Swedish vowels – Y

Y
Of all Swedish vowels, the vowel Y tends to be hard to get right, but I have found a way to describe it that seems to be helpful. Firstly, say the Swedish I (or the English ‘ee’) and analyse what your tongue is doing. Secondly, keep that tongue position absolutely still, but move your lips from a wide smile to a trumpet-like shape (i.e. push your lips forward, quite aggressively). So when going from I to Y, your tongue position should be exactly the same, and the only thing changing is your lips – going from a wide smile, to a trumpet-shape. A bit like doing duck lips. 🙂 In this video you can see me doing my very best duck lips.

Swedish vowels – U

U
This is perhaps the hardest one to explain, out of all Swedish vowels. When you say the vowel U, your lips should be relaxed, your tongue touching the bottom-row of your front teeth, and your jaw should be slightly pushed forward. It sounds a little bit like the disgusted expression “Eew”, but more like the end-part than the first. Check out the video to find out how to also pronounce the short U-sound.

Swedish vowel O

How to pronounce the Swedish vowel O

How do you best pronounce the Swedish vowel O? This vowel is a little bit different than the English O.

O

The vowel O can be hard to pronounce, because it is a bit more extreme than the English ‘oh-sound’. The ‘oh-sound’ in English requires fairly relaxed lips, and also a relaxed tongue. The Swedish O requires a very tense mouth and hard lips pressed together, like when you are whistling a tune, or sucking a straw. The tongue is pulled right back in the throat, like you do if you eat something that is too hot and you try to protect your tongue. I think it sounds a little bit like an owl! This is however just the long sound. This vowel has 2 more ways to pronounce it, check out the video to find out what they sound like.

Swedish vowel I

How to pronounce the Swedish vowel I

This week, I’ll continue with some tips and tricks on how to pronounce the Swedish vowels, and next up is the Swedish vowel I.

I

This vowel unfortunately adds another layer to the confusion around the Swedish vowel E. This is because the Swedish pronunciation of the letter I is just like the English ‘ee’. In other words, a very wide and smiley ‘ee-sound’. The only consolation is that Swedish speakers have exactly the same problem when learning English, just the other way around! Check out the video to find out how to also pronounce the short I-sound

Swedish vowel E

How to pronounce the Swedish vowel E

Today, I’m presenting some tips on how to pronounce the Swedish vowel E.

E

This vowel can be tricky because for an English speaker, the natural instinct is to treat it like the English ‘ee’ (like in for example ‘bumble-bee’). But the Swedish E is lower, and finishes off with a slight A-sound in the very end (at least the accents found around Stockholm and Uppsala on the East coast). The best way to find the right sound, is to say the English word ‘ear’, but to remove the ‘r-sound’ in the end: ‘ea’. Check out the video below to also find out how to pronounce the short version of E.

Swedish vowel A

How to pronounce the Swedish vowel A

The Swedish language is relatively vowel-rich. The pronunciation of these vowels can prove a challenge when you are learning Swedish. Therefore, I will post some tips and tricks on how to say the Swedish vowels they way you say them in the alphabet, and I’m (unsurprisingly) starting with the Swedish vowel A.

A

The thing to remember with A is that it is very long. For English speakers, it usually helps to make the same sound as when saying the English letter ‘r’, but to remove the ‘r-sound’ in the end and only keep the long ‘ah’. Another way can be to visualize the sound you have to make if a doctor examines your mouth and throat. The doctor usually places a spatula on your tongue, and asks you to say ‘ah’. Finally, it is important to remember to drop your jaw properly, which makes the A deep and long. Check out the video to find out how to pronounce the short A-sound.

5 ways to stay motivated

One of the most difficult aspects of learning a language is keeping up your motivation. So many of my students go through patches of lacking in motivation, and when you do it is easy to fall out of routine altogether, coming up with reasons not to learn (too much on at work, not enough time, etc), and the learning process might even grind to a halt completely.

In this blog post, I wanted to talk a bit about motivation and give you some hands on tips on how to stay motivated.

 

Internal vs external motivation

Internal motivation is basically enjoyment. It is the satisfaction of making progress, enjoying the learning journey, feeling curious and open, enjoying learning new pieces of information, feeling satisfied when understanding something tricky.

External motivation is some kind of reward, which could be real or symbolic. It could be achieving good results in a test, it might be the prestige in being fluent, or the rewards in being able to communicate with extended family and friends perhaps. The issue with external motivation is that it can lead to a situation where learners are learning even though they don’t actually enjoy it. It is therefore better to focus mainly on making sure your internal motivation is nice and strong!

How can we work on our internal motivation?

1. Make positive associations

Connect Swedish with your other interests. If you like politics, read the news headlines on dn.se or svd.se. Now is a particularly interesting time in Swedish politics, following the general election. Are you interested in history? Look into the history of Sweden. Like baking? Learn how to bake cinnamon buns, and translate a recipe from Swe to Eng. If you like music, research music with Swedish lyrics and try and translate them, and of course – sing along! I have a playlist on Spotify that you can have a look at: http://open.spotify.com/user/browwn/playlist/1ielXWVCjGa7cvYad7xWPc

Also try and associate learning Swedish with your favourite activities and places. Put a Swedish podcast on when you’re running, for example. Watch movies and tv series in Swedish. Look at youtube for Swedish clips. Go to sr.se (Swedish radio) and listen live or download a podcast. The channel P1 is news, current affairs, debates and culture. P2 is classical and jazz music. P3 is pop music and programmes for a younger audience. P4 is local radio stations. It’s worth checking out the programme Klartext, which is a daily news bulletin in easier Swedish (shorter sentences, reduced vocab). There is also a brilliant app for smartphones, called SR Play.

2. Don’t give up

You need a holistic and realistic view of the learning process. Many language learners start out with high hopes for achieving fluency fast, but their enthusiasm quickly dips when they find themselves making the same mistakes again and again, and maybe speak in an (often self-perceived) embarrassing accent.

This is definitely not the time to throw in the towel and admit defeat! These errors are 100% normal and actually a part of the progress. It is therefore EXTREMELY important to remember this:

Language-learning errors are not a negative reflection on your intelligence!

Instead, learn to love your errors. They are your friends, they bring you step by step closer to fluency and confidence. Smile, and learn from them.

3. Remember why you started

Was it to be able to speak more with colleagues at work? Or with your in-laws? Or to be able to at some point move to Sweden? Or to be able to speak like Saga Noren in The Bridge, just because it’s a cool thing to be able to do? Or because it’s cooler and more unusual than just learning Spanish or Mandarin?

Remind yourself now, maybe even write yourself a little e-mail to yourself with  http://m.futureme.org/ to remind yourself in 6 month’s time.

4. Explore ways to monitor progress

The thing with learning in general, is that it’s hard to sense progress. This is because of something I call “Moving Goal Posts”. Just as you have mastered one grammatical aspect and feel quite pleased about that, you turn a page and realise a whole damn new section that you didn’t even know before! The goal post is constantly moving. As Einstein himself said: “the more I learn the more I realise how little I know”. This is completely as it should be, it’s part of learning.

However, what is worth doing, is to capture your level at certain points, so you have something to compare with. If you are following some kind of course, this will probably be included anyway. Writing exercises that you can look back at in 3 months time. Why not make a short audio recording on your mobile phone or computer? No one needs to know, but you can go back in a year’s time and see how much you have progressed.

5. Consider not having a schedule

I know it may seem sloppy or disorganised somehow in our society to not have a schedule, we are extremely goal oriented as a society. The problem is that having a too strict schedule can make learning a language into a chore. Chores = boring = less internal motivation and less likelihood to succeed.

Learning a language is a bit like going to the gym. You won’t notice immediate effect, and you’ll have good days and bad days. You can’t just work out like mad for 6 months and then go couch potato for 2 years and expect the same level of fitness throughout. But if you work on it regularly, you will notice a difference over weeks and months. Expecting quick improvements is to expect too much from your brain, it’s simply unrealistic. Learning a language is more like a marathon than a sprint, and remember that a flood is made up of raindrops!

Some more useful tips:

  • svt.se (Swedish television, some programmes are available outside of Sweden)
  • TV4play and Kanal5play for smartphones
  • 8sidor.se (notice especially their “Lyssna” feature in the left-hand side menu)

Fancy booking lessons? https://swedishmadeeasy.com/book-a-lesson/

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.

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.