Scenic beauty, cozy cottages, outdoor adventures, and Viking lore are just a few of Sweden’s favorite things. This Scandinavian nation is built on fourteen islands in northern Europe and attracts international students from all over the world, and is hands-down the perfect place for Swedish language learning (and less expensive than frequent Ikea trips). When you aren’t picking berries in the forest, meeting friends for afternoon fika (coffee), or partying at epic festivals, you can get a feel for the language by wandering outside the touristy areas. Fall in love with coastal views, chic cities, and a smörgåsbord of travel opportunities as you learn Swedish in Sweden.
Sweden often brings up thoughts of frozen wastelands, but this European country offers more than a hibernation spot for long winter months. While the northern part of Sweden is home to the indigenous Sami people and their reindeer camps, the southern part offers a year-round temperate climate and warm summers. Whether you want to learn to speak Swedish on the chairlift or with a language partner at a café, you’ll find it all in Sweden’s beautiful cities.
There’s no arguing that Stockholm is Sweden’s most popular tourist destination. The large capital city is made up of islands, bays, bridges, and canals, creating a picturesque landscape and an “it-factor” that students love. From the historic old town of Gamla Stan to the hipster hot spot of Södermalm, language students will never run out of places to explore. But with every great city comes its flaws. English is spoken everywhere in Stockholm, so opportunities for language practice outside the classroom are rare. To achieve fluency from your Swedish language course, it may be necessary to study in a smaller city where locals are less likely to cater to tourists.
The northern city of Uppsala offers an alternative to city living with more Swedish language lessons. Uppsala contrasts historical sites and ancient burial grounds with a party vibe that stems from the young population in the heart of the city. This student town is full of Swedish language classes. If you’re there in June, don’t miss Midsummer Eve – the summer solstice celebration with large family gatherings, loads of seafood, floral head crowns, singing, and ridiculous frog-dancing around maypoles!
Gothenburg is another popular location on the western coast for learning Swedish. The old port city is now an active educational hub, full of cheerful locals, nautical views, and neoclassical architecture. Take a break from the fast-paced cities and check out the music scene in the home of Swedish icons, like Jose Gonzalez and Soundtrack of Our Lives, or have fika (a social coffee break) at a bohemian cafe in this chilled-out city.
Swedish Language Courses in Sweden
Sweden prides itself with a high standard of living and a high-rank education system. Not only are there loads of universities and international language schools across the country, but there are other perks to Swedish language learning. While program fees cover costs of accommodation, meals, and excursions, Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) courses are offered for free for foreigners. That’s right – you may be in for some free language classes in Sweden!
Swedish language students can take courses at a folkuniversitetet, a publicly subsidized university marketed toward adult education. Most major cities offer folkuniversitetet programs for international students, where classes teach about Swedish culture, history, and society, alongside language studies. Courses generally run anywhere from two weeks to several months, depending on your length of stay and desired fluency level.
Of course, it’s easy to slip back into your mother tongue outside the classroom when English is spoken everywhere. Swedish language course attendees who want to achieve true fluency should opt for a more immersive experience through a homestay. Students live with a local family and their own personal lärare (teacher), chatting over kanelbulle (Swedish cinnamon rolls), and living each day in the language. Lessons are tailored to suit your needs and usually take place outside of heavily touristy suburb, so you have no choice but to embrace the Swedish language learning and the culture fully.
No matter where you choose for learning Swedish, language learning is often balanced with social events and excursions outside the lessons. You even have the option of signing up for sport activities after class, so you can practice your skills on the soccer field or during a game of bandy (the Swedish version of ice hockey).
Swedish Subtleties & Nuances
Swedish is a northern Germanic language that is spoken by ten million people across Europe. As with any language program abroad, learning Swedish in Sweden will have its quirks, but if you embrace the culture, commit to the language, and avoid temptations of English speakers, you’ll find yourself fluent in no time!
Newbies are pleased to learn that a lot of basic Swedish is very similar to English in its grammar and sound. It won’t even seem like a foreign language until the conversation becomes more in depth, and at that point there are a few important things to remember:
The Swedish alphabet has three extra letters: “Å” (sounds like “aw”), “Ä” (sounds like “air”), and “Ö” (sounds like “er”); and the letters “G” and “J” almost always sound like “Y”. These extra sounds are easy to learn, and once you’ve got it down, reading Swedish will become second nature.
The Swedish language can also be very specific. There are words and phrases that exist in both Swedish and English that don’t exist in the other, so it is important to let go of the need to translate everything. As a Swedish language learner, you’ll have to train your brain to think in Swedish.
With learning the language comes learning the culture, and Swedish language students will quickly find that Swedish people can come across as introverted and antisocial at times. Swedes will do almost anything to avoid conversation and confrontation. On the one hand, it can be intimidating to practice your language skills with strangers, but on the other, you’ll save time on small talk. Next time you order at a restaurant, it’ll be perfectly acceptable to just say, “kaffe och bulle” (coffee and bun), without worrying about your manners!
Benefits & Challenges
One of the biggest challenges as you take Swedish language lessons in Sweden is the temptation to slip back into English. It has one of the highest levels of English fluency for non-native English speakers – in other words, English is considered a second language, not a foreign language. If locals hear you struggling to speak it on the street, they’ll speak in English to you without realizing it hinders your Swedish language learning. But with commitment and travels outside the main cities, language students will have plenty of opportunities to practice their Swedish skills.
You don’t have to learn Swedish to get by in Sweden, but if you are interested in the culture, there is no better way to learn about the country. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of its history, and you’ll put a smile on new Swedish friends’ faces when you communicate on their level. And because the language is so similar to Danish, Norwegian, and German, you’ll have a leg up on the language spectrum if you plan to travel through Europe.
To learn to speak Swedish isn’t the easiest of language studies, but there’s no doubt you’ll become a pro if you put your heart into it. Avoid English speakers, and before you know it you’ll be looking at return flights. “Välkommen till Svieriges” (welcome to Sweden) for some sweet treats, free education, and a unique language experience!