15. October 2012

Swedish in Sweden

Swedes talk Swedish. Surprised? Swedes always talk English with you as a foreigner? Well, the game can be changed and it is not too hard for native speakers in German or English. This is the start signal for a six-part article series about how to concretely speed up your progress in learning Swedish as a foreign language, based on my experiences. Why not just talk English? This crucial question is tackled first.

Too often I hear that there is no need to learn Swedish in Sweden because you can as well use English. And that Swedes won’t use Swedish when talking to you. And that it is super-hard to learn Swedish in Sweden. I vehemently disagree, even though there is a grain of truth in all three statements. However, none of the statements convinced me. How come?

Learning the language of the country one is living in is beneficial in many ways: you are free to take part in any conversation you want, you can solve problems in a more elegant and sensitive manner, your efforts are appreciated by all native speakers, you can autonomously obtain information by reading and listening, and you are not by default recognized and treated as a temporary visitor. Except for the last point, these aspects are probably valid in many different countries, not only Sweden.

From my experience, there is not much truth in the claim that Swedes do not talk Swedish with you as a foreigner. Well, sometimes it happens that a Swede figures out that a person is helpless with Swedish. Then it is only natural, and I would say, generous gesture to switch to English — in the likely assumption that this makes things easier. And here is the point; signalling that one does not intend to switch to English, and having enough skills to show some self-confidence is enough to ban English from the conversation. So, learning Swedish fast is a way out. A dog chasing its tail? A little bit maybe, but that is definitely not a show-stopper.

Swedish is closely related with the German language, and it also shares many words with English. The grammar is actually much easier than in German. The pronunciation is at first unfamiliar for German native speakers. This article series shall especially tackle the question on how to learn Swedish as a foreign language effectively and efficiently.

The full article series:

  1. Swedish in Sweden – Translation Tools
  2. Swedish in Sweden – Gathering New Input
  3. Swedish in Sweden – Learning to Listen
  4. Swedish in Sweden – Practice and Rehearsal
  5. Swedish in Sweden – Musings about Motivation