That was my question when I was about to move to Sweden to study. More than 90% of Swedes are indeed able to speak English. As an international student, you can surely live well in Sweden without any ability to speak Swedish.
However, I decided to make an effort to learn Swedish since I would live in the country not only for one or two months but at least for two years (apparently, now I have lived here for more than two years!). And I am grateful for my decision to learn Swedish. Here I will share some benefits of learning Swedish, based on my experiences.
1. It gives you a better opportunity to find a job in Sweden
Although not all jobs in Sweden require Swedish ability (for example, jobs within IT usually do not require Swedish), you may have heard that learning Swedish would give you a better opportunity to find a job in Sweden. That is true! In my experience, after six months learning Swedish, I got a full-time summer Swedish-speaking job 🙂
2. It makes you easier to fit in culturally and socially
Speaking Swedish will help you a lot if you want to jump into a society. For me, since I have two children going to Swedish school, being able to speak Swedish has helped me a lot to socialize with their teachers and with other parents. In the beginning, when I spoke English, the teachers just told me, “everything went well with your children today.” But after I was able to talk in Swedish, I could get much more details on my children’s activities in the school, and I could even arrange fika time with my kids’ friends!
3. It helps you in your work
Now I am working in a research group at KI. In my case, actually, I do not have to speak Swedish in my work. However, when I am working with Swedish data, most data are in Swedish. Understanding Swedish has made my work with the data faster and easier. Besides,since the members of my research group are used to speak Swedish in a meeting, I am glad that they do not need to switch to English because of me :p
4. It makes your grocery shopping time faster
Everything in supermarkets are written in Swedish. For some items, you may be able to recognize them by looking at their shapes or forms (e.g., vegetables); but for some detail items (e.g., chicken sausage vs. pork sausage, minced beef vs. minced lamb), you need to read and understand the label. If you did not understand Swedish, you might find that it’s quite time-consuming to do grocery :p
5. It gives you a new perspective
When you want to know something from a Swedish perspective, you may find different information if you google it using English keywords vs. Swedish keywords. During my study in nutrition science, I was so curious about how Sweden has very rich data about children’s eating behaviors. When I googled about it using Swedish keywords, to my surprise, I got a lot more information!
Last but not least, I believe that learning a new language would never be harmful. So I do really recommend you to learn Swedish during your time in Sweden 🙂