The huge popularity of Scandinavian crime novels and detective dramas has caused a surge of enthusiasm for the languages and cultures of northern Europe. Whether you’re interested in visiting Sweden for business or pleasure, or just want to understand your favourite TV programmes without the aid of subtitles, there has never been a better time for learning to speak Swedish.
With its big cities, deep forests and majestic coastline, Sweden offers a huge variety of sights and a holiday to suit everyone. Enjoy the shops and museums of Stockholm, or get away from it all with a wilderness holiday in a log cabin. In winter, drive a dogsled, stay at the Ice Hotel, and watch the Northern Lights. In summer, enjoy long, bright days and evenings of swimming, catching crayfish and picking berries. You’ll have a richer experience if you can chat with staff and fellow-tourists in Swedish.
Much of Sweden’s economy depends on exports, and the country has strong trade links with the UK. Aerospace, telecommunications and the motor trade are just a few of the industries in which you might easily end up doing business with Sweden. Whether you’re travelling to Sweden yourself or greeting Swedish visitors at your place of work, imagine how much more smoothly things could go with a few words of welcome in their native tongue.
Sweden has many universities and other institutes of higher education, a number of which offer courses to foreign students. It’s a great chance to study in a friendly environment and absorb local culture too.
The most noticeable linguistic feature of Swedish is its melodic, sing-song quality. The language has this sound because the tone of a syllable, as well as its pronunciation, of a syllable is important for conveying meaning.
You will also notice that, like German, Swedish has many lengthy compound words which can appear off-putting until you break them up into their component parts.
As well as being spoken in Sweden and parts of Finland, Swedish is so closely related to its neighbours, Danish and Norwegian, that once you have learned one of the three you will easily get by in the others. Be prepared for some good-natured teasing, however, since native speakers from all three countries have a long tradition of poking fun at each other’s accents.
At first, the language can look very complicated indeed, with its long words, nonintuitive spelling and accented letters. Yet the basics, like ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, are easy to grasp, and will get you a long way.
The best way to familiarise yourself with the vocabulary is by looking quickly, frequently at the words. Babbel, which lets you take a quick language lesson whenever you like, on your computer or mobile device, is the ideal medium for learning to speak Swedish.