Too little, too much but never really lagom – By @petranandersson

By Petra Andersson



Too little, too much but never really lagom

I have no idea how many grammar- and spelling mistakes I’ve made in this text, despite countless Google translate efforts and an always-active spell check. As a word-lover and perfectionist, there are few things that make me feel as uncomfortable and vulnerable. I have been in love with stories, words and language for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest childhood memories are being lulled to sleep by my grandmother’s voice, reading the Grimm brother’s books of fairy tales. Even though my childhood was pretty idyllic it was just a countdown until I started school – where I knew I would learn how to read and write. I wasn’t disappointed; it felt like someone had hand me the key to another world. Or another page at least. My parents quickly became superfluous during bedtime – they were just too slow when reading Harry Potter. 

As I grew older I favoured Swedish, English, French and German far more than physics and algorithms with non-existing numbers. I developed a keen interest in discourse analysis during university and was thrilled to investigate what was actually being said and why when you read between the lines. I see and think of words as the foundation of our understanding of the world, ourselves, and as the carriers of our social and cultural values. It’s probably why I love the untranslatable ones particularly – they convey so much of our different views of the world. 

Unfortunately, the Art of Poetry-module quickly became my nemesis during my exchange term in England. You know, the module where everyone just assumes that you know exactly where and why to stress a syllable and how to read 15th century English (spoiler alert: I didn’t). And even though I spent most of my Friday nights in the library stressing every single vowel, I really enjoyed learning more about assonance, consonance and figures of speech. All in all, it feels fantastic to continue my journey towards a profession devoted to my 26 favourite tools (or 29 in my case when you include å, ä and ö).

There is only one problem – the language barrier. Because it doesn’t matter how hard I try, I never get it really right. For those of you whose native language is spoken by the majority of the world’s population it’s probably difficult to understand the frustration of never being able to say exactly what you mean. It always turns out too rough, cutting away all the nuances and finesse. It feels like I’m stuck on this never-ending pendulum between hyperboles and understatements. It’s either too little or too much but never really lagom (to use one of the Swedish language most famous and untranslatable words). And it slows me down as well. The amount of time I have spent on this text is absolutely ridiculous. It’s like 25-year-old me is dictating to my inner 12-year-old who is tapping away on the keyboard. As soon as I switch languages, I take several steps back in my development as I writer. 

But somehow, this frustration and the countless inaccuracies is also the charm of it. As a language-nerd I’m thrilled to extend my vocabulary and improve my English. And the creative problem-solver within me also comes to life when faced with a problem, always eager to take on a challenge. I’m 100% convinced that my year at SCA will be filled with frustration, spelling mistakes and the feeling of not being good enough. But I am equally convinced that it will be packed with fun, momentums and ceaseless progress.”

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