New book – Teach Yourself Complete Swedish

Teach Yourself Complete Swedish – to be published 8 March 2018

Some of you may know that I, Anneli, have been writing on a completely new version of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish (Hodder and Stoughton) for the past couple of years. Today, I am delighted to share with you that the book is finally out on Amazon for pre-order, the publication date is 8 March 2018. Very exciting times!

The book starts from scratch on beginner level A1, and then moves on quite quickly to A2, and finishes around B2-level. It is basically a beginners to intermediate book, in the usual Teach Yourself format that this series offer.

I’ll talk more in detail about the book later on, but for now, check out the nice cover on Amazon. 🙂

 

5 Reasons To Avoid Google Translate When Learning a Language

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.

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.

 

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)

 

Quick questions for Daniel

Daniel is a Swedish teacher here at Swedish Made Easy. He teaches all levels, from 14962990_10154660030213735_856244307_nbeginner to advanced. He comes from Göteborg in Sweden (which he would adamantly argue is the best city in Sweden), and lives with his family in London, UK. He has worked in education for over 8 years, and taught Swedish since 2013. He has a real passion for languages and has helped to improve literacy levels of children in secondary schools in London (and even helped a school to set up a library!). He also writes books and short stories (check it out).

Here are 11 quick questions for Daniel!

1. Can you play any instruments?

I learned to play the guitar when I attended a music course at university. Wrote and composed a Gospel song called “Godissången” for the children’s musical we performed at the end of term. Radio stations across the world played it for years and years and … oh, right. That part was just a dream.

2. What was your favourite TV show when growing up?

Transformers, He-Man, and Star Fleet in the 1980s; X-files and Twin Peaks in the 1990s.

3. Favourite Swedish band?

I realised in 2000-2001 that my favourite band was Kent. Favourite “foreign” band is R.E.M.

4. Do you collect anything?

I had a strange fascination collecting postcards for a long time, but these days that obsession has changed to coffee mugs. I like drinking my fancy Italian coffee in style.

5. Choose a movie title for the story of your life.

A Life Less Ordinary.

6. What is the oldest thing in your fridge?

A frozen House elf from 1821. Mind you, the fridge is from the glorious year of 1816.

7. What, or who, are you a “closet” fan of?

Dolly Parton.

8. What is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time?

I’m a member of a Swedish film site and record each new film I watch. So far, I’ve watched 2603 of them. The latest one was Independence Day: Resurgence, which I gave a solid 1 (out of 5).

9. Favourite film?

Are you crazy? There are too many to pick from! Help! Okay, okay, depends on the genre. Overall I’d go with the original 12 Angry Men.

10. What about a favourite Swedish film, then?

That’s very difficult too. I’ll go with a timeless classic comedy and say Att Angöra en Brygga. All my favourite Swedish actors gathered on an island to celebrate Midsummer, what can go wrong?

11. What are three things still left on your bucket list?

Publish books, travel outside Europe, and provide tools for my children to become decent and caring human beings.

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To book a lesson with Daniel or to check his availability, click on “Swedish with Daniel” on the booking system

Quick questions for Sophie

Sophie works as a Swedish teacher at Swedish Made Easy. She is a native image1-1-jpgSwede who spent her 20’s in London, but these days she is based in Stockholm where she lives with her husband and two children. She works as an rhetoric consultant as well as a equality consultant, with a focus on communication. She has a great love for the Swedish language, its development and uses of languages generally.

 

Here are 12 quick questions for Sophie.

1.Which Swedish storybook/cartoon character turns you on the most?

Pippi, because she did everything the other way around, didn’t follow conventions and had her own very cool look.

2. Can you play any instruments?

A bit of piano and a little bit of guitar

3. What was your favourite TV show when growing up?

Laverne and Shirley

4. Midsummer, Lucia or Christmas?

Midsummer!

5. How old is the oldest pair of shoes in your closet?

My Doc Martin, I bought them in 1996!

6. What, or who, are you a “closet” fan of?

Make up tutorials

7. What is the oldest thing in your fridge?

A year of coconut butter. I know it’s good, but can’t eat it.

8. What Swedish food do you never want to live without?

Sill!

9. What is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time?

Play simpsons on my phone

10. Do you have any strange phobias?

Dirty hands

11. Favourite Swedish saying?

Det ordnar sig!

12. What are three things still left on your bucket list?

Jump out of an airplane (preferable with a parachute), Tatoos, My own TV show.

 

Sophie is available on Thursday mornings for lessons. To book Sophie, go to the booking system and select “Swedish with Sophie”.

Welcome Daniel – Swedish teacher

Swedish Made Easy is growing and we now have a new teacher onboard. I am very pleased to introduce Daniel Lind, who from now on will work as a Swedish teacher at Swedish Made Easy.

Daniel comes from Göteborg in Sweden, and lives with his family in London, UK. He has
worked in education for over 8 years, and worked with students of all ages. He has a real passion for languages and has helped to improve literacy levels of children in secondary schools in London (and even helped a school to set up a library!). He has taught Swedish to both children and adults since 2013. Daniel is also an author, and writes books and short stories in his free time (check it out!).

Daniel will be available for Skype Swedish lessons via the booking system, under “Swedish with Daniel”, and he teaches all levels – from beginner to advanced.

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Hen – the debated Swedish pronoun

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

“Han” means singular he, and “hon” means singular she. 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. The “s/he” is pretty clunky (especially in speech – how on earth do you pronounce “s/he”?!), and to say “the dentist” again just sounds 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 – you cannot say “de” in this case.

Lately, a new, gender-neutral pronoun has started to become more popular in Sweden – hen. The pronoun hen is defined as a “proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of han and hon”. Even though this is a relatively new phenomenon in Swedish, several languages have gender neutral pronouns. Finnish, for example, only has gender neutral pronouns!

The book “Kivi och Monsterhund” came out earlier this year, and it is the first book that only uses hen – instead of han and hon. And the book has caused a widespread debate in Sweden.

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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. (http://www.gp.se/nyheter/sverige/1.874481-sa-borjade-debatten-om-hen?)

What do you think to the idea of having a gender-neutral pronoun? Useful? Unnecessary? Feel free to comment below.  

Swedish vowels – hard and soft

Swedish vowels

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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 15.00.54

Hard and soft vowels

When I say that vowels are either hard or soft, what I 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.

For example:

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 – again, should theoretically be soft, but is instead hard). Many of my 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”.

To hear a bit more about the hard and soft vowels, have a look at this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy1t0BonlJQ&feature=plcp

 

Interview with a Swedish learner – James

Learning Swedish – interview with a learner

James is a radiographer working in an NHS hospital in the UK. He was raised in Southport, Lancashire, but currently lives in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, UK, but he is hoping on finding work in Sweden in the not-too-distant future. James likes to ride his bicycles a lot and successfully completed Vätternrundan, a 180 mile ride around Lake Vättern, in Sweden in 2015.

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What led you to want to learn Swedish?

I’ve always been interested in Nordic history and culture, the cause of which was probably being exposed to a 1980s adventure game I used to play on my computer as a boy called Valhalla. More recently, I had been looking at job adverts for jobs in my profession across Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and wishing I could apply for them. But after separate trips to Sweden, Norway and Finland, and enjoying experiencing life as a tourist in those countries, in 2014 I thought I’d bite the bullet and give learning a language a go. I plumped for Sweden as I felt the size of the country would be good.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I started using the Babbel app on my iPad, in May 2014, and shortly after started taking lessons from Anneli over Skype.

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

I try to use it when I can. The chances to use Swedish in the UK are limited but there’s a few groups across the country that arrange meetings through the meetup.com website, in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Other than that, if I visit Sweden I try to use my language skills there, but this is made more difficult by the natives’ excellent English skills and their eagerness to use them in conversation with an Englishman!

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

Trying to fit my lessons and homework around my job and other interests.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

When arriving on a campsite in June 2015, I did manage to hold a good conversation with the management telling them my name and that I had booked a pitch for a few nights. I think they may have been confused by my arriving in a right hand drive car!

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish?

Swedish: An Essential Grammar, by Philip Holmes and Ian Hinchliffe, is an excellent grammar book for those starting out in Swedish.

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

The aforementioned Babbel app, which you can use on iOS and Android, plus their version for desktop computers, is excellent but you have to pay a monthly subscription to use it. You could consider switching your phone’s language setting to Swedish, although it may be a good idea to memorise how to switch the language back to English should you need to. Swedish TV shows seem to be quite in demand on UK television these days with Wallander and The Bridge being shown on the BBC and there’s plenty of DVDs of Swedish TV shows available too, with English subtitling of course, plus you could consider watching English language films with Swedish subtitling. Listen to Swedish records, from the likes of Melissa Horn and Linnea Henriksson, and have a look at the lyrics booklet with the album.

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

Learn little and often, maybe try and think about what you’re doing in Swedish rather than English, maybe keep a written diary in Swedish and write about your days.