If you ask Brits or Americans what they think about Swedes, they are usually impressed by their high level of English.
So, why might this be? Well, it’s partly owing to the educational system in Sweden. It’s also due to the wide-spread acceptance of, and interest in, all things American and British and the fact that Swedes are well-travelled.
I also believe that the high level of English in Sweden also has to do with something else: subtitles. Unlike in Germany and many other European countries, Swedish television is not dubbed. This means that Swedish tv-audiences see the programmes in their original language. This approach increases vocabulary and English competence and is a great method for improving language skills.
However, we cannot fully rely on subtitles and presume that the ones we read on Swedish television are always correct. Sometimes, they can be very, very wrong indeed. Just the other night I was watching the television – a hospital drama – and a female doctor said to her male colleague ‘That was a close shave’ (Det var nära) when she saved a patient’s life. The subtitle said ‘Du har rakat dig’ (You’ve shaved).
Below, you will find some irritating, but classically wrong, subtitles.
‘Oh my God! There’s nothing left!’
‘Åh, herregud, det är ingenting till vänster’
(oh god, there’s nothing to the left)
Oprah Winfrey Show
‘This is a lovely dress from Banana Republic’ (an American chain of shops)
‘Det här en elegant klänning sydd i bananrepubliker’
(This is an elegant dress sown in banana republics)
‘You’re 20 minutes late with the moonshine’ (hembränt)
‘Du är 20 minuter för sent med månskenet’
(You are 20 minutes late with the moon rays)
The Cider House Rules
‘We are all bound by these Ciderhouse rules’
‘Vi är alla bundna av reglerna på den här sidan huset’
(We are bound by the rules on this side of the house)
Interview with singer, Cindy Lauper
’He’s got a nice bum’ (= rumpa)
‘Han är en trevlig lodare’ (He’s a nice tramp)
‘The cat needs medication’
‘Katten behöver meditera’ (The cat needs to meditate)