Vicky Taylor provides newcomers with a comprehensive guide on how to best learn the Swedish language.
You might’ve been told, ’You don’t need to learn Swedish – everyone speaks English’ a few times. And yes, that’s true, but after arriving in Sweden, you’ve likely realized that it’s not that simple. It doesn’t take long to find out that unless you have Google Translate glued to your hand, getting around without knowing Swedish can be a challenge.
Tips for learning Swedish
If you truly want to integrate into Swedish society, knowing Swedish is essential. We’ll give you our best tips for learning Swedish – including a list of learning resources.Using a structured learning approach, such as a course or an online learning platform is the best way to keep you on track. Here are a few tips to help you speed up your learning progress.
Motivation is key
Figure out why you’re learning, and you’ll quickly see which areas to focus on. Prioritise vocabulary for the situations that are relevant to you.
Look for cognates
There are many Swedish words that are similar to English and other languages. Take the word broder (brother) for example. Start with these cognates but look out for false friends where the words sound alike but have different meanings!
Google translate is allowed
It isn’t perfect, but it’s still a helpful tool – definitely check out the audio features for help with pronunciation.
Conjunctions are the glue
Some of the most frequently used words are small but important. Memorise conjunctions such as ’och’ (and), ’men’ (but) and ’eller’ (or) tight from the very start.
When in doubt, guess ’en’
It’s close to impossible to figure out the gender of Swedish nouns, and when to use ’en’ and ’ett’ (a/an). So, if you’re not sure, start by guessing ’en’. It might seem arbitrary, but you’ll be right about 70% of the time.
Swedish in Norrland
We can’t talk about Swedish without addressing the type of Swedish spoken in Norrland. What are some of its characteristics? One example is that –er is omitted from verbs, e.g., saying ’bit’ instead of ’biter’ (bites). It’s also common to omit final vowels, e.g., saying ’int’ instead of ’inte’ (not).
There are also words that are unique to Norrland, such as ’huvvaligen’ instead of ’usch’ (yuk!). Perhaps one of the more notable quirks is Norrland’s way of saying ’yes’. While most Swedes say ’ja’, ’yes’ in Norrland is simply a sharp inhale with a barely open mouth.
Top Swedish learning resources
Here are some of our favourite learning resources below that you can access from northern Sweden.
In real life
First, we’ll address those of you who want to learn Swedish in a classroom. Here are a few options for learning Swedish in real life.
1. Svenska för invandrare, SFI.
SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) is a free educational program for immigrants. Google ’SFI Skellefteå’. SFI also offers quite a few specialist language courses, so do your research.
2. Svenska som andraspråk, SAS.
SAS (Swedish as a second language) is basically a continuation of the SFI levels. The education is free, and often taught at KOMVUX, Sweden’s secondary education institution for adults.
3. Swedish at university
Swedish universities will often have Swedish courses for exchange students. Look at the options at your nearest university.
The online resources for learning Swedish truly feel countless, but let’s look at a few of the most popular apps and websites.
1. Learning Swedish
Learning Swedish is a free course for beginners arranged by Svenska Institutet. Learn more at https://www.learningswedish.se/.
2. Swedish for professionals
Professionals and academics often want to learn Swedish relating to their work field. Check out the SIFA (Swedish for academics) distance courses.
3. Say it in Swedish
Say it in Swedish is a site with free audio lessons, videos, and vocabulary lists. Learn more at https://www.sayitinswedish.com/.
4. Språkkraft Läscoach
Språkkraft Läscoach is an app which helps you get started with Swedish reading – from tweets to novels. Learn more at https://sprakkraft.org/.
Duolingo is a free language-learning platform with a website and app. Learn more at https://www.duolingo.com/.
6. 8 Sidor
Read and listen to the news in simple Swedish.
We have one last tip for you! The news programme ’Radio Sweden på lätt svenska’ lets you listen (and read) to Swedish news in easy-to-understand Swedish. A perfect way to practice listening comprehension and keep yourself up to date. Start listening here: https://sverigesradio.se/radioswedenpalattsvenska.
ASK A LOCAL
Mariam Bdeir is a teacher at the Adult Education (VUX/SFI) in Skellefteå.
Get to know the locals
Join a choir, soccer team, dance course or any other interesting activity where you can meet locals, get to know them and practice your Swedish with them.
Do not be afraid of making mistakes while speaking. The more you practice speaking, the fewer mistakes you will make over time. How will you get better if you do not practice?
The internet is your best friend!
Today, you can find plenty of helpful and useful learning material online, where you can find everything from pronunciation to fixed phrases.
Your home, your vocabulary list
Write and attach small pieces of paper to the things you have at home. After seeing the name of the same object many times, you will remember the Swedish name of it.
Visit the library
Reading books is an excellent way to improve and expand your vocabulary. At the library, you can find easy-to-read (lättlästa) books for adults to borrow, which are
suitable to begin with.
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