Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Melodifestivalen 2012 - My Top 32

1. På väg - Abalone Dots
A beautiful country ballad with tight harmonies, this was always going to be my favourite. And it even has a really well-executed key change too!

2. Why am I crying - Molly Sandén
Big emotional break-up ballad, with lovely thoughtful lyrics - just my thing!

3. The Girl - Charlotte Perrelli
See, I do like schlager sometimes!

4. Amazing - Danny Saucedo
I wasn't particularly expecting to like this, but I really do! I find it really uplifting and positive to listen to.

5. Euphoria - Loreen
Not as dark as 'My Heart Is Refusing Me', and therefore not as interesting, but a goodie nonetheless.

6. Soldiers - Ulrik Munther

7. I mina drömmar - Maria BenHajji

8. Sanningen - Carolina Wallin Pérez

9. Why start a fire? - Lisa Miskovsky

10. Förlåt mig - Mattias Andréasson

11. The boy can dance - Afro-dite

12. Det går för långsamt - Mimi Oh

13. Jag reser mig igen - Thorsten Flinck & Revolutionsorkestern

14. Mirakel - Björn Ranelid feat Sara Li

15. Baby Doll - Top Cats

16. I din himmel - Sonja Aldén

17. Kyss mig - Axel Algmark

18. Goosebumps - Hanna Lindblad

19. Just a little bit - Love Generation

20. Aldrig Aldrig - Andreas Lundstedt

21. Sean den förste banan - Sean Banan

22. Shout it out - David Lindgren

23. Stormande hav - Timoteij

24. Youngblood - Youngblood

25. Salt and pepper - Marie Serneholt

26. Ge aldrig upp - Thomas di Leva

27. Lovelight - Andreas Johnson

28. Mystery - Dead by April

29. Land of Broken dreams - Dynazty

30. Don't let me down - Christer & Lotta
Well, you did let me down. I was hoping that this might be a charming little old-people number, along the lines of 'C'est la vie' from 2004. It's not, it's just horrible.

31. Allting blir bra igen - OPA!
Pointless. Why bother, really. I'm all for diversity in Melodifestivalen, but not when it comes up with songs as poor as this.

32. I want to be Chris Isaak (This is just the beginning) - The Moniker

And to get the taste of The Moniker out of my mouth, here's my favourite, 'På väg' by Abalone Dots.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Learning Norwegian - visiting Norway

As mentioned in my last entry, I've recently started learning Norwegian. My first test of my progress came a couple of weeks ago, when, after less than two weeks' learning, I paid a visit to Bergen, Norway's second city.

I've been following the Pimsleur method with my learning, which involves a 30-minute audio lesson each day. I'll go into this in more details in a later entry when I review the course, but for now I'll just mention that it's a pure audio course, at least for the early stages, which involves learning from two native speakers on the recording, and strongly encourages a focus on pronunciation and recall.

When I went to Norway, I'd just completed lesson eleven. I was determined to try out what I'd learned on my friends, and hadn't told them anything about it before going. My intention was to surprise my friend Harald by talking to him in Norwegian when I got off the bus in Bergen city centre. I was very nervous about it all the way there, but, as I disembarked, I ignored his English greeting and spoke Norwegian. We had a simple conversation, during which I asked him how he was, said that I wanted a glass of wine and asked directions to Stortingsgata.

My vocabulary was very limited, as was my breadth of topics to discuss, but that wasn't an issue for me at that stage. I just wanted to try my pronunciation and comprehension in a natural environment, but one with inbuilt support. I was extremely worried that my accent would be very strong, and that in particular I wouldn't be able to pronounce my 'r's correctly, a strong indicator of a native English speaker. I'm pleased to report that my fears were ungrounded, as I was complimented on my accent, especially my 'r's - I even realised that I was over-rolling my 'r's, an easily-rectified problem that I would have been overjoyed to have had during my years of Serbian.

I continued my experiences by speaking Norwegian to Harald occasionally during the weekend, but the real test came when we went to a party of a friend of his on Saturday night, full of Norwegians. Of course, most Norwegians, particularly young people, speak excellent English, but I was determined to at least try out my Norwegian, and hope they wouldn't automatically switch to English to accommodate me. Happily, most of them didn't, and most of them understood what I was saying and were happy to enter into a very simple conversation with me. They were rarely more than a couple of minutes before disintegrating into a 'Jeg forstår ikke' and switching to English, but the effort was made, some success was had and my confidence boosted.

I was very worried before going that I would be laughed at for my poor accent, or lack of comprehension, or that people would just want to speak English with me. The latter only happened once, and I persevered in Norwegian with her. I was also only laughed at once, but I suspect that was more because the phrase I used, while correct, was overly formal for the situation. And my accent was genuinely praised my several people - and since it's early days, I'm taking "you sound a bit Swedish" as a compliment too.

I think much of this success is due to following an audio course. It allows me to really focus on my pronunciation without continually thinking about how words are written and distracting myself by thinking about their written form. Indeed, I have no idea how to spell most of the words I've been speaking.

Opening myself up and speaking Norwegian to strangers was a massive step for me to get over, particularly after the pummeling my confidence took in Serbia. But now I feel much better about myself, am really buoyed up, keen on my learning, and look forward to going back to Norway - this time with a much wider range of topic areas and increased vocabulary.

Learning Norwegian - an introduction

Language learning is something that's always been dear to me. I started learning French and Latin at school at the age of 11, picked up German and Spanish when they were available in the curriculum, and always generally doing well at languages. They were my best subject at school, and I moved on to take Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian at university.

But since my university days, when I struggled somewhat with my learning, I've let my languages slip a little. I've made half-hearted attempts to renew my BCS, as well as occasional forays into my other languages, in particular on holiday, but with little long-term success.

Recently, however, I decided I wanted to be a little more dedicated. I wanted to learn a language and stick with it. I wanted to work hard at it and improve. And I realised that the only way I would do this was to actually use the language. I could try to brush up my BCS, and go and spend some time in ex-Yugoslavia, but realistically, that probably isn't going to happen.

So, I turned to a country where I've spent a lot of time recently, and where I have friends with whom I can practise my language - Norway. It may not be the most necessary language to learn, with many Norwegians speaking excellent English, but it's a good challenge for me, and one that's potentially achievable given my own circumstances.

I'm looking forward to it. And I'll be using this blog to keep you updated on my progress too, as a way of keeping myself honest and motivating myself. I've been learning for a couple of weeks now, so I'll be posting my first update pretty soon.