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. 

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.

Letters we don’t pronounce

Letters we don’t pronounce

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! 

Daniel

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

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.

 

How long to learn Swedish

Many students ask how long it takes to learn Swedish. We have previously written a longer blog post about it, but we have now also worked out a little rough guideline to how many hours it usually takes to reach each language level. This is a very rough estimate, and can vary considerably between individuals, but it may at least give an idea of what to expect.

Let’s start by being honest and say that you will not be able to become fluent in Swedish in 1 or 2 weeks. Anyone claiming that is possible, is simply lying. Language learning is a long process – a bit more like a marathon than a quick sprint. Be wary of claims that you can learn a language fluently in x days/months, there are no miracle methods. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How long it takes to learn Swedish will depend on a number of factors. Some of them are individual learning pace in general, previous knowledge of grammar (those with much knowledge tend to progress faster), how much homework the learner is able to do between lessons (faster if more homework), and also if the learner has any particular areas that they find challenging.

The calculation below is based our students and how long people in general spend to reach each level. It takes into account whether the student is a slow, medium or fast learner, and also on how much time the learner spend doing homework and other things outside of the lessons. The more hours you spend learning outside of the tuition hours, the faster you will progress (and it will be cheaper for you too!).

The calculation is also roughly correlated to the guided learning hours according to Deutsche Welle for German, Cambridge English Language Assessment for English, and Alliance Française for French.

Swedish tuition hours for each level

The ‘slow’ number is in our opinion longer than most people need. It is quite common to be somewhere between fast and medium. Our fastest student reached level A1 after only 17 hours tuition on Skype! But some students have needed at least double the time. 

What can I expect from a lesson?

Our lessons usually include the following:

  • brief improvised conversation
  • going through homework together
  • working together in the course material
  • new homework being given

It is important that you do your homework before the next lesson, if you want to progress your Swedish. You need to send your homework to your teacher before the next lesson. After every third chapter in the course material, you will do a test during a lesson.

You also need to set aside some time to revise what you have already learnt. We recommend to budget approximately 2 hours after one Skype lesson. It’s good practice to break the revision into smaller chunks. This could for example be:

  • 30 min doing your homework for next lesson
  • 15-30 min practicing with flashcards the new words you have learnt during the lesson
  • 15-30 min practicing with flashcards words you have learnt previously
  • 30 min revising exercises you have done previously (for ex creating sentences using old vocabulary, recording your voice when you speak)

 

What are the best ways of learning a language?

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 19.15.16

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 (CEFR – the Common European Framework of-Reference for languages) 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).