Thursday, May 29, 2014

1st day of SFI (Svenska för Invandrare) language classes

Swedish building in Stockholm  |  1st day of SFI (Svenska för Invandrare) language classes on afeathery*nest  |

Yesterday was my first day of school at SFI (Swedish for Foreigners, a.k.a. "Svenska för Invandrare"), a state-run language program to help immigrants learn to speak Swedish and become familiar with the national culture as quickly as possible. The government is so keen on people assimilating—rather than just coming in and taking advantage of benefits without contributing—that there's a hefty, tax-free bonus involved with completing the course and passing the national exam (although there are rumblings it's ending soon...).

I'm starting SFI at Level C, as I've had formal education and can somewhat speak another language—those seeking asylum from countries where they've had no schooling and haven't learned to write their own language or speak any others start at A. Once I pass this level and D, I can continue to a more advanced, "professional" course called SFX for people who work in specific fields, e.g., business, law, etc., or continue to a more university-style language course called SAS (Swedish as a Second Language, "Svenska som Andra Språk", which picks up after SFI and goes from levels E - H).

To be eligible for the free classes, you must be a legal resident of Sweden with a personnumer, which is why I went through all that rigamarole before I arrived and made sure to get my resident card on Day 1 so that I could apply ASAP for the school and be covered under the national health care system.

When I was able to register, I chose a school in the city center (versus near us), because I wanted to be sure I'd be out and interacting and whatnot every day. I also chose a school in a pretty area and in a more typical Swedish building because...well, why not?

Albino White Stålhästen bicycle |  1st day of SFI (Svenska för Invandrare) language classes on afeathery*nest  |
Albino White Stålhästen bicycle |  1st day of SFI (Svenska för Invandrare) language classes on afeathery*nest  |
I left home an hour before class began to ride the 7 kilometers (30-minutes according to Google) there. I gave myself a buffer because while I've ridden quite far and alongside traffic before, I hadn't yet negotiated left-hand turns and riding in traffic itself. Luckily all went quite smoothly apart from walking the bike a bit because Google led me down a harrowing street. I arrived, scouted a space to lock up Cleo, spent 10 minutes actually locking her up, and made it into the lobby with 5 minutes to spare.

The first day wasn't a full 4-hour session, but rather a briefer 2-hour intro. I was the only American in the class, the other students are from Lithuania, Argentina, China, Japan, Colombia and Pakistan. All of us more or less the same age. And all of us had a severe dislike for one of the others that was a bit of a know-it-all, the type to shout out the answer even when it's not asked of them. No idea why that person was in the intro class with the rest of us who arrived here within the last few weeks since they've been here for 8 months and already took SFI C and D, but our mutual disdain was solidified when we went around the room saying what languages we speak and heard their answer include "Swedish".

Cue the cumulative eye-rolling.

Anyway, we spent the class reviewing the alphabet and learning how/when to pronounce certain letters certain ways (and how to pronounce the Swedish-specific letters ä, å, and ö), and the basics like "My name is...", "I come from...", "I live in...", "I speak...", "Excuse me" and the days of the week.

I'm hoping that when the real classes begin it'll be a bit more structured and with homework—but with no more interruptions from you-know-who.

Vasastan  |  1st day of SFI (Svenska för Invandrare) language classes on afeathery*nest  |

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