Sweden <--> Ohio: Student

Saturday, May 05, 2007


I've decided to fail my Swedish re-exam.

I've studied for it (and I studied for the first one too), I attended most of the classes (some I was out of town, one or two I was sick), and I put work and effort into the homework.

However, i failed the first exam and I'm equally certain that even if they give the same exam a second time, that I'll fail it again.

Because I'm not comfortable taking the failure (and I'm *certain* there's no way to avoid it) without a lesson, here's what I'm thinking:

1) Minimize the damage
a) contact Study Abroad and ask what can be done so this does not impact my GPA, my finaid, and in an ideal world, it wouldn't even appear on my transcript (I'm taking enough credits w/o it from my teacher ed class to stay FT).

2) Call it a failure to learn Swedish, but reframe personally and professionally as a calculated throwing in of the towel. Recognition that my motivation and goals were flimsy and insufficient to achieve a passing grade in this class.

Learning a new language depends on mother tongue acquisition, rules, and competency - and my realization is this: beyond the rote memorization required to grasp vocabulary, my grasp of the rules of the English language is nill. My understanding of English is based on what "sounds right". While perfectly fine for using English in a communicative context, the result is a utter lack of background for learning other languages.

Building a house on sand, if you will. There's no bedrock, no background, no other experience of language rules to pull from, no ability to make comparisons, realizations, or mental structures of similarity and difference to work with. (Learning biology without knowledge of evolution?).

Rote memorization of phrases and vocabulary has gotten me this far. However, that's so utterly insufficient as to make rectifying that in a solid month of studying Swedish a sad and tragic joke.

On a personal level it's made me determined to do my best to raise a multilingual child - both for the value of learning new languages (for travel, living abroad, and for the humbling experience of attempting to communicate in a language other than your mother tongue) and for the global implications of travel and cross cultural communication.

Also, personally, I'm determined to stop saying "I have a hard time learning languages" and just shut up about the subject. Repeating that phrase and others like it, while seemingly true, is in no way helpful for learning anything. Also, on the child front, what's the value in telling a child that they're expected to do something their mother "can't" do? I'd much prefer to model the things I can do, encourage hard work, experimentation, dedication, determination, etc... stuff I have done, and will continue to do in other areas.

I'm still waffling about joining some sort of deaf get-together. The experience would be good for me. I love the culture, the astounding kindness and openness (deaf culture for me is the experience of American culture for the rest of world, perhaps?), but straight-up: I'm terrified. It's like being 12 and wanting to talk to the cute guy at the dance. I expect to be laughed at, ridiculed, and maybe even gently and pityingly humored... but above all else, I don't have the feeling or belief that I have anything of value to contribute, I feel that my presence is unwelcome or accepted on kindness, but not out of genuine interest. It's a clusterfuck of overwhelmingly negative feelings.

However, like the dance - I want to go anyway. Some sort of sick determination to be accepted, to gain that _feeling_ of acceptance (which is harder, takes longer, and requires a trust I can't conceive of) and a pigheaded belief that acceptance into a community can be based on showing up.

So that's the trade I guess. I'm going to take the failure in Swedish language but find a deaf monthly coffee or deaf camp weekend or something. It's the brutal soul-searing culturally-immersive experience that travel abroad should encourage - but without the plane ticket.

More personal realizations: I'm sad. I'd hoped that this experience of being an exchange student could be a "testing out" of the idea of emigration. A dry run, with a safety net and a return date - a preliminary venture, a making of contacts, and a testing of my personal adaptability.

In that, I've failed miserably. I don't think I can realistically consider living in a culture that requires learning a new language. That limits my options significantly.

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Blogger buddy said...


my name is vladlen dorkin,i"m deaf. i ask you, if you can could help me. any you know about the deaf service in sweden.
i want move to new life in sweden. but, where i can find the who can person guide me around, etc many thing... and more many thing.

you can could help me to where i can the find to insersting to a whom for deaf service help to deaf people in sweden.

as possible as soon wrtie back me.
happy new year.

thank you.

5:31 PM


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