Let this be the year you master Swedish
In our ever-growing interconnected world, multilingualism is becoming the norm. If you’re at all curious about the world beyond your own, learning Swedish can open up serious opportunities for your career, friendships, and travel. Not to mention being able to understand product names in IKEA!
Swedish is counted among the North Germanic or Scandinavian languages and is the native language of more than 10 million people. Swedish is mutually intelligible with the other languages in this group—Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese—meaning there is a broad and common understanding between them. Swedish is spoken predominantly in Sweden and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish.
Sweden is regularly ranked as having the best non-native English skills in the world. In fact, it was only in 2009 when Swedish became the nation’s official language—to help secure the position of the Swedish language in Sweden. In that case, why would one need to learn Swedish, if the Swedes are so good at speaking English? Well…
We touched a little on mutual intelligibility earlier. Not only is Swedish one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to understand with similarities in grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, speaking it will give you a solid grounding in understanding other Germanic languages such as Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, and German.
Sweden is constantly recognized as being one of the most desirable countries to live in the world. With free education and healthcare, high salaries, and progressive society, this doesn’t come as a surprise and makes for a top destination for expats. When you can speak the local language, the country opens up to you in ways that monolingual foreigners could never experience. Learning Swedish will ensure you thrive in your new setting.
If you’re wanting to broaden your work and study opportunities from what is available to you in your home country, Swedish will undoubtedly stand to you. Working in Sweden usually requires Swedish proficiency and if you want to study at a bachelor level English-taught courses are limited. Since very few non-Swedes speak Swedish, learning the language gives you a rare skill and can give you a leg up over the competition.
Learning a country’s language is the way to their heart and the Swedish language is a gateway to the culture of this Scandinavian country. Cultural values are inherent in any language, therefore, speaking Swedish will improve your understanding of Sweden as a nation.
Find a Tandem partner in Sweden and immerse yourself in the Swedish culture.
As an English-speaker you can take advantage of this common linguistic heritage
Swedish is one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn—there are many similarities between the two languages in terms of grammar, syntax and vocabulary. These similarities stem from the languages’ shared Germanic roots, and as an English-speaker you can take advantage of this common linguistic heritage.
There are two indefinite articles in Swedish, en and ett. There is no hard-and-fast rule to determine which article should be used with which word. That being said, the vast majority of nouns in Swedish are en words, so when in doubt you know which one to guess. Here is a short list of some Swedish words and their corresponding indefinite article: en skola (a school), en dröm (a dream), ett slott (a castle), ett flygplan (an airplane).
The definite article in Swedish, however, gets added on at the end of the word. So while “a dog” is en hund, “the dog” is hunden. With en words that end in a vowel, however, we just add “–n.” Similarly, while “a table” is ett bord, “the table” is then bordet. Notice how the second “t” gets dropped. This applies for all ett words. Other examples include Sjukhuset (the hospital) and familjen (the family).
Swedish verbs are not adapted according to person, but stay the same, regardless of whom they’re referring to. This helps make Swedish grammar a lot easier!
Swedish verbs are divided into four conjugation categories. Let’s take a look at them below:
Most Swedish verbs fall into this group. The present tense ends with “–ar” and the past tense ends with “-ade.”
|arbeta (to work)||arbetar (working)||arbetade (worked)|
|tala (to speak)||talar (speaking)||talade (spoke)|
The present tense ends with “-er” and the past tense ends with either “-de,” or “-te” when the stem of the verb ends with k, p, t, s, or x.
|tänka (to think)||tänker (thinking)||tänkte (thought)|
|läsa (to read)||läser (reading)||läste (read)|
|stänga (to close)||stänger (closing)||stängde (closed)|
This group consists of verbs that consist of only one syllable. In this case, the present tense ending is ”-r” and the past tense ending is ”-dde.”
|bo (to live)||bor (lives)||bodde (lived)|
|nå (to reach)||når (reaches)||nådde (reached)|
This group has no uniform conjugation pattern, and so the forms have to be learned individually for each verb.
|skriva (to write)||skriver (write)||skrev (wrote)|
|vilja (to want)||vill (wants)||ville (wanted)|
|ge (to give)||ger (gives)||gav (gave)|
A Pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun i.e. people, places and things. The following table is a list of the Swedish pronouns used in the subject, object and possessive form.
|Pronoun||Subject form||Object form||Possessive form|
Note: A gender-neutral alternative in the subject form is “hen.”
Here are examples of using Swedish pronouns in a sentence:
Since Swedish is a Germanic language, it can make it easier to remember that the verb is always the second idea in a sentence. The word order of the main clause follows a basic pattern where the first element of the sentence is a subject, followed closely by a verb, an object and finally any additional information.
subject > verb > *qualifier > object > additional information
*Qualifiers can be negative words (inte, ej) or specific adverbs (alltid, kanske, redan)
Jenny köpte en ny bok i går – Jenny bought a new book yesterday.
If the sentence starts with something other than a subject, for example, a time or a place, this alternate expression takes the subject’s position of the sentence and the subject goes after the verb.
alternate expression > verb > subject > qualifier > object > additional information
Idag har jag inte haft tid att laga mat – Today I haven’t had time to cook food.
When dealing with a subordinate clause, the word order is near identical to that of the main clause, however, the main difference is that the qualifier comes before the verb and not after it. See the following example with the beginning of the subordinate clause in bold:
Det är kul att jag redan kan gå hem – It’s nice that I can already go home.
A hallmark of Swedish is the distinct vowel system
Lucky for us English speakers, Swedish is a relatively easy language to pronounce. While there might be a few harder sounds to get our tongue around, the vast majority of them also appear in the English language. Swedish pronunciation also mirrors the intonation patterns of English making learning to speak Swedish, an easier time than you might have with some other languages.
To begin studying Swedish pronunciation, we need to first look at the Swedish alphabet. The Swedish alphabet has the same 26 letters that English does, with an additional three—å, ä, and ö. A hallmark of Swedish is the distinct vowel system, where vowel length determines the meaning of a word. Let’s have a look at how some of these letters are pronounced below:
Once you have the Swedish pronunciation covered, you’re ready to start learning a few basic Swedish words and phrases. Take a look at some of them below:
There are so many options out there to learn Swedish online, it’s hard to know where to start. Lucky for you we have made a definitive list to make your Swedish language learning journey that bit easier.
You’ll learn Swedish much faster by using and speaking the language, especially with a native Swedish speaker. This particular method is at the heart of Tandem.
The Tandem mobile and web app connect language learners with native Swedish speakers all over the world. With millions of members, Tandem is the largest global language learning community out there! Tandem members can find like-minded language exchange partners and practice speaking Swedish via text, voice notes, and video calling. Immerse yourself in the Swedish language and culture, and speak your way to fluency, for free!
This website is from the Swedish Institute and is a simple online Swedish course to get you started with the language. The course gives basic spoken and written knowledge of the Swedish language, as well as an insight into Swedish culture and society. It is available as an app on both Android and iOS and works both online and offline.
Flashcards are a great way to learn Swedish vocabulary. Quizlet is a flashcard app that works as a community. This means that you can create your own flashcards or easily access other Swedish flashcards created by other Quizlet users. There are many flashcards available in Swedish on different topics and levels of difficulty. It also works on the browser!
WordReference is a living and growing online Swedish dictionary with over 50,000 terms and 100,000 translations. If the dictionary cannot find the translation you are looking for, you can check the forum at the bottom of the page for the answer. The only downside is that they don’t have an equivalent app and is only available on desktop. In which case we recommend the app below.
Another great Swedish dictionary. Swedish/English Dictionary is a basic, free dictionary app that works without being online. Genius!
Sveriges Radio is Sweden's national radio broadcaster. Their website hosts daily news and content around society, culture, and science, specifically for beginner and intermediate learners of Swedish. You can listen to the news articles being read aloud to help with your Swedish pronunciation and listening comprehension and listen to the national Swedish radio channels. The material is also available on your mobile via a podcast app.
With a combination of these resources, you’ll find yourself becoming fluent in Swedish faster than it would take you to build an IKEA wardrobe!