Between ABBA lyrics that never leave your head and viking influences on everyday vocabulary (did you know that “Thursday” comes from a celebration of the Norse God, Thor?), intensive Swedish language courses put you in good company. As a further bonus, Swedish happens to be one of the easiest languages to pick up for native English-speakers, as shared Germanic backgrounds have left their similarities in grammar and syntax. Since there is no better way to learn a foreign language than to surround yourself with native speakers (all ten million of them), make the trip to Scandinavia, delve into Swedish language learning, and discover your inner dancing queen!
Deciding to learn the Swedish language will forever be a decision you’ll be glad you made. From comprehension improvement of the language to the experiences you’ll have, learning Swedish offers you a passport to travel to all sorts of new places. Svenska is the most widely-spoken language in Scandinavia, so pick a country and go!
Sweden is home to the majority of the world’s Swedish speakers (as well as the incredible place that is IKEA!). It is a country with a huge coastline and a landmass which is 68% forest, so it’s perfect for those who love to spend time in nature. Their capital city, Stockholm, is a great option for learning Swedish. Stockholm is a unique city to spend time in as it is actually made up of 14 different islands, all of them joined up with various bridges. The city is also packed with history, from the palaces to the museums - over 70 of them, in fact!
Another option is Uppsala. It’s one of Sweden’s oldest cities, and yet also one of its busiest, packed with students, cafés, and nightlife. Uppsala features everything from a 6th-century burial site to the tallest church in Scandinavia, and is full of paths for walking or cycling. Spending time outside the capital is also likely to be better value for money, getting you more aquavit for your krona!
On the other hand, if Finland and its 300,000 native Swedish speakers take your fancy, the capital Helsinki is a great place to start. This city places highly on any list of the best cities to live in, and is full of interesting neighbourhoods, quirky art pieces, and street markets. It’s right on the sea, something you should definitely take advantage while the temperature is above freezing!
Alternatively, for a more unique experience, the only monolingually Swedish-speaking part of Finland is Åland. Made up of a total of 6,700 islands, it is not overly touristy and you are likely to find less fellow English-speakers here. This is a definite plus if you’re looking to speak as much of the language as possible during your Swedish language program.
Swedish Language Learning
Being immersed in a language abroad is guaranteed to teach you huge amounts, whether you can spare months or only a few days. There are many options in terms of when, where, and for how long you would like to learn the Swedish language, and they all want you to take a chance on them.
Swedish language schools are becoming increasingly popular and are generally extremely flexible. Whether you would like to spend a week or a year studying abroad, language schools can easily accommodate you. The major benefit of intensive Swedish language schools is that they give you the chance to meet lots of people studying the same language as you, and the Swedish courses often arrange tours and trips for you as well, giving you endless chances to practice with fellow language-learners. The classes will also be suitable for any level, as most schools cater for a wide range of abilities.
Alternatively, if you are keen to truly immerse yourself during your Swedish language program, you could live with your own private teacher. Teachers who offer this are perfect at helping you develop your language skills and give you ample opportunities to get to grips with any pronunciation challenges or questions you may have. Living with a native speaker also allows you to learn so much about their culture- your coffee break will become a fika and your love for meatballs will become boundless!
If you are a student, summer Swedish language schools may be the perfect option to learn Swedish and fit in around your classes. Spending an entire summer abroad provides many opportunities to practice newly-gained skills, and the intensity of the classes can teach a huge amount. Summer schools also tend to arrange cultural trips around the city or country you visit, and spending time with people from that country lets you learn about their way of life. Moreover, an added bonus of studying at a summer school is the chance to experience Scandinavia’s incredibly long summer days (ie: 24/7)!
Another option for university students is to tackle Swedish language learning during a semester abroad in Scandinavia, taking modules in Swedish or learning it in your free time. You may even be able to get college credit for your home university! Being abroad for so long allows you to travel around and to really get under the skin of the country you choose to visit.
Tips for Gaining Fluency in Swedish
Becoming fluent in another language is always a difficult feat, but there’s no real reason to SOS. There are infinite ways to learn a language, and the more effort you put in, the more rewarded you will be.
Firstly, talk! One difficulty about learning Swedish in Scandinavia is that the people there tend to have an incredibly high level of English. It’s likely that those around you will address you in English as soon as they realise you’re not a native Swedish speaker, but just tell them to take a chance on you. Politely (but firmly!) state that you would like to practice your Swedish, and persevere. Practising speaking with native speakers will improve your fluency like nothing else.
Being in Scandinavia also gives you access to Swedish media. Listening to the radio, watching the news or reading books is one of the easiest (and most fun!) ways to practice. Language learning needs to be built up little and often, so watching a little Swedish TV every night will make more difference than you realise.
Finally, make sure you consolidate your learning. Don’t assume you will remember everything new that you learn, even if there are words you quickly find yourself using everyday. One good way to keep track of new phrases and vocabulary is to take a notebook with you everywhere you go, and note down everything you learn. Websites like Duolingo and Memrise can also be extremely beneficial as they help with grammar and syntax and keep new words fresh. Meet up with host family siblings or your new, blond-haired BFF’s to practice on a regular basis.
Benefits & Challenges
The major benefit of learning Swedish is it comes with the added bonus of improving your comprehension of the other Scandinavian languages: Danish and Norwegian. Three for the price of one! These languages are widely considered almost mutually intelligible, so after studying Swedish, you are likely to find you can understand Danish and Norwegian as well without too much difficulty.
One thing you might find challenging about spending time in Scandinavia is the climate. If you’re from somewhere chilly like Canada or Siberia, then you can skip over this with a smug smile, but if you’re used to warmer climates, then make sure you take Scandinavia’s weather seriously. While in summer the temperatures tend to be pleasant, winter months plunge below freezing and the sky is dark for up to 18 hours of the day. If you plan to visit in the colder months, make sure you invest in some serious thermals, a reliable coat, Vitamin C packets, and hot chocolate! Remember that summer will roll around again soon and then it’ll be 24-hours of paradise.
Learning a new language is always a challenge, but Swedish language learning shouldn’t be too daunting, with all the nice people and delicious Swedish fish you’ll be surrounded with. Just remember that the winner takes it all, so don’t give up on the way!