The Swedish language is the official and native tongue of Sweden, and is also spoken in parts of Finland, notably the south and west coasts, and the Åland Islands, which are a self-governing territory of Finland. Significant Swedish populations can also be found overseas, in the USA, UK, Canada and Spain, and the total Swedish speaking population is estimated to be around 10 million people.
History and development of the Swedish language
Derived originally from the Old Norse of the Viking era, Swedish is classified as a North Germanic language, and as such has some similarities to English, which is of some help when learning Swedish. This Norse heritage is shared with Danish and Norwegian, and despite these languages developing independently, they are all still mutually intelligible. As with most modern languages, the current form has been standardised over the centuries, although many local dialects still survive in remoter areas.
When learning Swedish, one of the most apparent differences is the extended alphabet which is used. As well as the familiar 26 characters used in English, three extra letters - Å/å, Ä/ä, and Ö/ö – follow on from Z. These were established, along with other standards now applied to written Swedish, by the printing of the first Swedish translation of the Bible under King Gustav Vasa in the sixteenth Century. However, it wasn’t until the twentieth Century that the current form, ‘nusvenska’, stabilised spellings and created a truly national Swedish language.
Swedish for English speakers
English speakers will find the basic subject-verb-object word order familiar whilst learning Swedish, but will have to contend with Germanic verb placements in more complex clauses. Nouns and adjectives must agree in terms of number and gender, which include masculine, feminine, common and neuter. It is harder to learn Swedish pronunciation, as it has more distinct vowel sounds than English does, and some consonants are pronounced differently. Tone is also used more in Swedish, which lends its lilting characteristics when spoken.
There are many ways to learn Swedish, from traditional evening classes to online courses and total immersion by visiting Sweden itself. Whatever route is taken, it is necessary to hear the Swedish language spoken, see it written and have access to someone knowledgeable enough to explain the finer details and give feedback on pronunciation.
Learn Swedish with Babbel
Babbel (www.babbel.com) now offer a new way to learn Swedish, using up-to-date technology to combine effective educational techniques with enjoyable learning. The combination of online and mobile technologies means classes can be taken anywhere, even on the move. With a variety of courses available to suit individuals’ levels of achievement, learning Swedish could hardly be any easier or more fun. Babbel’s interactive lessons offer full guidance on vocabulary and grammar through multimedia exercises, and voice recognition tools help to practice and polish up pronunciation. Babbel online courses allow students to work at their own pace, and offer enjoyable, effective and memorable Swedish language tuition for everyone.