Friday, September 21, 2012

English is Spoken in Sweden, So Why Learn Swedish? (Nordic words used in English and all things Swedish)

Coat of Arms of Sweden

The Kingdom of Sweden is on the Scandinavian Peninsula, in the northern portion of Europe. It is bordered by the countries of Norway and Finland and is at the same time connected to Denmark via a long bridge. Swedish is the official main language spoken in this Nordic country. On July 1, 2009 the Swedish government created a language law to protect and promote its official language as well as the country’s minority languages, namely Finnish, Romani, Yiddish, Meänkieli or Torne Valley Finnish, and all the Sami dialects. Sweden ranks eighth with the highest per capita income in the world, with a total GDP/PPP in 2011 of around $ 381.719 billion. It was one of the great powers of Europe during the 17th century and early part of the 18th century and is now one of the world’s richest countries.

What come to mind when we think of Sweden?
·      Meatballs
·      Absolut Vodka
·      Automobile manufacturer Volvo
·      The Swedish Chef in the Muppets
·      Home furniture store IKEA
·      Ericsson, one of the largest is telecom companies in the world today
·      Nobel Prize

Some famous Swedes are:
·      Alfred Nobel, the chemist who invented the dynamite, but also gave us the Nobel Prize
·      Professional golfer Annika Sörenstam
·      Poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt
·      Poet/Novelist Verner von Heidenstam
·      Stieg Larsson, author of novel turned movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
·      Niklas Zennstrom, the co-founder of Skype

Learning Swedish could prove to be a challenge in the beginning, since we might find it difficult to make the distinction between the feminine and masculine nouns. Swedish has two variants for the English word, “his,” which are sin and hans. However, learning Swedish would open doors for us, particularly in the workplace and in social circles. It deepens relationships. And there is the fact that there are simply no English equivalent to some Swedish words and phrases. And another thing, learning Swedish would eliminate the need for us to say “Talar du engelska?” that translates to “Do you speak English?” or interrupt someone speaking to say, “Sorry, I do not understand,” which in Swedish is Ursäkta mig or Förlåt, jog förstår inte.

Swedes and Science
Something in Sweden makes the people excel in the sciences. In fact, it owns more than 33,000 patents, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The country has one of the most number of patents in the world.

It is the country that invented some of the most useful items in the world, which made our lives more simple and better. Some of these wonderful inventions include:
·      safety match
·      ship propellers
·      blowtorch
·      arithmometer
·      encryption machines
·      tetra paks
·      Mecanum wheel, a wheel that can move in any direction.

Some of the useful inventions in modern living are:
·      the almost indispensable global positioning system or GPS
·      flat screen monitor
·      adjustable spanner
·      telephone handset
·      the ever-useful zipper
·      3-point seat belt

In science, Sweden has given us:
·      Anders Celsius, the astronomer who gave the world the temperature scale of the same name
·      Botanist Carl Linnaeus, who is the father of modern taxonomy as well as modern ecology.
·      Rune Elmqvist who invented the first implantable and small-sized pacemaker in 1958
·      Engineer Hellmuth Hertz and cardiologist Inge Edler who invented the ultrasound system in 1950

Swedes in Pop Culture
Sweden may not be as well known in contributing to music and the arts the same way the French and Italians are, but it is the country that gave the world:
·      ABBA, the 1970s music phenomenon
·      Roxette, the 1990s duo
·      Ace of Base, alternative rock band
·      The Cardigans

In the world of filmmaking, the most famous are:
·      The beautiful Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo – who could forget them?
·      Action star, Dolph Lundgren
·      The Rock of Ages actress Malin Akerman
·      Lena Olin
·      Stellan Skarsgård, who appeared as Bill Anderson in the movie musical Mamma Mia, in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies as Bootstrap Bill Turner and in Thor and The Avengers as Dr. Selvig.
·      Paul Bettany, son of Stellan Skarsgård, who appeared in The Da Vinci Code
·      Max von Sydow, who portrayed the priest in the movie The Exorcist

Knowing the various inventions and famous people from Sweden should give us an idea at just how much the Swedes have given the world.
Borrowed Swedish words
When it comes to language, Swedes have also helped enrich the English language. Its influence may not be as extensive as the French, Italian and other Romance languages, but the words that have found their way into the English vernacular are still quite useful. It is worthwhile to note that English is unofficially the second language in Sweden, and most Swedes speak English. Still it is part of life’s journey to learn the etymology of the words we are so familiar with, as well as learn some other words and phrases in another language, such as Swedish.

Swedish Food Words

As in any culture, one of the fastest ways to teach people the language is through food.

·      Smorgasbord
One of the most commonly used Swedish words in the English language is smorgasbord. After all, who doesn’t love a good buffet? It comes from the Swedish word smörgåsbord. It stems from two Swedish words: smörgås, which means open-faced sandwich, as well as bord, which means table.” However, smörgås is a combination of the words for the Swedish word for butter, smör, and gås, meaning goose, or buttered bread. Although the term originally referred to table with a selection of specific food items, smorgasbord today is used to refer to a buffet of a variety of dishes. It has also come to be used to refer to a wide grouping of various things, such as smorgasbord of books or ideas.

·      Lingonberry
We are familiar with tart flavor of lingonberry because of the delicious lingonberry jam from Sweden, which is quite similar to cranberries in flavor. It is also known as cowberry.

·      Gravlax
Tasty Gravlax is an appetizer dish made of salmon bursting with flavor. It is a compound word formed by joining the Swedish word grav, which means “grave” and lax or laks, meaning salmon. The compound word gravlax therefore literally translates to “buried salmon.” This well-known appetizer consists of thinly sliced raw salmon that was cured in salt, dill and sugar. It is usually served with hovmästarsås or gravlaxsås, a dill and mustard sauce placed over the salmon spread on crisp bread or crackers. The appetizer is also served with boiled potatoes instead of bread.

The  low-powered moped may not be a Swedish invention, but the term is attributed to the combination of the words motor and pedal by Swedish journalist Harald Nielsen. In Swedish, it is from motor och and ped aler, referring to a pedal bicycle that has both an engine as well as pedals.

This is another word of Swedish origin. The original Swedish word is orientering, which was first used in 1886 when military personnel conducted several unknown land navigation exercises using a map and a compass. Today it has evolved into a competitive sport.

Governments often have an ombudsman position, a term we credit to the Swedes. It is rooted in the word umboðsmaðr, an Old Norse word that translates to “representative.” In today’s world, an ombudsman is a government appointed position that is tasked with representing and protecting public interest by addressing various complaints against a particular government official.

Movement words
Gauntlet was a military punishment wherein an offender runs between two rows of soldiers who take turns beating him while running. The word evolved from the Swedish word gatlopp, which translates to “passageway” and the words gata or lane/gate, and lopp, a word related to löpa meaning “to run.” This term made its way into the vernacular soon after the Thirty Years’ War, when the English soldiers encountered it in the 17th century.

There are three meanings to gauntlet. It could mean a pair of protective gloves, usually associated with armor. It could also mean a corporal punishment. In the world of transportation, this could be the gauntlet track, a parallel arrangement of railroad tracks wherein some are overlapped on a single-track bed, so that at any given time, only one set of railway tracks might be used.

Those who practice a blend of continuous training interspersed with interval training would be familiar with the term Fartlek, which translates to “speed play.” This form of interval training that combines both the benefits of aerobic and anaerobic exercise was developed by coach Gösta Holmér in 1937 to increase the endurance of cross-country runners.

Words in science

·      Tungsten
It’s not surprising that the chemical element Tungsten is of Swedish origin, since the Swedes are well-known for inventions and discoveries in the scientific area. It is a combination of the words tung sten, which means “heavy stone”. In Old Swedish, the term is used for scheelite, a calcium tungstate mineral.

·      Yrast
Another scientific term of Swedish origin is Yrast. Those who study nuclear physics should know that it is when the nucleus has minimum energy at a given angular momentum. It is the superlative form of the Swedish adjective, yr.

·      Angstrom
Finally, there is angstrom, also spelled as ångström, which is the term used to refer to one ten billionth of a meter. It is from the name of Swedish physicist Anders Ångström, who’s associated with the field of spectroscopy, a field of science that he founded with other scientists. Angstrom is also the symbol of the Swedish alphabet, Å.

More Swedish words found its way into the English language as the Swedish language itself evolves. Some of the words we use that have Swedish origins include rig, snug, spry, and wicker. After all, many Swedish words themselves arise from a combination of various words to create a single word, oftentimes, using an Anglicized spelling, but somehow at times, retaining the way the word in spelled in Swedish.

We need only say a heartfelt tack as thank you to the Swedes for enriching our lives and language. They will probably reply with Ingen orsak and Varsågod, Swedish for “Don’t mention it”, and “you’re welcome”.

Photo Credit:
-       Coat of Arms of Sweden


Hannan Aslam said...

And so begins a story that will have a lot of this sort of thing. Over the next dozen years (thankfully the 123 is only 99 minutes),

Anonymous said...

i knew this was coming, and eventually the english language will be much more present

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