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'Swenglish': the definitive guide and top ten

The Local · 6 Sep 2012, 14:07

Published: 06 Sep 2012 14:07 GMT+02:00

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Any Swede speaking English will blame even the tiniest little slip-up on his or her “terrible Swenglish” – but it’s not that easy, Sven!

“Swenglish” is a peculiar little language phenomenon, but it’s not just about making mistakes - it’s a special kind, the result of speaking English but playing by the rules of Swedish.

Luckily for listeners, this is often hilarious.


However, before I go even one sentence further let me make one thing clear: Swedes do speak excellent English.

Swedes are the fourth best country for speaking English as a second language according to education company Education First, with Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark taking the top three.

But as brilliant as the Swedes are, they remain imperfect and that's what makes it entertaining.

Nothing beats a rousing speech by an articulate politician who wants to improve the lives of every single person in every little willage. And how about those Wikings?

Swenglish is like a Robert de Niro blooper reel – the mistakes are just more amusing when they’re made by the masters.

So, if you hear the word “Swenglish” bandied about and want to know more, here is the definitive guide.

Swenglish is:

- A straight translation where it shouldn’t be (Swedes sometimes claim to be living in a hotel… even if it’s just a one night stay – att bo i ett hotell)

- Getting letters mixed up due to different language sounds: (the Yewish man in our willage is crasy).

Story continues below…

- Or, a Swedish word or phrase sneaking into English where it doesn’t quite fit… like calling mashed potatoes “Potato moose” - just because it's potatismos in Swedish - even if no moose (or elk) featured in the meal or the mash.

So - use this list to help spot a Swede, or if you are in fact a Swede, this top ten might help save you from a little embarrassment in the future.

And be sure to tune in again soon for when we turn the tables on ourselves and investigate the top ten examples of "svengelska" - when English speakers put their foot in it when trying to speak Swedish.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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Your comments about this article

19:47 September 6, 2012 by Great Scott
The most annoying is "mycket roligt", they say "very fun".
08:05 September 7, 2012 by nolikegohome
here is one that made me smile. the nice lady told me she loves Smashed Potatoes = mashed potatoes
10:49 September 7, 2012 by Hisingen
It does work the other way, though. A restaurant in Gbg some time ago had their menu translated into Swedish, where you could enjoy 'kukt potatis'

But the 'leg' can have repercussions. On being asked for 'leg' in B & W - "Har du leg?" I replied 'Sure, left or right?'

Must have been a relative of Queen Victoria behind the till, as she was definitely 'not amused'.
17:55 September 7, 2012 by mozzer
The funniest Swenglish I've heard so far is when a Swede tries to say in English that they have a frog in their throat. In Swedish it's 'tupp i halsen' which literally translates as a 'cock in the throat'!
18:00 September 7, 2012 by Lotus2035
The list with the images was very funny. :-D

But they forgot the word SLUT. I can see it right now in the advertisements. :-D

On a side note, I have a habit of saying "Korvs" when talking about sausages in the supermarket. The plural of Korv is Korvar. That would be an example of Engdish. ;-)
22:20 September 7, 2012 by befree
Very funny. It's good to have a little fun(-ny) with "Swenglish".

As noted many Swedes are quite proficient with English. If any would enjoy rolling on the floor laughing... ask some of us non-Swedes to attempt a few, basic Swedish letter/word pronunciations.
08:45 September 8, 2012 by Dilia
I have been living here for 2 years. My mother in law once said we need to stock up more 'food' for the coming winter.

I said, why, we have sooooooo much, 2 deep freezer and they're full of frozen food. Coming from a tropical country with fresh market available all year long......I am still trying to like the concept of freezing everything for the cold dark winter here in the northern Sweden.

She said, not 'wood, but "food". OOOOOhh ok, then I got that.

I am still trying hard to pronounce certain word such as sju, station, anything like f and w.
03:27 September 9, 2012 by Pharazon
"Swedish doesn't have the J sound like in English,"

Correction: English does not have the clear J sound at all. The English word "J" would be spelled "DJEI" in the language of gods and heroes.

Why do you have a D built into a vowel?

-So if you meet a native English speaker called Julia, she'd probably prefer if you called her Djulia when you meet her.
19:18 September 9, 2012 by SalamanderClub
My personal favourite is "Party Looken".

I also notice tourists from English speaking countries photographing our traffic signs. Why is that I wonder? "Full Fart, Infart, Utfart" etc ...

And has anyone notices the Italians photographing any sign offering that most Swedish of coffee breaks, the "fika"?? Hmmm

Then of course we have things like Brad Pitt's surname.
01:24 September 10, 2012 by Baldric
Dammsugare = damn sucker

Gå och handla = walk and handle

Bilbarnstol = bile barnstool
13:02 September 11, 2012 by bravedave
Sugrör is my favorite. Translates to "sucking pipes". Put one if those in your

Pimms and lemonade!

Also a classic is "för tre år sen....." for example. When describing a period in time.

Translates to "for 3 years ago....."

I also use the word "korvs" and so do my visiting friends. I think the English speaking part of residents have created their own "svenglish" too, I know I have.
09:29 September 19, 2012 by philster61
My favorite is slappa meg ..."slap me".....
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