A recycled blogpost from my visit in Pitman New Jersey 2014!
Four different spellings means four different things, of course they do, but let’s take a closer look at it!
- höstlöv= autumn leaves→ when days get colder and leaves change colours from green into more colourful yellow, orange or red
- höstlov=fall break→ when Swedish school kids have a week off while teachers either go to conventions or work with their local projects, or get a chance to get some busy time back.
- hostlov= a coughing ”break” meaning that the planned ”höstlov” would be a week when you had to stay in bed because of coughing… 😦
- Fall break=höstlov
- Ö→In Swedish we have three different letters that you can’t find in English. They are å, ä and ö.
If I would use a computer keyboard here, in the US, I would need to find some solution to writing the Swedish letters, which would cause problems since I’m not that much of a computer person. Instead I tend to write ”Swedish” with the computers I find here, but replacing the å, ä and ö with a, a and o. There! See??? Already we have a chance to mix them up, since å and ä are not the same as a and a… So how would one tell whether the intention is to write å or ä? Knowing what reading is about, one might pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and try to find out by checking the meaning of the words around…or perhaps being Swedish might be of help…? Check these two chunks of Swedish, but spelled without the å or ä:
- Ett far kan braka.
- Titta en bat!
Let’s say you don’t know Swedish at all… Then you would think it’s something wrong with the grammar in the first sentence, I guess… or you would just assume that this person has missed out a word of maybe is dyslectic.
The first sentence may mean several things in Swedish, but knowing Swedish properly means knowing whether you would use ”en” or ”ett” (comparable to the use of ”a” or ”an” in English). A Swedish person would know that if ”far” in the first sentence actually is correct (meaning ”father”) then there has to be ”en” rather than ”ett” if written with correct use of grammar. Suppose this person assume it is a father then… On to the problem with ”braka”… That word is a verb and you would mainly use it to describe what happens if a construction of some sort break apart, such as if a tree falls over a shed in your garden, you would say that the tree fell over the shed: ”skjulet brakade sönder”. The use of ”braka” might also suggest the sound of something, not necessarily something nice… Suppose you lunch was beans… After a while you really have to fart… If that happens and you can hear a sound, you would in colloquial or dialectal Swedish say ”han brakade” meaning ”he farted”. Then, what happens with the first sentence is that you have different options now, right? Either the meaning is ”en far kan braka” meaning ”a father can fart” or we need to doublecheck the meaning of the word braka… Is there any chance for that word being spelled with either å or ä??? Oh… as a matter of fact, both would be possible to use… ”En far kan bråka” means ”a father can be messing/fighting”… ”En far kan bräka” means that the father makes the sound of a sheep. Would a father to that? Yes, maybe if he plays with his kids or something, but it is more likely that we didn’t guess right when we picked either å or ä here… So then… What next??? I suggest for us to go back to the noun… ett far… We already know that ett far is not how we would say in Swedish. We would say ”en far” if it HAD meant father…but suppose it doesn’t? ”Ett får”= a sheep, YES!!! A sheep can bleat= ”ett får kan bräka”. Guess what??? This is what you and I do in a matter of SECONDS when we read a text!!! I think that’s amazing! Don’t you?
Let’s repeat the concept…by checking the second sentence!
”Titta” means ”look”… ”en” means ”a”… bat is a word in English, but not in Swedish. A Swedish speaking person has two options here. One is to assume that the word ”bat” means the currency they use in Thailand and then also assume that the person who wrote it has missed an ”h” in ”baht”, but more likely is for the person to read between the lines and understand that nobody would comment on Thai currency in that way and rather suggest that the ”bat” has to be spelled with either ”å” or ”ä”. When picking one of these this time it’s easy! Why is that? Well, there IS no such word as ”bät” in Swedish, so problem is solved with ”båt” meaning ”boat” and the sentence will be ”Look, a boat!”
By reading between the lines, one can get a lot of language learning, don’t you think?