I've decided to learn at least some Swedish after my first trip to this wonderful country. In fact, I liked Sweden so much that I considered living there for a year or so.
Immediately below a short story to remind me why it's worth learning this language and, at the very end, my thoughts on the language itself.
* * *
Stockholm was left behind. I don’t remember where I was; I had followed my “Let’s Go Europe” book to some university town with a statue on the shore. Seeing that statue was even more anticlimactic than seeing the Grand Canyon. I left the high winds on the shore finding some respite on the sheltered but somewhat deserted streets of this supposed student town. I had expected to see some reasons for that status and none were apparent.
By then, I had received a fatidic letter and was soon going to return to Canada, having abandoned my plans to live in a Scandinavian country for 1 year – I had found work in both Finland and Norway but had yet to make choice. I was quite disturbed by the news and to be completely honest, had hesitated before choosing to return to Canada and let all my carefully laid plans go to waste. Oh well, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
As I was walking consumed by my thoughts, got a bit lost then I encountered a group of 5-6 girls who seemed to know where they were going. I asked for directions and they were as happy to see me as I was to see them (I’m only talking about smiles, BTW). They were all interesting and among them, one with a rather princely walk. I tried hard to seem neutral, and somehow mask the fact that my jaw had dropped on the floor, but her smile had that “here we go again / you’re cute” tinge.
We walked along our common route, and I somehow stayed behind, having had to collect my jaw off the floor. The girls seemed to suddenly have come to life, debating some subject obscured by the language barrier. One of them even had a Cinderella shoe problem and also was a little left behind, walking next to me, but I had no eyes or ears for her. When our paths diverged we talked a bit more and finally, the Princess let it be known that in the evening they’ll be mini-golfing – then paused, looking at me.
Now, I could have probably transformed that blank statement into an invitation, but, overcome by guilt (my relative was dying and here I was chasing skirts in Sweden) as well as fear that she wasn’t going to be there or be with a date, chose to pass. It wasn’t an easy decision; I still remember the painful node in my throat as I said good bye to turn around.
* * *
Swedish was the first Scandinavian language that sounded very "optimistic" to me - then I learned that Norwegian is even more so - because of the way words are intoned. There is quite a bit of discussion on the classification in linguistics/philology. Here's an explanation from a Swedish language blog:
So, double emphasis is one of the major factors that make Swedish sound more rhythmic and melodic than English – for those of you who think so. Another contributing factor – perhaps just as important – is the length of emphasized syllables. All emphasized syllables are long: they are pronounced for a longer period of time than unemphasized syllables. An emphasized syllable can have either a long vowel or a long consonant – never neither nor both. (..) Swedes vary their tone much more than [most] speakers of English, again depending on dialect in both cases. That, combined with the aforementioned double emphasis and length of emphasized syllables, make for a very prosodic language.
Here's more on the difference between tone and intonation.