Soundcloud documentary: Who learns Swedish?

Who learns Swedish?

Earlier this year, I (Anneli) was contacted by Annika Beth Jones, a UK journalist student making her final year project: an audio documentary about the rise in Swedish learners during the past five years. She asked me if I wanted to participate in the documentary, to which I said yes!

Annika Jones

The documentary theme stemmed from Annika’s own experiences of learning Swedish, and that in the last 4-5 years the numbers of learners and online resources have exploded. Duolingo is currently recording over 5m registered learners, which considering that of the less than 10m living in Sweden 90% speak English, begs the question why the sudden popularity? Who learns Swedish?

Annika had spoken to lots of people with different reasons for learning, including relationships with Swedes, learning for the joy of it or the kudos – polyglots, refugees, those with Swedish ancestry they wish to connect to, those who have moved to Sweden for educational opportunities or simply because they love the idea of Sweden. These interviews would then be crossed with interviews with linguists, Swedish language youtubers, etc.

What she wanted to discuss with me firstly was some facts about Swedish itself. None of the language experts she had spoken to knew much specifically about Swedish. Annika was looking for someone to explain about the background/origins of Swedish and how it fits into the European language landscape.

She was also interested in my take on language learning, how it’s changed, what the future might hold and what that means for learners, teachers and eventually maybe the languages themselves.

One theme that had come up time and time again is that the world seems to be in love with the perceived culture of Sweden, so she was keen to discuss that and how accurate those perceptions are, how learning a language is a way of buying into that, etc. She asked: “As a Swede is it strange that so many people want to learn your language?”

We had a long, interesting conversation over Skype that we recorded, and you can now listen to the full documentary – Who learns Swedish – on Annika’s soundcloud profile. I think many will find this piece very interesting.

/Anneli

Interview with a Swedish learner – Jamie

This week’s interviewee is Jamie. He is 36 years old and from Ottawa, Canada. He moved to Stockholm in 2015 after meeting his wife. In some ways he says he is a typical Canadian- he loves Hockey and Maple Syrup!

He also loves his adopted homeland Sweden. He received his citizenship in 2018 and feels really proud to call Sweden home. According to Jamie, Sweden is a wonderful country, has wonderful people and beautiful nature. Jamie works at a tech company as their CSR Manager and also has his own hockey podcast which he does together with his wife.

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

I moved to Sweden in 2015 after I met my wife. I wanted to be able to speak Swedish so that all of her friends and family wouldn’t always have to switch the English whenever I was around. Plus I knew I would make this country my home so it was important for me to “come into Swedish society”, this can only be done by having an understanding of the language.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I started by going to SFI the first 2 months. While that gave me a basic vocabulary and understanding of simple conversations, it was simply not enough to get really better at the language. With a combination of Swedish Made Easy and forcing myself to practice, I was able to very quickly handle daily personal/work life in Swedish

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

I only speak Swedish with my wife’s friends and family and at work, my team speaks only Swedish and I answer in either Swedish or English depending on how technical the subject is.

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

The biggest challenges are simply finding the time to practice and learn. Sometimes one can be so tired that its hard to find time to sit down and study. Skype lessons are great for this because it’s an hour of dedicated learning. Another big challenge is that Swedes love to speak English so one must work hard to get over the Swedish mentality of “lets just speak English”.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

I have 2 proudest moments: 1- the first Christmas after I moved here, speaking only Swedish with my wifes parents for the entire holiday. 2 – The first time I could be funny while speaking Swedish, felt like I could finally not just speak it but also be myself.

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!)

Read as many lätt svensk books as you can- they are wonderful, like normal books but written in a more basic level of Swedish- I have read a lot of the Mankell books (Wallander). Its more manageable than trying to read a real book at the start.

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

Hmmm, I don’t really use any.

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

The biggest thing is you have to swallow your pride a little and accept that making mistakes and saying weird things is the price you pay for learning a new language. Its easy to be self-conscious when speaking a language at the start when you aren’t great at it- but honestly, people will never make fun of you, they appreciate that you are trying to learn their language. My wife, our friends and her family have all laughed together when I have said strange things- its hilarious and all part of the process. I feel compared to a lot of people, I was able to come into the language quite quick, I might not speak perfectly, but I understand everything and I can get my point across- the main reason for this has been my willingness to talk and practice in real situations. It gets easier every time.

This is also why Swedish Made Easy works so well- over time you develop a friendship with Anneli and Daniel and they become very easy to talk to because it’s a safe environment to practice and quite frankly make mistakes!

Writing and reading is also critical- pick up some lätt svensk books on your next vacation and just look up any words you don’t understand. Its great to see text written so you learn the nuances of the language, word order and expressions (there are tons in this language). Most of all remember why you wanted to learn Swedish and use that every day in your motivation!

 

Interview with a Swedish learner – Elena

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

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

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

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

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

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

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

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

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

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

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

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

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!)

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

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

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

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

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

 

Får får får?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes sense so far? Good.

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

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

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

***

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

Well, let’s try out a few sentences:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ha det gött! 

Daniel

 

Interview with a Swedish learner – Gonzalo

This week’s story comes from Gonzalo. He is originally from Peru and is a native Spanish speaker but learned English when he was very young. He lives in London and works as a management consultant in the infrastructure sector. He met Jenny from Sweden in 2012, and they are now married and are expecting their first child. He is currently studying 2-3 hours a week with our Swedish teacher Daniel.

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

I met Jenny in 2012 and married her in 2017. She is fluent in Spanish, my mother tongue, so we agreed that I should try to become fluent in hers. That way I can understand when her family speak to our future baby.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I bought Rivstart’s old edition in 2014 and did a classroom term with UCL. Didn’t progress so found Swedish Made Easy.

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

For the time being I do not use Swedish that much as my wife speaks fluent English and Spanish and it would be rather inefficient to switch. Moreover, “we met in English” so it is a de facto communication form between us. This might change when our daughter is born later in the year as Jenny will speak to her in Swedish and I in Spanish thus opening new situations for me to experience my learning.

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

I learned English and Spanish when I was very young and never learned “the rules”. I had 20 hours a week at school taught in English so I was bilingual by 15. Starting with a new language in your 30s and having to learn after work is a big challenge.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

This will be when I move to Stockholm for work and can work in Swedish, not quite there yet.

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!)

Following on the thought above (about how things will change when our daughter is born), my mother in law has bought a number of the Gubbe Pettson (Pettson och Findus) for me which could now be redeployed with our daughter. They are good fun.

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

I try to do 2 lessons a week. On occasion my work allows me to do a third one and in order to keep it varied, Daniel and I look up stories in 8 sidor and translate them into English. 8 sidor is great for colloquial vocabulary and for finding out everyday things happening in Swedish. They do make the occasional spelling mistake though and we filter those out to maintain purity.

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

Make sure you have the motivation to get it done! That will give you the discipline to make it happen.

Interview with a Swedish learner – Marilena

Marilena is a biologist who is lucky enough to work as a researcher in one of the most well-known institutes in Europe. She arrived in Sweden a couple of years ago, moving from her home country, Greece, to work in Stockholm.

Even though Swedish winters are hard for Mediterranean people, she loves Stockholm for its parks, restaurants, amazing bars and widely preserved nature. And what is even more great, according to Marilena, is that there are cinnamon rolls everywhere!

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

Fate brought me to Sweden almost 2 years ago, when I got a new position as a researcher in Stockholm. Even though there was no immediate need to learn Swedish to cope at work or daily life, I found that I was missing out on a lot of facts about Swedes and their lifestyle.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I initially got a teach-yourself book about three months after I arrived in Sweden. However, it soon became clear that I needed a bit of guidance and help to really be able to understand this new language. Even though it is not one of the most difficult languages, it is important to have someone with good knowledge of Swedish to explain things.

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

I do not use Swedish as much as other people living here, mainly because at my workplace we are communicating in English. However, I have the opportunity to speak Swedish quite often, either with non-English-speaking people at the institute and very often in department stores, doctor appointments and other everyday life incidences. The ability to be able to speak Swedish has made me much more open to meeting new people outside work and I really enjoy the practice!

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

Very often I mix some words or principles from other languages while I talk or write in Swedish. In particular, I find very often that I make mistakes by introducing words from German, since I do find the two languages to have quite some similarities. Quite often, I can get away with it because they do share a lot of words!

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

I take pride in small things, such as ordering at a restaurant in Swedish, making small talk with Swedish colleagues in Swedish, or being able to follow conversations on the publish transport (I know, I should not be that much proud of listening to strangers’ conversations!). I will be very proud though, when I am able to give even the tiniest presentation about my work in Swedish!

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!)

I am tempted to say that the book of my very own teacher, Anneli, has been my favorite! I also find it quite helpful to pick up some magazines in Swedish (for example, the booklets they sometimes have at the cinema, where one can find interviews of actors or a few pieces on upcoming movies).

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

A quick and easy fix is to install any app, to freshen up on vocabulary while riding the metro or bus. I find this to be very helpful. My favorite one is Duolingo, and it offers the advantage of being repetitive when you tend to do mistakes (until you get it right!).

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

Never feel shy to speak in Swedish even if you are just learning. From my experience, Swedes love to see people interested in learning their language and they are always very supportive. They even speak slower and clearly once they realize you are new to learning Swedish!

 

Book a Swedish lesson here. 

Interview with a Swedish learner – George

This summer, we’ll run an interview series here on the Swedish Made Easy blog. We have interviewed some Swedish learners to find out what made them start learning Swedish, how they are getting on, and what tips and advice they have for other Swedish learners. First out is George. George is a civil servant. He’s originally from London but now lives in Essex. He’s currently revisiting verbs forms.

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

I’ve been interested in Swedish and Nordic culture for a long time, and learning Swedish has been an extension of that. I wish I could say I’m learning it because I work or study there, but I do it because it’s really fun. Although I would love to live and work there sometime in the future.

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I visited Stockholm for the first time several years ago, and really fell for the place. That was the spark. Until that point, I’d never thought about learning a language. A week or so after that trip my library had a book sale, which included a 1997 Swedish language book called (rather optimistically) Swedish in 3 Months. It helped me learn some basics and build confidence, but there were quirks to the language I couldn’t get my head around. And self-study lacks the conversational aspect I wanted. By then I knew I needed expert tuition and found Swedish Made Easy online.

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

Not as much as I’d like. Besides my lessons, I mainly use it when I visit Sweden or other Scandinavian countries every year or so. The trouble is people tend to answer in English! But I try to spend some of the day speaking and thinking in Swedish.

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

Keeping all the plates spinning. There are so many things to remember – just as you’re learning something new, it’s easy to let other things slip. I’m constantly having to go back over verb forms.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

Having a conversation with a guy who worked in the ticket office of a Stockholm metro station. He was Russian but spoke to me in English and I responded in Swedish. We got on great and he ended up giving me a ticket that someone had handed in!

Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!) 

Most introductory books are good for the basics. I also like the Rivstart books. Once you have a feel for sentence structure, I recommend Common Swedish Verbs by David Hensleigh. And of course a good Swedish/English dictionary.

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

I really like the SVT app for watching Swedish TV with subtitles. It’s good for picking up pronunciation, but also being able to read body language and non-verbal communication. So even though I don’t always understand everything, I can usually get the gist. My favourite is På spåret – a quiz show that uses lots of relatively simple questions and descriptions. Watching an interesting TV show doesn’t feel like study.

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

Talk, talk, talk. Even if it’s just to yourself.

 

Swedish vowels – hard and soft

Swedish vowels

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.

feather stone

 

Hard and soft vowels

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.

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 (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.

 

 

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

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