Swedish language

Overcoming the difficulties of Swedish

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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.

Retired Swedish friendSolution 3: Hang out with people who don’t know English.

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!

Lycka till!


  1. Youma
    November 30, 2011 at 02:27 — Reply

    There’s lots of old tv series on youtube in their entirety. Nile City 105.6 and Macken are obligatory viewing for any aspiring swede, and since it’s christmas time, I can reccomend the Tomtemaskinen and Sunes Jul christmas calendar shows. Pistvakt as well, especially if you live in norrland, though that one is not on youtube unfortunately.

  2. KatZ
    February 4, 2012 at 16:55 — Reply

    There are several channels on TV where you can only hear Swedish: SVT1 & 2, Kunskapskanalen, but of course the best way is to get a swedish friend and speak the language, AND to ask that friend to correct your grammer and pronounciation 🙂

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The Author



Hilary lived two years in Norrland, Sweden (Northern Sweden) and fell in love with the country. She lives in Prague, Czechia and hopes to one day soon return to Sweden.