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

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. 

Time prepositions: i, på and om

Are you unsure of when to use the time prepositions i, , and om when describing when, for how long or how often something happens? You are not alone. In this week’s blog post, we’ll dive into the murky waters of time prepositions, and look at the categories of Point in Time, Time Duration and Frequency, as they will dictate when you use i, på and om.

När? When? (point in time)

When you want to say something about when something will happen or happened, you want to refer to a Point in Time. And you have two options. Either you want to talk about something will happen in the future, or you want to talk about something that happened in the past.

FUTURE – om

Unless you want to give the exact date or time (which is of course fine too!), you can use the preposition om, and then add the time between now and the event that you are talking about. For example:

om ett årin a year’s time

om en veckain a week’s time

om 5 minuterin 5 minutes’ time

PAST – för … sedan

If the event happened in the past, you can use för + time + sedan. This basically means ago. Notice that we do not have one word for ago, we have two! One that comes before the time and one that comes after. For example:

för ett år sedana year ago

för en vecka sedana week ago

för 5 minuter sedan5 minutes ago

 

Hur länge? (For) how long? (duration of time)

If you want to talk about how long something has been happening, you will be referring to Duration of Time. Here you also have two options, but they are more to do with positive and negative. If something has been going on, or will be going on (in this sense, positive) for a duration of time, use i. For example:

Jag har studerat svenska i 2 årI have studied Swedish for 2 years

Jag ska vara i Grekland i 2 veckorI will be in Greece for 2 weeks

If something has NOT been happening for a period of time, or will NOT happen for a period of time, use . For example:

Jag har inte gått på gymmet på 2 veckorI have not been to the gym for 2 weeks

Jag ska inte ha semester på 2 månaderI won’t have a holiday for 2 months

 

Hur ofta? How often? (frequency)

If you want to express how often something happens, or has happened, you are in the area of Frequency. Here, you need to use either i or om. This will be determined by the word that you use. Here are the rules:

If it is dagen, dygnet, or året, use om: 

en gång om dagenonce a day

en gång om dygnetonce every 24 hours

en gång om åretonce every year

If you want to up the frequency, just change en gång to två gånger (twice), tre gånger (three times), fyra gånger (four times), and so on.

If it is sekunden, minuten, timmen, veckan, månaden or kvartalet, use i:

en gång i sekundenonce every second

en gång i minutenonce every minute

en gång i timmenonce an hour

en gång i månadenonce a month

en gång i kvartaletonce every 3 months

Same thing here, if you want to up the frequency, just change en gång to två gånger (twice), tre gånger (three times), fyra gånger (four times), and so on.

Also notice that the time unit takes definite form: dagen, månaden, året, and so on.

 

Practice

Now that you know the difference between Point in Time, Duration and Frequency, could you fill in the right preposition into these six sentences? (the question is given in brackets before the sentence)

1 (När?) Johan ska åka till Grekland _______ två veckor.

2 (När?) Lisa var i New York _______ tre månader ________.

3 (Hur länge?) Sarah har studerat svenska _______ 3 år.

4 (Hur länge?) Jag har inte träffat min kusin ______ 5 år.

5 (Hur ofta?) Scott brukar åka på semester två gånger ______ året.

6 (Hur ofta?) Paul tränar på gymmet fyra gånger ______ veckan.

 

Lycka till!

Anneli

How long to learn Swedish

Many students ask how long it takes to learn Swedish. We have previously written a longer blog post about it, but we have now also worked out a little rough guideline to how many hours it usually takes to reach each language level. This is a very rough estimate, and can vary considerably between individuals, but it may at least give an idea of what to expect.

Let’s start by being honest and say that you will not be able to become fluent in Swedish in 1 or 2 weeks. Anyone claiming that it is possible, is simply lying. Language learning is a long process – a bit more like a marathon than a quick sprint. Be wary of claims that you can learn a language fluently in x days/months, there are no miracle methods. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

How long it takes to learn Swedish will depend on a number of factors. Some of them are individual learning pace in general, previous knowledge of grammar (those with much knowledge tend to progress faster), how much homework the learner is able to do between lessons (faster if more homework), and also if the learner has any particular areas that they find challenging.

The calculation below is based our students and how long people in general spend to reach each level. It takes into account whether the student is a slow, medium or fast learner, and also on how much time the learner spend doing homework and other things outside of the lessons. The more hours you spend learning outside of the tuition hours, the faster you will progress (and it will be cheaper for you too!).

The calculation is also roughly correlated to the guided learning hours according to Deutsche Welle for German, Cambridge English Language Assessment for English, and Alliance Française for French.

Swedish tuition hours for each level

The ‘slow’ number is in our opinion longer than most people need. It is quite common to be somewhere between fast and medium. Our fastest student reached level A1 after only 17 hours tuition on Skype! But some students have needed at least double the time. 

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.

Letters we don’t pronounce

Letters we don’t pronounce

Hej! Daniel here!

In this week’s blogpost, we’re talking pronunciation. We have a saying in Sweden that goes Har man sagt A får man säga B (If you’ve said A, you should say B). However, this doesn’t translate into how Swedes actually speak; the saying continues with …så får vi C vad D E (…and we’ll see what it is). The letters C, D, and E represent “see”, ” it” and “is”. Depending on the region, we like to drop letters differently to how they are spelt. Today we’ll go on a journey through Sweden and delve into our peculiar speech.

A classic Swedish children’s book is Astrid Lindgren’s Emil i Lönneberga. This story takes place in Småland, a region in the southern part of Sweden. The following is a dialogue between the young Emil and his best friend, a farmhand called Alfred:

Dä ä du å ja Alfred. (It’s you and I, Alfred).

Tro ja dä, du å ja Emil. (You’re right about that, you and I, Emil).

In written form, this exchange would look different:

Det är du och jag, Alfred.

Tror jag det, du och jag Emil.

Note that the pronunciation here is typical of the Småland municipality. In most other parts of Sweden, we would say de (=det) and e (=är) instead.

Here you can watch that particular scene from the old Astrid Lindgren movie.

A popular way of saying good morning in Gothenburg is Gomorron, which also was the name of a television breakfast program for many years (Gomorron Sverige).

Here the ‘d’ is dropped and stuck together with the word morron. Correct spelling is god morgon.

Another classic is a series of comedy films from the 80s and 90s called Jönssonliganthat take place in and around Stockholm. One of the characters there, Dynamit-Harry, (played by the same actor who plays Alfred in Emil i Lönneberga) enjoys dynamite and beer a little too much. After each successful operation, he has this to say:

Vicken jävla smäll! (What a darn blast!)

The correct spelling is vilken, but it’s easier to pronounce the world without the ‘l’, especially when you’re excited.

The municipality of Närke, Östergötland, Västmanland and Värmland in the middle of Sweden are jokingly called Gnällbätet (The Moan Belt, because of how people sound). They often drop the ‘r’ at the end of a word, such as körkort (driver’s licence) which instead becomes kökot.

Common for most Swedish regions is the drop of ‘g’:

Något (something) becomes nåt.

Någon (someone) becomes nån.

Några (some) becomes nåra.

It happens often that a Swede would contract several words in speech (similar to good morning), especially when the expression is common and the sentence only consists of a few words. This means that a Swede who hasn’t seen anything (Jag har inte sett något) would say Ja:nte sett nåt.

To explore more pronunciation patterns, book your lesson here.

Ha det gött! 

Daniel

10 days until Teach Yourself Complete Swedish

New version of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish (Hodder & Stoughton) publishes 8 March 2018

  • Dr Anneli Beronius Haake from Swedish Made Easy is the author of the new book
  • The book includes 20 units with online audio support, plus verb reference and word glossary, with relevant and up-to-date topics, including politics, education, gender equality and popular entertainment in Sweden.

A perhaps unexpected trend in recent years is the rising popularity of Swedish in the world. It is unexpected because Swedish is not traditionally one of the more popular languages in the world, as it is typically ranked around the 90th most spoken languages in the world. But according to British Council, Swedish is in the top 10 languages in demand for export markets, along with much larger languages like French, Spanish, Dutch and German.

So why is Swedish becoming more popular? There are several theories for this rise. One is the rise of Scandinavian culture in general on an international scale, with books, TV-series and movies, many of them falling into the category known as Nordic Noir. Also, one in six Swedish residents in 2015 were born outside of Sweden (Statistics Sweden SCB), meaning that many Swedish residents are in full swing of learning the language.

On the 8th of March, the International Women’s Day, Dr Anneli Beronius Haake, director of the e-learning school Swedish Made Easy, publishes a new version of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish (Hodder & Stoughton). “What is particularly useful about this book”, she explains, “is that the platform language is English. Many Swedish course books made in Sweden are all in Swedish, which means that learners need a teacher to help explain the grammar at beginner’s level. This book, on the other hand, has all the grammar points explained in English.”

The book uses authentic conversations, vocabulary building, grammar explanations, online audio support, and extensive practice and review to equip learners with the skills they need to use Swedish in a variety of settings and situations, developing their cultural awareness along the way. The book follows several characters through a storyline enabling learners to engage with Swedish culture and contextualise their learning. The book suits the self-study learner, lessons with a one-to-one tutor, or the beginner classroom. It can be used as a refresher course as well as to support study for the ‘Swedex’ Swedish proficiency test.

 

 

Notes to Editors

 

  • Sources

 

Haake, A. B. (2018). Teach Yourself Complete Swedish (Hodder & Stoughton) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Swedish-Beginner-Intermediate-Course/dp/1444195107/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1517488103&sr=8-3&keywords=teach+yourself+swedish ISBN-10: 1444195107   ISBN-13: 978-1444195101

Mikael Parkvall, “Världens 100 största språk 2007” (The World’s 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin.

https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/languages_for_the_future_2017.pdf

http://www.scb.se/sv_/Hitta-statistik/Artiklar/Finland-och-Irak-de-tva-vanligaste-fodelselanderna-bland-utrikes-fodda/

 

  • About Swedish Made Easy and Dr Anneli Beronius Haake

Swedish Made Easy was founded by Anneli Beronius Haake in 2005. It is an e-learning and Skype-based language school, which specialises in the teaching and assessment of Swedish language skills, including SWEDEX levels A2-B2. Swedish Made Easy believes in using modern technology to share the Swedish language and culture across the globe.

Dr Anneli Haake is a native Swedish language and culture specialist and translator. Anneli was awarded a BA (Hons) at University of Stockholm in 2003 before transferring to the UK to complete her PhD and a PCHE (Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education) at University of Sheffield, UK. Anneli has been featured in numerous media outlets, including the BBC and The Guardian. Anneli has experience of teaching students from a broad range of nationalities and has worked with organisations such as Örebro University, Lund University, Jönköping University, as well as large multi-nationals including Abercrombie & Fitch, E-ON and Spotify and various language agencies.

30 days until launch of Complete Swedish

In 30 days time, the brand new version of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish that I have been writing the past few years will finally be published (yay!).

Do you want to develop a solid understanding of Swedish and communicate confidently with others?
Through authentic conversations, vocabulary building, grammar explanations and extensive practice and review, Complete Swedish will equip you with the skills you need to use Swedish in a variety of settings and situations, developing your cultural awareness along the way. The book follows several characters through a storyline enabling learners to engage with Swedish culture and contextualise their learning.

What will I achieve by the end of the course?
By the end of Complete Swedish you will have a solid intermediate-level grounding in the four key skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening – and be able to communicate with confidence and accuracy. You will be able to engage with relevant and up-to-date topics, including politics, education, gender equality and popular entertainment in Sweden.

Is this course for me?
If you want to move confidently from beginner to intermediate level, this is the course for you. It’s perfect for the self-study learner, with a one-to-one tutor, or for the beginner classroom. It can be used as a refresher course as well as to support study for the ‘Swedex‘ Swedish proficiency test.

What do I get?
-20 learning units plus verb reference and word glossary 
-Discovery Method – figure out rules and patterns to make the language stick
-Teaches the key skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking
-Learn to learn – tips and skills on how to be a better language learner
-Culture notes – learn about the people and places of Sweden
-Outcomes-based learning – focus your studies with clear aims
-Authentic listening activities – everyday conversations give you a flavour of real spoken Swedish
-Test Yourself – see and track your own progress

*Complete Swedish maps from A1 Beginner to B2 Upper Intermediate level of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) guidelines and from Novice-Low to Advanced-Mid level of the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) proficiency guidelines.

The audio for this course can be downloaded from the Teach Yourself Library app or streamed at library.teachyourself.com.