The app that teaches you Swedish while you watch TV

Still struggling to learn the Swedish language? A new app featuring popular Swedish television shows and tailored language support can help take your Swedish to new heights.

The app that teaches you Swedish while you watch TV
Photo: SVT

We’ve all been there. You hear a string of sounds that make sense to everyone in the room but you.

Sure, there are parts that seem familiar; that you know you’ve heard before. But it all moves so fast your brain just can’t keep up.

Yep, learning Swedish is no easy task. Classes can only take you so far, and words often ‘look’ different than they sound. Plus Swedes often switch to English at the first sign you’re struggling.

But now Swedish public broadcaster SVT has developed, SVT Språkplay, a free app that lets you learn Swedish – and watch TV at the same time.

The app gives you access to thousands of subtitled TV shows with interactive Swedish language support in 18 languages, including English, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian.

Download SVT Språkplay for iOS / Download SVT Spåkplay for Android

Thus, SVT Språkplay makes SVT's programmes more accessible to people who are either new in Sweden or simply want to develop their Swedish language skills.

“This is a really useful tool for people who want to improve their Swedish,” says Erik Hedin, project manager at SVT.

“It’s a great way to learn the language and more about Swedish society,”

Click on words to learn more

After downloading the app, simply choose your language, level of Swedish, and start watching.

When someone starts speaking onscreen, clickable Swedish subtitles appear on your screen.

Clicking on a word automatically brings up a translation into your chosen language. You can click to hear that word spoken on its own, and also save words in a personalized glossary.

Choose from thousands of programs

The app features thousands of SVT programmes in several different categories, including, drama, comedy, and children's programmes – there’s really something for everyone.

You can find all the programmes using the Search field or scrolling through the different Categories. Once you’ve picked a show, the app lets you practice your Swedish while watching something you like.

Learn more about SVT Språkplay

“We feel we’ve managed to develop a tool that is both simple and fun to use,” says Hedin.

“In addition to language learning, we hope that the app will help contribute to a more inclusive Sweden by giving more people a chance to keep up with events through news and popular television programmes.”

SVT Språkplay is currently only available to users in Sweden and supports English, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish, Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Persian, Finnish, Greek, Kurdish, Serbian, Somali, Azerbaijani, Amharic, Tigrinya and Pashto.

Download the app for iOS (iPhone / iPad) here

Download the app for Android here

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by SVT Språkplay.


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.