Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Swedish is a very difficult language.

Years ago, I tried to teach some college friends to say "seven" (sju). Or when I got really carried away, I taught them "seven seasick sailors were singing on a sinking ship" (sju sjösjuka sjömän sjöng på ett sjunkande skepp).

A bunch of us got together last night to celebrate that my friend Andrea is in town. She got married and moved to Florida last year, and this fall she is moving to Japan.

While sharing a pizza at American Pie, one friend says to another, "try to say seven in Swedish."

The friend says, "Oh, I can't."

They all look at me, and I say "sju." (Can't even begin to describe it phonetically).

Andrea says "what?" - clearly not remembering earlier lessons at 3 a.m.

"How do you do that???" she yells, exasperated. "That's, like, impossible!"


Jim Moore said...

I'm guessing it's either prounounced "Shee-Joo" or "Zuu"

ab said...

Hehe, we Swedes are clever! ;)

The sj-sound is just like sh in "shit". It's the u that is the problem. English simply doesn't have that sound!

(On the other hand, Swedish no longer uses the "th" in thing and that. I think we stopped 400 years ago. But the Danish still have one of them!)

ab said...

Maybe I can help with the explanation as how to pronounce that u?

You purse your lips just like you are going to blow out birthday cake candles. But instead of blowing, you say uuuu...

Well, Viktoria can show you!

ankanej said...

Haha! I had the exact same conversation with an Australian a couple of weeks ago. He's beeen in Sweden for a while and was quite fascinated by the word "sju".

Vickan said...

See, AB comes from a different part of the country than I do. She might say "sh" as in "shit," but I would say it more at the front of my mouth, right behind the teeth.

It's like blowing out a lot of air between your teeth, with your mouth already shaped for blowing out the birthday candles...

The "uuu" part is the same (blowing out candles is a good description!)