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.

 

Hen – the debated Swedish pronoun

A note on hen

Hej! Anneli here. You may have heard of the gender neutral Swedish pronoun “hen“. It has been debated in Sweden during the past decade, and some people feel strongly about it. So what’s the fuss all about?

Swedish gender and pronouns

The Swedish language, like German, used to have three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. This started to change during the 14th century and the Swedish language today has two grammatical genders: the common gender (indefinite article en and pronoun den) – a merged form of masculine and feminine, and neuter gender (indefinite article ett and pronoun det).

Swedish also uses the third person pronouns han he and hon she for humans, known animals, and when biological gender is of interest. But what if you don’t know the gender of a person? Or if it is irrelevant? Consider a situation where you say you need to book an appointment at the dentist, and you hope that he/she/the dentist will be able to help you with your toothache. You may not want to assume that the dentist is a woman nor a man. Some people find saying ‘he or she’, or ‘s/he’ to be pretty clunky (especially in speech – how on earth do you pronounce ‘s/he’?), and to say ‘the dentist’ again may sound repetitive. So what can you say? In English, you can of course say ‘they’ – you hope that they will help you with your toothache. However, in Swedish, you do not use the third person plural for a singular person. In other words, you cannot say de they in this case.

Kivi and the monster dog

Lately, a new, gender-neutral pronoun has started to become more popular in Sweden – hen. The pronoun hen is defined as a gender-neutral personal pronoun intended as an alternative to the gender-specific hon (‘she’) and han (‘he’). It can be used to avoid a stated preference to either gender, and also as a way to referring to individuals who are transgender, agender, non-binary or those who reject the idea of binary gender. Even though this is a relatively new phenomenon in Swedish, several languages have gender-neutral pronouns. Finnish, for example, only uses a gender-neutral pronoun in third person. The word has been proposed in Sweden several times, first time in 1966 and again in 1994, but it did not receive wider acknowledgment until the book Kivi och Monsterhund came out in 2012. It is the first book that only uses hen as a personal pronoun, instead of han and hon. And the book caused a widespread debate in Sweden.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 15.19.58

The author, Jesper Lundqvist, wanted to write a book for children – rather than for girls or boys, and that was the main reason why he used hen in his book. He said he found it liberating to write directly to children, without having to think about all the stereotypical associations that surround boys and girls. Jesper says that some have misunderstood the whole idea of hen, and thought of it as a way of replacing han and hon. But this is not correct. Rather, it is more about having an “extra tool in the tool box”, linguistically speaking, he says.

Reactions to hen

The reactions among the Swedish native speakers were both mixed and passionate, to say the least. Those who did not like it usually fell into one (or several) of three categories:

  1. Those who felt that this was an attempt to linguistically eradicate male and female gender roles, perhaps highlighted by its use in a particular pre-school in Stockholm, something which sparked debate and controversy in Sweden and also received media attention internationally.
  2. Those who felt that there already existed functioning words like personen the person or vederbörande the person in question.
  3. Those who associated hen to the English word for a female bird. This argument is perhaps a little problematic, given many other Swedish words that mean something else in English (barn childfart speedbra goodprick dotpuss kisskiss urine, and so on).

Interestingly, another reason for the resistance to this new word may be that personal pronouns belong to what we may call ‘closed word categories’. Typically ‘open word categories’ are verbs, nouns and adjectives. These are categories where most people welcome new additions and creative solutions. The closed categories, like personal pronouns or prepositions, not so much.

The gender-neutral pronoun hen was included into the Swedish Academy Dictionary in 2015, with the advert slogan ‘Hen är här nu’ (Hen is here now). The debate is still on going, although we can probably assume that it will fizzle out with time and the pronoun will be fully absorbed into everyday Swedish.

The Swedish sin

The Swedish sin

The Swedish sin is an internationally known phenomenon that has influenced foreigners’ views on Swedish women for years. The source of the epithet is a speech given by US president Dwight D Eisenhower in 1960, in which he claimed that “sin, nudity, drunkenness and suicide” in Sweden were due to welfare policy excess. People soon forgot the link to welfare policy and the rest but the sin remained or remains.

However, today we’ll be discussing a different kind of sin. 🙂 The reflexive possessive pronoun sin.

It is a grammatical issue in Swedish that many, especially English speakers, find difficult;  how to use the reflexive possessive pronouns sin, sitt and sina.

I personally think that the Swedish language is pretty neat in this way, that we can easily distinguish between:

  • Hon pratade med grannen om hennes bil. She spoke to the neighbour about the neighbour’s car.
  • Hon pratade med grannen om sin bil. She spoke to the neighbour about her (own) car.

Isn’t it pretty cool to be able to clarify that with the uses of hennes and sin? This distinction does not exist in English, which can give rise to confusion (and require clarification about who you are actually referring to).

We use this reflexive possessive pronoun when we say that the noun belongs to the subject in the sentence. Hon talade om sin bil. She talked about her (own) car. The word sin links back to the subject (hon), and means that the car belongs to the subject.

We use sin in this example, because sin is the en-word version – and the word bil is an en-word. If it was an ett-word instead, let’s say hus, then the sentence would look like this:

  • Hon pratade om sitt hus. She spoke about her (own) house.

We would use sitt, because this is the ett-word version of this reflexive possessive pronoun. Sin and sitt are used when the noun is singular (just one thing).

If the noun is in plural, you would use the plural-version (regardless of whether the noun is en or ett in singular) – sina – like this:

  • Hon pratade om sina bilar. She spoke about his own cars.

But if she was talking to the neighbour about the neighbour’s house, or cars, the sentences would look like this:

  • Hon pratade med grannen om hennes hus. She spoke about her house(s).
  • Hon pratade med grannen om hennes bilar. She spoke about her cars.

So the important thing is that the noun belongs to the subject of the sentence. If so, you use sin, sitt, or sina.

Sin, sitt, sina are only used in this way for the third person – both singular and plural. So, in other words, this only kicks in when you talk about someone else (not jag or du). It could be han or hon, or de. It could also be when you use people’s names when you talk about them in third person.

However, it is important to remember that we only use sin, sitt, sina when it is in the object position. We do not use it when the noun is a part of the subject.

Hon pratade länge med sin granne. She talked for a long time with her neighbour.

Here, hon is the subject and sin granne is the object.

Hon och hennes granne pratade länge. She and her neighbour talked for a long time.  

But here, hon och hennes granne are together the subject. In this case, we use hennes instead as sin/sitt/sina can never be a part of the subject in a sentence.

Interestingly, according to research, this distinction is become more blurred – especially among young people who do not have Swedish as their mother tongue. They are less likely to use sin, sitt, sina and would instead use hans, hennes or deras. They are also particularly likely to use hans, hennes or deras after a preposition, such as or av. So for example: Vem är han arg på? Who is he angry at (/with)? hans mamma. (At) his mother. Whereas those who have Swedish as a mother tongue are more likely to say sin mamma, in this case.

But does this mean that this grammatical rule is slowly changing? Researchers are divided, but it seems that this kind of use of the reflexive possessive pronoun does not influence “mother tongue speakers”, so it seems unlikely that the rule will change within a near future, even though examples of alternative uses may become more common in the future.

Learn Swedish study group on Facebook

HEJ! 

We are very excited about our new study group – Learn Swedish with Swedish Made Easy – that we launched last weekend on Facebook.

This is a community study group for those you are studying Swedish with Swedish Made Easy, or those interested in studying with us. In this group, you can find some company, inspiration, help and motivation! I (Anneli) and Daniel are both there to help, and you can also connect with other people around the world who are also studying Swedish.

Studying via Skype/on your own can be a bit lonely sometimes, so in this group we can share recommendations, tips, tricks and ideas with each other.

Hope to see you there!

/Anneli

Verb comes second – Swedish word order

Verb comes second – Swedish word order

One of the major issues with learning Swedish, especially for English speakers, is word order in sentences. People nearly fluent still sometimes make word order mistakes in Swedish, and for beginners this is really difficult to get your head around. These kinds of mistakes sound pretty ugly to Swedes: no native Swede would do this, so it is a very obvious clue that someone is not Swedish.

Compare these two sentences in English:

1. I eat breakfast at 8 o’clock.

2. At 8 o’clock I eat breakfast.

In number 1, the time (at 8 o’clock) is placed in the end. In number 2, the time is placed in the beginning. Regardless of if you place it in the beginning or the end, the “core sentence” (I eat breakfast / subject-verb-object) remains the same in terms of word order.

Now look at the same sentence in Swedish:

1. Jag äter frukost klockan 8.

2. Klockan 8 äter jag frukost.

From an English perspective, this looks odd. In number 1, the time is placed in the end, just like in the English version. But in number 2, something happens when the time is placed in the beginning. The word order of the “core sentence” has changed (äter jag frukost / verb-subject-object).

Instead of trying to remember to speak the core sentence backwards, many find it easier to think about the positioning of the verb: the verb comes second. Look at these sentences again:

1. Jag äter frukost klockan 8. (subject-verb-object-time)

2. Klockan 8 äter jag frukost. (time-verb-subject-object)

In both sentences, the verb comes in the second position. And when I say second position, I do not mean that the verb is the second word. Time expressions, like klockan 8 in the example above, can be short one-word expressions (först, sedan, nu, ibland), two word combinations (på kvällen, i går, nästa vecka) or even longer (klockan fem i halv nio på måndag morgon). However long or short they are, they are all time expressions. And if you start a sentence with them, then the verb must come in second position after the time expression.

The same also happens with place expressions. They can be short (här, där, hemma), longer (i Sverige, hemma hos oss, på jobbet) or really long (på soffan i vardagsrummet hemma hos oss i Nottingham). Regardless, if you start a sentence with a place expression, verb must come in second position, just like with time expressions.

A good way to practice this, is to actually alter the rhythm in which you speak. I have noticed that many English speakers have a natural rhythm when they speak these kind of sentences in English. It goes something like this:

“Yesterday I………. stayed up late.”

“This weekend we……..’re going away.”

“Tomorrow I…………. finish work early.”

The time/place and subject are said in one breath, followed by a natural pause while finding the verb, and then the sentence continues. If you apply the same rhythm while speaking Swedish, you end up in trouble. And once you’ve got to the verb, the damage has already been done – the word order is incorrect.

Instead, practice making the pause immediately after the time or place expression, and look for the verb. Then add the subject, and then continue. Like this:

“I morgon……(look for the verb)……….. jobbar jag… hela dagen.”

“I helgen……..(look for the verb)………. ska vi… åka till London.”

“I köket……….(look for the verb)………. finns det… en extra stol.”

If you practice this slightly different flow and rhythm in your speaking, you’ll get into a new way of constructing your sentences, and it will become easier to do it correctly.

Lycka till! /Anneli

verb comes second

 

Tycka, tänka, tro and how to use them

Hej!

Daniel here! Today, I’ll be discussing something many Swedish learners find difficult.

The English word think corresponds to three Swedish verbs: tycka, tänka, and tro, something that likely causes confusion for non-native speakers. It can be tricky because the translation of the verbs can sometimes overlap each other. However, it’s not as complex as it might sound, but takes time and practice to get used to. In this post, I will clarify when and how to use these words.

Tycka (inf.):

Use this verb when you want to express your personal opinion about something.

Example: Jag tycker choklad smakar gott.  I think chocolate tastes good. (Your opinion is that chocolate tastes good.)

Example 2: Jag tycker du ska komma hem.  I think you should come home. (Your opinion is that the person should come home.)

If the preposition om is added, the word then simply refers to the state of liking something.

Example: Jag tycker om choklad. I like chocolate.

 

Tänka (inf.):

Use this verb when you want to express that you are thinking, or a specific action you intend to take.

Example: Tyst! Jag försöker tänka. Quiet! I’m trying to think.

Example 2: Jag tänker åka utomlands.  I intend to go abroad.

Example 3: Jag tänker ta en dush nu.  I’m going to take a shower now.

Similar to tycka, adding a preposition changes the expression. I’ve used the preposition om here, which then gives tänka a meaning similar to the English word “imagine”.

Example: Tänk om vi vinner på lotto. Imagine if we win the lottery.

Another preposition you can use is . In this case it means to think about someone or something.

Example: Jag tänker på dig. I’m thinking about you.

 

Tro (inf.):

Tro is related to the English believe, suppose, presume, and guess, depending on context. A hint of opinion is involved, but it’s mainly a belief or a guess in regards to something you are not sure about. Imagine a scenario in which you are going to the cinema with a friend. You have read reviews, watched the trailers, but you can’t have an opinion about the film until you have watched it.

Example: Jag tror filmen är bra.  I think the film is good.

Once you’ve watched the film, you will have an opinion and therefore use the verb tycker instead.

Swedes love to talk about the weather, so you could also think of this verb as the “weather word”, as it’s always used to predict the weather in a conversation.

Example 2: Jag tror det blir vackert väder i morgon. I think (believe) the weather will be beautiful tomorrow.

Once the next day arrives, you will have an opinion on the weather when you look out the window, and therefore use tycker.

The most common preposition to use with tro is , and is always followed by the object you believe in.

Example: Jag tror på dig.  I believe in you.

I hope this has clarified some confusions about how to use these words. But remember to not get too frustrated with them, it takes a little bit of time to get used to the distinction between them.

If you would like to book a lesson with me, head over to our booking system.

Ha det gött! 

Daniel

The Plate Spinner

The Plate Spinner

When we talk about the process of language learning with our learners, we often refer to the concept of a plate spinner. We use this metaphor because we think it captures very well the process of language learning.

Some think of the process as building a house (laying a solid foundation, adding brick upon brick, adding new floors on top of each other). The problem with this notion, is that it assumes that you need a solid and sturdy foundation before you can add any more on to it (to prevent it from coming crashing down). And what this usually means, in practical terms for language learners, is a sense that they must remember everything they have learnt so far, in order to move onto something new. “I don’t dare to start a new chapter, because I cannot immediately recall everything I learnt in the previous chapter.” This, we believe, is not a useful language learning strategy, as the learner will develop unnecessary anxieties relating to short-term memory failure, and an impossible ambition to be able to recall every single word in the new language vocabulary (often without any context). A bit like a computer.

Instead, a much more constructive analogy is that of a plate spinner. The plates can represent the different language skills (speaking, reading, listening, writing, grammatical knowledge), and the spinner is the learner. The goal is to spin all the plates as evenly as possible, at the same time. Of course, sometimes a plate spinner may focus on one or two particular plates, which results in another plate beginning to slow down and wobble. But the plate spinner turns their attention to that plate, gives it a little bit of a spin to stabilise it, and things are ok again. And it is ok for plates to be a bit wobbly sometimes. It may just be because you have focused hard on something else for a while. All you have to do is to identify the plate (speaking, listening, or whatever it may be), give it a bit of a spin, and just keep on going. As long as all the plates are spinning in some shape or form, then things are going just fine.

plate spinner

Andrew Van Buren, a famous plate spinner

10 days until Teach Yourself Complete Swedish

New version of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish (Hodder & Stoughton) publishes 8 March 2018

  • Dr Anneli Beronius Haake from Swedish Made Easy is the author of the new book
  • The book includes 20 units with online audio support, plus verb reference and word glossary, with relevant and up-to-date topics, including politics, education, gender equality and popular entertainment in Sweden.

A perhaps unexpected trend in recent years is the rising popularity of Swedish in the world. It is unexpected because Swedish is not traditionally one of the more popular languages in the world, as it is typically ranked around the 90th most spoken languages in the world. But according to British Council, Swedish is in the top 10 languages in demand for export markets, along with much larger languages like French, Spanish, Dutch and German.

So why is Swedish becoming more popular? There are several theories for this rise. One is the rise of Scandinavian culture in general on an international scale, with books, TV-series and movies, many of them falling into the category known as Nordic Noir. Also, one in six Swedish residents in 2015 were born outside of Sweden (Statistics Sweden SCB), meaning that many Swedish residents are in full swing of learning the language.

On the 8th of March, the International Women’s Day, Dr Anneli Beronius Haake, director of the e-learning school Swedish Made Easy, publishes a new version of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish (Hodder & Stoughton). “What is particularly useful about this book”, she explains, “is that the platform language is English. Many Swedish course books made in Sweden are all in Swedish, which means that learners need a teacher to help explain the grammar at beginner’s level. This book, on the other hand, has all the grammar points explained in English.”

The book uses authentic conversations, vocabulary building, grammar explanations, online audio support, and extensive practice and review to equip learners with the skills they need to use Swedish in a variety of settings and situations, developing their cultural awareness along the way. The book follows several characters through a storyline enabling learners to engage with Swedish culture and contextualise their learning. The book suits the self-study learner, lessons with a one-to-one tutor, or the beginner classroom. It can be used as a refresher course as well as to support study for the ‘Swedex’ Swedish proficiency test.

 

 

Notes to Editors

 

  • Sources

 

Haake, A. B. (2018). Teach Yourself Complete Swedish (Hodder & Stoughton) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Swedish-Beginner-Intermediate-Course/dp/1444195107/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1517488103&sr=8-3&keywords=teach+yourself+swedish ISBN-10: 1444195107   ISBN-13: 978-1444195101

Mikael Parkvall, “Världens 100 största språk 2007” (The World’s 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin.

https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/languages_for_the_future_2017.pdf

http://www.scb.se/sv_/Hitta-statistik/Artiklar/Finland-och-Irak-de-tva-vanligaste-fodelselanderna-bland-utrikes-fodda/

 

  • About Swedish Made Easy and Dr Anneli Beronius Haake

Swedish Made Easy was founded by Anneli Beronius Haake in 2005. It is an e-learning and Skype-based language school, which specialises in the teaching and assessment of Swedish language skills, including SWEDEX levels A2-B2. Swedish Made Easy believes in using modern technology to share the Swedish language and culture across the globe.

Dr Anneli Haake is a native Swedish language and culture specialist and translator. Anneli was awarded a BA (Hons) at University of Stockholm in 2003 before transferring to the UK to complete her PhD and a PCHE (Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education) at University of Sheffield, UK. Anneli has been featured in numerous media outlets, including the BBC and The Guardian. Anneli has experience of teaching students from a broad range of nationalities and has worked with organisations such as Örebro University, Lund University, Jönköping University, as well as large multi-nationals including Abercrombie & Fitch, E-ON and Spotify and various language agencies.

30 days until launch of Complete Swedish

In 30 days time, the brand new version of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish that I have been writing the past few years will finally be published (yay!).

Do you want to develop a solid understanding of Swedish and communicate confidently with others?
Through authentic conversations, vocabulary building, grammar explanations and extensive practice and review, Complete Swedish will equip you with the skills you need to use Swedish in a variety of settings and situations, developing your cultural awareness along the way. The book follows several characters through a storyline enabling learners to engage with Swedish culture and contextualise their learning.

What will I achieve by the end of the course?
By the end of Complete Swedish you will have a solid intermediate-level grounding in the four key skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening – and be able to communicate with confidence and accuracy. You will be able to engage with relevant and up-to-date topics, including politics, education, gender equality and popular entertainment in Sweden.

Is this course for me?
If you want to move confidently from beginner to intermediate level, this is the course for you. It’s perfect for the self-study learner, with a one-to-one tutor, or for the beginner classroom. It can be used as a refresher course as well as to support study for the ‘Swedex‘ Swedish proficiency test.

What do I get?
-20 learning units plus verb reference and word glossary 
-Discovery Method – figure out rules and patterns to make the language stick
-Teaches the key skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking
-Learn to learn – tips and skills on how to be a better language learner
-Culture notes – learn about the people and places of Sweden
-Outcomes-based learning – focus your studies with clear aims
-Authentic listening activities – everyday conversations give you a flavour of real spoken Swedish
-Test Yourself – see and track your own progress

*Complete Swedish maps from A1 Beginner to B2 Upper Intermediate level of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) guidelines and from Novice-Low to Advanced-Mid level of the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) proficiency guidelines.

The audio for this course can be downloaded from the Teach Yourself Library app or streamed at library.teachyourself.com.