Language and culture For Members

Ten common phrases in Sweden's ancient forest language Elfdalian

Lee Roden
Lee Roden - [email protected]
Ten common phrases in Sweden's ancient forest language Elfdalian
The Hykjeberget reserve in Älvdalen. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

With only 3,000 speakers confined to a small area of Dalarna County, Sweden's ancient forest language Elfdalian is undoubtedly unique. Now, experts in the tongue have picked out 10 key phrases for The Local so we can all do a little to help keep it alive.


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Elfdalian has its roots in Old Norse but has developed in isolation since the Middle Ages and retains archaic features not found in other Northern Germanic languages. It was even written in rune form until 1900.

Few people not from the area have an ability to speak it, though there has been a recent effort to change that thanks to the creation of a new course in the language which last summer was taken by 26 students from the USA, Germany and other countries. 

READ ALSO: Elfdalian gets international recognition



It isn't an easy language to master (a Dane with a Masters in linguistics who The Local interviewed last year called it 'very complex'), but these ten common phrases picked out by experts are a good place to start:

1. Tjär tokk fer – Thank you very much

2. Ulið að buðum? – Are you (plural) going to the summer pastures?

3. Irum i buðum – We are at the summer pastures

4. Weðą̊ kumb du? – Where are you from?

5. Sją̊ums i morgų – See you tomorrow

6. Ig al jåp kelindjin – I'm going to help my wife

7. Ukin ier dig dą̊? – Who are your parents?

8. Ig wet įt – I don't know/I have no idea

9. Dalsker du? – Do you speak Elfdalian?

10. Ig ar mikkel måyser binda – I have a lot to do

A guide on the pronunciation, as well as a more in-depth introduction to Elfdalian in general, can be found here. Thanks to Björn Rehnström, Stefan Jacobsson Schulstad and others from the Elfdalian as a Minority Language Facebook group for their help with the phrases. 

READ ALSO: How Sweden's ancient language Elfdalian is being saved by Minecraft


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