We’re starting a video series on pronunciation that will run for the next few months. Today, we’ll kick off with … (not surprisingly, perhaps) … the letter A!
We’re starting a video series on pronunciation that will run for the next few months. Today, we’ll kick off with … (not surprisingly, perhaps) … the letter A!
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.
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.
Hej! Anneli here. Today we will be talking pronunciation. As you may already know, the Swedish language has 9 vowels: A, E, I, O, U, Y (note that y is always a vowel in Swedish!), Å, Ä, and Ö. However, there is another way of grouping the vowels, rather than just alphabetically – according to whether they are ‘soft’ or ‘hard’. Categorising vowels in this way will help with the pronunciation of many words in Swedish, as it can give you clues on how to say certain words.
When we say that vowels are either hard or soft, what we actually mean is that different vowels will affect certain consonants before them – giving the consonants either a soft or a hard pronunciation. So, actually, it is not the vowels themselves that are pronounced in a soft or hard way, but instead they affect consonants to be pronounced in a soft or hard way. And which consonants will they affect? They will affect words beginning with K-, G– and SK-.
This actually happens in English too. Just compare how you say café and city. The words both begin with C, but they are pronounced differently. From a Swedish language perspective, I would say that café has a hard kind of C, whereas city has a soft-sounding C. Another example is the different pronunciation of G in the words guest and gist, where I would say guest has a hard-sounding G and gist is soft. So let’s see how this works in Swedish.
Soft vowels: E, I, Y, Ä and Ö
Hard vowels: A, O, U, and Å
If you have any of the so-called soft vowels following either K-, G– or SK-, these consonants change to a softer sounding sound.
G– : göra (to do) – is pronounced with a soft y sounding sound: “yöööra”, whereas gammal (old) – is pronounced with a hard-sounding G, a bit like in the name Gandalf.
K– : köpa (to buy) – is pronounced with a soft sounding ch: “chööpa”, whereas kan (able to/can) – is pronounced with a hard k, like in the English “can”.
SK– : sked (spoon) – is pronounced with a soft sounding sound, the same as in the number 7 (sju): “scheeed”, whereas skola (school) – is pronounced hard, like it reads (a separate s followed by a separate hard k): skola.
Because of theses pronunciation rules, there are some Swedish words that seem familiar to the English ear, and may even mean the same thing, but will be pronounced differently. I call these types of words “false friends” – they seem easy and familiar, but are in fact something else. For example:
kilo – means the same thing, a measure of weight, but is pronounced soft because of the I: “chiiilo”
sky – means sky in Swedish too, but is pronounced soft and with a long Swedish Y (like an English “ee” but with a more trumpet/forward-shaped mouth): “schyyy”
sko – means shoe, but this one is hard, because of the O: “skooo”
Of course, there are some exceptions, as always. Look out for the words kille (guy – should theoretically be soft, but we pronounce it hard), and kö (queue) or en kör (a choir) – again, should theoretically be soft, but is instead hard. Many students also struggle with the word människa (person, human being), and try to pronounce it as it reads, although we actually pronounce this “sk” in a soft way: “männischa”.
Here is a summary of the structure of hard and soft vowels after G-, K-, and SK-, taken from my new book Teach Yourself Complete Swedish.
Hej! Daniel here!
In this week’s blogpost, we’re talking pronunciation. We have a saying in Sweden that goes Har man sagt A får man säga B (If you’ve said A, you should say B). However, this doesn’t translate into how Swedes actually speak; the saying continues with …så får vi C vad D E (…and we’ll see what it is). The letters C, D, and E represent “see”, ” it” and “is”. Depending on the region, we like to drop letters differently to how they are spelt. Today we’ll go on a journey through Sweden and delve into our peculiar speech.
A classic Swedish children’s book is Astrid Lindgren’s Emil i Lönneberga. This story takes place in Småland, a region in the southern part of Sweden. The following is a dialogue between the young Emil and his best friend, a farmhand called Alfred:
Dä ä du å ja Alfred. (It’s you and I, Alfred).
Tro ja dä, du å ja Emil. (You’re right about that, you and I, Emil).
In written form, this exchange would look different:
Det är du och jag, Alfred.
Tror jag det, du och jag Emil.
Note that the pronunciation here is typical of the Småland municipality. In most other parts of Sweden, we would say de (=det) and e (=är) instead.
Here you can watch that particular scene from the old Astrid Lindgren movie.
A popular way of saying good morning in Gothenburg is Gomorron, which also was the name of a television breakfast program for many years (Gomorron Sverige).
Here the ‘d’ is dropped and stuck together with the word morron. Correct spelling is god morgon.
Another classic is a series of comedy films from the 80s and 90s called Jönssonliganthat take place in and around Stockholm. One of the characters there, Dynamit-Harry, (played by the same actor who plays Alfred in Emil i Lönneberga) enjoys dynamite and beer a little too much. After each successful operation, he has this to say:
Vicken jävla smäll! (What a darn blast!)
The correct spelling is vilken, but it’s easier to pronounce the world without the ‘l’, especially when you’re excited.
The municipality of Närke, Östergötland, Västmanland and Värmland in the middle of Sweden are jokingly called Gnällbätet (The Moan Belt, because of how people sound). They often drop the ‘r’ at the end of a word, such as körkort (driver’s licence) which instead becomes kökot.
Common for most Swedish regions is the drop of ‘g’:
Något (something) becomes nåt.
Någon (someone) becomes nån.
Några (some) becomes nåra.
It happens often that a Swede would contract several words in speech (similar to good morning), especially when the expression is common and the sentence only consists of a few words. This means that a Swede who hasn’t seen anything (Jag har inte sett något) would say Ja:nte sett nåt.
To explore more pronunciation patterns, book your lesson here.
Ha det gött!
New version of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish (Hodder & Stoughton) publishes 8 March 2018
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
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.
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.
A common conception is that Eskimos have over 100 words for snow, as they have so much snow in their everyday lives. By the looks of things, Swedes spend the whole winters rubbing snow in each others’ faces – at least judging by a survey a few years ago that found 95 ways of saying ‘rubbing snow in someone’s face’.
The survey was carried out by a radio programme on Swedish radio (Språket i P1), asking what words people use, or have used as children, to describe the act of ‘rubbing snow in someone’s face’. 6,000 people from the whole of Sweden participated in the survey, which revealed 95 ways of saying this. Here are some of the verbs, from south to north.
80 people use the word mula.
In the rest of Skåne, mula dominates, but not as clearly as in Malmö.
Mula 267, kröna 53, tvätta 17, salta 10, mosa 7, sylta 4, gnida in 4, gnugga 3
The survey states that kröna is typical of Skåne.
The survey found one unique word in this region: mora.
Mula 32, mora 24, gno 7, mosa 5, döpa 2
It is interesting to see how different the words are in Blekinge, compared to Skåne – even though they are so close geographically.
The Halland-dialect also had a unique word: molla.
Mula 91, molla 29, möla 13, klena 4, göra 4, kröna 3
There were large variations throughout Småland, but the general trend is as follows:
Mula 311, mylla 79, bryna 19, myla 16, mosa 12, gno 11, mulla 6, myra 2
Notice how some of the words form a kind of cluster, which is probably illustrating how one form has transformed into another one. This is probably the case with for example mula, mulla, myla, mylla and myra.
Apart from mula, mylla is considered typical for Småland.
Among people born after 1970, almost only mula and mylla are mentioned.
Mula 14, mylla 4, pula 2
Very similar overall patterns to Småland in general, according to the survey.
Bryna 19, mula 12, bröine 3
Bryna is the typical word for Gotland.
Myla 148, mula 142, pula 5, mylla 3
Myla is typical for this region. It is also interesting to note only 3 examples of mylla, which is the typical expression of Småland, just south of Östergötland.
Mula 126, pula 87, pöla 23, snöpula 5, möla 4
There was only 1 example of myla in Södermanland, which was the typical word in Östergötland – the neighbouring region. Some of the strong dialect boundaries are fascinating, don’t you think? Instead, Södermaland belongs to a greater pula-area, which can be found in Närke, Västmanland and neighbouring regions.
Mula 206, göra 86, grosa 23, möla 18, tvätta 16, gnosa 12, pula 9, gno 8, mylla 6, snötvätta 5, gni(da) 5, gnugga 4, sylta 4
Mula is top of the chart here, and möla is probably also a variation of mula.
Typical for Västergötland is the (hard g -pronounced) göra as well as grosa och gnosa.
Mula 159, göra 69, gira 43, môla 36, sylta 34, gura 16, salta 3
Typical for Göteborg is mula och môla, but also the words göra, gira, gura and sylta. Gura and sylta is not as common among younger people, but göra, gira and môla could be found across generations.
Mula 66, môla 11, mulla 9, mölla 7
All appears to be variations of mula.
Mula 17, môla 7, tryna 7
The last form, tryna, can also be found in Värmland.
Kryna 81, mula 45, tryna 27, krôna 14, bryna 11, mölla 7, mölja 7, pula 5, snöbryna 3
Typical for Värmland are kryna, tryna, bryna and krôna. Together, they are three times as common as mula. Mula and tryna are common among younger, whereas kryna, bryna and krôna are less common.
Pula 56, mula 35, snöpula 6, snötvätta 5
Pula is clearly dominating in this region.
Pula 64, mula 35, snöpula 6, bryna 2, tryna 2, snöpudra 2
Very similar pattern to Närke.
Mula 153, mulla 62, pula 24, snöpula 5, mudda 5, snömulla 3
Typical for Uppland is mulla.
Mula 800, pula 8
Stockholm is suprisingly homogeneous, despite a total of 843 participants: 98 % state mula. How come Stockholm has not been influenced by neighbouring regions?
Purra 18, pula 18, mula 15, snöpula 11, snöpurra 9, snötvätta 2
Typical for Gästrikland is purra and pula.
Pula 31, mula 27, snöpula 9
Hälsingland also belongs to the pula-area.
Mula 58, pula 2
Pula pretty much stops by the border between Hälsingland and Medelpad.
Mula 55, pula 45, snöpula 13, myla 6, möla 3, mulla 3, snötvätta 3
Dalarna also belongs to the pula-area. But how about myla – are there any connections to Östergötland?
Lack of participants here.
Mula 45, purra 21, pula 8, döpa 7
Typical was purra, alongside mula. Purra is thus used in both Jämtland and Gästrikland, even though these areas do not share any borders.
Mula 11, pula 7, möla 3, myla 2, snödöpa 2
Mula 78, mjula 6, mjöla 4, pula 3
Mula is definitely dominating.
Mula 78, mubba 10, möla 7, snödränka 6, mobba 5, möla 3, pula 3, snödöpa 3, snömula 3, döpa 2, tvätta 2, mööl 2
Second most common word was the unusual mubba, which was only used by participants born between 1950 and 1970. However, it may be related to the word mobba (bullying), which would make sense.
Mula 47, snöbada 29, snödöpa 7, snödoppa 4, gnida 4
Typical for Norrbotten are combinations with snö. 21 different words were mentioned, for example måda, mosa, gnugga, gnogg and, from Överkalix, gnäir.
Österbotten: mula 3, pesa 3, tvätta 2, tåväl 1, såvla 1, dövla 1, myla 1
Nyland: mula 6, pesa 6, tvätta 3, snötvätta 2
Åboland: mula 5, pula 2, snötvätta 2
Åland: måda 5, skura 2, mula 1, gnosa 1, gno in 1
In Österbotten and Nyland, the word pesa comes from the finish word for ‘tvätta‘ (to wash) with a Swedish infinitive form.
Of course, this is the ongoing quest for all language learners. What method is the most effective? Are there any good shortcuts? With so many different apps, programmes, methods and so on, which ones are the most effective?
I found a very useful summary by a language coach called Gruff Davis (yes, that is his name!), which I wanted to share because I wholeheartedly agree with all his points. He is using French as an example, but it can of course be applied to Swedish as well. Here it goes.
1. Understand the Language Learning Journey
Language learning has an appalling abandonment rate. A mere 4% of students embarking on language courses in schools achieve a basic level of fluency after three years. 96% fail to achieve fluency and/or abandon courses completely!
People almost always wrongly conclude two things from this:
Myth 1) Learning languages is hard.
Myth 2) Other people (but not them) are naturally good at languages.
One of the biggest reasons cited for abandoning is that students don’t feel any sense of progression. A GCSE student with an A* will visit France and find they can’t even have a basic conversation. People largely give up because they had the wrong expectations set. So let’s bust some myths:
1) Learning a language isn’t hard. It’s just LONG.
2) Everyone is naturally good at languages. You already learned one, remember? You’ve just forgotten how long it took.
I’m going to use a metaphor that I hope will help you get the knack.
I think of learning a language a bit like climbing a mountain (a large but easy mountain, the sort that anyone can climb so long as they keep going).
Here’s what most teachers won’t tell you: It takes 600+ hours of study & practice to reach fluency in French (unless you already speak another latin-based language – a so-called romance language). Think about this. If (say) you learn 1 hour of French per week, then in forty weeks you’ll do 40 hours. You’ll need fifteen years at that rate to become fluent, not counting all the stuff you forget because of the gaps between study. (Harder languages like Russian or Mandarin can take 1,200 hours!)
At the other extreme, if you study really intensively, you can rack up 40 hours in one week!It’s possible (but not guaranteed) to achieve fluency in ten to twelve weeks at that rate. Most people don’t have the spare time to give that level of intensity, but understanding the journey helps you be realistic about what you can achieve so you won’t get demotivated.
2. Intensity is vital to learning a language quickly.
This is a double-whammy. 1) Immersing yourself as deeply as possible in the subject allows you to rack up the hours as quickly as possible. 2) Memory fades unless it’s used. Low-intensity studies (i.e. school French) are ineffective because their intensity is so low that you end up forgetting a large percentage of what you learn. So, try to learn as intensely as time will permit you to.
To use my mountain metaphor, the ground is icy and slippery and if you go slowly, you’ll slip back as much as you progress. The faster you can climb, the less you will slip back.
3. Be kind to yourself
I’ve used sunlight in this mountain metaphor to give you an indication of how it feels to be at these levels. It’s not until B1/B2 that the light comes out and it starts to feel really good speaking French. That happens around the 350-400 hours mark if you’ve never learned a second language before.
Expect a lot of fog and confusion for the first few hundred hours. It’s completely normal and you’re not stupid. EVERYONE feels this way, even the people who seem really gifted at languages. The difference is, anyone who’s already been through that and reached the sunlight expects this stage, and it doesn’t phase them because they know they’ll get there eventually. So, if you catch yourself saying things like, “I’m rubbish at French” or “I’m stupid” just stop for a moment and remind yourself that you’re neither and you will get it if you persevere.
4. Prepare for the journey
If you’re a complete beginner I find it’s really important to absorb the sounds of the language before beginning serious study. I listen to hours of audio (audio books are great for this) without trying to understand the content, but still actively listening to the sounds of the language to embed them. I usually find after a while I end up babbling them a little like a baby which can feel a bit silly . Which brings me my next piece of advice:
5. Practise looking stupid
Being self-conscious is your biggest enemy. You cannot speak a foreign language without feeling stupid at some point. You have to get over that. You have to twist your mouth into strange new shapes that make you feel like a caricature; you will speak and not be understood and you will listen and not understand. A LOT. It’s really okay and in fact necessary to learning. If you think about it, what’s the big deal? So you look stupid. Who cares?
If you instead give yourself credit every time you feel stupid you can turn this around. Give yourself a little mental gold star each time you feel stupid because those moments are learning moments. Feeling stupid is actually a sign of progress, or the moment just prior to progress.
6. Find out where you are (and therefore what the next stage is)
I strongly advise you measure your level using CEFR levels ( ) as these are now standard across Europe.
(and here is a self assessment test you can do to find out your Swedish level according to the CEFR levels).
Amanda is a conversational trainer and she offers “Skype-fika”, which is an opportunity to get to practice improvised conversation with a native Swede. She grew up in Sweden in a small town called Lindesberg, though she has roots in Stockholm and in Jukkasjärvi (where the famous Ice Hotel is located). She now lives in Exeter in the U.K. Beyond having Skype-fika with people from all the corners of the world, she currently works for a travel company, and also works with ceramics and art. She and her wife have two dogs, a hamster and a big stash of yarn since they are both avid knitters.
Here are 10 quick questions for Amanda.
Pippi Långstrump! I love her total non-concern about convention and her hedonistic happy-go-lucky attitude. It’s very inspiring!
I sure can. I’m really good at playing the flute traverse! I can also play a bit of bodhran drum and African drums. I can also do ‘kulning’, the traditional Swedish herding call – though that’s not exactly an instrument. Unless you count your voice as being one =)
Midsummer definitely. It feels so magical, there is just something about in the air during that time of the year.
Eeeh, five years maybe? I’m not that bothered with shoes so I tend to just have a few that I wear until they fall apart and I am forced to buy new ones.
I’m pretty open with all my weirdness so there isn’t anything I’m afraid to share, haha. However, I am a total Pokémon nerd, and currently I am enjoying catching them all in Pokémon Moon which my wife gave me for my birthday (23rd December). I have loved Pokémon since I first discovered the games when I was 12 years old and have played the games one after another…
No idea, we love food in our household so things tend to get eaten. The oldest thing is probably the garlic, but that will also soon be used up.
Salt liqourice! I love ‘Turkisk Peppar’.
That’s probably playing Pokémon. And it’s not just that I play the games, I know so much about the game world and the different pokémon you can catch. I know which generation the creatures are from, what they evolve into, what type they are…
Not really. The worst fear I have is going on planes and boats I think. Especially boats. They might sink!
‘Ingen fara på taket’ (no danger on the roof), and my own ‘Kom igen, det blir kul!’ (come on, it’ll be fun!).
Learn leather mask making. Get another tattoo, this one along my spine. Buy a borzoi (a beautiful large sight hound dog breed)
To book a Skype-fika with Amanda, go to the booking system and select “Skype-fika” and then “Amanda” as your trainer.