Varsha Jaikumar talks about how she worked extremely hard on learning Swedish and landed up with a job in less than a year of moving.
I am a test engineer who had about 6 years of experience when I came to Sweden. And yes, like most Indians, I came here because of my husband’s deputation here as a consultant. I came to Sweden on a cold January afternoon in 2018. It was my first time moving abroad and it was altogether a different feeling because this time it wasn’t one of those vacays. I was all pepped up and ready to embrace Sweden, well Helsingborg to be specific, because now Helsingborg would be my new home. I had always heard how learning the local language in a European country opens doors for you, and it was no different for Sweden. I knew I had to start learning the language soon! This is my journey so far.
Clearly Komvux is the best school in Helsingborg to learn Swedish. I started my SFI C course here, shortly after my consultation and after I selected my school. I was really excited like a little schoolgirl.
It was going to be student life again! I did start learning on my own at home with help from Duolingo before I started school. The first day at school was a bit confusing, because the teacher obviously spoke Swedish in class, and I did not understand a word of it. She was kind enough to translate everything to English though, but only on the first day. Basically, the first two weeks were spent in trying to translate whatever the teacher said to English, and Google translate quickly became one of my favorite tools and I had even added a shortcut of it on my phone’s homepage. But that was back then, and now I would advise people against using Google translate and switch to quality offline dictionary apps, that I’ll mention later.
In about two weeks’ time, I realized that this was fun. I shifted my focus from getting a job to actually learning the language. It was pure happiness when I moved from the introduction class to the next level. People started talking about språkcafés and even the teacher recommended them. I wondered what these special ‘cafés’ were, but it wasn’t until when I was three months into the course that I started going there. That’s when I realized that I had been missing something so useful for three months and I decided to never give it a miss. I also started volunteering at a cat shelter in Mariastaden, Helsingborg, and continued for a few weeks. That gave me extra practice.
I would talk to myself because my husband did not speak Swedish. I started reading books, and I would read aloud to hear my own pronunciation and make corrections to it. I started with children’s bedtime stories and moved up the difficulty-ladder. Soon, I started reading lättläst (easy-read) books. I always sat with a notebook and wrote down all the new words with their synonyms and meanings, and would try to use them in my sentences at least once. I would listen to their pronunciations in my dictionary app and try imitating. I lost count of how many books I had read during my Komvux-days, but I’ll mention my favorites below.
In four months, I was ready to go for the national test. The teacher asked me to write the test and I trusted her decision. I was nervous of course and I knew my weak points. I was scared I would fare bad in the hearing test because I did have difficulty understanding Swedish on phone and TV. I however got a good grade and moved to SFI D. I decided to correct my drawbacks in this class.
There was this summer holiday around the time, and I was away for three weeks holidaying in the UK, which led to a gap of five weeks in total in my learning. That scared me, because Swedish is not my language and with such gaps, I could just forget everything learnt so far. But when I joined D, I realized that this course was much more interactive than the one before and my Swedish came back within a week. I took extra efforts on my own, doing online tests, both on the school’s learning website and others, listening to Swedish news, watching Swedish TV-series, and attempting the writing-exercises uploaded by my teacher and sending them back to the teacher for correction. I did not have a lot to do at home – I did not have kids, and it was just cooking and occasional cleaning, and needless to mention my husband used to take over the dinner-responsibility and the laundry. I just loved doing it, to the extent that my teacher asked me – Studerar du extensivt? (Are you studying extensively?) My study pattern was just simple – school, homework, books, språkcafé, extra exercises, news, TV-series.
And so, was SFI D over, and with an even better grade. But the purpose of studying is not to get good grades; it is to learn, right?
I did go to a couple of interviews and all my interviews were in Swedish. I was used to hearing that it was unbelievable that that Swedish came from someone who had been living here for less than a year. Unfortunately, I did not get through any of the interviews and I decided to shift my focus again to continue learning. I finished SVA Level 3 and 4 and got good grades. I got to skip levels 1 and 2 because I fared well in SFI D test. My teachers were fantastic and always encouraging. And I continued my study pattern except for one of the språkcafés that did not fit into the school timetable. I went on to Svenska som andraspråk 1 in the same school and continued for about a month. By this time, I had started looking for jobs again and had several interviews lined up. My teachers heartily agreed to be my references on my CV and promised to provide a good feedback. My husband and I decided that I should look for jobs in Göteborg because it is a much bigger city with probably more and better opportunities. That was a great decision. I FINALLY got my first job in Sweden! Why did I not think of this before?
I started my first ever job in Sweden in March 2019, a year and 2 months after I moved to Sweden. That was a long wait, but totally worth it. I live and work in Göteborg now and communication medium is Swedish.
Lexin Offline (basic level)
SAOL (advanced level)
Helsingborgs stadsbibliotek – Wednesdays 05:30 PM – 6:30 PM
Nytt Hopp – Tuesdays and Thursdays 02:00 PM – 04:00 PM
Språkcafé with classmates from SVA Level 3, some café near school
Shared reading in Swedish, Helsingborgs stadsbibliotek – Wednesdays 09:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Den försvunna dagboken – Kim Moritsugu
Stolthet och fördomer – Jane Austen
Spöket i skåpet och andra hemska historier – Charles Dickens