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Members' forum: Why are you learning Swedish?

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Members' forum: Why are you learning Swedish?
For the job, for a friend or for fun – there are many reaons to learn Swedish. Photo: Nele Schröder/The Local
07:29 CET+01:00
Swedish people may be known for their impressive English skills, but there are many people around the world who are learning Swedish – some of you just for fun. We asked you for your top tips.

This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more Membership Exclusives here.

Sandra van Bijsterveld, 43, is a travel blogger from the Netherlands

I have always been a language person. In school I learned Dutch, French, German, English, ancient Latin and ancient Greek. I went on to study Slavonic languages (Russian, Czech and Bulgarian). Then I married a man who was crazy about Sweden. We started alternating our holidays between Sweden and Czech. I always try soaking up as much of the language as possible when I am travelling, so the learning began there and then. Shorty after that, I started a travel blog specializing on Northern and Eastern Europe. Sweden was the main part of it […] and that's why I chose to learn Swedish, not Norwegian or Danish.

During our next trip to Sweden, I bought a book with a language course in Lund. Later, I installed DuoLingo. I bought another Swedish language course to study from home. I started following Swedish social media accounts. I practised by not switching to the English version of destination websites when doing my research, but reading the Swedish version. When in Sweden, I do my best to understand the Swedish signs and spoken language around me. At home, besides DuoLingo and Swedish websites and social media, I listen carefully when we are watching Swedish crime series on TV.

READ ALSO: Six tips for learning Swedish without even being in Sweden


Sandra van Bijsterveld. Photo: Private

Clara Citra Mutiarasari, 25, is a project officer for asylum, migration and integration in Indonesia

The reason why I am learning Swedish is firstly because I am a big fan of Nordic countries. I love the Nordic culture, history, their way of life and breathtaking nature. I have been dreaming of living there some day, either moving permanently or living for a long period.

I think the easiest way to experience how is it like to live in Nordic countries is through studying. Since my study background is literature and humanities, it is quite hard to find a master degree with a chance of scholarship for students outside EU. However, Sweden has plenty of them!

I want to be able to speak Swedish fluently because I want to integrate with the society and socialize with the Swedes. By knowing their language, I will be able to know and understand them better as well. Moreover, it can also help me understand and learn other Nordic languages.

My advice for people learning Swedish would be to use every source you can get: Language learning applications, online articles, books, even song lyrics and movies. Swedish may not be a very popular language worldwide but there are many sources if you try to find them, especially online. Also, never hesitate to ask if you have questions and try to find native speakers (even just for chat) to practise.

READ ALSO: Don't miss The Local's word of the day series


Clara Citra Mutiarasari. Photo: Private

Diogo Gameiro, 34, is a film director from Brazil

I went to Stockholm in 2014 for work, spent a week there and absolutely fell in love with the people and the culture in Sweden. When I came back to Brazil I started to study a bit more how Swedes deal with life, in general, to understand the culture a little better and understand why I fell in love so rapidly.

I read an article saying that learning a language is key to fully understand the culture because you get the logic depth, the line of thoughts and how popular expressions impact the society. In the same week, I read that learning a new language with a different logic from your mother tongue also helps with the creative process in your daily life. I was immediately sold on the idea of learning Swedish to understand Swedes better and to be more creative at the same time.

I study by myself using books and apps, but I think I'm not learning well enough this way so my next step is to enrol in a Swedish class. After my last visit to Sweden I'm convinced that I want to move there soon to spend the rest of my life, so now I have extra motivation to learn the language. I'm lucky enough that my wife has the same feeling towards Sweden as I do.

LISTEN: What does the southern Swedish dialect sound like?


Diogo Gameiro. Photo: Private

Andreas Wershofen, 26, is a student of plant biotechnology in Hanover, Germany

A couple of years ago, I started talking to a Swede through an international online video game. It's quite an international game, so whenever I meet people there, I want to know more about their language and keep asking about simple words. When I talked to the Swede, we exchanged some vocabulary and we realized that some words are quite similar in German and Swedish. I wanted to start a new language course at that time, and Swedish was a language I really wanted to try out after this encounter.

READ ALSO: Five ways to cure homesickness as a German in Sweden


Andreas Wershofen. Photo: Private

Saadullah Khan, 21, is a student of Sociology and History in Lahore, Pakistan

I started learning Swedish as soon as I started to think about pursuing graduate school in Sweden. The prospect of eventually settling there doesn't sound bad, and it's much more convenient for me as a Pakistani to think about getting a Swedish citizenship than it is to think about a Canadian citizenship – which is the only other country that is as seemingly pro-immigration. But Canada is way too far from Pakistan, which would make travelling back and forth a huge problem.

I concluded I had to learn Swedish because there is a perception of Scandinavia as a place with a lot of subtle racism. That's a huge concern for me, coupled with the fact that Swedish people are apparently very reserved English-speakers. I thought learning the language will help me make sure I will get nice internships during my studies there, and possibly even a job and nice friends. It isn't very difficult at this point, and I like the softness of the language. I've heard it before in Ingmar Bergman movies, so I have at least some exposure to how it sounds when spoken by fluent speakers.

READ ALSO: 13 signs you've mastered the Swedish language


Rana Saadullah. Photo: Private

Mario Rustan, 36, is a freelance writer from Indonesia

I visited Sweden last year. Before that, I had learned Swedish phrases but my mind was blank there. I only could go on with "Hej", "Tack", and "Förlåt" (I even pronounced it wrong). I believed I could have done better, especially as I talked with some people who couldn't speak English. My friends have used apps like Duolingo to learn languages, so I used these apps to build up my Swedish skills.

I came to Sweden, because my visa was valid there, and because Sweden has Ikea, Spotify, and H&M. But one week there made me fell in love with the country. The people were down-to-earth, honest, and stylish. Then I bought and read those lagom books, and I understood why I liked it there. Other people love Italy, Japan, or Brazil; I love Sweden.

I plan to migrate to Sweden, and it would help me a lot if I can communicate in Swedish besides English. Besides, you hardly encounter people whose resume lists "Swedish" as an acquired language.

If you're learning Swedish, I suggest apps – they can help you develop the habit of practicing every day. For me Swedish is the easiest of all Germanic languages – the grammar isn't more complicated than English. Don't be scared of the accents – ä is closer to American English "a", ö is just "oe", and "å" is cute really, it's how you say "oh". Write down what you have practised with a pen or pencil. Writing by hand helps memorizing the spellings and the grammar, and helps you seeing how the language works.

MEMBERS' FORUM: Why do Swedes pepper their Swedish with random English words?


Mario Rustan. Photo: Private

Malcolm Jack, 36, is a freelance journalist from Glasgow, Scotland

My wife is Swedish, and we have two young kids who are both half-Swedish. I started learning not long after my wife and I met – I think I did my first course around 2007 – and I've continued on and off since then. Mainly this has been through the department for adult education at the University of Glasgow, where I live, which has been running night classes in Swedish for a number of years. We lived in Sweden for a time in 2012, and during that time I also did a few months of svenska för invandrare (SFI) at Infokomp in Stockholm. I haven't done much formal learning in a few years now, but I'm still working on it a little every day – it's good having young kids who are learning too, that helps, although they'll be better than me in no time I expect!

Swedes being Swedes, there's no real reason to learn the language in order to communicate with them, as an English speaker – they're kind enough to have learned our language for us, and often speak it better than we do! But I'm determined not to be one of those lazy people who relies on speaking English all the time – in the fullness of time I want to be good enough to make all of my interactions with Swedish family and friends in good Swedish. I also do a fair amount of work in/about Sweden as a journalist, so it's useful in that aspect as well.

I'm getting there… the trouble is that Swedes often speak back to you in English even if you speak to them in what you know to be decent Swedish. I find Swedish to be a really beautiful language – I listen to a lot of Swedish-language pop music and find it very pleasing on the ear.

READ ALSO: Ten Swedish words you need to know as a student


Malcolm Jack. Photo: Private

Kaitlin Alm, 25, is a script assistant at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in New York City, USA

I've always been interested in learning as much about Swedish culture as possible. I come from a small family with Swedish heritage and since I don't know much about my extended family I try to gain that sense of familial connection through learning about Sweden as a country – their culture, their customs, and now their language.

I visited Stockholm for the first time last year and absolutely loved it! I plan on visiting other parts of Sweden in time and hope to be able to use the bits of Swedish I've learned. While I know a lot of Swedes are fluent in English, I feel like it's important to learn the language to help with travelling and to help gain a better understanding of the people and culture.

My tip for people learning Swedish is try to practise even a little bit every day. Things might not click right away but if you keep it a part of your daily routine you'll find that you're learning more than you realize.

My advice for people learning Swedish is, when you've learned a word/phrase in Swedish and you come across it in English, say the Swedish phrase to yourself in your head to practise. Watch Swedish film/television. As someone who learned English first, it's hard to get the cadence of Swedish down so watching TV/film helps you understand the rhythm a little better.

READ ALSO: Five reasons why it's actually quite easy to learn Swedish


Kaitlin Alm. Photo: Private

Carol Cadinelli, 21, is a student of journalism and communication from Juiz de Fora in Brazil, but currently lives in Chennai, India

About two years ago, my best friend was selected to a PhD programme in Sweden, and decided on starting to learn the language because he was going to live in the country for at least the next four following years. Back then, I was already fluent in English – which makes it a lot easier to learn other languages online (a majority of online courses are taught in English). So because I was planning on visiting my friend in Sweden, because I felt it could be nice for him to have someone to learn the language together and I started taking Swedish on DuoLingo.

My first main plan was to visit Sweden and not be completely lost – which actually happened! I went to Sweden a few months ago, and knowing a bit of the language helped a lot with many details of the trip, such as going to the supermarket, reading menus, very basic things. Being in Sweden, I really fell in love with the cities I visited, and I already have tickets for visiting again.

My advice for learning Swedish is to be as in touch with the language as possible. Look for movies, TV shows, songs, poems, every kind of content possible in Swedish.

If you need any recommendations, I had a great time watching Bron, and I've been enjoying Äkta Människor a lot these days. Also, for people who are fans of art cinema, just try watching Ingmar Bergman's films in their original language. And if possible, visit Sweden, because it's the easiest way to get completely immerse in the language and the culture.

READ ALSO: How to raise bilingual children in Sweden


Carol Cadinelli. Photo: Private

Michael A Livingston, 62, is a professor of Law at Rutgers Law School in Philadelphia, USA

I'm writing a book about the Nordic Model and its overseas influence, also another project about Sweden and Israel. I do the interviews mostly in English but need to read Swedish for background and also to keep up with the country. Ironically, I do best with immigrants – the native Swedes know too much English.

I picked Swedish over the other Nordic languages partially because it's bigger but also the most interesting for me. There's something about the contrast between a modern society and a traditional culture that's quite magical.

I came to Sweden basically by accident. I was invited to a conference in Oslo, stopped in Copenhagen and spent a few hours in Lund, never going more than 500 yards from the train station. I still loved it.

My main advice for learning Swedish is to get out of Stockholm, Lund, and Uppsala and try to get to places with fewer foreigners. They will still realize that you're a foreigner, but the less English they are used to speaking; the more likely they are to respond to you in their own language. Also, you have to be willing to make mistakes. Pressbyrån and drugstores are good places to practice – they get fewer foreigners and, if you carry a Swedish newspaper, they will sort of assume that you know the language.

READ ALSO: Ten common phrases in Sweden's ancient forest language Elfdalian


Michael A Livingston. Photo: Private

Junior Léo Bernard, 31, is a computer science engineer from Paris, France

I started learning Swedish thanks to an episode of the TV series Äkta Människor. I used to watch it on the French television programme Arte. Then I missed one episode and had to watch it in replay. The only thing is that in replay, only Swedish audio was available – that was the first time ever that I heard Swedish. I found its sound pretty nice and I decided to start learning it.

Nowadays, I mainly use the Swedish language to watch Swedish television and read books on societal subjects. Apart from that, I use the language every Thursday in an exchange group called the CaféKaffe. I started organizing this group at the Svensk student hemhuset on Cité Universitaire's campus in Paris, where I live.

If you are currently learning Swedish, I highly suggest finding a Swedish tandem partner to actually speak Swedish! Make sure that they don't switch to English; the ones that I had tended to easily switch instead of speaking Swedish.

READ ALSO: The words and phrases you need to know to survive a Swedish Christmas


Junior Léo Bernard. Photo: Private

How did you learn Swedish and what do you find the most challenging? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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