Sweden has the best English in the world for a country where English is not a native language. That is pretty impressive. So why would any American, Canadian, Australian, British, or Kiwi want to learn Swedish in the first place?
Well, first off, there is no better way to get a sense of a culture than learning the language of that culture. The nuances of a language give you great insight! Now we all know that you don’t need to learn Swedish in order to get around and do general traveling to Sweden. But just because you don’t need to, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!
Secondly, if you do take the time to learn Swedish, Swedes are generally impressed. Sure, it is hard to speak to them because their English is so perfect, and your Swedish, well, let’s face it, it could use some work. But they won’t make you feel any more uncomfortable and when you speak Swedish, most likely you will put a smile on a Swede’s face.
Thirdly, if your native language is English, you will be happy to hear that Swedish is one of the easier languages to learn. Now, if it is your first foreign language, it is going to be hard. Learning any language is hard, especially the first time around. But just be grateful that it isn’t any more complicated than its vowels and if you still start to feel down and depressed about it, take a look at English. Hole and Whole? Beer and Bear? (yes, Swedes get that one mixed up ALL the time). English is pretty hard too, and you mastered that language in no time!
Lastly, if you do learn Swedish, you will forever be a Swedish Freak. And that is something to be proud of!
What reasons do you have for learning Swedish?
I remember awhile ago I did a contest on this amazing book “Essentials of Swedish Grammar” and I had many requests to do another one. So here you guys go!
This is my go to book for all of Swedish grammar, and is a must have for anybody who is serious about learning Swedish. And while there are great free Swedish resources online for learning Swedish, this book will be a helpful guide and is worth the investment!
So how do you win a copy of this amazing book?
Simple! Each of these steps gives you one entry ticket to the drawing. And
1. Leave a comment on this post on why you should win this book.
2. Tweet on Twitter “Learn Swedish for Free online @SwedishFreak http://bit.ly/ovYZaL & help me win a Swedish grammar book with a retweet! http://bit.ly/NEZK12″
BTW, every RT you get will give you an extra entry!
3. Like SwedishFreak on Facebook if you haven’t already. And the share the post about this contest on your wall about why you should win! Remember, if your friends share it too, and explain why you should win, you can get an extra entry!
If you get your friends to tweet, leave a comment on your behalf, or share the Facebook post on your behalf, you will get an extra entry ticket!
There is no limit to how many entries you can have. So go crazy and get your beloved friends to help you out!
Contest ends on August 31st, 2012 at midnight PST. The winner will be announced Monday September 3rd, 2012.
While overcoming the difficulties is key, there are other tips that can help you improve your Swedish learning.
These can be applied to most other languages, but since this site is SwedishFreak, we will be focusing on Swedish!
Top 10 Tips for Learning Swedish
1. Listen to Swedish every chance you get.
Many of us have smart phones, or some sort of device where we can listen to music. If you are at home, you can listen to the Swedish radio completely free online. If you are on the go, I suggest downloading your Swedish CD from your workbook into your device so you can listen to it on the go. If you are good with bit torrents, just search “Swedish”, there are usually many audio files available for not-so-legal download. Every second you get, listen to Swedish. Its not a big deal if you don’t understand everything. Even just listening to how the language sounds will help! And eventually, as you study more and more, you will be able to understand more and more!
2. Watch your favorite kids movie with Swedish dubbing.
This is one of my favorite things to do when I was learning French. I had a tons of Disney movies on DVD, and it was easy to switch the dubbing over. Plus I knew the movie so well, that I did not need the subtitles and I knew what was going on! A lot of DVDs provide subtitles as well.
3. Speak Swedish with friends or family members who are fluent.
Now I know this is difficult to do. We have a “Swedish day” at home, but it can be very hard. Try having a “Swedish hour” or a “Swedish meal”. Take your friend out to eat, and offer to pay for their meal on the condition that he or she only speaks Swedish with you. Beg and plead, as speaking with Swedes is how you are going to improve your Swedish.
4. Post Swedish words throughout your house.
Past house nouns? Then try Swedish vocabulary in the bathroom. Simply tape some vocabulary to your bathroom wall. It is great to go over your vocabulary words when you are sitting there.
5. Take a course that is in Swedish about a topic you enjoy.
I’ve done this in both Czech and Swedish, and it is a great way to learn a language. Currently I’m taking my hunting exam online. In Swedish. Do I know every word? No. But I can look most of them up, it is a topic I enjoy, and not only am I preparing for my hunting exam, but I’m learning Swedish at the same time! Score!
6. Read Swedish magazines or newspapers.
I’m not big on newspapers or magazines, but it is a great way to study the language. Look at the pictures, read the headlines, and try to figure out what is going on. Have a question? Ask your Swedish friends to explain. This is also a great way to practice if you live in Sweden, as newspapers and magazines will be readily available to purchase or while your waiting for the doctor or dentist, or even at restaurants.
7. Study with flashcards.
I know, I know. We all HATE studying. But sometimes the very best way to grow your vocabulary is to just study! I usually need a test in Swedish to get motivated, but I learn the words so quickly it is surprising.
For those of you that have forgotten how flashcards work, put the Swedish word on one side, and the translation of that word to your mother tongue on the other side. Then quiz yourself.
Remember to do both from Swedish to your language and from your language to Swedish.
If you are having trouble, start with 5 cards, memorize those, and then add 5 more, memorize those, etc. The human brain can hold 5-7 items in short term memory. It must be in short term memory before moving over to long term memory, so it is always best to start with 5!
8. Write your journal in Swedish.
Have a diary? Write it in Swedish! Don’t have one? Well, maybe you should get one just to practice your Swedish! If you don’t know a word, look it up. Just practicing to think in the language will help! Learning to write your inner thoughts in Swedish, even without anybody correcting you, is beneficial. Plus your pesky little brother or sister won’t be able to understand it if they get their hands on it!
9. Read children’s books in Swedish.
This is another one of my favorites. Swedish children learn to read by reading children’s books. Start there. Practice reading books, look up words you don’t know. As book levels get easier for you, work your way up. Before you know it you will be reading novels in Swedish!
10. Turn your phone’s language to Swedish.
I have a lot of friends who do this. They turn their phone’s language into the language they are learning. Most phones come with multiple languages on it. So set your default language to Swedish! If you are really daring, you can even change your computer’s language to Swedish (depends also on the phone/computer you have).
So these are my top 10 tips for learning Swedish. I’m sure there are many more out there. Is there something important that I’m missing?
Last week I reflected on why I found the Swedish language so hard. As promise, this week I’m going to suggest solutions to all the problems.
Problem: Most Swedes speak really good English
Solution 1: Pretend you don’t speak English!
This may work if you are meeting new people and don’t have anybody who knows you around. I could have gotten away with this for awhile, because I had a bit of a Czech accent when speaking Swedish. So I sounded Russian. However, if you are even a little bit like me, pretending anything will be a challenge on its own, let alone where you come from. So if this isn’t realistic for you, there are other solutions!
Solution 2: Refuse to speak English!
This one is probably the most commonly used in Sweden. I’ve had conversations with Swedes, where the Swede speaks English and I speak Swedish! May sound weird, but eventually one party will give up. And since you are living in Sweden, you need to learn Swedish a lot more than they need to practice their English. So be persistent in speaking Swedish. If they still refuse, simply tell them that you would prefer speaking Swedish with them. If they still refuse, reconsider if this person is worth speaking to at all.
If the problem is that when you are speaking Swedish with a Swede and something comes up that you don’t understand, and they switch to English immediately, simply explain to them that you’d rather they first try to explain it in Swedish then going into English. Most people don’t realize that switching to English immediately is not helpful.
This isn’t by far my most favorite solution, but it will be necessary to use for most of the Swedes you encounter.
Believe it or not, these people do exist in Sweden! There aren’t that many of them, and they are usually of older age. But old people are cool too, have amazing knowledge and are fun to hang out with! One of my good friends is retired. We go fishing and mushroom picking together, and he has probably only spoken 2 words of English to me the entire time we have hung out. Jättekul!
If you can’t find old people, or are afraid of old people, try children. Usually they can’t speak English yet, but may be a bit more difficult to understand.
This is by far my favorite solution, but these Swedes can be hard to find. When you do find one, cherish him or her closely! They will really help improve your Swedish.
Problem: Prepare to say foolish things
Solution 1: Get over it
This is probably what I have to do the most. I simply have to get over it. I’m going to sound foolish or silly or child like. C’est la vie. All Swedes were children once too, and they said foolish things once too. So swallow your pride and just speak Swedish.
Solution 2: Get drunk!
Have you ever heard the saying that drunk people can speak any language? Maybe that is just what Czechs say, but when people drink, usually their guard is down. When your guard is down, you are more likely to freely speak Swedish. If you are really that shy I recommend having a beer or two before speaking Swedish. Once you relax and stop worrying about saying everything perfectly, Swedish will flow!
I did meet one British guy who has lived in Skelleftea for 10 years. To learn Swedish he just went to a pub every night and talked to strangers in Swedish. Great way to get started. And there is nothing like a beer to make it feel not like studying.
Warning: This solution can be hazardous to your health and reputation!
Problem: A lot of foreigners learn Swedish
Solution 1: Get over it
As I said, I think this is more my personal issue of not feeling smart/special for learning Swedish. So really, I just have to get over it, and so do you if this is a reason you find Swedish difficult.
Solution 2: Learn Swedish quicker and better than everyone else
Ok, so you can’t get over it? Then learn Swedish faster than everybody else, and learn it better than everyone else. I do feel a little pride when I tell people I’ve only been here for a year and a half, and they are impressed with my Swedish. I feel smart and validated again. So if this really is a problem for you, then study your butt off and become better than everyone else in a shorter period of time.
Problem: TV is in English
Solution 1: Don’t watch TV!
Duh! First off, not all channels or shows are in Swedish. Actually, the TV shows you pay the hefty TV license for are mainly in Swedish. So watch those! There are also tons of great Swedish films you can watch with subtitles as well. So just because a lot of TV in English doesn’t mean you have to watch it.
Solution 2: If you have to watch TV in English, pay attention to the subtitles
When I am watching something in English, I try to pay attention to the Swedish subtitles. Simpsons at the cottage is a regular pastime. Reading the subtitles and guessing what the words are, and asking my sambo if I’m not sure, really helps my Swedish vocabulary. It my not be the most efficient way of learning Swedish, but it is better than nothing.
So these are possible solutions to the problems that the Swedish language and life in Sweden presents. Is there any other solutions I seem to be missing?
Since I seem to be on a role with this topic, next week I will post some tips I use for studying and learning Swedish. Hopefully it will be helpful to you too!