Language Muddles…

Posted in: Reflections, Travel on 15 October, 2017 by Amelia

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Quite often I am asked in which language I think, and to be honest, it is a real mixture. It depends on which I have most recently been using, which songs I have stuck in my head – currently Bez tvojej lásky by Tublatanka if anyone is interested – and what vocabulary I know. It‘s funny how there are some words which only exist in one language, and whilst dictionaries give suggestions, they just aren‘t quite right. I hope you know what I mean! Anyway, I think in a jumble of languages, sometimes switching in the middle of a sentence, but that‘s ok, because I know what I mean.

The problem comes when I start doing that in conversations…. I have been known to say a few silly things, such as, ‚informations,‘ in plural, as this is the case in the German, ‚Informationen,orŠvédský Bahn,‘ (Swedish, in Czech, followed by railways, in German),‘ and I never remember which language has card vs karta vs karte vs kort.

Sometimes people politely tell me they do not understand, sometimes they look at me like I am stupid, and sometimes they understand what I mean from their own language skills or context. One day I got really lucky in this last way, although I still wonder how I managed to be so confusing:

When passing through Brussels on the way to a conference, I decided to buy a coffee, and as I know almost no non-ballet related French words, I decided to order in my very basic Dutch in the hope that it would pass for Flemish.

Me: „Een kleine koffie, alsjeblieft.“ (A small coffee please.)

Server: Gives me the price in Flemish.

Me: Handing over money, „Bitte“ (Here you are – in German.)

Server: Takes the money, prepares the drink and calls the next customer – no, Brussels Midi station is not the place to go for good customer service….

Me, „Ursäkta, kan jag få kvitto?“ (Excuse me, can I have a receipt? – in Swedish)

Server: Somehow understands and gives me the receipt, between fetching the next customer‘s drink.

Me: Tack (Thanks, still Swedish). To the other customer: „Which drink was yours (in English)?“ (The cups were identical, and in my defence, I had been travelling through the night…)

Other Customer: Points at their drink. My brain switches itself off and I can only smile in gratitude before heading for the escalator, where a man speaking French on the telephone motions for me to go ahead of him.

Me? I open my mouth to say, „Merci,“ (thanks in French), and what comes out? „Děkuji.“ That does indeed mean thanks, but in Czech…

I am hopeless….. :D I did not talk for a good two hours after that, and at least the coffee helped me sort things out in my head. But then again, I‘m not the only one – according to my husband I did not even notice when a conductor told me Dobrý den (good day – Czech), Ihre Fahrkarte (your tickets – German) please,“ and as yet another train crew member said just yesterday after a bit of bilingual confusion plus miming, „We can mix it up. At the end of the day, we all understand each other…“

(Especially on and around trains!)


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LiU on Social Media

Posted in: Mixed on 11 October, 2017 by Amelia

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Now, I am almost completely clueless with regards to social media – MSN Messenger was about as far as I ever got! – and chances are that if you have found this blog you are already way ahead of me on getting all LiU’s news and updates.

If you are like me though, and are still learning your way around the new website, you might not know that the university is present on a lot of channels, sharing news such as it’s high world ranking, research projects, and upcoming events:

Here’s the main news page, in Swedish, and English. Then there’a a bilingual Twitter account, and an Instagram profile, where you can see lots of photos from the serious to the not-so-serious 🙂 Facebook users can interact with LiU here, and visitors without an account can access and read quite a lot of the content too. The posts can be translated, but I am not sure how accurate that function is; hopefully things gotten better since the days of Babelfish and InterTran!

Anyway, there is always a lot going on, and there are many ways to keep up-to-date.



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What is Work?

Posted in: Activism, Reflections, work on 8 October, 2017 by Amelia

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One of the exercises for children which I recently translated from German into Czech involved the participants deciding whether different scenarios constituted, ‘work,’ or not. This is actually a lot more complicated than it sounds, as alongside activities which are traditionally thought of as work in the sense of paid employment, were housework, studies, childbirth and childrearing, and creative (non-remunerated) activities. Although I have not yet tried out the exercise with learners, I found it very interesting, because of the strength of the capitalist focus on reimbursement and assumption that, ‘work,’ cannot be enjoyable. Marxists argue that the reasons why women were to an extent pulled out of the paid workforce during industrialisation are 1) because capitalism could not support itself if home-based work was paid at the same rate as factory work, and 2) poor factory conditions meant that there was a demand to reproduce as quickly as possible, tying mothers to child-based work. Yes, children were part of the supply and demand system, and it was only when reading this, that I realised that ‘labouring,’ as a job and ‘labouring,’ in childbirth may not actually be two unrelated uses of the same word after all.

Studying for self-development is rewarding and knowledge production greatly enriches society, yet students are often interpreted as lazy, not living in the real world, and not making a useful contribution. Sadly some cultures view university more like an extension of school than a centre of research, and are skeptical of the motives of anyone who studies over 21. I am happy that I have found an institution where this is not the case, because there is inherent value in studying, just as there is inherent value in poetry, art and music that is not sold for commercial profit.

Some of the same people who have told me that non-productive work is not work are those who have suggested employment is not really work if it does not involve several hours of non-stop hard graft or being confined to a desk all day with mundane tasks. To those people I ask, ‘What is more productive for society? Eight hours of pressuring shoppers to buy a slightly more sparkly eyeshadow (which I was useless at and yes it feels like a lot of work!), or playing games that help children develop critical thinking skills, sustainable living habits, and an ambition to make the world a better place? I know which one I’d pick, and I am very grateful to be able to do so both voluntarily and in order to make enough money to buy food! Then again why do we pay for a basic necessity for food…..? That’s an idea for another post, before I get carried away, and in the meantime I will go back to enjoying my work of designing anti-discrimination games and cutting out paper pigs!


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When are the Public Holidays?

Posted in: Recreation on 4 October, 2017 by Amelia

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Back in April, I prepared a packed lunch and prepared all of my documents ready to take to the tax office the next day, only to remember that May 1st is a public holiday.

Last week in Brno I wrote a shopping list, only to remember the same thing…

Keeping track of holidays is difficult, especially when emigrating! Here is a quick summary of when banks etc. will be closed this year and next in Sweden, although trains will still run and in larger cities, supermarkets will still operate:

2017: 4th Nov, 25-6th Dec

2018: 1st Jan, 6th Jan, 30th Mar, 1-2nd Apr, 1st May, 10th May, 20th May, 6th Jun, 23rd Jun, 3rd Nov, 25-6th Dec.

(And just to confuse you, some business also close during the previous afternoon…)


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Cash or Card?

Posted in: Reflections, Travel on 1 October, 2017 by Amelia

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Splitting my time between Sweden and the Czech Republic means that I often get asked about cultural differences, and my answers generally concern the major factors of gender equality, attitudes to minorities, and the education system. You can probably guess which region fits at which end of those scales… There are of course a lot of similarities too, from shopping and coffee drinking habits to a love of countryside cabins and lakes, but one everyday difference somehow slipped under my radar until today, even though it has caused me problems in both states: in Sweden, almost everyone pays by card, whereas cash is the way to go in the Czech Republic.

Last weekend in Prague, I was quite embarrased because I had assumed that I could buy lunch at a conference on my debit card, and ended up borrowing money, which I hate to do, from a kind colleague. The large public library in Brno is cash only, and the area where my parents-in-law live gained an ATM less than three years ago. On the other hand, Linköping is quite extreme in the other direction, with businesses that refuse to take cash at all, including Café Ellen in Campus Valla’s K-Building. Even the toilets in the train station can be paid for by SMS, and friends send each other money through their smart-telephones using an application called Switch. It is quite strange to get used to, but upon setting in, you’ll barely find yourself carrying cash in Sweden.

Which system is better? I am not sure…on the one hand, I hate having to divert to an ATM, and especially seek out the ones which will not charge me fees. On the other hand, always paying digitally means that my purchase habits are trackable. Is cash old fashioned? Are credit cards irresponsible? It is definitely something to think about, but given that Estonia offers completely digital identities whilst much of South America relies heavily on cash, perhaps these differences are not so great after all.


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Amelia Gackowska

Amelia Gackowska
Hej, my name is Amelia and I recently moved to Linköping to study the Master programme in Applied Ethics, as I thought it was about time to study the theories behind my activism!

When I am not studying you can find me teaching ballroom dancing, learning Swedish, up-cycling whatever I can find, or getting carried away debating politics into the early hours.

MA in Applied Ethics

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