Rachel Khoo


Posted by Rachel

March 2nd, 2018

Plogging and speaking swenglish

smörgåsbord of languages fill my head: English, German and French have been occupying my grey matter for quite a while, and now I’m trying to squeeze in a new language – Swedish. Of course, with all these different languages floating around my brain, it didn’t take long for me to start speaking Swenglish (a mixture of English and Swedish). It turns out that I’m bang-on-trend when it comes to language mash-ups…I keep seeing the word plogging popping up everywhere.

Plocka upp (transl. Swedish – to pick up) + Jogging  =  plogging.

Plogging is a Swedish phenomenon that recently swept social media, only to be later confirmed as a ‘real thing’ by traditional media. This combination of jogging and picking up litter could be called an ‘environmentally-conscious’ type of interval training (the stop-and-start jogging forms a sort of interval training).

The introduction of new terms or words that are a mash-up of two different languages is something that I have become all too familiar with. Living in Paris I remember being told that using the word ‘e-mail’ was a faux pas. The correct term was courriel or courier electronique (a direct translation of the word into French). The French, or France’s Académie française, have battled against the invasion of English words for years, but to no avail.

And so here I am in my mid-thirties trying to get my grey cells to remember new words, grammar and phonetics. Every decade of my life I’ve learnt a new language (English being my mother tongue, German when I was a teen, and French when I was in my mid-twenties). The studies speak the truth: the younger you are, the easier it is to learn. I think it’s partly to do with simply not having the same angst about making a fool of yourself when you’re a child. My French improved vastly when I decided to speak like un enfant terrible (quite literally). Although I must admit I have relinquished the dream of ever grasping French grammar, with its 15+ tenses.

Rachel Khoo plogging

Just after I’ve said something ridiculous the desire to pull my jumper over my head and hide is very strong. Jumper from M&S.

It all seems a bit déjà-vu, or should I say redan sedd (the Swedish version). Talk about being humbled when you realise you speak like a toddler, or you end up doing a very bad version of charades to explain something. Of course, I could easily play the English card with the Swedes being more than happy to converse in my mother tongue (unlike in Paris). But at the same time there’s a great sense of pride when you suddenly realise you’ve managed to ask, answer and pay for postage of a parcel all in the native tongue, without relying on my standard sentence:

Förlåt, jag är engelska. Min svenska är inte så bra. Kan jag prata engelska?

In true British style I always apologise I’m English before asking whether I can speak English.

I’ve used a variety of methods to teach myself Swedish, but probably the most effective is hanging out with my husband’s older relatives. The older generation seems to have a lot more patience to explain things in Swedish, and the key for me is to NOT fall back onto English. They’re always keen to correct me, which plays an important part in improving language skills.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress…particularly as a whole new world opens up to me as I begin to understand the meaning of Ikea furniture names.

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13 thoughts on “Plogging and speaking swenglish

  1. I wish you the best of luck on learning a new language, Rachel! I’m sure you can do it. 😉

    Even after living in Italy for 2 years and growing up in an Italian family, I’m still not completely fluent. But, Italian has those same 15+ tenses as French does, so I guess that adds to the problem!

  2. I’ve just started to learn European Portuguese via apps and websites … and my grey matter is a bit older than yours! I understand the challenge of stuffing new things into it later in life. boa sorte and all lycka i framtiden!

    1. Hi Gregg. Great you’re learning Portuguese. I’ve always struggled learning a new language when I haven’t been able to actively practice it so can understand how it’s not easy. Good luck!

  3. Lycka till! Svenska är ett av det (grammatiskt sett) svåraste språken att lära sig, sägs det både i folkmun men även via studier. Men sannolikheten att du gör dig förstådd via “swenglish” är ju hög i och med att så många svenskar är duktiga på engelska, haha…

    Ha det bra, och hoppas du får äta många semlor fram till påsken!

  4. I feel your pain! I’ve lived in Finland for the past 5 years and can speak Finnish at a tolerable level of fluency. It’s interesting to discover the locals’ expectations – In some countries, they expect you to be fluent and discuss philosophy after 1 year, and in others it seems to be OK to know how to introduce yourself after 10 years.

  5. Rachel, hello I am from Russia! So, now I’m writing in foreign (for me) English. (Try as I can to do it correctly). I want to wish u a success in learning!
    P.S. A week ago I saw your “Little Paris Kitchen” on Russian TV – I fall in love with the show!!!
    Thanks, Bye!

  6. Hi Rachel,

    I really enjoyed reading this piece, and best of luck with your Swenglish. I was also interested to read about your experience learning French and the faux pas avec courriel!
    I am a writer based in Brussels and I recently wrote about two English speaking writers (British writer Emma Beddington and American Lauren Collins) living in francophone cities (Brussels and Paris) and the struggles with the French language and cultures. I find the french in Brussels a lot more easy going thankfully, and this has improved my confidence in French no end.

    I would love to interview you for the Brussels magazine that I write for, called ‘Together’. I filled out your contact form and responded to your press enquiries email on 11 April. I can understand that you have a packed diary, but I just wanted to confirm that you did receive it and whether you would be interested in the doing the interview.

    Thank you so much for your time and I really enjoy reading your website.

    Best wishes,

    Gemma Rose

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