The Word Road block!

Language is the beautiful system in which we have communicated with one another for generations through speech, writing and gestures. It’s what makes us human. Language gives us the opportunity to travel, live, explore cultures and talk with people across the globe. It is most importantly, a form of self expression.

In the last year, I have realised that in order to work, live and thrive in Sweden, I have to knuckle down and immerse myself in this language like a proper adult.

That however, is so much more easily said than done.

Learning at School verses learning for real…

I vaguely remember being talented at French at school. However, I had no real desire to actually retain the knowledge I developed in school after I left. Simply because I had no way of practicing it in real life or the desire to use it outside the school setting.

However, when you have to learn a language because of your circumstances, i.e. where you wish to live and work that’s a whole different story! You have much more of a drive to learn and apply the words. But, there is a huge part of me that feels I am not learning fast enough. Simply because, learning a language for real life is, hard!

You don’t have to just know all the words (and there are a A LOT when learning a new language), you have to recognise them when they are spoken by people from different regions in different accents. I now understand how evil it must feel when people visit Belfast or Ballymena back home and think “are you actually speaking English to me?” You also have to learn grammar; past, present and future tense and some days it seems like there is no end to this hellish learning process.

I know here in Sweden most people know off or speak English to varying degrees and you are probably reading this blog and wondering why it is so important for me to learn Swedish at all? But for me there are several reasons. Mostly, to perform magic but let’s explore this.

Värfor? Why?

Firstly, if I am going to live somewhere, I want to feel like I am part of the place, the culture and, the heritage. I want to know and understand it and the only way to do this is to understand the native tongue.

Secondly, I don’t want to be an exception every time I am in the company of Swedes and they have to speak English just because I am there. It happens. Some English speaking natives have lived here their entire lives and never learnt the language. I don’t want to be like that. If I am living somewhere I want to be able to speak the language and communicate freely.

And Thirdly, the audience I want to perform for most is children from 4 upward. As FizzWizzPop my show thrives on a younger audience. So in order for me to engage properly with this audience that I love performing for so much, I must be able to converse in Swedish. If my goal is to perform FizzWizzPop in Sweden, but can’t until I can speak Swedish for this audience I love, the only way to achieve this goal is to…

Throw myself into the deep end!

I decided to take my current show, type out the full script and hand it over to a Swede for interpretation.

Thankfully, through performing my show for many, many years, I had a proper script to work from. Also, I had an enthusiastic Swedish boyfriend who was keen to help me translate my show. Not sure why, perhaps he wants me to stay here too.

I put a lot of trust in him as in translating a script from one language to another, it was important that what I say has the same sentiment and feeling in Swedish as it has in English.

So, we worked together on this, me explaining (and performing) how I spoke phrases and him responding with several versions of how it could be interpreted in Swedish.

It was interesting to learn is that in Sweden, there are several words that mean very different things in different contexts. So google translate wasn’t at all accurate in translating certain words.

For example, the word love in English can have several meanings. You can love someone but you can also say you love something like candy very much! The English translation of the word allows us to use it quite frivolously.

Swede’s however, wouldn’t really use the word love in this way. Love is very definite in Swedish. Used when you “LOVE” someone. So it might sound strange if FizzWizzPop said that she “LOVED” something mid-script.

My advice if you are looking to perform your script in a different language to your own is to find someone you trust to help you translate what you say properly. It will make a difference.

Embrace the new

When collaborating with someone on a script it’s important to be open to interpretational changes and ideas. They might get an idea just by reading and translating it your scripted words into theirs.

An example of this that happened in my script was when we interpreted my colouring in rainbow trick. If you wish to read this for yourself you can find it in my book “Pop” which you can purchase here

In reading my script and translating it to Swedish he thought it might be funny if I misinterpreted words and let the children correct me. Miscalling is a wonderful technique to use in children’s shows. Kids love correcting a performer when they misname something. It adds to the drama. He came up with the idea of me calling the rainbow a Färgbanan! Translated into English; a colour banana. As the shape of the rainbow is like a banana and its filled with colours.

I don’t think I would ever have come up with this connection if I didn’t hand my script over for interpretation in this way. And now, this miscalling the rainbow has become a major part of the effect!

Be open to the new when translating your magic into a new language.

Tips on learning a script in a new language – write it down!

When learning any script you should begin by writing it down. I know, simple right? But I think in order to really solidify the words and order there needs to be order. Don’t just learn it from scratch in your head, write it down. This can also help develop plots and gags. Sometimes seeing words on a page (like the example above) you can piece together the script in a way to make it pack a punch!


Daily rehearsal is key. The only way to solidify a script in your brain is to practice it. Like learning a magic trick practice makes perfect! By just reading and repeating the script over and over again you are literally programming it into your brain.

Another tip is to practice it in front of people who speak the language at different intervals in your learning the script. This helps to see how accurate your pronunciations are. And speaking of pronunciations, you should always work on them. Some words are harder to say than others and it’s easy to mispronounce them. Check in every few days with your interpreter particularly in the beginning before the script becomes set in stone. It’s harder to break a bad habit in language once it has formed.

Practice with Props

Sometimes it easy to get carried away but just learning the script and thinking that because you know the tricks inside out the magic will just fall into place – WRONG!

I am currently interpreting my routine where I use a silver sceptre to explain how I become magical. And in the beginning it was an absolute nightmare to speak the language and do the moves required for the effect to work at the same time. So please, remember like all good magic, you need to practice it with the new script otherwise it will be quite interesting, believe me!

Have an end goal

It’s always better to have a goal to aim towards when learning something. For me, my goal is to have my full show in Swedish by October 2023. I am pleased to say that have been booked for perform on my first cruise ship between Stockholm and Finland so I have to know my script and be able to perform my show in the language fluidly by then.

If I manage to have it down before then well and good. However, when we set targets on something we wish to achieve we are so much more likely to achieve them than if we do not.

Words are powerful things. They are another bow to our creativity as artists. And if used correctly they can help you to create some seriously powerful content in your work.

1 comment

  1. The Swedish premiere was great!!! So much fun all around and hearing FizzWizzPop go “Milda makter!” was hilarious!!!

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