One never-ending source of both laughs and frustration for me since moving to Sweden has been learning the language. I am considered functionally fluent at this point and my command of Swedish is good enough to garner regular compliments from native Swedes, (though I suspect this has more to do with them being stunned that I actually bothered to learn it rather than the skill with which I speak it). Still, it’s been a long, hard, continuous slog of a learning-process for me.
There are supposedly numerous neurological benefits to being bilingual, but one thing that’s rarely mentioned is how much damage learning a new language … or perhaps more accurately, speaking that language regularly … will do to your native English skills. Words and phrases that you’ve used for years will suddenly be difficult to call up in conversation or just disappear from your vocabulary entirely. It’s always maddening and sometimes unintentionally hysterical.
Here’s the latest example: Dr. Darling and I were Copenhagen yesterday on a booze and Miracle Whip run. Alcohol (especially spirits) is considerably cheaper in Denmark than Sweden, and for some reason, Swedes just don’t seem to appreciate Miracle Whip at all. (Weirdos.)
We were at Bilka, which is basically the Danes’ answer to Walmart, and I was puzzled by the fact that they had several varieties of gin accessible in the store’s liquor section, but the Tanqueray could only be purchased at a separate kiosk at the entrance to the store.
This lead to a discussion about how much we really wanted to get a bottle of Tanqueray, because it would mean having to stand in line twice, which kind of sucked given how busy the store was and how few items we were actually buying (two bottles of gin, two jars of Miracle Whip and a six-pack of Carlsberg’s Carls Special beer for the Swede). In the end, we decided to skip the extra queue and go with two bottles of Gordon’s, because it’s reasonably priced and a very tasty everyday gin.
But the term “everyday”, meaning “commonplace” or “ordinary” was just NOWHERE on my radar, and instead what came out of my mouth was, “Let’s just get two bottles of Gordon’s because it really is a very good daily gin.”
Once she stopped laughing, Dr. Darling helpfully suggested that perhaps I ought to get three bottles.