Sunday, February 19, 2012

End of the line

This blog started as an experiment. I wanted to see if there were anyone interested in debating Swedish defence and security matters in English. There are many very good Swedish defence blogs, but for an outsider Google translate may not be enough.

Unfortunately most part of the debate since then has instead been regarding my lack of skill in the English written language! Unfortunately this is very often the case in the blogosphere. Instead of discussing the message in the article, the discussion is about the messenger. Debating on the Internet is difficult. Doing it in foreign language does not make it easier. Too me it is kind of sad and boring and this is also one of the reasons to why I will focus on other matters in the future.

Another reason to my decision to close down this blog is that the debate climate when it comes to defence and security matters in Sweden is a bit disappointing. Too much focus on the small details and very little regarding the big issues.

When even well-known politicians, such as Allan Widman focus on what engine the next generation Gripen shall have instead of thinking about if there in the future should be an air defence at all, how should "ordinary" people know how to think bigger.

One of Sweden's most well-known defence Blogger, Wiseman, noted the same thing in an previous article.

It works in a similar way in the defence debate. If one writes an article on a defence oriented blog about more general and long-term issues regarding defence and security politics it results in very few comments. If on the other hand the article is about combat vests, what a unit should be called, payments or experiences during an exercise 20 years ago it results in 20 times the number of comments.

The same thing can be seen in the public defence debate, even so in the Swedish Parliament where a very big part of the debate during the 2008 spring cut downs where about the Navy Music Coprs instead of more general and long-term issues such as Sweden's future capability in sub-surface warfare and such.

Is it so strange that the situation is at it is and becomes as it becomes regarding Swedish defence politics, when even the people interested in the defence is more interested in the color of the fence surrounding the house than fixing the soon to be broken roof?

Hear, hear!

What I would like to have is a Swedish defence Think Tank were it is possible to freely discuss different aspects about the armed forces without the discussion focusing on the wrong things. The Swedish forum SoldF is such a place. Maybe a blog becomes to personal and that is maybe the reason to why the debate climate is in too many cases too full of arguing instead of bringing up new ideas.

Well, the end result of my brief career as a defence blogger were 46 articles during a bit more than six months of time.

As one of my fellow Swedish defence bloggers said a few weeks ago, "Ugh, I have spoken". I will speak no more.


  1. A cultural point is that proficiency in using the written language is much more important in some countries than in Sweden. This is not easy to grasp for a Swede. Our standards in Swedish are very, very low. Unfortunately we should pay the native English speaking more respect than assuming that they would forgive us for abusing their language, just because we accept it in our own language. In their culture it is important to communicate a message properly. If not, you should keep silent and practice your communication skills. Unfortunately, you will not be respected or considered more intelligent than your use of the language implies. For a Swede this might appear very strange and foreign, and yes, it is. It is the culture of communicating in English with native speakers. The standards will be expected much higher than when communicating in English with other Swedes.

    Sorry that you had to learn the hard way...

    1. @Anonymous 10:00 AM. That´s semi-intellectual bull. I've been working in many European countries and in most their version of the written English language is very hard to understand. E.g. my Hungarian friend used to call what they were speaking "Hunglish".

      There is a reason to why most aircraft manufacturers write their documentation in "simplified English".

      But I believe you´ve just proven Notorius point.

    2. Well, Hungarians are hardly categorized as native English speakers? It may be fine to use "swenglish" or "hunglish" or other variants in communicating with many European countries, but the native English speaking communities tend to be particular about the written language. Minor grammatical or spelling errors in official documents are free targets to become the week's amusement in any British office. As I said, this might be difficult to understand for a Swede, as our standards when using our own written language are very, very relaxed. Not all cultures are alike. Some tend to pay more attention to communication skills.

      Sure, this is off-topic for the blog, but not for this post.

      This is a comment in Swedish from

      "Vi svenskar tenderar nog att överskatta vår förmåga att använda engelska språket, särskilt i skrift.

      Antag att vi översätter ett kravdokument till engelska. Den svenska texten använder begreppet "Teknisk åtgärdstid". På svenska, inom armén och den tekniska tjänsten, är detta ett väl definierat begrepp enligt reglementet. Anger tydligt vad som ingår, när tiden börjar och slutar. När man i det sammanhanget använder begreppet innehåller det mycker mer information än två ord.

      Hur översätter vi då detta? Vi kan göra en klassisk ordboksöversättning. Exempel på sådan, som jag råkat ut för, är texten "level stake" i en obegriplig engelsk text från en svensk källa. Om man direktöversatte orden till svenska, med ett stort mått av tolkningsutrymme, så kunde man av sammanhanget förstå att det på svenska handlade om (militär)"insats" på olika "nivåer". Heltokigt blev det, men jag har upptäckt att direktöversättning ord för ord via ordbok är obehagligt vanligt...

      "Teknisk åtgärdstid" skulle kanske kunna översättas med "Technical repair time". Om jag är lite ambitiös eller har varit med ett tag, så kanske jag hört eller sett något liknande engelskt begrepp. Men, vad betyder det egentligen för den engelskspråkiga läsaren/lyssnaren? Är det bara ord eller ett väldefinierat begrepp? Är det samma definition som den svenska? Är det samma oavsett om läsaren är britt, amerikan, amerikan i US Army eller amerikan i USMC, australiensare etc. Hur tolkar en finne eller fransman orden när de översätts till deras språk? Att det blir tydligt och rätt för mig när jag översätter till svenska kanske räcker?

      Att kommunicera handlar framförallt om att få mottagaren att uppfatta och förstå det budskap jag försöker förmedla. Att bara förmedla budskap utan att bry sig om hur de blir tolkade ter sig tämligen meningslöst. Att jag "låter" bidrar inte till mycket kommunikation, oavsett hur vackert eller fräckt jag själv tycker att jag låter. Det viktiga är väl att jag "hörs".

      Slutsatsen jag har dragit är att när vi använder vårt eget språk, så har vi möjlighet att kommunicera med hög precision då vi utöver språket också delar gemensamma värderingar, referenser, definitioner, terminologi, med mera. Vi kan med få ord föra fram ett tydligt budskap. När vi kommunicerar på engelska tappar vi väldigt mycket precision i vår kommunikation. Våra budskap blir mindre tydliga för mottagaren."

      Perhaps also just semi-intellectual bullshit? I think it is more a question of practicality than of intellectual semantics. Only a Swede would think otherwise.

    3. You are absolutely right. It´s better to have no debate at all than one in grammatically incorrect English! Or?

      This is a blog for crying out loud, not a spelling contest! Who in the world writes or for that matter even speaks Kings English any more? Most people I´ve met even in the UK or USA could not pass the immigrant language test of New Zealand.

      The article in "Försvar och Säkerhet" you are referring to has nothing to do with grammar or spelling but with changing the language by using too many foreign buzzwords.

      Unfortunately there are a too many people like yourself that believes themselves to be a bit above everyone else. Bad leaders tend to spend their time adjusting the spelling in a document they are about to sign, rather than adding something to content of the very same document.

    4. Ok! That' s really interesting. My problem of course. I make this point to anonymously demonstrate my superiority...some twisted form of bullying to feel good about myself. Yes, of course, that must be it! I apologize and will immediately leave the debate for the more important issues, since issues of communication and dialogue probably are overrated in most debates. Need to pursue my newly discovered talents in management, thank you!

    5. Well I think is great that you finally found your driving forces...

      Just a supporting observation:
      In fact normally the troll in the fairytale is just the anonymous bully - no name, no positive intent...
      ...You, however in fact did even more damage than the avarage troll, as you managed to bully an active and dedicated blogger out from the debate...

      As for your dedicated bashing of our collective failure as English speakers and writers:
      ...You may actually have a point when you made the "bold observation" that we Swedes are generally less proficient in our second language, English, than people from Great Britain speaking their native language...
      ...well no s..t Sherlock!

      ...and as for the British' alleged mocking of grammatical errors: Well I have slightly higher confidence in British humour than you.

    6. @Lövet

      You make a lot of assumptions about this anonymous troll...

      Since my comment on this post is my first on the subject, as a response to the post, I find it remarkable to be blamed for the events generating the original post. I was trying to put forward some personal experiences on the subject of communicating in English. To provide an explanatory context to the blogger's experience. Obviously I am not myself communicating very clearly, or perhaps there is a problem with your reading comprehension? It is not my personal view on Swedes writing in English, it is my understanding and experience of the native English reader. I am sure that I am a troll, all wrong and that nobody cares about language errors at all. Since I am a troll, and anonymous as that, you may safely assume that I have absolutely nothing relevant to say. Fine, no problem then. If I believe that some Swedes are intolerant to immigrants from Africa, does that make me, a Swede, a racist against Africans? I guess your answer is "yes, and a stupid troll as well". Thank you very much.

  2. I'm a bit dissapointed in your departure from the blog discussion about the Swedish defence. Read your articles and thought they where very good.

    Sure hope you decide to stay!

    With Regards

  3. I concur with the poster above, sad to see you leave. I found this blog very interesting even though I'm a Swede myself. Is there any way you could keep going? Maybe keep writing in Swedish?

  4. Can't do anything but agree with the previous posters. I must say that i find the content of your blog posts really interesting and on par with the top Swedish defence blogs.

    I hope you would take Lander's suggestion into consideration and try to atleast continue in swedish.

    Tack för läsningen - AQ

  5. Du har fått på tafsen för din engelska, OK, bryt ihop och kom igen! Din blogg är viktig och du har något att säga. Kör på svenska ett tag så får du en chans att utvärdera det.

    "Instead of discussing the message in the article, the discussion is about the messenger." Tja, same same som på en regementsrapport :-).

    Med vänlig hälsning

  6. Just keep writing and your skills in English will improve. As for comments about your English... just delete them, it's all off-topic anyway. You could also read some books in English, I'd recommend Lord of the Rings and America's Defense Meltdown.

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