Interview with a Swedish learner – Gonzalo

This week’s story comes from Gonzalo. He is originally from Peru and is a native Spanish speaker but learned English when he was very young. He lives in London and works as a management consultant in the infrastructure sector. He met Jenny from Sweden in 2012, and they are now married and are expecting their first child. He is currently studying 2-3 hours a week with our Swedish teacher Daniel.

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

I met Jenny in 2012 and married her in 2017. She is fluent in Spanish, my mother tongue, so we agreed that I should try to become fluent in hers. That way I can understand when her family speak to our future baby.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I bought Rivstart’s old edition in 2014 and did a classroom term with UCL. Didn’t progress so found Swedish Made Easy.

How much do you currently use the Swedish language, and why?

For the time being I do not use Swedish that much as my wife speaks fluent English and Spanish and it would be rather inefficient to switch. Moreover, “we met in English” so it is a de facto communication form between us. This might change when our daughter is born later in the year as Jenny will speak to her in Swedish and I in Spanish thus opening new situations for me to experience my learning.

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

I learned English and Spanish when I was very young and never learned “the rules”. I had 20 hours a week at school taught in English so I was bilingual by 15. Starting with a new language in your 30s and having to learn after work is a big challenge.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

This will be when I move to Stockholm for work and can work in Swedish, not quite there yet.

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!)

Following on the thought above (about how things will change when our daughter is born), my mother in law has bought a number of the Gubbe Pettson (Pettson och Findus) for me which could now be redeployed with our daughter. They are good fun.

Can you recommend any online/media resources for learning Swedish?

I try to do 2 lessons a week. On occasion my work allows me to do a third one and in order to keep it varied, Daniel and I look up stories in 8 sidor and translate them into English. 8 sidor is great for colloquial vocabulary and for finding out everyday things happening in Swedish. They do make the occasional spelling mistake though and we filter those out to maintain purity.

Do you have any other advice for future, budding Swedish learners?

Make sure you have the motivation to get it done! That will give you the discipline to make it happen.

Interview with a Swedish learner – Marilena

Marilena is a biologist who is lucky enough to work as a researcher in one of the most well-known institutes in Europe. She arrived in Sweden a couple of years ago, moving from her home country, Greece, to work in Stockholm.

Even though Swedish winters are hard for Mediterranean people, she loves Stockholm for its parks, restaurants, amazing bars and widely preserved nature. And what is even more great, according to Marilena, is that there are cinnamon rolls everywhere!

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

Fate brought me to Sweden almost 2 years ago, when I got a new position as a researcher in Stockholm. Even though there was no immediate need to learn Swedish to cope at work or daily life, I found that I was missing out on a lot of facts about Swedes and their lifestyle.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I initially got a teach-yourself book about three months after I arrived in Sweden. However, it soon became clear that I needed a bit of guidance and help to really be able to understand this new language. Even though it is not one of the most difficult languages, it is important to have someone with good knowledge of Swedish to explain things.

How much do you currently use the Swedish language, and why?

I do not use Swedish as much as other people living here, mainly because at my workplace we are communicating in English. However, I have the opportunity to speak Swedish quite often, either with non-English-speaking people at the institute and very often in department stores, doctor appointments and other everyday life incidences. The ability to be able to speak Swedish has made me much more open to meeting new people outside work and I really enjoy the practice!

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

Very often I mix some words or principles from other languages while I talk or write in Swedish. In particular, I find very often that I make mistakes by introducing words from German, since I do find the two languages to have quite some similarities. Quite often, I can get away with it because they do share a lot of words!

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

I take pride in small things, such as ordering at a restaurant in Swedish, making small talk with Swedish colleagues in Swedish, or being able to follow conversations on the publish transport (I know, I should not be that much proud of listening to strangers’ conversations!). I will be very proud though, when I am able to give even the tiniest presentation about my work in Swedish!

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!)

I am tempted to say that the book of my very own teacher, Anneli, has been my favorite! I also find it quite helpful to pick up some magazines in Swedish (for example, the booklets they sometimes have at the cinema, where one can find interviews of actors or a few pieces on upcoming movies).

Can you recommend any online/media resources for learning Swedish?

A quick and easy fix is to install any app, to freshen up on vocabulary while riding the metro or bus. I find this to be very helpful. My favorite one is Duolingo, and it offers the advantage of being repetitive when you tend to do mistakes (until you get it right!).

Do you have any other advice for future, budding Swedish learners?

Never feel shy to speak in Swedish even if you are just learning. From my experience, Swedes love to see people interested in learning their language and they are always very supportive. They even speak slower and clearly once they realize you are new to learning Swedish!

 

Book a Swedish lesson here. 

Interview with a Swedish learner – George

This summer, we’ll run an interview series here on the Swedish Made Easy blog. We have interviewed some Swedish learners to find out what made them start learning Swedish, how they are getting on, and what tips and advice they have for other Swedish learners. First out is George. George is a civil servant. He’s originally from London but now lives in Essex. He’s currently revisiting verbs forms.

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

I’ve been interested in Swedish and Nordic culture for a long time, and learning Swedish has been an extension of that. I wish I could say I’m learning it because I work or study there, but I do it because it’s really fun. Although I would love to live and work there sometime in the future.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I visited Stockholm for the first time several years ago, and really fell for the place. That was the spark. Until that point, I’d never thought about learning a language. A week or so after that trip my library had a book sale, which included a 1997 Swedish language book called (rather optimistically) Swedish in 3 Months. It helped me learn some basics and build confidence, but there were quirks to the language I couldn’t get my head around. And self-study lacks the conversational aspect I wanted. By then I knew I needed expert tuition and found Swedish Made Easy online.

How much do you currently use the Swedish language, and why?

Not as much as I’d like. Besides my lessons, I mainly use it when I visit Sweden or other Scandinavian countries every year or so. The trouble is people tend to answer in English! But I try to spend some of the day speaking and thinking in Swedish.

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

Keeping all the plates spinning. There are so many things to remember – just as you’re learning something new, it’s easy to let other things slip. I’m constantly having to go back over verb forms.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

Having a conversation with a guy who worked in the ticket office of a Stockholm metro station. He was Russian but spoke to me in English and I responded in Swedish. We got on great and he ended up giving me a ticket that someone had handed in!

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!) 

Most introductory books are good for the basics. I also like the Rivstart books. Once you have a feel for sentence structure, I recommend Common Swedish Verbs by David Hensleigh. And of course a good Swedish/English dictionary.

Can you recommend any online/media resources for learning Swedish?

I really like the SVT app for watching Swedish TV with subtitles. It’s good for picking up pronunciation, but also being able to read body language and non-verbal communication. So even though I don’t always understand everything, I can usually get the gist. My favourite is På spåret – a quiz show that uses lots of relatively simple questions and descriptions. Watching an interesting TV show doesn’t feel like study.

Do you have any other advice for future, budding Swedish learners?

Talk, talk, talk. Even if it’s just to yourself.

 

Sveriges nationaldag

6 juni – Sveriges nationaldag

But – do you know what we are actually celebrating? Some Swedes don’t even know, so read on and you’ll have a chance to shine in front of your Swedish friends/colleagues/family!

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There are mainly two significant events that has led to Sweden celebrating their nationaldag on the 6th of June:

1523 – Gustav Vasa is elected King of Sweden, marking the end of the Kalmar Union. This was in the days when Christian II of Denmark was union leader for the Kalmar union (Sweden, Norway, Denmark). Christian was allegedly a nasty piece of work, and organised a reconciliation party with the Swedish aristocracy. How nice of him. However, the not-so-nice Christian instead killed between 80-90 people – including Gustav Vasa’s father, and this event became known as Stockholms blodbad (Stockholm Bloodbath). Gustav escaped through Dalarna and tried to drum up support for a rebellion against the Danish king in the town of Mora, Dalarna. Initially, the men in Mora turned him down, and Gustav continued skiing towards the Norway border to seek refuge. But the men in Mora changed their minds, and caught up with Gustav in the village of Sälen. Eventually, in 1523, Gustav Vasa was crowned the king of Sweden, after having successfully fought in the Swedish war of Liberation and dissolved the Kalmar Union with the Danes.

1809 – Sweden introduces a new Instrument of Government, which restores political power to the Riksdag of the Estates. This was one of the fundamental laws that made up the constitution of Sweden from then and until 1974. It came about after the Coup of 1809, when the disastrous outcome in the Finnish War led Swedish nobles and parts of the Army to revolt, forcing King Gustav IV Adolf to involuntarily abdicate and go into exile.

However, it was not until 2005 when the nationaldag became a public holiday, so we are still a little bit unsure of how to celebrate it (although the Royal family will take part in several events in Stockholm). It is also the day when many regions/councils welcome those who have become Swedish citizens during the previous year to a medborgarskapsceremoni (citizenship ceremony), as seen here in this video:

And here’s of course the national anthem so you can sing along!