I haven’t been to Swedish class the last two weeks, as other events have taken over my life. Over a drink at the pub, Grant filled me in on some of the exercises they’ve done since I last attended. He also told me, however, about the “classic translation moment” which occurred a few weeks ago.
Like many languages, Swedish has a lot of “dirty words” as was demonstrated in the very funny Simple Swedish video on Youtube a while back, including “sex” (the number six), “fart” (speed), and “slut” (the end). By the way, there’s now a Simple Swedish 2 video.
Anyway, the other week, as part of a translation exercise, one of our class-mates faced the almost unenviable task of having to read out, and then translate the phrase “jag är totalt slut”. In Swedish it means “I am totally exhausted”, though to a class of people with an English language background, it didn’t take long to for an awful lot of rather childish sniggering to emerge.
As part of tonight’s class I translated the previously mentioned new song, “Från Och Med Du” by Oskar Linnros. As an exercise it was actually quite tough, because there are quite a few colloquialisms in the song which don’t instantly make literal sense. The phrase “Från och med nu” literally translates as “from and with now”, though it practically means “from now on…”
I was, however, pleased with my translation of the second verse of the song, drawing upon my cultural knowledge about the Stockholm subway. “See you on the blue in April” makes little sense, unless you realise “the blue” is a reference to “the blue line” of the subway, the Tunnelbana…
Ser dig på blåa i april
i telefon i nya jeans
men jag har samma trasor på och röker samma marlboro
jag minns varenda scen ifrån vår film
which translates as…
See you on the “blue-line” in April
on the phone in new jeans
but I have the same rags and smoke the same marlboros
I remember every single scene from our film
Tonight was also fun, since we had a birthday cake for Grant’s birthday, which is tomorrow. It was great fun to sing Grant the Swedish version of “happy birthday”, “Ja, må hon leva!” (which sounds remarkably like “Waltzing Matilda”) as he cut the Prinsesstårta. I’ve been trying to organise the cake for a while. I remembered a colleague mentioning there was a Swedish woman in Sydney who made them, though I didn’t get the address until yesterday. As I Googled in between time, I discovered the famous “Miss Maud” has a cake shop in Miranda, though on public transport it might as well have been Örebro, a town in the middle of Sweden. On the weekend, though, I luckily remember seeing one at the continental cake shop/bakery on Victoria Street, Darlinghurst. As we ate and enjoyed the cake, there was much interest in the class about where I’d obtained it. “It’s the continental cake shop on Victoria Street” I began to explain…. Blank looks abounded until I said…. “It’s not far from the Green Park” which led to an all-round understanding.
We’re like that in Sydney. We don’t know street names. We don’t know places. But cross-reference something with a pub on the corner and we know exactly where you mean. Who needs Google Maps?