Posts Tagged ‘swedish’


Photos: UNHCR/Anders Aalbux
Kerstin and Åke are Swedish senior citizens who say they have learned a lot from the young refugees who are
their IT guides and are recommending the service to their friends.

Although I generally bristle when assumptions are made about older people not knowing how to use a smartphone or computer, I have to admit that technology ignorance does characterize many seniors. So I’m not going to get on my high horse about young immigrants to Sweden sharing IT knowledge with the elderly and using the experience to improve their Swedish. I think it’s an important win-win — especially as Erik’s mother has explained to me that there needs to be more effort to help refugees learn Swedish.

Anders Aalbu writes for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, “It is a Saturday in Karlskoga, in the middle of Sweden. Kerstin and her husband, Åke, have each brought their smartphones, a tablet and a laptop. They’ve got a slew of questions, and they admit they might have already asked some of them. But Setrag and his colleague Sara don’t mind. A repeated question is just another opportunity for them to practice Swedish.

“While working as an IT guide, Setrag speaks slowly. But so do the seniors who come to the public library every Saturday to learn how to use their computers and smartphones. They don’t mind that their teachers are refugees, as speaking slowly makes it easier for them to understand each other.

“Wearing his blue IT guide shirt, Setrag patiently explains to Kerstin: “But now you want to travel by bus, so you have to open another app, because this one is for buying train tickets,’ Setrag says. As the app loads, Setrag explains to Kerstin that the initial message that shows up is a one-off. ‘You’ll only see this the first time. It’s supposed to give you an idea about how to use the app,’ he explains as he points to the spot saying ‘Next.’

“Setrag Godoshian, 20, came to Sweden from Syria in 2014. He has spent three years in the introductory programme learning Swedish. A certain level of Swedish speaking skills was needed for him to become an IT guide. Now Setrag gets to speak lots of Swedish, has his first important job in Sweden, and he’s more integrated in the local community. In return, numerous seniors are improving their IT skills.

“Sara Alaydi, 20, is also a Syrian refugee, who arrived in Sweden in 2015. Becoming an IT guide has led to major changes in her integration into the Swedish society. ‘It has helped me so much. I’ve become more social, for instance, also at school. My experience from the job as an IT guide helps with all the group work we have in class,’ she explains. ‘Elderly people tend to speak a little bit slower, which makes it easier for us. And it also makes it less nerve-racking to talk to them, so we constantly get a chance to practice,’ Sara says. ‘And we’re more confident speaking with them, even though we make mistakes,’ Setrag adds. …

“IT Guide Sweden started in 2010. Its founder, Gunilla Lundberg, was approached by two teenagers, both having just arrived in Sweden, and in need of a summer job. Gunilla asked what they were good at, and the answer was ‘we’re good with computers.’ Today, IT Guide is present in more than 20 Swedish municipalities and employs about 200 young IT Guides. …

“IT Guide Sweden was nominated for the Swedish Door-Opener Award for 2018, an award recognizing Sweden’s best integration initiatives.”

Read here about how working as an IT guide often provides young immigrants with good references as they move into the job world.

Marketing and spreading the word about IT Guide to elderly Swedes is one part of the job for these young refugees.


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No sooner had I seen this Science article describing female DNA at a Viking burial site, than I learned there was a controversy about it. Was this a Viking with weapons and war horses — or not? (Turtle Bunbury tweeted the tip.)

Michael Price believes the researchers who analyzed the bones. “A 10th century Viking unearthed in the 1880s was like a figure from Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries: an elite warrior buried with a sword, an ax, a spear, arrows, a knife, two shields, and a pair of warhorses. And like a mythical valkyrie.”

A study published in “the American Journal of Physical Anthropology finds that the warrior was a woman — the first high-status female Viking warrior to be identified.

“Excavators first uncovered the battle-ready body among several thousand Viking graves near the Swedish town of Birka, but for 130 years, most assumed it was a man — known only by the grave identifier, Bj 581. A few female Viking soldiers have been unearthed over the years, but none had the trappings of high rank found in the Birka burial — not just weapons and armor, but also game pieces and a board used for planning tactics.

“In recent years, reanalysis of skeletal characteristics had hinted that the corpse might be female. Now, the warrior’s DNA proves her sex.” And you can see the study at Wiley Online Library, here.

Skepticism may be read here, at Ars Technica, where Annalee Newitz makes the point that 19th C. excavation was often careless and this one may have mixed up bones.


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Time to share a few more pictures. The sunlit chestnut grows in Rhode Island. (I didn’t know chestnuts were around anymore.) The colorful dahlias are in John’s front yard.

The brick wall with shadows is in the Fort Point area of Boston. The decorated pillar is one of several opposite the Greenway. It’s called “Harbor Stripes” and is by Karen Korellis Reuther. The work on all the pillars was sponsored by the Design Museum, which, among other enterprises, promotes public art.

The colorful shield is at the Swedish consulate in Fort Point, where I went to pick up my granddaughter’s Swedish passport. She has dual citizenship. I had to show a letter from Erik and also his Swedish driver’s license. I collected a lot of brochures about Sweden and about upcoming Swedish  activities in the Boston area.

Wrapping up the photo presentation with more shadows.



































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I thought I would like to learn some Swedish because my grandson is bilingual, and I’m sure his sister will be, too. I figured I could try reading their storybooks, and they could help me.

A co-worker told me about a free online language site called Duolingo. The first time I checked, it didn’t have Swedish, but it keeps adding languages. Now whenever I have little bits of time, I try to do an exercise.

My grandson thinks my pronunciation is pretty hilarious, but I do believe Duolingo is slowly moving me forward. The short lessons are lots of fun. They often include funny explanations of why Swedish has certain forms, and they always lob a few easy questions my way (especially after a series of mistakes) so I feel like I’m getting somewhere. You can click one button to have a voice say the words at a normal speed and another button to have her say it slo-ow. When a lesson is complete, trumpets sound.

John explained the company’s unusual business model to me. I get lessons for free because I am supplying Duolingo with data about the kinds of mistakes people make with language. Duolingo can sell the data to a search engine that wants to refine its guesses about what bad spellers and the like are really looking for.

Here’s a Tedx talk in which a charming 12-year-old boy says learned English in eight months just using his computer. He tells Matt Dalio, CEO and Chief of Product at Endless Mobile that he loves technology, especially creating animations.

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Although my husband and I are not in any design field, we’ve enjoyed watching videos like Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica (the history of a typeface) and his Objectified (on industrial design). It’s  interesting to see how designers think about things like a new font or machine.

Recently at National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, Ari Shapiro talked about a new typeface meant to represent Sweden.

He reports, “Nearly every country has a national flag, a national anthem, a national bird. Not many countries have a national typeface. Sweden recently commissioned a team of designers to come up with a font to represent the country on its websites, press releases, tourism brochures and more. …

“The typeface that [Soderhavet] designers created looks pretty much the way you would expect a Scandinavian typeface to look, too.

” ‘The Scandinavian tradition is pretty humble, easygoing and clean,’ says Stefan Hattenbach, one of the designers of the new Sweden Sans. Less is more, you could say.’

“He started by collecting images of old Swedish street signs and company logos. He pulled images of Swedish wallpaper, cars and furniture, and looked for what he calls the red thread running through it all.

” ‘There’s an expression in Sweden, too,’ Hattenbach says. ‘We say lagom, which is not too much and not too little.’ ”

The ancient Greeks had a similar expression: “Nothing in excess.” The only letter with a flourish is q. Says Hattenback, “Q is not used that much, so you can often be a little more playful with that.”

See what you think of Swedish Sans, below, and read the rest of the NPR story here.

Swedish Sans, by Soderhavet
A typeface to represent official Sweden

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It’s hard to read about the deprivations of refugees, especially the children and especially in winter. That’s why I appreciate hearing about any kindness extended to them. National Public Radio recently had a story on the kindness of Clowns without Borders.

Laura Secorun-Palet writes, “On a cold November morning, 300 children gather in a soccer field in Zaatari, a Jordanian village next to the country’s largest refugee camp. …

“Today the children are not lining up to collect food coupons or clothes from NGOs: They are here to watch the clowns.

“On the ‘stage’ — a space in front of a velvet curtain covering the goal — a tall, blond woman performs a handstand while doing the splits, while two other performers run around clapping and making funny faces. As the upside-down woman pretends to fall, the children burst into laughter.

“The performers are circus artists from Sweden …

“Clowns Without Borders is a global network of nonprofit organizations that, for the past 20 years, has been spreading laughter in the world’s saddest places. The group’s most recent annual report says more than 385 artists performed 1,164 shows for its chapters in 2012 in 38 countries, both in the developing world and for refugees and other disadvantaged children in Western countries.

” ‘It’s very important to give kids a chance to be kids again,’ explains Lilja Fredriksson, one of the Swedish performers.” More here.

Another way to help refugees is through the wonderful Minneapolis-based nonprofit American Refugee Committee.

Photo: Bilal Hussein/AP
Lebanese clown Sabine Choucair, a member of “Clowns Without Borders,” performs for children in June at a Syrian refugee camp in the eastern town of Chtoura, Lebanon.

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In John’s house, I am Grandma. In Suzanne’s house, I am Mormor. Mormor means mother’s mother in Swedish. My husband is Morfar (mother’s father). Erik’s mother is Farmor (father’s mother), but when she is with her daughter’s children, she is Mormor. Got it? There will be a quiz.

Mormor and Morfar have been hanging out with the new baby’s big brother, who has his own life to live. Yesterday we picked him up at his morning-only school. Here he is offering his monkey a snack. The monkey’s name is Kompis. It means friend.

Back at the house, I cut cardboard pieces in the shape of Christmas ornaments and punched holes in the tops for hooks. We had fun gluing seasonal cutouts from magazines on the ornament shapes. (Well, to be honest, the purple glue stick was what was fun. We lost interest by the time it came to hanging our creations on the tree.)

Today we ran errands with Papa. Here you see Elder Brother checking out bathroom fixtures with the level of intensity he brings to serious activities.












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