Why on Earth would an Australian choose to learn Swedish?
Spanish would have made more sense, even French would have been far more logical. I mean, I even tried learning Mandarin, but low and behold I chose a language that's country in 2017 was ranked 2nd out of 80 countries in the EF English Proficiency Index.
My darling Sweden, how I love your tasty cinnamon buns, flat furniture, high taxes, and gorgeous guys.
So why did I decide to learn Swedish? Well, a few months into living in the second most livable city in the world, I found myself landing a part-time retail gig at one Sweden's biggest and most recognisable international companies, IKEA.
Before I began working at the retail giant, I had never visited, purchased from, or driven by the iconic blue box. I didn't even know it was from Sweden (despite the patriotic colours!). Yet I somehow ended up working at a violently Swedish home furnishing giant for the next 3 years of my young life.
But how did working at IKEA lead me to learning Swedish?
Here's the short answer; It was just damn impossible not to fall in love with Sweden while working there.
All the product names, email greetings, wall decor, a surprising amount of co-workers were Swedish. I was in Scandinavian heaven. I had no idea just how much time I'd spend learning about the rich culture and history Sweden had, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
This brings me to today, a 21-year-old communication student with a love for Swedish culture, Swedish language, and Swedish people.
To begin learning the language, I did what anyone else would have done, I started watching ASMR videos in Swedish.
I shortly found out that the videos weren't really helping because I'd fall asleep halfway through watching, but that was beside the point. YouTube videos were a great risk-free way to see if I could wrap my head around the 29-letter alphabet and somewhat difficult pronunciation of vowels. After a few weeks of YouTube tutorials and language apps, I felt confident enough in my interest to pursue paid lessons, and guess who happened to live just down the road from the Swedish Church? You guessed it, this gal.
I'm now a few months into learning Swedish through paid lessons, Duolingo, Swedish tinder boys, and my trusty youtube videos, and coincidentally have just returned from a month-long trip of a lifetime to my favourite Scandinavian country.
No longer was I the cute Australian girl that couldn't understand a word anyone was saying, but I was the cute Australian girl that couldn't understand about 70% of what was being said, and believe it or not, it made a difference.
Like I mentioned before, most Swedish people can speak English fluently, but when I met my friend's 80-something-year-old grandma, her eyes lit up when I introduced myself in Swedish and could have a simple conversation with her. It broke down any invisible barriers that may have stood in the way of everyone feeling part of the midsummer celebrations.
The same thing happened when I met the absolutely adorable 6-year-old Felicia. She was too shy to talk to me since she couldn't speak any English but came out of her shell when I complimented her dress and asked if she wanted to play with me outside.
So after trying my best to consume as many Swedish lessons, words, and friends as I could, I enjoyed my trip, found out I love the country and culture, and am most definitely going to continue to pursue learning the language.
Not because I need to, but because I want to (but mostly so I can use Swedish pickup lines to break the ice at my favourite bar in Stockholm, but that’s our little secret).