Lost in translation

Swedes are good at speaking English. Actually, most Swedes (or at least most from my generation or younger) like speaking English and being able to speak Swedish isn’t very necessary if you live here. I have several colleagues who make no effort at learning Swedish, simply because they don’t feel the need or necessity to do so. And honestly, sometimes Swedes don’t make it easy either; they often like to show off how good their English is. Quite a few times Swedes switched to English when they figured out I wasn’t a native viking. Apparently my pronunciation is pretty good, but I do make quite a lot of mistakes when it comes to the correct use of articles and adjectives, so as soon as I start stumbling through a sentence, a lot of Swedes switch to English. Very polite, but it’s not helping me in my quest to master the language.

Swedes are good at speaking English because children learn English in school from a young age and most English movies and TV-shows are subtitled*. But one thing surprises me; titles (and only the titles) of TV-shows and movies are often translated to Swedish. Sometimes it’s a very direct translation (the TV-show “Friends” becomes “Vänner”), or sometimes it’s something completely different (Shawshank Redemption becomes Nyckeln till frihet (literally: The Key to Freedom)). Some more strange examples can be found at thelocal.se.

Why this is done is a complete mystery to me and even to most Swedes that I’ve spoken to about this..

* In European countries where media subtitled, people tend to speak better English (the Nordics, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal for example) then where they don’t (Germany, France, Spain, Italy and most of central and eastern Europe).