Those of you who’ve begun taking the Complete Swedish course here at Lingolib know that it relies partly on analyzing the shared vocabulary and sentence structure that English shares with Swedish. For obvious reasons, if you know that a particular word, for example “normal” is the same in both the languages, all you have to worry about is the pronunciation instead of trying to recall what the Swedish counterpart to that word is.
However, although knowing English is helpful most of the time, there are times when it is less helpful. For instance, in English the objective pronoun (him, her, they) differ from the personal pronoun (he, she, they) and that is also true for Swedish (jag – mig) (hon – henne) (de – dem). However, for some reason, in English, it’s not consistent all the way, and we have cases where the two forms are the same, for example
You give it to him.
He gives to you.
[In old English you would say “thee” as the objective form which distinguished it from the subject form “thou”]
In both cases, we use “you”, because of this, you might feel tempted to do the same in Swedish. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work! In Swedish, you have to change the “you”-form depending on if it’s the subject of the sentence or the object. So you get du and dig.
Du ger den till honom.
Han ger den till dig.
Research on language acquisition has long since identified the usefulness of “language transfer” – the act of taking something that we know from one language and transferring it over into another. There are many such instances that have been highlighted in the complete Swedish course. However, there are also instances of a negative language transfer (like the example above). This occurs when the person tries to express something in the language that they’re studying but instead of using the syntax/form of that language, they use the one from their own language incorrectly.
I remember having done this myself in a trip to China a few years ago. I used Google translate to translate the sentence “when do you close?” I was of course referring to the store, but the clerk looked at me confused wondering what I meant by having asked her when she as a person was closing. It is important to make note of our own negative language transfer, but this requires that we actively try to be aware of it.