We've gathered a few quirky and fun tips to help you break through the barrier and speak better Swedish.This list aims to provide useful tips for anyone from a beginner to someone who has almost mastered the language.
1. Befriend the elderly
If you’re reading this list, it’s a safe bet you speak English, which is incidentally also spoken by an enormous number of Swedes. You’ve probably even been cut off while speaking Swedish by a “Don’t worry, I speak English”. Luckily for enthusiastic language learners, many old people don’t know a word of English. Target the elderly, try to befriend them, and reap the rewards. Why not volunteer at a pensioner home?
2. Ask stupid questions
Or rather, ask questions you already know the answer to. This is one for the beginners. When you’re absolutely certain where the milk is in the supermarket, ask a member of staff for directions. It will build up your confidence, and you’ll know which way to walk when they’ve answered. Or check your watch then approach a stranger and ask the time. Just get talking.
3. Lie about your language skills
This is the riskiest tip of all. If a shopkeeper switches to English mid-conversation in an attempt to help you out, tell them (in Swedish) that you don’t understand English at all. Tell them you’re from Russia, or Greece… or The Netherlands. Make something up or say where you're actually from. The important part is to not speak English. But be careful, this can backfire if they speak Russian, Greek or Dutch. But it means you’ll be forced to find a way to communicate. Dangerous, but highly effective.
4. Play parrot
Repeat everything. Really. Repeat everything. Really. But not to the point of lunacy. If someone says “It’s a lovely day” – you should say “It IS a lovely day.” They won’t even notice what you’re doing, and you’ll likely find yourself adding new expressions to your everyday vocabulary. But be careful to limit yourself.
5. Listen to Swedish music
You’ll learn without realizing. Chances are, you’ve listened to Gangnam Style at least once, and smart money suggests you didn’t understand a word. Find the sound that you like, and give it a chance. Soon you’ll find yourself singing the lyrics without even realizing. Cornelis Vreeswijk is a great place to start, many of his songs are slow enough to keep up with and well worth a listen in the first place. Even Abba sang in Swedish sometimes – find their Swedish songs and listen and learn!
6. Join a team (or club)
This is a good chance to interact in the first place, and a great way to make friends if you’ve just come to Sweden. And if your Swedish is awful, you’ll quickly realize that a small vocabulary will do nothing to detract from a casual football game. If sports isn’t your thing, a casual chess board is a perfect setting for a conversation.
7. Watch your favourite TV shows
Sweden doesn’t dub TV. Not only is this a contributing factor to Swedes’ English skills, but it also means you can take advantage of a live translation opportunity. You don’t need to give up your favourite shows – in fact, embrace them. Just don’t ignore the Swedish text below. Read the text and you'll find out how to quote the show in Swedish!
8. Get a dictionary
Download a language app. The Tyda app on smartphones works particularly well for a word-to-word translation, and it can sometimes be a savior if you’re lost in a sentence or a conversation. It’s even handy to have. If you don’t have a smartphone, carry a pocket dictionary.
9. Talk to the neighbour
Don't be shy. Not only can you practice your language skills, but you also might make a friend. This is a perfect chance to improve your small talk, and if you get out of your depth, the safety of your own home is never too far away for a quick escape. Tip: Also learn how to say "Oh no, I've left the stove on".
10. Read comics
Did you enjoy the Phantom as a child? Prefer Asterix? Batman? Something else? Even if you answered no, try picking up a comic book in Swedish and flicking through it. Children's books in general also work. The language is simple and there are pictures galore. You might even become a fan. Kapow!