Jeff is from England, but he has spent several years living and working in Sweden in an engineering company. He is now re-training as a doctor. He misses Swedish coffee, cinnamon buns, semlor and management by överenskommelse and the assumption that if a job’s worth doing then it really is worth doing well.
What led you to want to learn Swedish?
I found work in a Swedish company, and although my colleagues all spoke near perfect English, it was clearly going to be useful socially to speak Swedish. ‘Fika’ (Swedish coffee break – a national religion!) is more interesting if you can understand the conversation.
When and how did you start learning Swedish?
In 2000, I put together flashcards of the most common 2000 words that I didn’t already know, learned them, and then began reading.
How much do you currently use the Swedish language, and why?
Since moving back to the UK, I get to practise Swedish now and again when I bump into Swedes or Norwegians in random places. I’ve got to know a few Swedes who live here, too.
What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?
The sounds. While vowels are rigidly the same for all Swedes (and sometimes difficult to pronounce), the consonants can be pronounced completely differently. Once I’d learned how to recognise the different ways of pronouncing ‘sju’ (seven) it all got a lot easier.
What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?
That would have to be the first time a Swede refused to believe I wasn’t from Scandinavia.
Can you recommend any Swedish books that are good for learning Swedish? (Could be course books, grammar books, novels, or children’s books – anything!)
Harry Potter. Children’s books, especially if you already know the story, are great since they have a simple and useful vocabulary.
Can you recommend any online/media resources for learning Swedish?
I tend to read the Swedish newspaper ‘Dagens Nyheter’ www.dn.se
Do you have any other advice for future, budding Swedish learners?
Swedish is actually a very easy language to learn. The grammar is reasonably straightforward – 70% of nouns belong to one particular gender, for instance. Work at the sounds – they’ll fall into place eventually. If you are living or working with Swedes, then ask them to talk to you mostly in Swedish while you talk in English. This way you can take your practise up a level without making them bored while you fish around for the right words. I found this was the key to developing strong conversational skills.