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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

TEST: Is your Swedish good enough for citizenship?

To become a Swedish citizen, you may soon need to prove your language skills. Do yours make the grade?

TEST: Is your Swedish good enough for citizenship?
An excerpt on citizenship from a Swedish legal text. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

The Swedish government’s proposal that applicants for residency have to pass a language test is almost certain to get through parliament. The proposal — part of the January Agreement struck between the Social Democrats, the Centre Party, and the Liberal Party — has a big majority of parliamentary parties behind it.

So it might be time to sign up for SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) classes – that is, if you haven’t already. 

READ ALSO: Swedish language tests for citizenship: Here’s what we know about the proposal so far

What level of Swedish will you need for citizenship? 

An inquiry into bringing in the language requirement for concluded in January last year that applicants for citizenship should be able to listen to and read Swedish at B1 the second of the six levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), equivalent to having completed level D, the fourth-highest level in the Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course. 

This is a fairly high level of Swedish, well beyond the simple nej, tack, (“no, thanks”) you might need when asked if you want a receipt at the supermarket, or the en kardemummabulle och en latte (“a cardamom bun and a latte”) you might need when ordering a fika. It’s enough to get the gist of what’s in Swedish newspapers, listen to the radio, or to follow a lecture without too much difficultly. 

When it comes to speaking or writing Swedish, the inquiry suggested requiring a lower level, A2. This is equivalent to SFI level C, and roughly the same as GCSE level in the UK.  

This is the same level which the government has suggested for those applying for permanent residency for reading and listening as well as speaking and writing.

READ ALSO: Is your Swedish good enough for permanent residency?

What are the CEFR’s A2 and B1 levels? 

According to the CEFR guide, someone at B1 level, “can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.” and “can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.”

To compare this to school levels in European countries, this is roughly equivalent to getting an A-C grade at AS level in the UK. 

A2 is much more basic. According to CEFR, this is enough to “communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters”. 

People reaching this level should be able to “describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.”

So there’s no need to speak or write with perfect grammar, or to have a large Swedish vocabulary, but people at this level should be able to communicate in a basic way when writing or speaking. 

How can I test my level? 

If you want to do a thorough assessment of whether your Swedish is good enough for citizenship, you can do one of the free level tests provided by the Folkuniversitetet adult education school. You need to do the tests for Swedish level A2 and B1. 

The Swedish National Agency for Education (skolverket), also has sample papers for the national test for SFI level C and SFI level D.

Below are some excerpts to help you judge whether or not your Swedish is at the right level. 

Listening (level D) 

In this example listening test, you first have to listen to this recording.

Did that make any sense? Then here’s the question paper. 

Du får höra två personer som bokar en resa tillsammans. Lyssna och svara på frågorna. Läs först igenom uppgiften

A Vem ska de hälsa på?

□ En kompis.

□ En släkting.

□ En studiekamrat.

B Varför bestämmer de sig för att resa med tåg?

 □ Det är snabbast.

□ Det är billigast.

□ Det är trevligast

If that’s too much for you, then you’ve got some more studying to do if you expect to be applying in early 2025. 

Reading (Level D) 

You can find examples of various reading tests here. To give you an idea, we’ve put one below.  

Vem vänder sig texten till? 

Texten vänder sig till …

□lärare. □politiker. □elever. □chefer

Texten vänder sig till …

□lärare. □politiker. □ elever. □chefer.

Did you get that? Then maybe you’re ready for whatever future language test the government decides to put in place. 

Writing

This is the same level as has been suggested for permanent residency, so this repeats the example from the permanent residency test article

In this prompt for the writing test for SFI Level C, you are asked to write a letter to a friend about a recent trip.

It suggests telling them about where you stayed, what you did, and what you liked and disliked about the trip. You are asked to pay attention to how you start and end the letter.

Skriv ett brev till en vän och berätta om en resa du har gjort.

Du kan till exempel
• berätta om vart du reste.
• berätta om vad du gjorde.
• berätta om vad du tyckte var bra och vad du inte tyckte var bra med resan.

Tänk på hur du börjar och slutar brevet.

Can you understand the instructions at least? Now you need to show off your letter-writing skills. 

Speaking

In the solo portion of this section, you are asked to talk about an everyday topic based on something you have experienced – like a recent trip, or a party you attended. You are asked to speak for 5-7 minutes, and you may take some time to plan out your thoughts before starting.

The teacher holding the exam will say to you: 

Du ska få berätta om en något du varit med om.
Du ska prata i 5-7 minuter.
Om du vill kan du ta en liten stund och planera vad du ska säga innan du börjar prata.

In the paired portion of this section, you are given a topic – like what is most important in school – and asked to have a 10-minute conversation about the topic. It should be a discussion, with both participants speaking for an equal period of time, and you will have access to some prompts in a “prompt card” to keep the conversation going.

The teacher leading the test will tell you something like: 

Ni ska prata med varandra om vad ni tycker är viktigt.
Ni ska prata i cirka 10 minuter.
Det är viktigt att ni lyssnar på varandra, ställer frågor till varandra och frågar varandra om ni inte förstår.
Tänk på att ni båda talar ungefär lika mycket.
Jag kommer inte att vara med och prata utan bara lyssna, det är ni som ska diskutera med varandra.

Till hjälp får ni den här tankekartan (lägg den på bordet) på den finns några punkter som ni kan diskutera, ni måste inte prata om alla men ni kan använda dem som stöd under diskussionen (gå igenom tankakartan snabbt).
Frågetecknet betyder att det också kan finnas många andra saker som är viktiga, som inte finns med på tankekartan.
Okej, då kan ni börja prata med varandra!

Could you at least understand that? Could you keep a conversation going on these topics in Swedish? Then you might be ready for the citizenship test. 

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LEARNING SWEDISH

Eight Swedish words I now use in English

One of the consequences of learning a foreign language is that some words end up slipping into your everyday English. Becky Waterton explains why she uses these Swedish words more often than their English equivalents.

Eight Swedish words I now use in English

People often say that the moment you know you speak a language fluently is when you begin dreaming in it.

What they don’t tell you is that the next marker of your fluency comes when you start substituting words in your native language with words from the foreign language. Here are a few Swedish words I’ve started using more and more when I speak English.

Mys

Equivalent to the English word “cosy” or the Danish “hygge”, I find myself using the Swedish word mys (noun) or mysigt (adjective) often in English, even making up my own compound Swedish-English words using mys.

One example is mysväder, literally “cosy weather”, which can roughly translate as the kind of weather where it’s socially acceptable to lie on your sofa with a hot chocolate under a blanket and watch TV (so perfect autumn weather, essentially). The perfect clothing for mys-weather is mys-clothes, like tracksuit bottoms or pyjamas, a soft wooly jumper and a pair of warm socks.

I’ve found myself on more than one occasion saying “oh the weather today is really mys-weather, isn’t it?”, indicating to whoever I’m talking to that I plan on going into hibernation as soon as I get home. If a friend asked me to join them for a day trip somewhere or a fika at a nice cafe, I might say “oh, that sounds mysigt!”, roughly in the same way an English speaker could say “yes, that sounds nice!”. Mys just feels less generic than “nice”, when used in this way.

Swish

Maybe a bit of a cheat in this list of supposedly Swedish words, I regularly use the verb swisha in English if I pick up the bill in a restaurant for a friend. “Oh, it’s okay, you can just swish me,” I say, telling the friend to use payment service Swish to pay me back.

In the same vein, I might tell my husband “I’ve sent you a swishförfrågan (Swish request) for the dagisavgift (preschool fee) this month”, as a not-so-subtle hint for him to log in to the app and send over his half of the payment.

Typ

Typ is a bit of a filler word in Swedish, used in the same way as “like” in English. Not in the sense of liking something, but in the sense of filling a gap in speech or indicating you’re not sure of something. So instead of saying “it costs, like, 30 kronor,” you might say “det kostar typ 30 kronor”.

I use typ so unconsciously in Swedish that it’s started creeping into my English when I fill a gap in speech while I think, in sentences like “I think that was… typ… four days ago?”, or if I’m not sure of the exact amount of something, like if someone asks me how I baked a cake, I might say “and then I added 200g of flour… typ.” 

Macka

This maybe says more about my lifestyle than anything else, but I use the Swedish word macka (bread with topping) every single day, usually when I ask my daughter what she wants for breakfast.

Swedes love to eat bread with toppings for breakfast, referred to as a macka, occasionally a rostmacka if toasted. Unlike toast, which is usually only eaten with butter, a macka can be hot or cold, and topped with anything from ham to salami, hummus or cheese. The words “do you want macka or porridge?” and “what do you want on your macka?” are uttered every morning, without fail, in our household.

Snippa

Another Swedish word linked to child-rearing, the word snippa is an informal, not-rude Swedish word for female genitalia. The male variant would be snopp, similar to the English word “willy”.

I haven’t been able to find an informal English version of snippa which is child-friendly and easy for my daughter to pronounce, so I usually use the Swedish word if I’m telling my toddler daughter to wait after a visit to the toilet and wipe her snippa.

Sugen

Sugen is a great Swedish word similar to “hungry”, but more in the sense of “snacky” – you’re not really hungry, but you fancy eating something small and most likely unhealthy, like a biscuit or some crisps.

It’s the kind of word you would say if your partner caught you gazing into the kitchen cupboards a few hours after lunch looking despondent. “Are you hungry?”, they might ask, only for you to respond “nah, not really, I’m just a bit sugen.”

Mellis

It’s similar to the word mellis, another Swedish word which has crept into my English. Mellis is short for mellanmål, literally “between-meal”, but more often used as a small snack to tide you over to the next meal, like an apple or a macka.

VAB

Finally, an essential word for all parents in Sweden, VAB. VAB stands for vård av barn, and is the term for taking time off work to look after a sick child. Usually used in talking to your boss, you might say “my child has a fever so I’m going to have to vab today”, or negotiate with your partner “if I vab this time, can you vab next time?”

It’s just so much easier than saying “I’m going to have to take paid time off work to look after my sick child”.

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