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Interview with a Swedish learner – Nick

Nick is 25 and originally from Kent, but he has lived in several places around England including the East Midlands for the last 4 years. He trained as a musician but since August 2011 he has been re-training to become an artist in the games industry on a 2 and a half year course in Malmö. After that he hopes to be able to begin working professionally in Sweden because he likes the country so much.

What led you to want to learn Swedish?

I was looking into how I could get an education in game art and by a lucky internet search found out about a place in Sweden that seemed like exactly what I wanted, since it is a professional education (yrkesutbildning) set up by a group of games companies in Malmö and has an internship built into the course. I decided to apply there at the same time as applying to a few places in the UK with a ‘try it and see what happens’ attitude. I travelled to Sweden a few times for open days and interviews, after which I was offered a place. Needless to say I was over the moon about that!

When and how did you start learning Swedish?

I have always been interested in foreign languages and linguistics, but I had never thought about learning Swedish before the prospect of actually moving to Sweden came onto the horizon. I began teaching myself about 10 months before my move using books and the internet, and got in touch with Anneli for conversation lessons when I became really serious about applying to the school.

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

I’ve been immersed in Swedish more or less all the time since day one. The school is 100% Swedish-speaking and although everyone can speak English (like most Swedes) there would be no way to get the most out of this education if I wasn’t able to speak and understand Swedish. Occasionally I even have to do exam papers in Swedish. It can be exhausting at times but I enjoy it, and it has certainly made my grasp of the language improve dramatically.

What have been the challenges for you in learning Swedish?

My main issue has been grasping the fast, colloquial style of speech that Swedish people of about my age (I’d say between 20 and 35) use. If I’m honest I still don’t catch everything. The work can get quite technical (we do a lot with computers) and that can definitely put strain on my vocabulary sometimes. Plus there is the constant struggle with pronunciation, especially getting the right vowel qualities which are so important to Swedish.

What is your proudest moment as a Swedish speaker?

When Swedish people think I’m from Scandinavia… it has happened! I also like the fact that my fellow students can speak to me in Swedish without having to make concessions. If they spoke English to me it would feel like a barrier to proper communication on their part.

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 can really recommend Swedish: A Comprehensive Grammar from the Routledge grammar series. It was invaluable when I first started and helped me to figure out what kind of language Swedish is. Now I find it useful to look up individual rules, phrases and things that I heard during the day’s swedishing! A good beginner’s dictionary is the Routledge Reference two-way Swedish-English dictionary. It has a lot of useful information including pronunciation for every headword and a concise summary of Swedish inflection patterns at the front.

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

I used Sveriges Radio quite a lot to work on my listening comprehension and when I was starting to learn Swedish stress and  intonation patterns. Station P1 is great; even if you don’t understand everything at first it’s all spoken very carefully and clearly, and it’s streamed online free with good audio. I also used Youtube which has a variety of entertaining stuff in Swedish, although I found it more challenging because of the generally poor sound quality.

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

If you don’t already, try and visit Sweden as soon and as often as you can! Otherwise practise your pronunciation lots and listen to as much Swedish as possible.

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Dr Anneli Beronius Haake

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