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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Can learning Swedish be fun? One student’s tips

Learning a new language is a challenge - especially when you have studies as well. But it can also be fun. NFGL student Ana Devdariani presents her experiences and tips for making Swedish 'fun-tastic'.

Can learning Swedish be fun? One student's tips

“To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world,” one wise Chinese proverb tells us.

I decided to open a Swedish window for myself and started learning the Swedish language. In general, the language learning experience can be seen either as another learning routine, or as a fun experience – which it actually is.

From the very beginning, I started learning the language without setting up any routine. Nowadays we carry our smartphones everywhere; I tricked mine and changed its menu into Swedish. I found surprising how easy it was to understand the meaning of certain words. I implemented Swedish language in my art and music therapy as well; I listened to Swedish music and watched films only with Swedish subtitles. Soon enough I became familiar with the melody and dynamics of the language. Next step was translating the lyrics and paying more attention to the sentence structure.

After all of this had been done, the language sounded familiar and I had developed emotional and intellectual bonds with it. My motivation grew with every new word and I went online for getting some more.

Sweden has many immigrants from many countries, and as a result, the country facilitates language learning platforms and gives easy access to everyone who is willing to learn. Are you busy with your studies, work, or family?  It is not a language-learning barrier. There is no urgency when it comes to enrolling in the language course.  The results which I got from simply googling “learn Swedish” were beyond surprising.

Whole new experiences open up at http://sfi.halmstad.se/, for instance. On this page you can find digital exercises in different fields. You can, read, listen and write at the same time.

On Lexin you can watch short videos about different occasions, listen to how Swedish people use useful vocabulary, and also practice your pronunciation. Is it difficult to understand certain words?  A broadly used and approved dictionary can be found here. Is English not your first language? – Neither is that a problem. The best part of this dictionary is amazing variety of support for foreign languages.

However, if you speak any Germanic language, try to use your native tongue first to access Swedish. Since both languages are from the same langue family, Swedish grammar and vocabulary will quickly become more familiar.

After reaching a certain level, I started translating Swedish into Swedish and searched for synonyms. Even when you cannot go online, you can access various pocket dictionaries with your smartphone. Very useful application for android owners is bug free, offline dictionary Folkets Ordbok.The equivalent to this app for Apple owners is Lexikon.

The first thing you notice about Swedish is its melodic articulation.  My final tip would be to embrace this melody and always dare to speak, work on pronunciation, and even to sing in Swedish.

If you are in Sweden and have reached the level which allows you to do basic shopping or just greet someone, avoid using any other language. Challenge yourself and practice with your Swedish friends. It will definitely please them and will give you even more motivation for opening this new window into the world.

Ana Devdariani 
NFGL student at Lund University

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LEARNING SWEDISH

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your Swedish

Once you've learned the basics of Swedish, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for Swedish learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your Swedish

STARTING OUT  

Coffee Break Swedish 

Coffee Break Swedish aims to take you through the basics of Swedish in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where Swedish native Hanna teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break Swedish Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes.

Say it in Swedish 

This lively podcast from Stockholm-based Joakim Andersson has an enormous amount of content, with a course of beginners lessons, and stand-alone lessons on various different aspects of Swedish usage. Andersson stopped making podcasts after 80 episodes to concentrate on his YouTube channel, which is also very much worth a watch, with a lot of interesting, and fun, snippets on how to pronounce and use Swedish. There’s also a merchandise site, with some fun Swedish-themed t-shirts. 

Pimsleur Swedish.

OK, so this is an app rather than a podcast, but the experience of doing the daily 30-minute audio lessons in Pimsleur Swedish is very similar to listening to a regular podcast. This is a highly structured audio-based language learning programme, which encourages you to learn through sound rather than the written word, and repeats vocabulary and grammar at intervals to implant them in your memory. It’s very effective, and is a good way to have decent pronunciation from the start. The downsides are the cost – at $150, or $20.95 a month, it’s not particularly cheap – and the fact that Pimsleur have so far only made 30 lessons, meaning it only gets you to quite a basic level.  

DEVELOPING YOUR SWEDISH 

Radio Sweden på Lätt Svenska

This daily news bulletin in simplified Swedish put out by Sweden’s state broadcaster SR is a fantastic resource which, so far as we know, exists in no other country. It’s essentially the main stories from Ekot, SR’s main news bulletin, simplified and then read very slowly, with short sections of real-life interviews. If you go onto Radio Sweden’s website, you can read along with the text. Incidentally, 8sidor, which means literally “eight pages”, a newspaper in simplified Swedish, has a function which allows you to listen to the stories. 

Klartext on P4 

The Klartext news bulletin is actually designed for mentally disabled people, but it also works for beginners learning Swedish. It’s faster than Radio Sweden på Lätt Svenska, but still uses simplified language, so it’s good for language learners wanting to move a step up (so long as you don’t mind getting a bit more news than you might expect of particular relevance to the disabled). 

Simple Swedish

Despite its name, the Simple Swedish podcast from Fredrik Arhusiander, is not for beginners, but rather to help people who already understand basic Swedish develop their vocabulary and listening skills. The episodes aren’t graded, so can be listened to in any order, and feature Fredrik discuss his life, what he’s doing, what’s in the news, basically anything at all, in slow, simplified Swedish. With 146 episodes so far, there’s a lot of material to get through. Fredrik also offers his Strong Swedish online course for €199. 

SR Ekot nyheter 

After you’ve listened to the two simplified versions of Sweden’s official radio news bulletin for a few months, it might be time to try the real deal. The Ekot Nyheter podcast has three major broadcasts a day: in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. If you make it part of your routine, you’ll find that what starts off a bit hard to grasp slowly becomes as easy to understand as news in your own language. 

Radioapan

Anyone with half-Swedish children can benefit from listening to Radioapan, “the radio monkey”, a podcast from Swedish state radio’s children’s channel which has original stories, children’s radio plays, and readings from children’s books. It’s a really great resource. 

PERFECTING YOUR SWEDISH

Lysande Lagom. The Lysande Lagom podcast from Emil Molander and Sofi Tegsveden Deveaux combines analysis of the clichés and reality around Sweden and Swedishness with language-learning advice. It’s from Lys Förlag, the publisher which published The Local’s Swedish Word of the Day anthology, Villa, Vovve, Volvo, and it makes for very entertaining listening. 

Ekots Lördagsintervju

The long Saturday interview on SR, Ekots Lördagsintervju, is a great way to develop your listening skills, with host Johar Bendjelloul grilling party leaders, ministers, agency chiefs and other important people in the news  

Alex och Sigges poddcast 

The 10-year-old comedy podcast, Alex & Sigge’s podcast, is an institution in Sweden. It features Alex Schulman and Sigge Eklund, two novelists and media personalities, talking about the news, their lives and just about anything they find amusing. 

Rättegångspodden

Currently Sweden’s most listened-to podcast, Rättegångspodden, which translates as “The Trial Pod”, exploits the fact that all trials in Sweden are recorded, with the audio available to the public, to develop dramatic true crime podcasts. The podcast’s founder Nils Bergman, also uses audio evidence collected by police, such as intercepted phone calls. For language learners with a true crime bent, this is a great way of improving your Swedish. The long form documentary podcasts on P3 also have a lot to offer for true crime enthusiasts.  

Politiken  

The Politiken podcast from Svenska Dagbladet is far and away the best podcast in Swedish on politics in the country. Wife and husband journalist team Maggie Strömberg and Torbjörn Nilsson analyse the week’s developments, with Strömberg providing up-to-the-minute gossip from the Riksdag cafeteria and Nilsson drawing on his encyclopaedic knowledge of Swedish political history to put it all in context. Linguistically, it’s quite rich, so regular listening will expand your vocabulary.  

Språket 

Language geeks might enjoy Språket, a podcast from SR on language usage and etymology, which will help advanced Swedish learners get to grips with some of the things that puzzle even native speakers. If this is the sort of thing that floats your boat, then you might also enjoy Språktidningens podd, the podcast from Sweden’s language newspaper Språktidning. 

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