How to Speak Swedish
Learning Swedish is not as much of a time commitment (and not as hard) as you might think. With Babbel, learning Swedish online is easy, intuitive and under your control: learn at your own pace, choose the lessons you want, and review and practice vocabulary on the go. Swedish is a close cousin to English with thousands of words and grammar rules in common. Although mastering the very different accent and pronunciation can be difficult at first, Babbel’s online courses and mobile apps include speech recognition so you can quickly become comfortable with speaking. Read the guide below and then test your skills with a free Swedish lesson.
History of the North Germanic Languages
Swedish is one of the five North Germanic languages – along with Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic and Faroese. These languages are sometimes also called Scandinavian, but that is more a geographical distinction than linguistic. All five languages evolved from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. Old Norse and Old English both evolved from a theoretical “Proto-Germanic”.
English is historically a West Germanic language. North and West Germanic languages became distinct groups almost two thousand years ago, but they still share many features. Any modern English word that is derived from Old English is still very close to the Germanic roots. As a result, there are thousands of Swedish words that an English speaker can easily recognize. Besides the obvious transplants like Viking and smorgasbord, you might be surprised to learn that thousands of English words sound a lot like their Swedish cousins. For example: blod (blood), kyckling (chicken), kopp (cup), dotter (daughter), dörr (dor), ägg (egg) and syster (sister).
Although Swedes are famous for speaking English very well, there are still reasons to learn Swedish as a second language. It is mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish, and is spoken by many Finns, making it useful throughout Scandinavia. Today Swedish is the most widely-spoken North Germanic language. Anyone planning to live in Sweden will find that speaking the language will open doors personally and professionally, letting them into a culture where the people do not speak English among themselves (no matter how well they may speak it to foreigners). Learn how to speak Swedish and join the 11.7 million people around the world who speak Swedish fluently as their native or second language.
Pronunciation and Grammar
Pronunciation is the biggest difference between Swedish words and their English cousins. For beginners trying to learn Swedish, correctly pronouncing certain sounds can be a significant challenge. You might be able to guess the meaning of Swedish words like över, äpple and lång , but accent marks like å, ä and ö are probably unfamiliar. Mispronunciation can lead to real confusion, but once you recognize the differences in the alphabet it becomes much easier to pronounce words you’ve never seen or heard before. With the help of Babbel’s speech recognition feature you will be able to practice your accent and help ensure that your Swedish is understandable.
Because it is also a Germanic language, Swedish grammar is not very different from English, but there are some differences: Swedish has two genders (and thus two sets of articles), but thankfully most nouns use the common gender; the definite and indefinite article are not different words, but have different placement: compare ett bord (a table) with bordet (the table); and word order is inverted when asking questions so the verb begins the sentence. But in some instances, Swedish is easier than English: the Swedish word for “to be”, vara, is conjugated in a more straightforward manner than in English: är in the present and var in the past; compare this to the English confusion of am/is/are/was/were. Once you have a handle on Swedish grammar, the rules are effectively unchanged for Norwegian and Danish.
Ways to Learn Swedish
There are several options available when learning how to speak Swedish: hiring a private tutor, enrolling in a language course (in school or online), studying alone with a CD-ROM or audio course, joining an exchange program, or practicing conversational Swedish with a native speaker (a so-called tandem partner). All of these strategies can be effective, although some (tutors and CD-ROMS) can be expensive, while classes and exchange programs are also a huge time commitment. The fastest way to pick up Swedish – and the biggest commitment by far – is still immersion. Moving to Sweden requires you to pick up the language in order to live day-to-day. This survival pressure usually produces fluency within a few months. If you do plan to immerse yourself in Swedish, it’s not a bad idea to prepare beforehand with one of the methods mentioned above. If you don’t have much spare time, an online program like Babbel may be your best bet.
Learn Swedish the Babbel Way
Babbel’s Swedish course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. As a Babbel user, you have access to a diverse program of grammar, conjugation, pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing exercises. You can practice online or via your iPhone or Android device. Whether you are too busy for a language class, a complete beginner, needing to brush up before a vacation or business trip, or wanting to re-learn everything you forgot in high school, Babbel can be customized to your needs.
Try your first Swedish lesson for free and discover Babbel’s easy and intuitive course system which determines your individual level and accommodates different learning styles. You can learn at your own pace, set your own lesson plans and receive helpful hints whenever you need them. You will also be joining an entire community of learners. Babbel users can easily share questions, experiences and advice via message boards and chat, and the Babbel support team is always only a message away. Take the test to see your current level of Swedish.