The English language
I suppose that Swedes really could be seen as a bilingual people (well in some cases tri- or quadrua languaged people). If a native English speaker comes here he can allmost allways make himself understood.
Very few of the Swedes does not understand English. Some of us might not speak Swedish! Not even those who are born here... Up in northern Lapland there are places where you do not speak Swedish at all. Mieninkieli, Finnish and what we call "rural Finnish" is the prefered ways of communicating in many villages in the outback.
Then we have the LKAB- Finnish. LKAB is the mining company doing underground mining in Malmberget. That language is a pecurilar mix of aincent Finnish mixed up with English, Sami and German. Many Germans and Englishmens made their way up to Lapland during the 16- 1700.
Some people lived and worked their whole life in the mines of Malmberget without ever learning Swedish! To this day!
In the rural villages, it was often common that when kids at the age of seven went to school- they could not speak any Swedish. (I lived my first five years in such a village- luckily, even though my parents was not Swedes- they tought me Swedish at first hand. I never got to learn their countrys languages!).
Often villagers, living just twenty kilometers apart, could barely communicate with eachothers- because of different dialects (or really allmost different languages). TV helped of course. We had a Black and white TV- set with two channels (early 70:s).
That (two channels) was all that you could get back then, it was all state controlled (public service) and I remember my mother calling for us to come and se the kids show at 5:30 and we tried to hide us because the only thing aired at that time was Chekoslovakian or Russian animated clay movies, or Swedish made television programs.
(Staffan Westerberg ruined my childhood.
Vilse i pannkakan (Lost in the pancake) may have been loved by some, and these days the show has something of a cult following. However, bring it up in conversation (apropos the 2007 DVD release, for example) and chances are you'll be met with frightened grimaces and squeaks of unease.
To many 70s kids, including this one, Westerberg's low-low-budget puppet show, was pervaded with a sense of unease and almost dread. The "Big potato" was a domineering and frightening figure with a monstrous wooden head who might appear at any time (sometimes in a painting behind the main protagonist).
Feared by all, loved by none, Storpotäten is the stuff that childhood nightmares are made of.
The pancake world itself is rather depressing, with a raggedy figure desperately trying to fix a boat by a dried out pond, mouse kids watched by a skeleton and rats with names like Lucifer.
On top of that, the two-dimensional parents might pop up at any time, scorning the kid who was supposed to eat the magical - and increasingly dusty - pancake.Finally, it was pretty boring. Westerberg had two modes: unease and dullness. Songs went on forever, "funny" phrases were repeated ad nauseam and you never really had the feeling that the show was going anywhere. Do check it out for reasons of nostalgia and / or curiosity but think twice before exposing your own kids to the pancake world.
Anyway, some years later, we had moved in to Gällivare. An adjacenting town to Malmberget. I was more or less grown up (in my early 20:S). I was at a party near the "Crowcastle". We were a bunch of kids having a really good time. One kid was coming to us from a village about 30 km outside of the town. We all knew this fellow, and allso knew that his sister had an American exchange student living with them. The guy was really interrested in the American girl, but did not know english enough to communicate with her! He was really embarresd about this- so there was much looking down at the floor while scraping his shoe.
He had got her to drive him in to Gällivare, to our party. The whole way he had been thinking of a way to break the ice, not even daring to look at her.
When he finally joined us; he came with a big grin in his face and told us:
"I did it! I finally did it! When we arrived, I stepped out of the car- looked straight in to her eyes and said. Thank you very please!"