Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest

I’m not a big fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, but here in Sweden, it’s massively popular. Preparing for the European contest, Swedes have their own contest called “Melodifestivalen” and the winner of that contest is sent to the big European stage. Many Swedes stay home to watch both the Swedish and European finale and since I’m not really into either one, I was surprised that it’s such a big thing.

Sweden is about consensus and that’s how the big question “who do we send to Eurovision?” is answered: the (by popular vote) chosen winner of Melodifestivalen goes to Eurovision. I might be wrong here, but I think we tried this a couple of times in the Netherlands, but that got us nowhere, so now, I think somebody just decides somewhere that someone else should go to Eurovision (this year, someone decided that Anouk should go). People asked me how we selected the artist to represent the Netherlands and when telling them that it’s often not a democratic process, they were shocked. Anyway, the whole consensus thing is probably a good topic for another post.

What I really wanted to share is a part from this years Eurovision that was held in Malmö, Sweden, where Sweden portrays itself spot-on. It pretty much sums up the things I have noticed about Swedes over the last couple of years.

Next to the fact that I think most of what is mentioned is pretty true, I love the fact that Sweden’s prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt plays himself.


Pronunciation problems

Swedes are good at English, as I wrote before, but they often have problems with pronouncing certain letters or letter combinations in English. Some examples are the pronunciation of the English “j” and “ch” in words like “joke” and “cheap”. Swedes often pronounce them as “y” and “sh”. Joke becomes yoke and cheap becomes sheep (“Hey shek it out! That’s really sheep! Nah, I was just yoking..”). When correcting people, they often tell me that they had no idea that their pronunciation was wrong, since teachers in school do it wrong as well.

Tele2, a Swedish telecom operator uses this as a joke (or yoke) in their commercials, where they say they are “sheep”, while they obviously mean that they are cheap:

On the other hand, I also have difficulties pronouncing Swedish words, since there are several letters or letter combinations that are either pronounced as “sh”,  “sk”, “ch”, or “k” . For example (and bear with me, since I really should learn how to write phonetic symbols):

  • Skägg (beard) is pronounced chegg (where the ch is a soft g)
  • While skal (shell) is pronounced as you write it
  • Kort (short or card) is pronounced as you write it
  • While kör (drive) is pronounced shur (with the u as the u in burdon)

And obviously, there are exceptions. When kör means drive, it’s pronounced with a sh, while when it’s meant as a choir, it’s pronounced as you write it, with a k. And the word kort can actually mean card or short, but is either pronounced koort (with the oo as in poo) or kort (with the o as in short).