On Location Swedish – 15 Feb 2013

130215-ailieHej! I have to admit that this week I have left writing this article a little late – something which Swedes, with their sense of punctuality which could rival the Swiss or Germans, would seriously frown upon! Several Swedish friends told me separately that they grew up with the motto from their parents, that if one is going to be anything more than 3 minutes late, it probably is not worth showing up at all. But in this case, my being late is what led me to the idea for this week’s article, namely, tid (time). Telling time and phrases around it are, I find, always one of the most difficult things when learning a new language, and so I would like to dedicate a little of my time today to talking about it.

Before going to Sweden, I had been told that like in most European countries, that in Sweden I should use the 24-hour clock (and had been dreading saying “sjutton” (17), for 5pm, as the “sj” sound, a rushing of air out of your mouth like you’re blowing but haven’t closed your lips enough, is nigh-on impossible and non-Swedes in general can only manage at best a half-decent impression). However on arriving in Uppsala, in conversation at least, I learnt that using 24-hours is deemed unnecessary. It’s pretty obvious when you say, “Jag ska till skolan klockan 10” (I’m going to school (here, ‘university’, at 10) that you mean in the morning, and you aren’t planning on heading to classes at 10pm. “Klockan”, meaning “the clock” and “o’clock” and in writing is usually shortened to kl., is used to preface any time, for example, “Jag vaknade kl. 8” (I woke up at 8), “han äter lunch kl. kvart över 12” (he eats lunch at quarter past 12),  “Vi ses kl. halv 10” (See you at half 9).

This last example throws up one thing which I constantly found difficult! In English, saying for example “half 10”, means of course, 10.30. In Swedish, like in German, the system is to “minus” the half from the following hour – so, halv 10 (lit. “half 10) actually means 9.30. I imagine it this way, in English we think of “half past 10”, in Swedish “half before 10”. One last phrase, to round of this lesson in time (and a personal favourite of mine”: att tappa tid, meaning to waste or lose time. “att tappa” can also be used to mean “to drop”, and so for me “tappa tid” has this image of time slowly dropping away from one’s grasp. And on that, somewhat philosophical, note;

Jag tappar ingen tid och säger ”hej då” till just nu!
I’ll waste no time and say “bye” for now!

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