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Rachel Khoo

The Khoo Times

Khoo Times

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Plogging and speaking swenglish

smörgåsbord of languages fill my head: English, German and French have been occupying my grey matter for quite a while, and now I'm trying to squeeze in a new language - Swedish. Of course, with all these different languages floating around my brain, it didn't take long for me to start speaking Swenglish (a mixture of English and Swedish). It turns out that I'm bang-on-trend when it comes to language mash-ups...I keep seeing the word plogging popping up everywhere.

Plocka upp (transl. Swedish - to pick up) + Jogging  =  plogging.

Plogging is a Swedish phenomenon that recently swept social media, only to be later confirmed as a 'real thing' by traditional media. This combination of jogging and picking up litter could be called an 'environmentally-conscious' type of interval training (the stop-and-start jogging forms a sort of interval training).


The introduction of new terms or words that are a mash-up of two different languages is something that I have become all too familiar with. Living in Paris I remember being told that using the word 'e-mail' was a faux pas. The correct term was courriel or courier electronique (a direct translation of the word into French). The French, or France's Académie française, have battled against the invasion of English words for years, but to no avail.


And so here I am in my mid-thirties trying to get my grey cells to remember new words, grammar and phonetics. Every decade of my life I've learnt a new language (English being my mother tongue, German when I was a teen, and French when I was in my mid-twenties). The studies speak the truth: the younger you are, the easier it is to learn. I think it's partly to do with simply not having the same angst about making a fool of yourself when you're a child. My French improved vastly when I decided to speak like un enfant terrible (quite literally). Although I must admit I have relinquished the dream of ever grasping French grammar, with its 15+ tenses.

Just after I've said something ridiculous the desire to pull my jumper over my head and hide is very strong. Jumper from M&S.

It all seems a bit déjà-vu, or should I say redan sedd (the Swedish version). Talk about being humbled when you realise you speak like a toddler, or you end up doing a very bad version of charades to explain something. Of course, I could easily play the English card with the Swedes being more than happy to converse in my mother tongue (unlike in Paris). But at the same time there's a great sense of pride when you suddenly realise you've managed to ask, answer and pay for postage of a parcel all in the native tongue, without relying on my standard sentence:

Förlåt, jag är engelska. Min svenska är inte så bra. Kan jag prata engelska?

In true British style I always apologise I'm English before asking whether I can speak English.

I've used a variety of methods to teach myself Swedish, but probably the most effective is hanging out with my husband's older relatives. The older generation seems to have a lot more patience to explain things in Swedish, and the key for me is to NOT fall back onto English. They're always keen to correct me, which plays an important part in improving language skills.


I'll keep you updated on my progress...particularly as a whole new world opens up to me as I begin to understand the meaning of Ikea furniture names.

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