Today was a big milestone for me. I went to the post office to mail a package and conducted the entire transaction in Swedish. I did not use any English. I usually ask “Förstår du engleska?” (Do you understand English?) or “Talar du engelska?” (Do you speak English?) than continue the interaction in English. The truth is that I have been afraid to try to communicate in Swedish with someone that I do not know in Swedish. I realize that this is an unfounded fear since since all the Swedes I have met have been nice and more than willing to help when asked.
I have now been in my SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) class for almost four weeks. Even though I have a long way to go I have learned a lot. This is a very different experience than when I was learning Spanish in school. I did not have to learn Spanish to be successful in my life. Learning Swedish is the key to being successful here in Sweden.
This experience has given me a whole different perspective on immigrants and the political debates going on in the United States. It has been a common sentiment with many people that I know and including myself that if people are going to live in the United States then at least they can learn English. What I realize now is that it is not such an easy thing to do.
I sometimes have these moments of irrational fear. A couple of days ago there was this moment when I thought I am going to start thinking different and I will loose myself. It quickly passed. Some days I feel like my brain might explode. There are times when I feel I am almost to a point of understanding and then I wake up and feel like I might never understand.
I will continue to learn. I will start interacting with Swedes in Swedish more often. Sooner or later I will be fluent in Swedish. I am hoping for the sooner.