after all these years… UPDATED

I will never learn everything about the English language. That’s impossible. It doesn’t stop me from constantly trying to improve, though … to gather more words into my vocabulary makes me more confident as a speaker.

Then there’s the pronunciation! Many words I’ve only seen written … I read a novel, I see words that I easily understand, but never use in speech — or even bothered to look up, because they’re so obvious. I remember a couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about the word «awry». I’d seen it many times, but in my mind I pronounced it like “AWE-ri”. Luckily, I never felt the urge to use it. Don’t remember how I came across the correct pronunciation, but I did.

The other day, I was talking about something or someone with my husband. Out of the blue, I said «That’s very admirable!» Fine … but the thing was; I said ‘ad-MIRE-able’ instead of ‘AD-mir-able’. In this case, I did know better but it just jumped out of my mouth. In Swedish, we have an expression for stuff like that … when you speak before thinking …when your brain isn’t attached: «Frogs jump out of your mouth!» Well, this was a frog, and I’m so happy that I’m always able to laugh at myself. Would be sad otherwise.

The we have the word «saline», which I never can remember how it’s pronounced. I’ve looked it up so many times, and tried to make a point of remembering … I still don’t. I think it is «SAY-line».

The admirable-word reminded me of my cousin when she lived in the US. She’d bought a new pair of shoes, and told my aunt that they were very comfortable. She made the same mistake as I — put the accent on the wrong syllable, and said “comfor-TABLE” 🙂 My aunt, who was a sort of bossy character, and had lived much longer in the US, corrected her: «Say after me, three times!!! COM-fortable, COM-fortable, COM-fortable!!!» Guess my cousin never forgot THAT word!

UPDATE: A comment I just got, reminded me of this video I came across in Facebook. It really illustrates what languages sound like, without her saying anything at all. I listened attentively to the “Swedish” part, and even though it sounded perfectly Swedish, I couldn’t hear a full sentence or anything that made sense 🙂


IMG_2014-03_1Today is a snow day. We were only supposed to get flurries, and the ‘real’ snowstorm would arrive late tomorrow, but right now there’s a total white-out!

39 Replies to “after all these years… UPDATED”

  1. I think I might have ask you this years ago. I have often wondered how our language sounds to people from another country. I always imagine it would be “choppy” sounded?
    Even though I’ve always spoke English that *frog* still jumps out of my mouth on words I’ve used hundreds of times.
    Where I live I hear Spanish (or Mexican) every day. I know lots of words but have a hard time putting it all together. I can usually figure out what someone is trying to tell me. Doubt if I could ever roll it off my tongue the right way.
    I’ve always been so impressed with you knowing and writing two languages so fluently. A couple of frogs now and then is still amazing to me.

    1. It’s hard for me to tell now, what English sounds like … when you’ve heard a language all your life, and had a basic understanding of it since childhood … Other languages, where I don’t understand a word; there it’s easier to describe what it sounds like; like Finnish … that sounds to me like the speak in staccato ..

      I lived in the totally French-speaking Quebec City for five years, and was never able to put a whole sentence together, even though I learned many words [nouns].

  2. I have never heard you speak, but your written command of English is very strong. I admire you for dong this! I have seen immigrants in the States who never learn the language or try to assimilate. That makes me grumpy. Let’s hear you speak English as well as your native language! 🙂

    1. why, Thank You, John 🙂 In a very remote future I might make a video LOL

      In Sweden, we have SO many refugees, but I’m more amazed how they manage to learn Swedish, and some, really good too! Especially, perhaps considering, that many, if not most, of them also have to learn a different script! I’ve been impressed so many times…

  3. The first one I could understand remotely was the french one. A few words. Same with portuguese. Her spanish sounded italian! Couldn’t understand a word of english. I also admire people who blog in a language that isn’t their native one, I did think about doing a spanish one but it would be nowhere near as good as yours is in English.

    It is Say Line by the way 🙂

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I listened closely to the Swedish part … I may have heard a word or two, but it definitely sounded like Swedish! Even with a Stockholm-dialect!

      Started writing in English even before I moved … because all my online buddies were English-speakers. Also, because I wanted to improve.

      Now I’ll figure out a way to remember the saline-word! Don’t know why I’ve had such a problem with that … maybe because there are several possibilities.. suh-LEEN, SAY-line, say-LEEN …

  4. Ah Bekah, please don’t feel that you’re alone in this! I have always been a BookWorm/”Word Geek” and, to this day, before going to the dictionary after encountering an unfamiliar term, I will pull it apart into it’s various parts and try to decipher the meaning, origin and possible pronunciation(s) of the word or phrase(s) that I find. Often (while it may sound like I’ve lost my mind; ) speaking all of these combinations out loud helps solve the puzzle. It’s kindof like trying to undo a knot… If you pick away at all of the pieces, in order to gently untangle them, eventually the individual parts will become obvious; failing that, there’s always the dictionary (but at least I’ve given my brain a good workout; )

    1. Wonderful! I was twelve when I decided to read The Great Gatsby, and jot down every word I didn’t know (!). Being a lover of words, just as my linguist husband, we have a lot of fun with this … dissecting words 🙂

      I don’t feel that I’ve fully ‘adopted/incorporated’ a word until I’ve gotten around to use it in my own speech.

      Things are so easy nowadays, when I have the Webster’s app, and also an excellent Swedish/English one.. Sometimes nothing else will do — I have to see what they give in Swedish, but other times … it doesn’t.

  5. Me again! Been doing some mulling… You say “after all these years”, whilst I’ve done it all my life… So, I guess I’m not really helping much, am I? ; )
    But REALLY – you’re good at this – who was it that said “Better to have tried and failed, than not (ne’er/never) have tried at all…” Right? LOL!!

    1. Well … that is at least something I can feel assured of, when my time is up: I have tried [A LOT] LOL … never boring.

      The thing was; before I left, I thought I was pretty good! Then I came here, and realised I had a lot to learn. I had only compared myself to other Swedes! My self-confidence hit rock bottom, and I thought I’d never be able to carry out the simplest of jobs! Then we were in Bar Harbor, some girl there working in a restaurant, had such a heavy accent it was almost difficult to understand … but she was working. Then I felt a little better.

      It happens that people ask me where my accent comes from, and that’s alright. I’ll never be able to pass as a North American … partly because I’m NOT, and also … after all I was fifty when I moved. At that age, it gets harder to learn. Not that that would stop me … my aim in life is to learn and improve until it’s over 😀 We don’t want to become stagnant, do we?! LOL

      1. My Grandma used to say “The day I quit learning is the day I die!” What an inspiration (and she was true to her word too; )

  6. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to learn English as an additional language – I have a difficult time and it’s my first language! I have a fairly strong “southern” accent that makes some words difficult. I just try to get it out without thinking about it, but the “frogs” are inevitable. I have a great respect for anyone brave enough to try to sort through all the various pronunciations and meanings of this crazy language 🙂

    1. Well … we start real early, and also … nowadays, the influx of English is even greater than when I grew up. Everyone wants to learn it good, so I don’t think many find it difficult. But yes, I too, have a great respect for anyone who has learned a second language … sometimes even a new script. I’ve lived here for ten years now, so I don’t think about it as often as I did in the beginning.

  7. I think your english is really good!! 🙂 And hey everyone get some frogs now and then!

    Oh I have pronounced many words wrong. My friend in New York sometimes giggle at me when we talk over the phone as I have a “funny accent” as he say haha 😛 But then he also say it is ok, as he can understand me anyway! And that is the most important lol.

    Yeah I have seen that video on FaceBook and she is really good with accents!!

    1. I’m sure have a ‘funny accent’ too, but what the heck — I am what I am, huh … if I’d moved here when I was 18, it would have been a whole different story! Then I would have spoken like the Swedish hockey players — they sound like native Americans..

  8. Ah yes, SAY-LEEN and SAY-LINE. I hear them both.

    What you say about Finnish ties in with my experience teaching English in Finland.

    Quite a number of Finns I taught could not hear the difference between, for example, Ala-BAM-a and a-LA-bama.

    1. Oh, I never knew you taught there! They don’t have all the letters either, if my memory serves me right, so you would have been Tavit or something … D and G are ‘missing’… I dated a Brit, many years ago, [whose name coincidentally was David], who taught English in Sweden. He tried to make us pronounce the S:es the right way, and I still remember the sentence we practiced on: «socialism is based on optimism» LOL

      BTW: Do you have DayOne?

  9. I think you have a wonderful grasp of the English language. People born of American parents sometime have less of a grasp of English than you. Even the speaking part is done incorrectly here and I guess either they were never taught or don’t care. I never thought about it but in what language do you watch tv? English? Does Gerry speak in your native tongue?

    1. Thanks … We watch TV in English, and we did in Quebec too. G. used to watch it in French there, but when I arrived, he switched. He doesn’t speak much Swedish, but probably more than I speak French LOL

      IN Sweden, all the English and American programmes are subtitled, which probably has done wonders for my English. Never reflected on that while I lived there, but I came to realise it later. All the expressions ‘n stuff, that you never learn in school … imagine the language in Sopranos, for example LOL

  10. At least you know how to spell the words! Some Americans cannot even spell those words and graduate from college….much less know what they mean or how to pronounce. Kudos to you for learning a foreign language. I am relearning French!

    1. Well, good for you!!! I never made any progress with French … I tried, a little half-heartedly a few years back.

      I remember watching Jay Leno some times, asking college people very ordinary questions, and they didn’t know much. Strange …

  11. Well I have always admired your English vocabulary and command of the language, and how you pronounce it? – I guess I will be able to hear (probably only light) that characteristic accent most Swedes have when they speak English, much more charming that the Danish accent which often makes it sound like we come from Germany LOL.
    I make the same mistakes with pronounciation- the pressure (or what its called) the wrong place- because the pressure is like that in Danish words. I learn every day, I use a translator where I can hear the word pronounced, – and I am very pleased because for some of the words I havent the faintest idea about how they are pronounced.
    The video is hilarious. – BTW the translators I use are not to good when it is translation to Danish, I often have to supply with translation to Swedish and German.

    1. When it’s a long word like archipelago, I have a really hard time remembering on which syllable to put the accent. I use Webster’s to listen [and try to remember]. Queen Silvia has been there now for forty years, her Swedish is grammatically perfect, but the accent never goes away. Some languages seem to have a harder time than others. Danish is tricky … I can read and understand the written, but when it comes to spoken Danish, it gets worse. I still know one word: enkel vaerelse LOL Yes, of course also half fjärs or whatever, the numeric system is beyond me 😀

      1. Danish is said to be the most difficult language, besides Chinese, to learn. One of the reasons is that we have more than 20 consonants and more than 20 vowels plus the “stød”. When we talk its in a very sloppy way – we eat the endings of the words. Alone compare the word gade and gåta, in Danish you only hear gad but in Swedish the whole word. The numeric system is – Danish LOL. Swedish is a beautiful language, and it is a better language when singing.

        1. Interesting. I find Swedish a beautiful language when it’s spoken by Swedish-Finns! I remember when Elisabeth Rehn was their minister of defence … it was such a delight to listen to her.

          I would LOVE to go to Skagen one day … with the camera..

          1. Skagen is a beautiful place worth visiting. – BTW and out of issue: A Danish film maker Per Fly – has produced at film about Monica Zetterlund, I am not sure if it is on the marked or is comming. She was really something that lady.

            1. Hope I’ll get there one day. As things are now, I’ve only been to Kastrup, nowhere else.

              Monica Zetterlund was a very talented lady, with an interesting life. Should make for a good movie. And she was from Värmland too … just like me *grin*

  12. Say-line is correct Rebby!! Your command of English is *admirable*. I know people who have been here for many. many years who still struggle to speak the language.
    You should here my pronunciation of German or Russian words; now THAT is hilarious!! i sound like a hillybilly from Arkansas (no disrespect to anyone there!!) I just can not get the pronunciation right no matter what I do.
    At least we can communicate this way & if you say Toe-May-toe & I say Toe-Mat-oo it will not matter will it??? 😉
    Love Sherri-Ellen & Nylablue too

    1. Thank you, Sherri-Ellen … what a sweet comment! I say to-MAY-toe, but I used to say To-Mah-toe for the longest time. I really worked on changing that, because I wanted to speak like the «’merkins» at work LOL. I still have a different [from here] way of pronouncing words with -aw … like paw, law and so on …
      Luv! 🙂

  13. LOL I hear you on pronunciation….I have some funny ways of saying English words…sometimes I hear German in my head!!! So things come out a bit garbled, HAH!!
    I think our unique ways of pronouncing words is wonderful.
    I did something funny in the Dollar Store Friday: I asked the check out lady what part of Germany she was from & she looked a bit askance & replied she was from Russia…..well did I feel like a fool…I recovered quickly & told her I was a 1/4 Russian but apparently also going deaf to confuse her accent…..whew…that was close! When she spoke a bit more I THEN could hear her accent was definitely Russian….
    Now I wonder how a Russian lady ended up in this *back water* place in Canada…but it would be impolite to ask… 😉

    1. The thing that confused the whole thing a little, was that we were taught British English, when I was a kid in school. When I was 18, I decided I wanted to talk like the Americans at work.

      Sometimes one wonders how come people end up where they are! I met an Australian lady, working in the café at the airport in Iceland! She sure was far from home. We have an old lady here in the building, from France, but the first time I heard her talking, I thought she had a German accent. Luckily I didn’t say anything in German to her.. LOL

  14. Oh my you have been tripped up by accents too?? Sometimes I confuse Australian accent with British or New Zealander & boy does that upset people. It is hard to know. I now just ask where a person is from & then compliment their accent. Better to be safe than sorry, lol~~~

  15. Oh I forgot about South African….I can usually tell their accent as it has a lilt to it….a bit broadeer than regular British accent.
    New Zealenders sound even more Aussie than Aussies!! The Maori people have lyrical voices & they can talk faster than us Canadians (no small feat).
    I laugh when people compliment my accent as I think I sound flat in comparison to my UK/Scottish/Irish friends……

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