Lessons in Learning a New Language


Lessons in Learning a New Language: Swedish Uncovered

Or Living in the Present

School is officially back in session! And children aren’t the only ones learning new things, in fact, I learned my first past tense verb in Swedish yesterday: åt. It means “ate.”

So now I can say cool things like “Hunden åt min sköldpadda” (The dog ate my turtle). Just kidding- I don’t have a turtle, but “sköldpadda” is such a fun word! I began learning Swedish last year, after stumbling across it on Duolingo, where I brush up on French and stumble over Italian- (Irish was a complete disaster!) My great grandparents were Scandinavian, so I was always vaguely curious about the culture. When Swedish showed up on Duolingo, I took a peek. When I realized there were no verb conjugations in Swedish, I was hooked. After years of having to remember: je suis, tu es, il/elle ont ( I am, you are, he/she is) in French and all of the varied Greek endings, and then struggling with Italian endings, the simple Swedish “dricker” (to drink) and “åter” (to eat) for everyone seemed like a piece of cake. So I fell in love with Swedish.

The turtle ate my homework: Lessons in Language Learning
The turtle ate my homework: Lessons in Language Learning

Every evening after putting the kids to bed, I  don a pair of head phones and retreat to the Duolingo world of Swedish language lessons. Animals. Food. Phrases. Yup, and even verbs. But it took a whole year for me to make it to my first past tense verb. Okay, it’s a hobby, not a career! I was quite happy with singing (sjunger) and dancing (dansar), my kids playing (mina barn spelar) and going (går) everywhere with this wonderful new tongue. But then came the past tense without warning, and a new set of rules to learn. Am I ready for this? Who wants to dredge up the past anyway? Isn’t it so much better to focus on the present?

Wasn’t it the Dali Lama who said: “Man sacrifices his life to make money to live a better future and therefore does not live in the present.” (Well, that was the general gist of it.)

Okay, I’ll admit, when I began my tangle with the Nordic language, I knew it was too easy. Somewhere at the back of my mind I thought: this must be a trap! But I plunged ahead anyway, with gusto. And now I teeter on the brink of living in the present and diving into the past. Do I take the plunge? Or do I linger as a good meditating mom should: focusing on the present. At the moment I could easily take a trip to Sweden or just IKEA and hold a simple conversation, order some food- or shelves. Hi, bye, the ducks look nice, I love your sweater, and the cook has several plates and knives.  Do I really need a profound discussion? But everything about Sweden, Gotland and the Arctic Circle is a part of my heritage, so into the past I must forge, like the time traveler that I am. I now realize that even with my nightly forays into language learning, I have only just scratched the surface of the Swedish tongue.


Want to learn a new language?

Or get your children to learn a 2nd language?

Here are some helpful sites:

(These are NOT affiliate links!)


  • Duolingo is the app I use. It can be accessed from your computer or downloaded as an app on your phone. Native speakers. Lots of languages to choose from. And it is FREE! Some of the languages have you speak back sentences, like French, but Swedish does not. However they speak the language so you can practice your pronunciation. Website here: https://www.duolingo.com/


  • Babbel was the first language app I used. They give you free basic trial lessons and use pictures and words- which is great for learning and good for kids. I did purchase a 6 months of lessons with a Groupon for Babbel to continue my lessons, but after that, I couldn’t afford the monthly fee. Check out their website here: http://www.babbel.com/


  • I have always wanted to try Rosetta Stone, which you purchase as a package, and they tout themselves as top language learning program used by even the State Department. I had a friend whose daughter successfully learned Russian with Rosetta Stone. This option was always too pricey for me though. You can check out the Rosetta Stone website- they have a neat travel IQ quiz there too : http://www.rosettastone.com/


  • There are many FREE language learning websites on line. I followed Benny Lewis of “Fluent in 3 Months” blog for language learning tips and links to helpful sites. He is the fun linguistic whiz kid and even offers a free Speak in a Week language course.  Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Work Week and 4 Hour Body,  even used him  to learn Tagalog for “TheTim Ferriss Experiment” Show. Check out Benny Lewis’ website here: http://www.fluentin3months.com/about/


Don’t wait for your child’s school to start offering them foreign languages. And don’t get hung up on the “English is the only language necessary” syndrome. Sure it’s great to have that patriotism, but learning a new language opens new areas of the brain. And also it opens doors in the future, not just for travel but also business opportunities and jobs. I’ve used foreign language skills in travels (very handy when you need a toilet- or food!) and also in business. Sometimes you have to take learning matters into your own hand.

Share adventure!