Greetings, lovely GLNers, and welcome to Translation Tuesday! Today we’ve got a treat for you: a guest post from our Swedish teacher, Lincoln. Read on to experience one of his finer moments learning Swedish!
Swedish “Klia” versus “Kila” — Big Difference!
Circa the late Eisenhower Administration, I had the distinct privilege of being an exchange student in Sweden between high school and college. My senior year we’d had an exchange student from Sweden, and between my questions to Jens and a “Swedish in Three Months” book, I had learned a decent amount before I got to Sweden. I was acutely aware of and sensitive to the knock on Americans being unwilling/unable to speak anything but English, so after arriving in my awesome host town of Västerås, I was determined to stay ahead of the curve and impress new friends and classmates with my Swedish.
One thing I did to grow my vocabulary was watch American TV shows; I’d listen to the words in English and write down unknown Swedish words from the subtitles. One fine fall day, I was watching Beverly Hills 90210 (don’t judge). Someone said something like “I’m going to take off/roll/jet” or some other cool 90s expression for, “I’m leaving.” I wrote down “klia” for the verb “to leave” and thought how I couldn’t wait to use my new Swedish slang to impress my friends. While I’d never heard this “klia” before, it turned out I would soon never be able to forget it.
That weekend, I was out for coffee with friends. When it was time to go, I said, “Ska vi klia nu?”, which I thought meant, “You guys want to take off?” in cool, teenybopper Swede speak…Well, as they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. It turns out I zigged when I should’ve zagged and flipped the “i” and the “l”–I should have said “kila” (pronounced more or less “sheela”). And to my linguistic humiliation and the sheer hilarity and delight of my several buddies present, “klia” means, “to itch/scratch.” So, I asked my friends if they wanted to all scratch themselves together. Needless to say, I have never forgotten the difference.
OK, time’s up – I have to scratch my way on home.
(Have you had a lost in translation moment? Share it with us and it could be featured on G-Blogodaria!)