What are prepositions and time expressions?

In this blog post, I wanted to talk a little bit more in detail about what prepositions and time expressions actually are. This follows on from the last text about why prepositions are so difficult to learn (if you haven’t read it, you can find it here).

Prepositions are a word category

You probably know this already, but languages are made up of different word categories. Each category includes words that have a specific function. For example, a verb is a word category that helps us express and understand what is happening (running, talking, studying, being, etc). Adjectives describe things (long, boring, yellow, fast, etc).

The Swedish language has 9 word categories in total, and one of these categories is Prepositions.

Prepositions can usually be found before or after a noun (noun = something you can put a number or ‘the’ in front of). They can also pop up after verbs sometimes, or after some adjectives. They can also be part of a phrase or an expression.

The function of prepositions

So what do they actually do, these prepositions? They show relationshipsbetween words or parts of a sentence. That’s their job.

If you say “the dog is on the sofa”, the preposition on shows us a relationship between the dog and the sofa. The dog is lying (or sitting, or maybe standing) on top of the sofa. (I am boarding a dog at the moment, so all my grammar examples this week are about dogs!) 

What are time expressions?

Another more fancy word for time expressions is Adverbials (that’s the word us teachers and others working with languages use). So what’s an adverbial?

An adverbial is either:

  • an adverb, or
  • a combination of a preposition and another word

An example of an adverb as an adverbial is sedan (then, after that). An example of a preposition+word combo is på morgonen (in the morning).

But they are all time expressions (or adverbials, if you want to sound fancy).

Because they tell you when something happened, or happens.

The thing with Swedish time expressions is that they can affect the word order. If you start a sentence with a time expression, the verb needs to come immediately after that, and then the subject.

Example:
På morgonen + dricker + jag + kaffe.

That’s it! I hope you feel a little bit clearer on what prepositions and time expressions actually are.

If you are wondering how to best learn them, stay tuned as I will get in touch in a couple of days with some tips about this. (Yes, I am on a Preposition Missionat the moment!) 

Vi hörs,
Anneli


Why are prepositions so hard to learn?

Should I use ‘i’ or ‘på’ with days of the week? Am I sitting ‘i’ or ‘på’ the sofa?

If you have ever asked yourself these types of questions, you are like most other Swedish learners. 🙂

When asking students what they struggle most with in terms of their Swedish, almost everyone says the same thing: prepositions. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to matter if you are a beginner or an advanced speaker.

Learning and mastering prepositions is one of the hardest parts of learning Swedish. But why is it so difficult?

Prepositions have different meanings

Prepositions are very common in many languages; you see them all the time. But the thing that makes it tricky is that prepositions can mean many different things in different contexts. 

, for example, can mean in, at, by, of, for, over, across and more. Therefore, just looking the word up in a dictionary won’t be of much help. And when it comes to memorising them, this can become confusing. What should you write on the back of your flashcard for ‘’? One example, or all of them?

Prepositions are difficult to translate literally

Prepositions are often different from what you would expect in other languages. In Swedish, we say that something is ‘in the stairs’ (i trappan) instead of ‘on the stairs’, and we are ‘interested of music’ (intresserad av), instead of ‘interested in music’. And there is no real rhyme or reason for why we use certain prepositions in specific contexts, unfortunately.

Yet another reason why it is difficult to learn prepositions comes from the belief that we all hold, which is that our own language does things “the right way”, and other languages we learn do things in a “strange way” that doesn’t make sense.

By constantly trying to make sense of the grammar rules in other languages as they relate to your native language, you are focusing too much on your native language and not enough on the language you are learning. When you do this, you are causing your brain to believe that your native language is the most important one, and then it wants to translate everything back into your native language.

Prepositions in time expressions

In Swedish time expressions (when something happens), prepositions play a big role. We often create time expressions with a preposition and some other word, for example på måndagi måndags, and i helgen. Many time expressions belong to a particular verb tense, which means that a conversation where you want to arrange a time to meet can get very confusing if you get them wrong. 

This is not the case just for the Swedish language, prepositions are notoriously hard in other languages too. So if you feel you struggle with prepositions, know that you are not alone. 

In a few days’ time, I’ll go into a little bit more detail about what prepositions and time expressions actually are, which I hope will help a little bit towards understanding them better.

Kram!

Anneli

It’s Valborg today!

Happy Valborg!

Valborg is the name of the 30th of April in Sweden. In Sweden, this is celebrated by lighting bonfires (majbrasor) all around the country in the evening, and people gather to watch the bonfires. Some places have fireworks (fyrverkerier). Once the bonfire is lit, it is traditional for a men’s choir (manskör) to sing traditional songs about the spring, and for someone to hold a speech.

Valborg Valborg, Stockholm (Hammarby skidbacke) 2012

Valborg got its name from an Anglo-Saxon missionary, who lived during the 700th century BC. According to legend, she was an English princess who were called to Germany to help evangelise the pagan Germans. She was made a saint year 870, and during medieval times, a cult developed in her memory. This cult believed in protecting themselves from witchcraft, and in order to protect themselves from witches, people started to light bonfires in Germany.

In Sweden, people thought that the night between 30th of April and 1st of May was a magical night, when witches and other magical beings appeared to meet the Devil. Therefore, they lit bonfires and made noises to try and scare the beings away.

It also happens to be the birthday of the Swedish King – Carl XVI Gustaf! Grattis kungen!

Carl XVI Gustaf

Grattis på födelsedagen!

Valborg is one of the main days of festivities at universities and colleges, as this is the time when the students put on their traditional student caps (which marks the end of the final exam periods and the beginning of celebrations). In university cities, especially Uppsala and Lund, the whole day is packed with activities and celebrations and begin already in the morning with champagne breakfast in nearby parks.

studentmössa på Valborg Pic from http://www.lexiophiles.com/svenska/studentmossor-och-skumpa

A special tradition in Saxdalen

In my little tiny village (Saxdalen, Dalarna) where I grew up, we have a very special and unique tradition. We create a gigantic snowman, transport him around the village on a tractor in a tractor parade, and then put him on top of the bonfire and burn him! 😄 Partly inspired by a Swiss tradition, apparently. The tradition has been going since the 1960’s. In this beautiful video, you can see what it’s all about. 

Vintern rasat

The most traditional song is “Vintern rasat” (it’s actually called “Längtan till landet” but it most known by its first two words: Vintern rasat). Herman Sätherberg (1812-1897) wrote the lyrics and the music was written by Otto Lindblad (1809-1864).

Swedish and English lyrics (translation from semiswede) – and here you can listen to a performance of the song.

Vintern rasat ut bland våra fjällar,
Winter stormed out among our mountains,
drivans blommor smälta ned och dö.
snow drifts melt down and die.
Himlen ler i vårens ljusa kvällar,
The sky smiles in spring’s bright evenings
solen kysser liv i skog och sjö.
The sun kisses life into the forest and lake.

Snart är sommarn här i purpurvågor,
Soon summer is here in purple waves,
guldbelagda, azurskiftande
gold-coated, azure-shifting
ligga ängarne i dagens lågor,
lie meadows in daylit flames (strong sunlight on a spring day),
och i lunden dansa källorne.
and in the grove dance källorne (the light streams and dances). 

Ja, jag kommer! Hälsen, glada vindar,
Yes, I’m coming! Greetings, cheerful winds,
ut till landet, ut till fåglarne,
out to the country, out to the birds,
att jag älskar dem, till björk och lindar,
that I love, to birch and linden trees,
sjö och berg, jag vill dem återse,
lake and mountain, I want them see again,

se dem än som i min barndoms stunder
see them like in my childhood memories
följa bäckens dans till klarnad sjö,
follow the dancing creek to the clear lake,
trastens sång i furuskogens lunder,
the thrush’s song in the pine forest groves,
vattenfågelns lek kring fjärd och ö.
waterfowl play around the bay and island.

Glad Valborg! / Anneli

How to set realistic language goals (and achieve them)

One thing that many learners find difficult is to set up realistic language goals. When we ask what our students’ language goals are, many learners say things like “get better at Swedish”, “become fluent in Swedish”, or “being able to speak Swedish”. 

While these goals are understandable, they are problematic. Why? Because they are not specific enough, difficult to measure, and have no time period. 

You may have heard about the SMART way of setting goals. SMART is an acronym that include 5 useful components of goal setting. 

Specific – The goal should identify a specific action or event that will take place.

Achievable – The goal should be attainable given available resources.

Measurable – The goal and its benefits should be quantifiable.

Realistic – The goal should require you to stretch some, but allow the likelihood of success.

Timely – The goal should state the time period in which it will be accomplished.

Here are some tips that can help you set effective language goals:

  1. Develop several goals. A list of five to seven items gives you several things to work on over a period of time.
  2. State goals as declarations of intention, not items on a wish list. “I want to learn Swedish” lacks power. “I will learn Swedish,” is intentional and powerful.
  3. Attach a date to each goal. State what you intend to accomplish and by when. A good list should include some short-term and some long-term goals. You may want a few goals for the year, and some for two- or three-month intervals.
  4. Be specific. “To speak Swedish” is too general; “to be able to order something in a café in Swedish before the end of the month” is better. Sometimes a more general goal can become the long-term aim, and you can identify some more specific goals to take you there.
  5. Share your goals with someone who cares if you reach them. Sharing your intentions with your family/partner, your friend, or your teacher will help ensure success.
  6. Write down your goals and put them where you will see them. The more often you read your list, the more you will remind yourself of your goals.
  7. Review and revise your list. Experiment with different ways of stating your goals. Goal setting improves with practice, so play around with it.

In this blog post, you can read more about the best way to start learning Swedish. This article will explain what resources you will need, and this will help you when you set your Swedish language goals.

Rules for writing goal statements

  1. Use clear, specific language.
  2. Start your goal statement with TO + a VERB
  3. Write your goal statement using SMART Goal Criteria
  4. Avoid using negative language. Think positive!

An example of a goal statement: 

“To run the mini marathon in May and complete the 10 mile race in under 1 hour to beat my personal best time.”

Notice how the above example begins with the word “To”, includes the verb “run”, and tells what (the marathon), why (to beat personal best time) and when (May). 

Answer the following questions to identify the specific SMART criteria you will use to write your goal statement:

What is your basic goal? _____________________________________________

Is it Specific? (Who? What? Where? When? Why?)

Is it Measurable? How will I measure progress? (How many? How much?)

Is it Attainable? (Can this really happen? Attainable with enough effort? What steps are involved?)

Is it Realistic? (What knowledge, skills, and abilities are necessary to reach this goal?)

Is it Timebound? (Can I set fixed deadlines? What are the deadlines?)

Download our Free Goal Setter that will help you to define and structure your Swedish language learning goals. 

Stories about language learning on Youtube

During March, we’ll be running a short video series on Youtube about language learning. The series contains of short personal stories about some of the aspects of learning a language.

Stories about language learning

The idea came about last year, when we were preparing for our presentation at the Language Show. We had the idea that we would interview some of our students about some of the challenges in learning a new language as an adult. Anneli interviewed some students via Skype, and we used a couple of snippets for the presentation. But there was so much more interesting insights in the interviews, that we weren’t able to show in our presentation.

So the idea came up to create a video series, that we have called “Stories about language learning“. They are personal accounts of aspects of the language learning journey – the ups and the downs.

The first video will be out on Youtube this Friday on our channel swedishmadeeasy, and we will post a new video every Friday throughout March. Do share them with anyone you think might be interested.

Hope you enjoy them!

Vasaloppet

Vasaloppet – the oldest cross country ski race in the world

This Sunday is the day of the annual cross country ski race held in Dalarna, Vasaloppet. The main race is 90 kilometers (56 miles), starts in Sälen and finishing in Mora. It is apparently the oldest cross country ski race in the world. The race is also incredibly popular. This year’s race was fully booked 90 minutes after they opened up for registrations on 17th of March 2018!

The race is inspired by King Gustav Vasa, who allegedly fled on skis in 1521. This was in the days when Christian II of Denmark was union leader for the Kalmar union (Sweden, Norway, Denmark). Christian was allegedly a nasty piece of work (at least according to the Swedes), and organised a reconciliation party with the Swedish aristocracy. How nice of him. However, the not-so-nice Christian instead killed between 80-90 people – including Gustav Vasa’s father, and this event became known as Stockholms blodbad (Stockholm Bloodbath).

Gustav Vasa

Gustav escaped through Dalarna and tried to drum up support for a rebellion against the Danish king in the town of Mora, Dalarna. Initially, the men in Mora turned him down, and Gustav continued skiing towards the Norway border to seek refuge. But the men in Mora changed their minds, and caught up with Gustav in the village of Sälen. Eventually, in 1523, Gustav Vasa was crowned the king of Sweden, after having successfully fought in the Swedish war of Liberation and dissolved the Kalmar Union with the Danes. And in remembrance of the election of him as a king, Sweden celebrates their national day on June the 6th.

The classical Vasa race is preceded by a ‘Vasa week’, which includes a number of different ski races (Women’s Vasa, Half Vasa, Youth Vasa, Vasa Relay etc).

The average winning time is 5:11:38 (a per-kilometer average of 3:28).

Women were banned from 1924 to 1980. The ban was introduced since it was considered bad for women’s health to participate in such a competition. This ban was criticized especially after 1960. Some defended the ban saying that allowing women would reduce the reputation as a tough challenge (!). Several women have participated in the race during the ban, disguised as men.

Vasaloppet 2012 was incredibly fast, and saw the breaking of records from 1998, for both men and women. The record winning time is 3:38:41, set by Jörgen Brink, Sweden. The fastest woman was Vibeke Skofterud from Norway (4:08:24). Only ten winners have finished in less than four hours. For more statistics, read this.

Swedish vowels – Å, Ä, Ö

How to say Å Ä Ö

Hej! Would you like to learn or improve how you say those last 3 confusing letters in the Swedish alphabet – Å, Ä and Ö? Would you like to hear how they are being pronounced, and get tips and tricks on how to say them? When you sign up for our FREE mini pronunciation video course, you get access to 3 free videos that specifically teaches you how to pronounce the Swedish vowels Å, Ä and Ö. Enroll in our video course, and you get to learn exactly how to pronounce them.

And don’t forget to share this with anyone else who might benefit from this practice! Let’s spread the love (or the lööööv as we say in Swedish)!

FREE VIDEO COURSE

A few words about Å Ä Ö

Å
Here is the first one of the three extra vowels in Swedish (they come in the end of the alphabet by the way, in this order: å, ä, ö). The challenge is to really distinguish them as separate vowels, and not just muddled versions of A and O. The Å can be thought of as the ‘au’ sound in (British accent) ‘Paul’. Indeed, some Swedish Pauls actually spell their names Pål. The sound is long, as in a long ‘Pååål’, or ‘poor’.

Ä
This letter can be thought of as the English ‘ai’ in ‘pair’, or ‘hair’. The only thing to remember is that the mouth is actually quite wide, a bit more of a smile than when saying ‘pair’.

Ö
Finally, the Ö is similar to the English sound ‘i’ in the word ‘bird’. Or ‘u’ in the word ‘fur’. Or ‘ea’ in the word ‘heard’. The lips are fairly rounded, but also slightly trumpet-shaped.

And finally, the graduation test is to fully master the following Swedish tongue twister: Flyg fula fluga flyg, och den fula flugan flög (Fly, ugly fly, fly, and the ugly fly flew.).

Twinstitute Swedish teacher

What?

Twinstitute – TV series on BBC Two – episode 6 testing the best way to learn a language (teacher vs self study), with Swedish Made Easy’s Anneli starring as the Swedish teacher. 

When?

BBC Two, Wednesday 6th of February 2019, 8.30pm (GMT)

Swedish teacher Twinstitute

The summer 2018, I was asked to take part in the BBC TV-series Twinstitute as a Swedish teacher. The episode (airing 6th of February 2019 on BBC Two) tested the best way to learn a language by comparing having lessons with a teacher and self-studying.

Twinstitute Swedish teacher

Twinstitute is a TV-series where doctors and twins Chris and Xand van Tulleken test theories about health with the help of 30 other pairs of identical twins. Twins have matching DNA which make them ideal test subjects for scientific comparison. Chris and Xand’s test subjects are divided into two groups and each group carries out a task to test competing health theories, with the aim of identifying what works and what doesn’t. The subjects that the twins will test include methods to lose weight, how to boost memory, how to learn a language and ways to beat sleep deprivation.

My two students, Tina and Des, studied Swedish with me every evening via Skype for about 4 weeks. Tina and Des had never studied Swedish before, and did not know a single word before they started. It was a lot of fun!

Twinstitute Swedish lesson
Twinstitute Swedish lesson
Twinstitute Swedish lesson

We focused on level A1 (from the The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). This included how to introduce yourself, ask basic questions and answer them, talk a bit about themselves, be able to understand numbers and how to buy things, and generally interact in a simple way provided other people speak clearly and are prepared to help. 

After the study period, it was time for a written test and then a journey to Gothenburg where the twins would have their Swedish skills tested in real life scenarios.

Twinstitute language
Twinstitute language
Twinstitute Swedish language
Twinstitute Swedish language

The goal was to see which team of twins did the best – the teacher-led or the self study team. 

Want to find out which team won? 

Watch the episode on BBC Two, Wednesday 6th of Feb 2019, at 8.30pm (GMT)

Twinstitute Swedish language

Tycka, tänka, tro and how to use them

TRICKY CONCEPTS

Today in our Tricky Concepts series, we’ll be discussing something many Swedish learners find difficult. If you find the 3 Swedish verbs tycker, tänker and tror difficult to separate, you are NOT alone. At the end of this post, there is also a free cheat sheet that you can download and use as a reminder. 

To think in Swedish

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, we will look at when and how to use these words.

Sweden winter

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 (or have never experienced). 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 an experience of the film) 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.

Hopefully 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. And make sure to download our FREE Tycker-Tror-Tänker Cheat Sheet (button below) and keep somewhere handy, to remind yourself of the difference between these three verbs. 

Is Swedish hard to learn?

Is Swedish hard to learn?

Well, it depends, of course. It depends on what your native language is, and whether it is close to Swedish. So for example, if your native language is German, then Swedish will be quite easy to learn. It also depends on the complexity of the language. For an English speaker, Swedish is not that complex, compared to many other languages. Compared to English, the pronunciation may be a bit of a challenge.

Swedish pronunciation and grammar

Swedish has a lot of vowels, in fact 9: a, e, i, o, u, y, å, ä, and ö. If you want to practice the vowel sounds, check out our Sound Like a Swede series on Youtube.

Swedish also has some particular sounds that do not sound quite like they are spelled (for ex: sj-, stj-, skj-). If you are not used to grammatical genders, the idea of using ‘en’ and ‘ett’ in front of the nouns seem weird to start with. And when you learn more about the grammar, you will find out that the concept of en and ett can also be seen on other words in the language – they kind of ‘rub off’ on other words (adjectives and possessive pronouns, typically).

It of course also depends on how much time you devote per week to studying Swedish (the more often you study, the quicker you will learn), what resources you have available and your motivation for studying.

Swedish IS (relatively) easy

According to The Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, Swedish is in fact on of the easier languages to learn. Good news! If you are a native English speaker, it should take you approximately 575-600 class hours to learn Swedish to a proficient level. This is relatively easy, compared to some of the hardest languages – for example Japanese, Arabic and Chinese will take approximately 2,200 class hours to learn!

Also, have a look at the blog post we have written previously about how many hours it takes to learn Swedish.

Hard-Languages-To-Learn