My experience learning Swedish
Moving to a new country can be a daunting experience, especially if you spent your whole life in your homeland. What’s even more daunting is moving to country that uses a different language as the primary mode of communication. I admittedly had second thoughts about Sweden (and in extension, KI) because of this very reason. However, now that I am here and learning Swedish, I can tell you about my experience and perhaps also share some tips! Read on and (hopefully) relieve some of your language-related stress 🙂
Why bother learning Swedish?
I know that people in Sweden, especially in big cities, are fluent in English and that you really don’t need to learn Swedish in order to get by. However, there were a couple of reasons that I started and will continue to study the language:
- I like learning languages. While I am in no way fluent in multiple foreign languages, I do enjoy learning them. It’s easy for me to catch patterns and understand certain rules in languages that may otherwise be perceived as tricky. This should be something you should take into account as well- not just about yourself, but about others as well. If you naturally have a knack for languages, you may think learning Swedish is no big deal. However, if you’re struggling and see someone else exceling, remind yourself that they might just be naturally gifted that way. Don’t use others’ progress as a yardstick for your own, and focus on improving your skills regardless.
- Swedes are great at English, but they’re probably better at, and more comfortable with their native language. In my mind, I was moving to a new country with a different language- might as well go all the way and learn the language used by locals. It would make mine and their lives much easier eventually.
- There are plenty of Swedish advertisements, slogan, and headlines displayed virtually everywhere. You can very well rely on our lord and saviour- Google translate, but trust me, it is extremely convenient to read (AND UNDERSTAND) these banners and information without having to whip out your phone every two minutes.
Swedish- my overall experience
Before coming to Sweden, I had absolutely no prior Swedish knowledge whatsoever. I had studied German in high-school, but since that was over 6 years ago and I did not bother brushing up on my knowledge, I was basically at ground-zero.
I applied for SFI (for which you will need a residence permit and a personal number) and waited for them to contact me regarding classes and my schedule. I opted for weekend classes, so I attend SFI lessons every Saturday from 09:30 till 14:30 CET. I know some of my peers who opted for evening lessons as well, in case you don’t want to put your weekend in jeopardy.
I started learning Swedish in October and so far, I am really enjoying and understanding it! For me, the lessons were well planned and easy to digest, with a lot of emphasis put on pronunciation and details that are otherwise easily overlooked. An important factor here is that I also opted to take classes in person, as opposed to online/distance-learning. COVID-19 taught me that I am a lousy online student, so I wanted the option of in-person lessons to ensure maximum efficiency. Thus, keep in mind how you learn best when choosing your mode of learning. I know a couple of my peers at SFI who started with online classes, but transferred to in-person classes because they felt they weren’t learning well enough. Conversely, I have friends who are thriving in online classes and can learn Swedish from the comfort of their homes. So, pick what you think is best for boosting your efficiency!
My teachers at SFI so far have been immensely helpful. They have each had a slightly different method of teaching, but they have made sure that each student is learning correct Swedish. They have powerpoints with lesson plans, numerous youtube videos, books with texts and exercises, and even Swedish songs and news as modes of getting information across and promoting vocabulary growth. With every few classes or so, there was a decrease in the amount of English spoken, and an increase in Swedish. My class has now reached a point where our teacher teaches and communicates only in Swedish. And everyone tends to understand what she is saying too.
Here come a few extra tips to help you when you learn Swedish (they can be broadly used for learning any language, honestly).
- Practice makes perfect: Yes, everyone says it all the time. But there’s a reason they do. You cannot expect to learn a new skill (let alone a whole language) if you only go to class and then forget about it. When starting out, I would truly recommend allotting a least one hour everyday to Swedish. Go over what you did in class, watch the recommended videos, make notes, learn the new words. Put in the work and I can assure you that it will pay off.
- Take it outside the classroom: Remember the banners and slogans I was talking about in the beginning? Use them to your advantage. Granted, you might need more than a couple of lessons to understand the words and grammar, but once you start getting comfortable with your sentence structuring and basic grammar rules, put all that knowledge to use. Here’s an example: if you live in Stockholm, I can guarantee that you will use the tunnelbana here. The escalators and metro carriages are full of advertisements with short slogans. Try translating those slogans into your native language. If you encounter a word you don’t understand, use Google Translate. I can make a whole list of words in my vocabulary now that are there because once upon a time I didn’t understand them on an ad in the metro.
- Befriend a Swede. Or someone who is much better at Swedish than you are. Talk to them in Swedish. Don’t worry about them judging you (they won’t), because chances are that you will end up gaining more confidence in your skills when they understand you and vice versa. My Achilles’ Heel in Swedish is understanding native speakers, but speaking with my Swedish friend(s) here and there helps me with my self-esteem and diminishes this insecurity of mine.
- Consume media in Swedish. You don’t have to start off by watching movies in Swedish (but if you think it will help you, by all means go for it!). My Swedish teacher actually shows us news in easy Swedish. Again, you obviously need basic Swedish understanding for this, but it is a great resource for learning new words, surprising yourself with how much of the news you actually understood, and keeping up with the news. Additionally, read children’s books in Swedish. Goes without saying that they will be written in easy to understand, bite-sized Swedish, and is great for brushing up your language skills. Try listening to Swedish songs- if you can find versions of those songs with lyrics in Swedish and English, you’ve hit a goldmine. Lastly (this suggestion may be a bit outlandish), if you have TikTok or Instagram, try and watch a few reels or tiktoks in Swedish. It is a good way to learn the lingo and understand locals. If you still want a challenge after doing all this, change your phone’s language settings to Swedish and have at it!
There you have it! All the help I can offer you with regards to learning Swedish. Former DA Inika has written a couple of blogs about the practicalities of learning Swedish, so feel free to check them out! To make learning fun, read this blog by former DA Resthie. She has also written this blog about how important it can be to learn Swedish.
Learning a new language is not as scary as you might think it is. All you have to do is take the initiative, and regularly practice your skills. I hope you found this blog helpful! As usual, if you have any questions, you know where to find me!
Naomi- Biomedicine (MSc)
My name is Naomi, and I am from India. I am a first-year master’s student in Biomedicine. I have always been drawn towards research and knew early on that a career built around it was the one for me. So as a result, here I am! I enjoy spending time with my friends and exploring the city with them (though the introvert in me also loves some alone time). I hope I can be of some help with my blogs!