The Swedish Teacher

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Posts Tagged ‘Pronuciation’

Stressing in sentences

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Hello again Swedish learners,

Thank you for the positive feedback! 

Since pronunciation and stress seems to be a popular theme I will also take a closer look on how to stress in full sentences.

Mostly the stressing in sentences is quite logic – you stress a word when it contains new information and/or important information. So you can not say that you always stress this and that, it depends on the situation and what you want to communicate. Luckily there are a couple of thumb rules to hang on to. The categories below would normally be stressed (there are of course always exceptions).

1. Nouns (hund, bil, vatten)

Jag har en hund.  Jag kör bil. Kan jag få lite vatten?

2. Main verbs (äter, springer, arbetar)

Han äter. Jag springer. Hon arbetar.

If we ad a noun to these sentences the stressing will most likely change:

Han äter en banan. Jag springer till bussen. Hon arbetar på Skatteverket.

3. Place (Stockholm, hemma, på jobbet)

Jag bor i Stockholm. Han är hemma idag. Anna är på jobbet.

4. Time (klockan sju, på lördag, i går)

Hon vaknar klockan sju.lördag ska jag gå på bio. Jag åkte skidor igår.

5. Names (Jonas, Göteborg, Volvo)

Jonas jobbar på Volvo i Göteborg. (a lot of singing in this sentence 😉 )

6. Adjectives and certain adverbs (snygg, liten, roligt)

Vad snygg du är! Kan jag få en liten bit? Det var roligt på festen!

When discussing stress in sentences it also very important to pay attention to some words that should not be stressed.  First of all you shouldn’t stress question words. The questions should sound like this:

Var bor du? Vem är det? När går bussen? Hur är det? Varför är du i Sverige?

As you can see you should still stress the main verb, the place or any of the other categories metioned above. If you do stress the question words you will sound a bit impatient or almost aggressive, with the result that one you are re talking to will back off and not answer your question 😉  

Var booor du? Vad kosssstar det? (Where do you live? What does it cost?)

Another thing worth remembering is that the sentence adverbs are not normally stressed either. Sentence adverbs are those little words that can change the whole meaning of a sentence (inte, alltid, aldrig, kanske, väl, ju, etc etc).  Take a look at this example:

Jag kommer inte på festen

Even though we are not coming to the party, the words for coming and party are still the stressed ones. If someone is speaking really fast it might even sound like this:

Jag kommernte på festen.

So, you might have to listen carefully for these words, since they often are mumbled through.

That was it for today. Good luck with your stressing and don’t hesitate to ask me questions about the wonderful Swedish language :)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Swedish pronunciation – Stress in single words

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Hej där!

I should begin this blog with introducing myself. I’m a 32 year old Swede who recently left my hometown Uppsala to live in Southern California for a while.  For the past 10 years I have worked as a Swedish language instructor at Folkuniversitetet. Since I really enjoyed my job I wanted to continue sharing my passion for Swedish when living abroad, so in this blog I will discuss different things one could come across when learning Swedish.

Since pronunciation is a very important part of the Swedish language, I thought it would be a good thing to discuss stressing in this very first post.

Correct stressing  is far more important than pronouncing single sounds correctly. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to pronounce the different sounds correctly. What I’m saying is that even if you have the best /å/ and /ö/on this planet and don’t stress the right way, it will still be hard to hear what you are saying. The opposite way, you might be struggling a little bit with i/y or e/ä but with a good sing-song Swedish melody you will be able to communicate smoothly.

When stressing a syllable we should do three things. First of all, make one sound longer. Stretch it. It is almost always longer than you think! “But how can I know what sound should be longer?” you ask me. Well, when you read you can actually see if it is the consonant or the vowel that is longer. Basically, stretched vowels are followed by only one consonant (or no consonant). And opposite way, if a syllable has two consonants, then the consonant is stretched. Let me show you an example:

bo is pronounced “booo”

gata is pronounced “gaaaata”

alla is pronounced “allla” with a long l and short a:s

lampa is pronounced “lammmpa” with a long m. M comes first and is therefore longer.

OK, so now we know how to make a sound longer, and which sound to make longer. The next thing we need to do to stress our syllable is to make the sound louder. If you listen carefully to spoken Swedish you will notice that the volume is going up and down a little bit. Stressed sound = louder sound. If we use the previous examples it will look something like this:





The third thing we need to do when stressing is to have a higher pitch. It is like singing basically. So go up with your tone in the stressed syllable, and down in the unstressed. It is a good thing to try to focus on the melody when you hear Swedish, even if you don’t understand all the words. Keep the radio and TV on, it makes you get used to the melody and helps getting a good pronunciation. When my husband first came to Sweden I always turned the radio on in the morning. He didn’t know that is was a pronunciation lesson and now he gets compliments for his good melody 😉

Now we know how to stress, let us move on to what part of the word to stress. First of all, if a word is of Germanic origin (Swedish, German, Dutch for example) we stress the first syllable. I’ll show you two examples:

gata is pronounced “gaaata”, first syllable is stressed

räkning is pronounced “räääkning”, first syllable is stretched

If a word is a loan word from a non-Germanic language (French, Latin, Greek etc. ) it is stressed in the end, even if you don’t do that in the original language. Let’s take a look at a few examples again:

biologi is pronounced “biologiiii”

bibliotek is pronounced “biblioteeek”

telefon is pronounced “telefooon”

fåtölj is pronounced “fåtölllj”

If a word is a combined one, for example “telefonkatalog” or “skrivbordsstol” then we have to stress twice. Remember though, thast we can never have MORE than two stressed syllables. That is what makes it possible to pronounce those long words, we get to rest a little bit between the stressed syllables. We can start looking at a word with two parts:



If we ad another part to these words, we can still only keep two stressed syllables. We will keep the first one and the last one. So if I ad “stol” to “skrivbord” and “burk” to “kattmat” it will sound something like this:



Well, that was a little something about stress in single words.

Good luck with your pronounciation!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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