. My father, the Swede, spoke English to me. And I, the Swedish-American, was confused.
I refused to give in to their little games. I refused to respond in Swedish to my mother just as I refused to respond in English to my father. Pappa spoke Swedish to me, and I responded to him in Swedish. Mamma spoke English to me, and I responded to her in English. My four year old brain couldn’t handle responding to the wrong parent in the wrong language.
To suggest that this was some sort of watershed moment for me would be to exaggerate. I don’t remember this happening. Instead, I have heard the story more times than I can count from my parents, who always have a strange look of satisfaction and demonstrate just a hint of schadenfreude when they tell the story. My family ended up moving to the US and I fell into the habit of responding to my father in English, despite him always prattling on in Swedish. Apparently my 16 year old brain and my four year old brain were not quite the same. Strange, I know.
But the story sticks with me. Especially now, as I continue to study Scandinavia, Sweden, and the Swedish language. The household that I grew up in, with Swedish and English flowing freely from both parents, has followed me. It is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful reasons for my continued study. Why I moved to Sweden. Why I moved back to the US. Why I do what I do. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it leads me to a question… why are you here? What has drawn you to Sweden and the Swedish language? We all have our reasons, I’d love to hear yours!