Interview with a Swedish learner – Elena

Elena comes from Italy but has been living abroad for many years – right now her home is in Lund. She teaches Japanese online and she shares her experiences as an introvert language learner on hitoritabi.it. She likes dogs, fredagsmys and sunny days.

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

At first, I met some Swedes while living in Japan and I got fascinated by the sound of the language. I learnt some words and expressions just for fun.

A few years later, I had the chance to visit Sweden and meet some of those friends again. Finally, I got together with my now sambo and at the same time, I also got serious about learning Swedish.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I started about a year and a half ago. For a few months, I pretty much only used apps and learning Swedish wasn’t much of a commitment. Then, when I started planning to move to Sweden with my boyfriend, I began to study in a more structured way. I bought a couple of textbooks and then started to take weekly lessons with Anneli to practice regularly and get extra support for my learning journey.

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

Since I moved to Sweden, 3 months ago, I’ve been using it in my everyday life. I also try to speak Swedish with my boyfriend’s family, though we switch to “Swenglish” from time to time, when the conversations get more complicated. I’m happy I took the time to learn the basics before coming here, so I don’t feel completely clueless in most social situations.

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

Probably keeping up with the speed of spoken Swedish. I sometimes find it hard to follow when someone talks full speed, and I most certainly can’t talk as fast as some Swedes do.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

Every time I speak Swedish in shops or restaurants and the other person doesn’t switch to English to talk to me. And also being quite good at answering the questions from the TV show “På spåret” despite the language being difficult for my current level.

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 enjoy learning with the Rivstart textbooks, they help you practice all of the skills in a balanced way. I like that the textbook is all in Swedish and that it gives ideas for conversation and discussion in each chapter. To keep my inner grammar-geek happy, I use Form i Fokus to review and get extra practice in tricky grammar topics.

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

There are a few good courses for Swedish on Memrise. I would also recommend Babbel if you want to have more grammar explanations and examples. The website learningswedish.se is another tool I like, as well as the podcast Sfipodd.se if you want to hear some natural Swedish.

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

Pick a few resources based on your needs and stick with them. There are always new apps and tools, but when you want to try everything the risk is to get overwhelmed instead. Study a little bit every day, it works better than having one 5-hour session once a week. Find activities that you enjoy and get to know a bit about the Swedish culture, discover things that make you passionate about it. Without a strong drive it’s easy to lose motivation, so keep reminding yourself every day why you’re learning. Lycka till!

 

Quick guide to Swedish weddings

Swedish wedding traditions

It’s summer in Sweden and that often means wedding season. In some ways, Swedish bröllop weddings can be quite different to weddings in other countries. So here’s your quick guide to Swedish traditions!

1. Bruden the bride and brudgummen the groom walk up the aisle together at the beginning of the ceremony. A bride walking in with her father is considered quite old-fashioned, and the Swedes don’t really like the idea of a woman being owned by a man. Therefore, it is quite common for the couple to walk in side by side.

2. Sometimes there is no maid of honour or best man. Some do have one or two brudtärnor bridesmaids, though, and perhaps a couple of marskalkar groomsmen.

3. At the reception, if lots of people tap their glasses, it doesn’t mean they want to make speeches.It means they want the bride and groom to kiss.

4. But you won’t go without speeches. Toastmasters will introduce each speech at the reception. All ten or twelve of them…

5. You’ll often receive a booklet at the reception with details about each guest, plus some fun bits about the couple, and song lyrics.

6. What happens on tour may not stay on tour. Because the hens and the stags will be giving a speech about each trip, and photos can (should?) be involved!

7. There will be songs. But don’t worry, there will be alcohol too!

8. There will be games. Mostly poking fun at the bride and groom. Audience participation (if only in the form of cheering) is mandatory.

9. Do not be alarmed if the bride and groom leave the room. If the bride leaves the room during the reception meal, all the women in the room must run up to the groom and kiss him on the cheek (just the cheek, please!). Ditto if the groom leaves the room, all the men must kiss the bride.

 

Får får får?

Hej! Daniel here. In this week’s blog post I’ll help you to make sense of the Swedish word får.

Får får får? is a Swedish pun that means “Do sheep get sheep?” (meaning Do sheep have (baby) sheep? or What’s the word for baby sheep?)

Many languages have what I call ‘hiccups’: words that can mean several things, depending on word order. And be put together to form a complete sentence.

I will quash this particular hiccup here and shed some light on its usage with the help of a few examples.

Får is the present tense verb of “receive” or “get” — Jag får en biljett till månen. (I receive/get a ticket to the moon). There is no other verb in this sentence.

Får is also the present tense auxiliary verb of “allowed” — Får människor åka till månen? (Are people allowed to travel to the moon?). The main verb here is åka (go).

Ja, människor får åka till månen. — (Yes, people are allowed to travel to the moon). Får is an auxiliary verb because it comes after the noun människor, and is followed by the main verb åka, which always turns into its infinite form.

Makes sense so far? Good.

Få can show the amount of a quantifiable noun but it’s important to look at the context and the sentence construction too because it could also be the infinitive form of the verb or an auxiliary verb respectively:

Få människor får åka till månen — (Few people are allowed to travel to the moon). The auxiliary verb får precedes the main verb åka. Compare this to the following sentence:

Att få åka till månen vore fantastiskt! — (To be allowed to travel to the moon would be fantastic!) Same få as before, but in the infinitive form. The key difference here is that there’s an att in front of the få, which works similar to the English “to”.

***

What about the elusive sheep then? In Swedish, the word for “sheep” is får. What if they somehow found a way to leave Earth?

Well, let’s try out a few sentences:

Får får åka till månen? — (Are sheep allowed to travel to the moon?). The sentence construction is identical to the example with humans, we just switch one word (människor and får).

Nej, får får inte åka till månen — (No, sheep are not allowed to travel to the moon). The auxiliary verb får comes after the subject får, and is followed by the main verb åka.

But what if sheep are allowed to travel to the moon? Let’s have a look:

Får får åka till månen. — (Sheep are allowed to travel to the moon). The only difference here is the punctuation. This is a statement, not a question.

Just like humans, however, only certain sheep are allowed to travel to the moon:

Få får får åka till månen — (Few sheep are allowed to travel to the moon). There’s no att present, which means it’s the Swedish word for few. It’s followed by the subject får, the auxiliary verb får, and lastly the main verb åka.

To explore verbs and more with me, book your lesson here. (We have a great summer offer on at the moment too: 15% off your first lesson with me until 31 July 2018!)

Oh, and by the way, the answer to the Swedish pun (Får får får? Do sheep get sheep?)  is Nej, får får lamm (No, sheep get lambs.).

Ha det gött! 

Daniel

 

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!

5 Reasons To Avoid Google Translate When Learning a Language

Hej! Ever used Google Translate? Technology and the Internet is great, right? There is so much information available by a simple click of a button. Google Translate is a tool that may at first seem helpful when learning a new language. However, there are some issues with using Google Translate as a tool in your language studies.

Here are Swedish teacher Daniel’s top 5 reasons for why you should avoid using it when learning a language.

  1. Google Translate is a blunt tool

Translation from one language to another is not simply about translating word for word (‘direct translation’). You need to also translate according to grammatical, idiomatic and cultural patterns, which may mean that a sentence might look quite different in terms of the actual words, but mean the same thing. A quick look at direct translations of sayings illustrate this point. Or this:

Hjärtegryn is an endearing Swedish word (a bit like ‘sweetheart’), which does not quite translate as well into English…

The Vauquois triangle (below) shows different levels of translation. The higher up in the pyramid, the more precise the translation. The highest level of translation (‘interlingua’) is still an issue in Google Translate, which means sentences will still contain errors (sometimes grammatical, and often idiomatic).

Google translate is built on an algorithm that has access to a large amount of texts written in two languages, which allows for a basis on which to predict and make guesses. Translation is made sentence by sentence; the more text available, the better the predictions. The issue here is that a translation with 90% correct translation can still turn out as a result which is 100% wrong. On top of this, there are many poorly translated texts now on the Internet (many of them have used Google Translate). This means that they are now in ‘the system’ and have become part of the basis from which Google Translate predicts, making the errors self-enhancing and re-occurring.

Learning a language is like going on a long journey: you’re planning for the whole trip, preparing for bad weather, and you need routines. Google Translate stops your progress even if you don’t notice at first. When you do, however, you might have to turn back and choose a different road.

  1. You can’t trick anyone (at least not your teacher!)

A teacher’s job is to know their subject, but it’s also to know their student. They identify the student’s level, where they’re going, and how to help them reach the finishing line. While your teacher knows how intelligent you are, that perfect paragraph with no spelling errors is not your writing and hasn’t even been taught by your teacher yet.

  1. No learning

To learn anything from the beginning is an uphill struggle against waning willpower and outside influences. Don’t let Google Translate be part of that negative influence. Use a real dictionary, if you must.

  1. Learning from mistakes is essential learning

In learning, mistakes are the key ingredients to understanding what is correct. You don’t bake the perfect cake on your first try; maybe not even after your hundredth try. But each time you prepare the next batch of batter, you change something to avoid making the same mistake.

Google Translate doesn’t teach you the nuances of language. A particular sentence can be written in different ways, depending on context, and that is what your teacher will show. We all desire flawless work, but that has to be set aside while learning the language.

  1. Your writing is your reward

The feeling of personal satisfaction is more than ample reward for all the sweating, flicking through pages, and trying to make sense of something you previously knew nothing about. The glint in a student’s eye when they are able to produce a paragraph in Swedish is priceless, and doubly so when it’s written independently.

To book a lesson with a Swedish teacher, go to our booking system to check availability.