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How hard is Swedish to learn?

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How hard is Swedish to learn?
12:10 CET+01:00
Learning Swedish can be a tricky business for even the most nimble-tongued of linguists. This week we get the views of our readers’ panel on how best to deal with the intimidating dots and circles.

Igor Trisic

Igor Trisic

Learning any language is easy if one has the will to learn. I wanted to learn Swedish for a long time. The only problem was that I split my time between Sweden and Serbia.

I would make certain progress with Swedish while I was there, only to forget everything while in Serbia. It was around that time that The Local appeared online.

It made it possible for me to have contact with Sweden even while in Serbia. I was afraid to read newspapers in Swedish since I couldn’t understand much but with time I dared read articles that were published in The Local from the original source in Swedish.

That made it possible to suck up a sufficient number of words to move on to Aftonbladet, which featured more or less simple Swedish. And now I can read Sydsvenskan without any problems despite the fact that it features more advanced Swedish.

I am still learning and practising, especially when it comes to conversing, but the progress is evident. One interesting thing is that I have chosen to learn Swedish through English, using an English dictionary instead of my mother tongue Serbian. So when I talk to Swedes they often assume that I am from England.

Emma Chataway

Emma Chataway

A part of me feels a bit ripped off. Having heard stories of people picking up a new language in a matter of months I’m bitterly disappointed with my progress.

I entered SFI [Swedish for Immigrants] four months ago with high enthusiasm, which was quickly thwarted by the constant stream of teachers and new students, leaving me with a twitch in my left eye each time the alphabet was repeated.

Since then I’ve moved up a grade which thankfully has a speedier tempo, and I’m quite enjoying it. However, the hardest thing is trying to be patient when practising with my boyfriend, when, after a long day, I just want to get to the point.

It's catch 22 though, because everyone tells me getting a job will speed up the process but no one wants to hire someone without their SFI certificate. So nothing for it other than “fortsätta att försöka” [keep trying].

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith

Well, I have started SFI in Hässleholm and I must tell you that it is quite a challenge. Partly because of my age, 53, it is somewhat difficult to get back into that school mode.

Pronunciation is also hard, as my lips do not want to conform to the correct shape, especially with the letters ö, ä, and å. I do wish that there were some Americans in my class.

I am bound and determined to learn the language and at least be able to communicate more with my fellow Swedes.

I think that it is important to know Swedish, as well as understand the language, as I love the country very much. Check back with me in 6 months.

Athanassia Fourla

Athanassia Fourla

I have studied many languages but Swedish is still very hard for me to learn. First of all because of the pronunciation (for a Greek person this is very difficult) and second because of the lack of rules in the language. It seems like there are only exceptions to non-existing rules.

Then of course one does not always feel the need and have the motivation to learn the language as all Swedes speak such good English - and often they prefer to speak English than Swedish.

To sum up: For me, learning good active Swedish is difficult but challenging and I will not give up. I love the melody of the Swedish language.

Daniel Nyström

Daniel Nyström

Not easy to estimate for a native Swede, but I can imagine it might be a bit easier than for example Finnish or Russian.

Swedish has many influences from both Germanic and Romance languages and might be easier to grasp for those coming from English or Spanish speaking countries as many words are similar. This is in many ways a side-effect from our warmongering and trade efforts during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Our grammatical system is however horrifying and can't be easy to understand or learn. At least not for me.

I've also heard from Dutch people that they think Swedish is quite easy to understand.

Kristina Assouri

Kristina Assouri

Picture this: I come up to a café and attempt to order a “liten latte snälla”, said in what is seen as a typical American accent. The response I often times get goes something like: “so you want a small latte for here or to go.”

Defeated, I say “for here.” To which I get the reply “so where are you from?”. Upon discovering that I am in fact from L.A., I then get asked questions from how to plan a Route 66 trip to best places to hang out in L.A.

I am fluent in four languages -- Assyrian (native), Persian, Spanish, and English) -- so languages generally come naturally to me.

So before embarking upon my journey to study and work in Sweden, I knew that the language, and not the cold, would be the most difficult part of my assimilation into this part of the Nordic countries.

I took beginners' Swedish at the University and was introduced to one of the most melodic sounding languages I have ever heard. I, however, slowly realized that it’s not the language itself that is difficult, but rather the inability to effectively practice it with any Swede.

The fact that most Swedes have a good command of the English language (thanks to the influence of American television and music) is also not conducive to an ex-pat learning Swedish because they can still communicate with you perfectly in English.

So all in all, sorry Swedes: I blame you for most ex-pats' inability to achieve any sense of fluency in the Swedish language. So the next time an ex-pat asks for a small latte, make us feel good and just kindly say “Varsågod” [you’re welcome].

Graeme Newcomb

Graeme Newcomb

I am rather fortunate in that I was already fluent in a Germanic-based language before I started learning Swedish. This meant that I could recognise a lot of words that Sweden has in common with other Germanic languages.

In addition, there are also a lot of grammatical similarities. So, for someone with a background in a Germanic language (German, Dutch, Flemish etc.), learning Swedish will not be that difficult.

Probably the hardest thing to grasp about Swedish is how "intonated" the spoken language is. For me, the hardest part of learning Swedish is getting the intonation and pronunciation right, especially as some of the different sounds are almost indistinguishable. It is not helped by some of the more bizarre regional accents like Skånska!

Katarina Johnsson

Katarina Johnsson

Not applicable.

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