Swedish for Programmers: the secret to getting a job

It can be hard to find a job in a foreign country – even if you have skills that are in-demand. The Local spoke with an employer about what they look for – and a few expats who solved the problem.

Swedish for Programmers: the secret to getting a job
Zhiqin Yu found a job in Sweden after taking Swedish for Programmers

When Gizil Oguz arrived in Sweden from Turkey last year, she was determined to learn the language as quickly as possible.

“I always believed that I need to speak Swedish well in order to be a part of society,” she explains. “Even though most Swedes speak English, they are more confident in Swedish, and chit-chat at work is in Swedish.”

She eagerly enrolled in Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) classes, but quickly found that the pace was too slow.

“The classes were crowded, and I had already learned many of the concepts while the teacher had to repeat them for new students,” she says.

And Bence Dala, a programmer from Hungary, didn't think he'd have any trouble finding a job in Sweden when he moved here with his wife.

“But after a year of contacting companies, I didn’t even usually get an answer,” he recalls.

Meanwhile Chinese engineer Zhiqin Yu felt he was using Google translate “all the time”, simply didn’t feel integrated in daily life in Sweden, and – most frustrating of all – couldn’t find a job.

But today, Gizil, Bence, and Zhiqin all speak fluent Swedish and have full-time jobs. All thanks to discovering a common solution for their individual challenges: Swedish for Programmers.

“I found out about the programme through The Local – it was really my only way to know what’s happening in Sweden,” says Zhiqin. “But I wanted to learn Swedish and get a chance to know the country.”

Gizil and Bence had heard classmates at SFI mention more specific language programmes, such as Swedish for Engineers, and their interest was piqued.

“The normal SFI courses weren’t great for programmers,” Bence says. “The IT terms are much different than other workplace jargon, and Swedish for Programmers also offers the chance to get Java certification.”

“In the software development market it’s always good to improve your knowledge and to learn new programming languages,” Gizil agrees. “I wanted to improve my programming knowledge and also hoped to learn more advanced Swedish concepts that they don’t teach in SFI.”

Swedish for Programmers, or SFX-IT, is a language course designed to prepare educated immigrants to work in IT in Sweden, and is offered by the C3L community learning centre In Tyresö near Stockholm.

In addition to learning Swedish about 15 hours per week, students are offered classes in programming languages such as Java, C#, and Python.

“I love that there are different levels available, so everyone can choose the one suitable,” Zhiqin says. “Writing was the most challenging part for me personally. But the small class sizes also make it a perfect learning environment. I highly recommended the programme if you want to learn Swedish rapidly.”

Students also receive support preparing their CVs and practicing for interviews.

“We learned how to write a CV in Swedish and how to present ourselves, and of course that really helped with finding an internship,” Bence says. “Doing an internship is part of the programme, and thanks to that, I was able to find a job.”

The programme is highly tailored and personalized, and can also be done online, making it perfect for expats in Sweden who already are working as well.

Find out more about Swedish for Programmers

“I actually found my job before starting my SFX-IT course, but before I started working I enrolled,” Gizil says. “Since I started working I’ve continued my classes online. And I believe it helps me a lot with my daily activities in the office. I write all my emails in Swedish and try to communicate in Swedish as much as possible.”

Jimmy Lundström, Gizil’s supervisor at global IT consultancy company Sogeti says he is “absolutely” more likely to hire a candidate who has taken Swedish for Programmers.

“The programme has high demands for the technical capabilities of their students, such as hands-on experience with programming, as well as a very challenging course setup,” he explains. “We know we’ll find people there who are high-energy and very motivated, and those are important qualities we look at during recruitment.”

Bence is now an AX developer at Sigma ITC, and Zhiniq recently got a job as a software engineer. Lundström says that Swedish for Programmers is filling a gap in the market, and giving educated immigrants the opportunity to satisfy Sweden’s growing demand for talent in the IT industry.

“There’s definitely a need of more technically skilled people in the IT-area today. It’s also obvious that there are too many people who are having a tough time finding a job within IT when they don’t know Swedish,” he says.

“Offering Swedish classes small enough for each student to get the individual help they need to learn the language as fast as possible and also focusing on the IT perspective – that’s something C3L does really well.”

Of course the programme is challenging – but it could just change your life. It certainly did for Gizil.

“The SFX-IT courses aren’t a piece of cake. You need to get your hands dirty and put a lot of effort in,” she says. “But it fulfilled all my expectations – there’s no end to what you can learn.”

 This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by C3L Tyresö


Ten essential Sámi words that you might not have heard before

There are about ten Sámi languages alive today, spoken across the northern parts of Scandinavia and eastern Russia. But they are among the many Indigenous languages around the world that are at risk of disappearing. 

Ten essential Sámi words that you might not have heard before

You might have heard that there are over 200 words for snow in Sámi languages, which is unsurprising, given the climate of the Sámi homeland in Northern Europe. But there’s a lot more to the languages than snow. 

The Swedish Sámi parliament website says that “language is the bearer of cultural heritage and reflects our people’s common view of life and values. Language transfers knowledge about nature and the world.”

But Sámi language fluency has been declining rapidly for decades. Pite Sámi is critically endangered, with fewer than 50 living speakers, all in Sweden. Today, Northern Sámi is the most widely spoken. 

Due to assimilation policies in all the countries the Sámi found themselves in, older generations of Sámi people were not allowed to speak their own language in school, meaning some languages have already been lost. 

The Local spoke to speakers and researchers of the languages to find out some of the most unique and beautiful words still in use.

1. Sápmi  

Sápmi is the Northern Sámi word for the traditional dwelling place of the Sámi people, which encompasses the northern parts of Scandinavia and the Kola peninsula of Russia. Since the 20th century, national borders and state policies have divided Sápmi and the people who call it home. 

Location of Sápmi in Europe

A map of where Sápmi in northern Europe. Map: Wikipedia

Elle Rávdná Näkkäläjärvi is part of the Sámiskeveivisere, Sámi Pathfinders, a group of young Sámi people who visit high schools and teach students about Sámi culture. She says Sápmi itself is one of her favourite words. 

“The word means a Sápmi without borders, it means relatives, sisters and brothers, and community,” she says. 

2. Eadni 

Eadni means ‘mother’ in Northern Sámi.

“It’s one of the first words that children learn,” says Berit Anne Bals Baal, a lecturer of linguistics at the National Centre for Sámi Language in Education at the Sámi University College, who chose it as her favourite word.

It has a complex phonology (sound system), and is similar to the Northern Sámi word for Earth, which is eanan

3. Guohtun  

Guohtun is a Northern Sámi word that describes the ideal conditions for reindeer to find lichen to graze under a covering of snow. But it’s more complicated than that. It’s one of those words that resists simple translation.

Lars Miguel Utsi, the Vice President of the Sámi parliament of Sweden, says, “Guohtun is a very complex word. It encompasses geography, plants, lichens, snow, and reindeer. It exemplifies the language and its connection to land and water.”

“It’s a very soothing word because it means that there is food and the reindeer can reach it,” he said. 

4. Giitu  

Giitu means ‘thank you’ in Northern Sámi.

Anyone who knows some Finnish might notice that it sounds quite similar to the Finnish word for ‘thank you’, kiitos. That’s because Sámi languages have more in common with Finnish than with Swedish, Danish or Norwegian, coming from the same language family: Finno-Uralic. 

You can respond to giitu with leage buorre which means ‘you’re welcome.’

5. Čáiddas 

This means snowball. We couldn’t have a list of Sámi words without having something specific to snow, could we? 

6. Vuovdi 

This means forest in Northern Sámi. Vast swathes of Sápmi is covered in forest. Sámi reindeer herders rely on old-growth forests to let their reindeer graze; they eat the kind of lichen that only grows in older forests. 

7. Boazu

Reindeer husbandry is a vital part of Sámi life. Photo: Image Bank Sweden

In all Sámi languages, there are two different words for reindeer. In Northern Sámi there is goddi and boazu.

Boazu means a reindeer who has been tamed and can be milked. Goddi is the word for wilder reindeer.  

Reindeer herding is an important aspect of Sámi culture and a vital source of income for many Sámi people. The Sámi parliament estimates that about 2,500 people are dependent on income from reindeer husbandry. 

8. Bures

An easy one! This is how you say “hello” to another person in Northern Sámi. 

9. Goahte  

Goahte is a type of hut in Lule Sámi. It’s a traditional Sámi home that can be built in several different ways, depending on what material is available, like with wooden panels or a construction of wooden poles covered with peat or cloth.

10. Sámediggi 

This is the Northern Sámi word for the Sámi Parliament. There’s a Sámi parliament in each country that divides Sápmi.

In the Scandinavian countries, it’s essentially a government agency with the aim of representing the Sámi people and increasing opportunities to participate in public debate.