• Sweden's news in English

Swedes' most common English errors exposed

29 Nov 2012, 15:52

Published: 29 Nov 2012 15:52 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Have you ever wondered why your Swedish friend spends one night of every week doing his watch?

Are you concerned that his clock-interest may be some sort of addiction, leaving him winding up a pocket-watch for hours at a time with a manic grin on his face?

Well, more than likely, the alleged watch fetish is due to a common English-language mispronunciation among Swedes, according to a survey carried out by Sweden-based language training company Education First (EF).

RELATED GALLERY: Swedes' ten most common mistakes when speaking English

EF has found that Swedes most often mispronounce wash as watch when speaking English.

“The reason why we Swedes mispronounce these words is that English has sounds that do not exist in Swedish," CEO of EF in Sweden Mats Ulenius, told The Local.

"That's why, for instance, we might pronounce joke as yolk.”

Another common English-speaking mistake by Swedes is saying use instead of juice.

EF released a study earlier in November that showed Swedes have the greatest proficiency of English in the world, excluding the native English-speakers.

As a result, it's perhaps not surprising that Swedes are very confident when speaking English.

Perhaps they are too confident, according to Ulenius.

Story continues below…

“The classic mistake that Swedes make is trying to sound like a native instead of making sure that we make ourselves understood,” he told The Local.

Click here to see the entire list of Swedes' most common mistakes when speaking English

Eric Johansson


Related links:

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

17:16 November 29, 2012 by Janadian
Swedes also do not understand the difference between "fun" and "funny". They seem to use roligt for everything. Or at least up here in the north.
17:42 November 29, 2012 by lovaspappa
This article is inane.
17:57 November 29, 2012 by Stonebridge

As Abba once sang

"I'll dance with you honey if you think it's funny."

Yes lovaspappa the article is about nothing of interest. Just filling up space.

It's about mispronunciations rather than "errors" in language. The list is endless...

sheep instead of cheap

shirt instead of skirt (surely would have been more fun for the photo editor too)

19:06 November 29, 2012 by Keith #5083
I'm an englishman and it must be admitted that the english language has many peculiarities.Not surprising since it is a concoction of many languages. If I could say '7' as well as most Swedes can speak english, I would be pretty happy (it always comes out sounding like '2').

Personally, I am highly impressed by the standard of english spoken to me whilst in Sweden. I am also highly embarrassed that I am woefully unable to return the compliment by speaking a form of Swedish that does not visibly show as painful on the face of the listener :-)
19:14 November 29, 2012 by irridium
I like when Swedes use 'funny' instead of fun. "Your car must be very funny to drive!"
19:37 November 29, 2012 by FireBoy
One of the most common mistakes that Swedes do in speaking English is in using the verbs "borrow" and "lend"! The reason is that in Swedish you use the same verb root to mean both (låna and låna ut)!

For instance, I have heard many many times sentences like: I can borrow you my book !
20:43 November 29, 2012 by Opinionfool
What dialect of English are these academics comparing Swedish pronunciation to? Some regional variant of English, such as RCP, Scouse, Geordie? Probably not as the images above are not ships versus chips but ships versus crisps. Chips (for deep fried slices of potato) is American English not English.
21:02 November 29, 2012 by Hisingen
This article is only a space-filler. Plenty of the words and expressions have been known since God made little apples.

I have taught English to evening groups since 1961, and could produce a much longer list of the errors that can exist. I say can, because the younger generation has had much more practice in English - albeit they get the American English from TV, and that dominates.

All in all The Local must be in search of something to write to drag up something like this - - - - - - - - -
22:28 November 29, 2012 by Greekfan
I also noticed that the chips were actually crisps and that the ship was actually a yacht and hence only a boat but never mind. This sort of thing occurs in all languages. I can never say the French "e" correctly nor the German "u with an umlaut" and as for the Swedish "y" or "sju" sounds well forget it. The Swedes, like the French, have trouble with the English "th" sound. Once you are older than about 10 your chances of pronouncing sounds that don't exist in your own language are poor. Then there all the words that are false friends. I know many Swedes who speak very good English but you wouldn't for a moment think they were English.
23:29 November 29, 2012 by Enjoyourlife
Bilingualism is a good thing. I admire swedes for that.
08:44 November 30, 2012 by muscle
well :) many of my colleagues and friends.. often use "next next week..." (in context to week after next week) :)

Haha. oh well jokes apart, I guess the purpose of the language is to communicate and to deliver the message as meant to be sent. If some one can do so, without using the correct grammar or convention, then it shouldn't be a problem :)
09:00 November 30, 2012 by RobinHood
Words pronounced in regional and national accents are not "errors", and unless they interfere with communication, professional English teachers are trained to ignore them.

You would have thought the CEO of a global language training company would have known that.
09:14 November 30, 2012 by karex
I beg to disagree with Mr. Ulenius when he states that Swedes are perhaps too confident when speaking English. My experience has been that most Swedes I meet first apologize for their "bad English" and then proceed to converse fluently! If only my Swedish skills were as "bad" as their English skills, then I would be most satisfied!

Having difficulty pronouncing sounds that don't exist in your native language is a very common thing, and no big deal in my opinion. Asians for instance are known to speak "bad English", among other cultures as well. But years of experience dealing with native Asian speakers has led me to the conclusion that there could be a physical factor involved as well. People may KNOW how something is supposed to sound, but as the sound doesn't exist in their native language, and as some sounds may require exercising facial muscles they have never had the need to develop, sometimes their mouths don't obey what their mind tells them to do.

There is another factor as well, sometimes people can't hear a subtle difference. I for one have trouble distinguishing how the "y" and the "i" should be pronounced in Swedish. My teacher tells me there is a big difference, but I can't really hear it.
10:00 November 30, 2012 by EP
We take a beer vs. we have a beer - and what's worse whenver I speak with someone about going out and having a pint, I now say, "we go take a beer"?

"I eat some pills" is another one that cracks me up
10:06 November 30, 2012 by glasmaol
I think one of the funniest mistakes is from a long running advertising campaign from a Swedish telecommunications company called Tele2, where the main character is a sheep. They say in the ads that they offer Sheep telephone calls and Sheep subscriptions. Now that would be good if I was a Sheep! What's the mistake here? Swede's can't say cheap, they say sheep. But hey, I think Sheep should be able to save money on their calls too!! :)
12:24 November 30, 2012 by Freelife
Why should every one in the world speak English with grammatical perfection and with an British or American accent? Who has made this universal, must-be-followed law?

We all speak OUR own language with higher perfection and speak a second or third language with less fluency and perfection.

Can the English or the American pronounce Sjuk, Sju, etc correctly?

I think, it is really wrong to have a negative opinion about people who speak with a Swedish accent. It is just plan discrimination and offending!
14:47 November 30, 2012 by klubbnika
#16 Freelife

Why do Swedes have to speak English with perfection? Because they demand the perfection in Swedish from immigrants themselves. As soon as you have a slightest accent (rudely called: brytning, as if people break the law), they would have difficulties understanding you and no patience to try to do so.

So they should be treated in the same way when they speak English with an accent.
15:10 November 30, 2012 by Ron Pavellas
I think it utterly charming when my wife pronounces "Trader Joe's" as "Trader Yoe's".
15:25 November 30, 2012 by soultraveler3
That list was weird. The ones I notice the most are bear /beer, yellow / jello and three / tree.

Swedes in general get confused with the sounds "ch" "sh" and "th". Also, when a word ends with "ed", like in the words looked or stepped, many pronounce it "lok ked" or "step ped" The letters j, g, i, e and y also seem to be tricky for Swedes trying to speak English.

You always hear that almost all Swedes are fluent in English, but I wouldn't really consider that true. I've lived here for over 4 years now, but have only met a handful of people that have been truly fluent. Most can understand a good amount of English, but like many of us here know, understanding another language is much easier than speaking it.
19:41 November 30, 2012 by tadchem
Every language has its own set of sounds.

The English cannot pronounce German's umlauts or the Spanish "ll" or "ñ" . Japanese speakers have trouble with "l"s. I don't know ANYBODY who can pronounce "þ". The International Phonetic Alphabet lists 107 letters and 52 diacritics.

No one language uses more than a small subset of these.

There is no shame in mispronouncing words from another language. There IS shame in not learning from your practice and your experience.

I have a co-worker from Pakistan. He has been here 30 years and STILL can't pronounce things properly.
22:40 November 30, 2012 by Freelife

Do you know each and every Swede? Ofcourse every place has all kinds of people.

I have met many Swedes who openly accept that their language is difficult to learn.
23:22 November 30, 2012 by mcarroll1
C'mon its only a joke, a laugh, a bit of fun. The Swinglish list is long and sometimes very funny. I never corrected a Swede who mispronounced an English word as it is really very charming and funny to hear the Swinglish version. Swedes have really great english and should not be shy of making the odd mistake as all their mistakes are funny and charming. Some completely correct Swedish words are also hilarious to an english speaker too. I mean how many times do you get to you slut and fart in the english language with facing some oprobrium.
13:30 December 1, 2012 by smilingjack
swedes speak much better english than australians. it is embatrrassing how little understanding of english australians have.

most can barely speak one language and the average swede is speaking 2 or 3 or 4.

travelling the world has really put australia and australians into perspective, we are quite an ignorant racist bunch.

in melbourne a few weeks ago a small group of french people were singing a song in french on a bus when they were attacked and violently abused for not speaking english. they threats were extreme and not isolated. middle of the day downtown melbourne. thats the real australia.

17:50 December 1, 2012 by Ashlito
SmilingJack, don't generally tar all people (your self-hating-self included!!!!!) from a country just because of a few racist imbeciles....and no that is not the real Australia but a troubling part that does exist in our country as well many others.

I'm an Australian from Melbourne who grew up with a massively ethnically diverse group of friends, I don't have problems with any group on a whole and thankful for it as knowing and learning from many different people and cultures filled me full of intrigue to visit different countries.

On my travels I have not found one country where is not any predjudice towards a diffent ethnic, political or social etc. which says more about humankind than any distinct nation or group of people.

That not saying that I don't prefer to live here in Sweden, I do prefer to live here for more climatical reasons that anything...I love the cold!!! and that the majority of friends live here. I feel more at home here and I love fresh water out of a tap.

All you are doing is propagating stereotypes on to Australians like myself where it is not warranted, and I take great offence to that..

If you have issue please feel free to contact me
14:25 December 2, 2012 by smilingjack

self hating?

I would say to visitors to australia dont expect anyone you address to understand any language other than our broken english. cmon, cos, ya know.

in fact if you dont speak english most shop owners will become aggressive and insulting. not a few imbeciles.

Im not sure what you read. perhaps hard hitting material like "what mascara to where with that little black dress" but you should try something new. do you know of australias white australia policy?

or the multitude of bashings and murders of Indian and Korean students and taxi drivers in melbourne?

do you know of the parliaments of both sth korea and india being so concerned they raised the issue with the australian government?

are you familiar with the term "bogan". ie the majority of melbournians.

the mass protests in the streets of melbourne of asian and indians who were scared to walk the streets? how about jill meagher? another mass protest -just a few weeks back - this time to stop violence against women?

cronulla race riots - bash a wog, muslim or asian? young men tattoed with the southern cross and or the australian flag. our sports teams are famous for verbally attacking their opponents.

australians on the hole are crass and very racist.

sweden is not and are a far more relaxed bunch of people.

but the main point is australians barely speak one language and are intolerant of those that dont speak english. where as swedes are very well spoken.

as someone else said - if my swedish was "as bad" as the swedes english I would be a very happy camper.
19:42 December 2, 2012 by Ashlito
so Smiling Jack, I hope you are including yourself in the category of crass.

The name is Ashlito as in male in spanish naming. O for males, A for females.

So no I don't think I'll be reading about mascara..1. because it doesn't go with my baldhead and 2. I already have lovely long lashes.:)

I am also what one in Aus may call a Wog, but don't you use that word as you have already in your last comment. I take great offence at that!! Just repeating what someone else said is not ok and by your sweepingly generalized last comment you have made any valid points that you may have had moot.

Yes the southern cross thing is quite stupid as even in Brazil for example you can see the southern cross, Australian does not have dominion over it.

I did notice the silly ultranationalism that arose while I was away in Australia, my wife and I both thought it was extremely misguided and very ultraconservative American-esque. Not what I was used to when I was growing up in Melbourne
Today's headlines
Sweden can extend border controls, EU says
A police officer carrying out a check at Sweden's border with Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

EU countries including Sweden should be granted permission to extend temporary border controls by a period of a further three months, the European Commission has decided.

Nobel Prizes
'I'd say he's arrogant but I'd be lying': Swedes on Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan performing in France. Photo: David Vincent/AP

Almost two weeks have passed since Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and he has yet to acknowledge the win. The Local asked Swedes what they think of the singer's silence.

Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast by thousands
A Swedish migration authority office in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The country has also slashed its prediction for 2017.

Swedish researchers plan new trucks for women drivers
File photo of trucks in Sweden. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Could vehicles adapted for women attract more female truckers to the profession?

These stats show Swedish driving isn't so gender equal
File photo of a Swedish woman driving a car. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A new survey shows that few Swedish women get behind the wheel when driving with their male partner.

Revealed: Game of Thrones could be coming to Sweden
Game of Thrones cast members at the Emmy Awards in September. Photo: Jordan Strauss/AP

The producers of the hit show have asked for three rounds of location pictures of Swedish island Gotland.

Prime Minister to meet Swedish troops in Iraq
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his Kurdish counterpart Nechervan Barzani. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Löfven is set to meet Swedish troops in Iraq on Tuesday.

Swedish politicians wage war on winter time
Soon it will look like this on your way home from work in Sweden. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Should Sweden stick with summer time all year round?

'Don't turn the Pope into a global teddy bear'
Sweden's Queen Silvia and Princess Leonore visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

It's time to hold the Pope to account and make sure he turns his words about reform into action, argues a minister of the Swedish Church ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Sweden.

Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available