How to speak Swedish like a native

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Ready to master the Swedish language?

Have you become a fan of Nordic Noir? Looking to improve your job prospects? There are plenty of reasons to break out of the mould and learn Swedish! Yes, it’s a less common language for British people to have under their belts, but it’s more and more widely spoken thanks to the popularity of Northern Europe’s culture and holiday appeal. Sweden is a superb holiday destination, with trendy Stockholm satisfying culture vultures with its museums and galleries, and Ice Hotels drawing in families to see the Northern Lights. If you’ve never booked a log cabin wilderness holiday, Sweden’s bright days and long nights of summer are the perfect time to escape from it all - especially if you can chat with fellow berry pickers and crayfish fishers in the local language!

Or, perhaps study and work prospects appeal to you? Some of the country’s biggest industries include telecommunications, motoring and aerospace, and the country also has a large number of higher education institutions and universities that offer courses to overseas students - renowned for their friendly atmosphere. It’s fair to say that Swedish can seem a little intimidating to English speakers at first. It has a lot of long, compound words that can look rather daunting until you learn the trick of breaking them down. But Swedish speakers tend to love the singsong nature of the accent, with syllable tones varied to express meaning. It is actually very easy to grasp the basics of the language and these can take you far - and once you do get to grips with Swedish, you’ll find that you can rapidly get ahead with Norwegian and Danish too, which are similar.

Top routes to learning Swedish - and a killer tip

Tempted to surprise the locals and be a Brit abroad who can speak their language? Swedes will be delighted if you visit their country and show the courtesy of speaking their language - even if that is just a few phrases! How do you prefer to learn? There are four main routes to consider:

1. Face-to-face courses

Sometimes available at universities, face-to-face courses are more typically held at specialist private language schools and summer schools, as Swedish is a less common language in England and demand is lower than for some other European languages. You could also get a private tutor and support your learning with conversation practice. Some courses can be expensive and may involve residential elements - useful if you are happy to invest in a residential in Sweden perhaps - but bear in mind that progress will be limited to the slowest learner in the class. That’s great if that person is you, but may be a little more frustrating if you are making fast progress!

2. Exchanges

A language exchange can be a fantastic way to learn how to speak Swedish fast and to experience the culture first-hand, with you hosting a Swedish language student in return who wants to learn English. These are often included as part of university courses, or may be organised privately. Get ahead of the game by developing your beginner Swedish abilities first though, as you will get far more from a language exchange if you are already at a beginner or intermediate level.

3. Written materials

There are various books about learning Swedish and written courses backed up with digital materials such as CDs and podcasts. These can be handy if you are interested in learning how to write Swedish and to learn more about grammar or supporting culture and context, but they are less useful if you are keen to rapidly speak Swedish.

4. Digital methods

Digital language tools vary widely in quality but can be very useful indeed. Language learning apps such as Babbel immerse you in Swedish straightaway, allowing you to rapidly learn new words, phrases and sentences and then regularly practice them until the words are flowing! Using best-in-class methods, you’ll rapidly develop your confidence and abilities. Support your learning with other types of online content such as Swedish podcasts (we love Radio Sweden på lätt svenska, which has a ‘slow language’ option for learners.). Just be mindful that online content will vary in quality and be curated by Swedish speakers of different abilities. Free content may be packed with adverts and may also be inaccurate. Paid-for content is likely to be more relevant to most learners’ needs and better support their study.

5. Top tip: immerse yourself

The most important thing of all is to immerse yourself in Swedish as you develop your spoken skills. Do 15 minutes every day rather than blitzing lessons once a week. By doing this, all of the vocabulary will stay fresh and you’ll start to make mental connections between your new Swedish words and phrases far more quickly. Look on Babbel for lessons that are themed around your interests so that you can stay motivated by learning about topics that really appeal to you. Name things from your daily life in Swedish and practice short phrases and sentences from the start so that you grow in confidence as well as ability. Take the time to follow current events in Sweden too by following ‘slow news’ channels, read Swedish blogs, contribute to forums and generally learn about the country, its people, its culture and its food. If you can get to a Swedish restaurant for a lunch of meatballs in cream sauce or pancakes with lingonberry sauce, then you can immediately practice your budding skills on the menu and then head home to get absorbed in the latest Nordic Noir - with an insight into what’s going on beyond basic subtitles!

Master Swedish fast with Babbel

If you haven’t tried it before, our app, Babbel, makes use of many of the methods above to deliver a compelling language learning experience. Centred on dialogue, with voice recognition software to help you tackle difficult pronunciation, Babbel gets you speaking right away, with lessons based on real-life exchanges rather than hard-to-relate-to word drills. This way, you don’t just pick up the words on which lessons are focussed, but other, passively learned vocab as well, so you are speaking fluently fast.

Our app also makes it easier to discipline yourself, with 15-minute lessons a core part of our approach - one that is based on the latest didactic research. Because it’s on your phone, you can also pick up and learn whenever you have a spare moment, whether on the train, during an ad break or when drinking a cup of tea at work. If you’re interested in learning how to speak Swedish with Babbel, head over to our Swedish language page to start your journey.