Sure, 86% of Swedes speak English but if you are going to be here for the long run, you will need to learn Swedish…now.
Learning Swedish outside of Sweden can be quite hard as it is quite a small language (8.7 million according to Wikipedia compared to 75 million speaking French), but if you apply yourself, you can start learning Swedish quite easily.
Do not think that all Swedes speak English or want to and it will be difficult when you run into things like paperwork, messages, signs…all of that will need you to learn Swedish.
Here are some resources I have collected that I used when learning Swedish before I came to Sweden and still use.
Swedish is very similar to English, with some sentence structure and works being basically the same.
Learn Swedish Outside of Sweden
Watching TV is an awesome way you can start to learn Swedish from home. Start by watching SVT Play (most programs are available but some have geographic restrictions – otherwise try a VPN like Hola for Chrome). I started by watching kids TV shows with subtitles and understanding the pronunciation and gradually as you get more confident, switch off the subtitles and just listen.
Some suggestions from me are:
Alfons Åberg – watch here
Alfons Åberg is a Swedish classic from the 1970s which has been loved by generations since. It’s all about a little boy living with his dad and the mischief he gets up to. Alfons is not that popular in the UK (from my experience anyway) but it’s a great show and perfect to start learning Swedish. Plus, after watching this, you will have something in common with most Swedes.
Biss och Kajs – watch here
A play on the words “pee and poo”, this is a silly show that helps kids learn grammar and verbs in a fun way. This really helped me start watching TV without the subtitles and really improve my Swedish. Worth a watch, just ignore the 2 people dressed as a piece of pee and poo.
Det Funkar – watch here
This is a little more advanced but another great TV show aimed at kids that are a little older. It’s all about teaching science (a bit like Mythbusters) and getting them to experiment and explore with new things to see if “det funkar” (it works!).
There are a number of great free resources online to help you learn Swedish, which is pretty surprising. There is also a good mix of free and paid resources.
There is a free online course called Kom loss på svenska and this is a must! It teaches you all of the basics such as tenses, personal pronouns, past tense, all of the important bits so you can start to learn Swedish from the ground up.
Another great resource I came across is Digital Spåret (also free). This is a good little flash website that goes into more detail on how Swedish works and helped me pick up some tips that other sites don’t teach.
Swedish is pretty easy to pick up online, which other sites like:
· Rosetta Stone (paid)
Listening to music is a good method too. Take a look at my Swedish playlist and read lyrics, etc. Some classic Swedish artists to listen to are:
· Tomas Ledin
· Tommy Nilsson
· Marie Fredriksson
I definitely recommend reading books like Alfons Åberg, a Swedish classic. There is also another kids book called Billy which is a good start.
Sweden has a good mix of newspapers, from serious journalism from Svenska Dagbladet to the gossip Aftonbldet (which is also great for sport).
Some popular Swedish newspapers are:
• Svenska Dagbladet
• Dagens Nyheter. (there is a whole story on the full stop after Dagens Nyheter)
• Dagens Industri (business)
There are also lots of local newspapers that cover the news in your part of town. They are normally free and posted through your door or available to pick up from supermarkets, etc
Hopefully this will give you a start learning Swedish before you arrive.
Learn Swedish in Sweden
You can learn Swedish with the SFI (Swedish For Immigrants) program which is free (just need a Personnummer) and there are hundred of schools offering this course. Apply, find your level and get going. They will take you from ground/absolute basic all the way up to High School level and beyond.
If you want to practice your Swedish when you get here, Meetup.com has a great group called the Language Exchange group which is all expats and a few Swedes speaking conversational Swedish. This is really good practice and a good chance to socialize and learn Swedish.
Learning Swedish in school here is free. Most Expats start with SFI (Swedish for Immigrants / Svenska för Invandrare) which will give you all the basics, and then you can move up to Svenska som andraspråk / Swedish as a second language).
If you want to pay for an advanced course, Folkuniversitetet run paid courses to improve your Swedish or learn Swedish in an intense class.
Finally, if you are studying here, Stockholms Universitet and other Universities often offer free Swedish classes for their students to settle in whilst they are here.
So these are just some of the resources I have used to learn Swedish. The main issue is that, as with most languages, it takes time and practice so be patient.
If you have anymore ideas or suggestions on how to learn Swedish, please let me know in the comments or via email. I’d be keen to add them to this article!