Learning With Music: Babbel’s Swedish Playlist
The problem with finding music in another language is often knowing where to start. You might like a song, but then the lyrics turn out to be some highly dadaist poetry that will take you ages to decipher. Also, if you’re searching for Swedish music, you might find that a lot of Swedish artists, especially the most well-known, sing in English. To help you get started, we’ve created this Swedish playlist of songs with fairly easy vocabulary.
Using music to learn a language is one of the most fun and efficient methods. It trains your listening comprehension, teaches you how certain sounds are pronounced, adds words into your vocabulary in a natural way, and lets you draw your own conclusions about grammar through the lyrics. If you read on, you can find guides for specific songs on our Swedish playlist to enhance your learning. Enjoy!
Beginner Swedish Playlist, Explained
Jag ber dig — Magnus Carlson
Magnus Carlson is the lead singer of the band Weeping Willows, and as a solo artist, he sings in Swedish. This song was a hit in 2003.
Vocabulary: Words about love and loss: kärleksfull (loving), ett tomt skal (an empty shell), skuggor (shadows), mitt allt (my everything), lyckan kommer (luck comes), lyckan går (luck goes away)
Grammar: Did you notice that Magnus sings sträck ut din kärleksfulla hand, while the adjective “loving” is kärleksfull? It shows us that din and other possessive pronouns take the definite form of the adjective, ending in -a.
Pronunciation Tip: Kärlek — love in Swedish — starts and end with a k, but the sounds are very different. The first k is a soft one, sounding like “sh”. That’s because the vowel after it, ä, is one of the soft vowels. Say the word aloud a couple of times. If you’re curious about soft and hard vowels, check out our pronunciation courses!
Challenge: The title translates to “I beg you.” Can you say I beg him, I beg her, and I beg them?
Från och med Du — Oskar Linnros
Oskar Linnros is one half of the hip-hop group Snook (which also plays in Swedish) but as a solo artist, he makes pop and soul music. The title is a play on words: “från och med nu” is how you say “from now on” in Swedish.
Vocabulary: The song is about a relationship that is no more. We’ve got a lot of references to time: aldrig (never), för en minut sen (a minute ago), ett sekel (a century), vänta på vår tur (wait for our time/turn), as well as some other useful expressions like står inte ut (can’t stand it), varenda (every), somliga (some), and the false friend port, which means the front door to an apartment building.
Pronunciation Tip: The u sound in du is often a bit tricky for Swedish learners. It’s pronounced further back in the mouth as the English u and only with slightly rounded lips.
Challenge: The song ends with the line Och i din port har ingenting förändrats, utom just på din. Bredvid ditt namn står ett namn till. What does that mean for the relationship described in the song?
Satan i gatan — Veronica Maggio
Veronica Maggio from Uppsala debuted in 2006 and has released five studio albums since then. This song is the title track of her 2011 album.
Vocabulary: Many useful verbs and verbal expressions: gråta (cry), passa dig (watch out), minnas (remember), glömma bort (forget), bjuda på, (offer), spela glad (act happy), tänka ut (devise).
Grammar: The song contains several modal verbs. Nån borde byta stad, Du kan gråta mitt på gatan, Du får passa dig som satan. Do you know what they mean?
Pronunciation Tip: The famous Swedish shortening and contraction of words is pretty evident in some parts of this song: Vad du gjort = varu gjort, aldrig = alri.
Challenge: In the song, you can hear a couple of unusual composite words, like födelsedagshotell and Skanstullskväll. What do you think they mean? Can you create other compound words that are similar?
Det kommer aldrig vara över för mig — Håkan Hellström
Gothenburger Håkan Hellström is one of Sweden’s biggest and most beloved artists, since his debut in 2000. This live version was recorded at a concert in 2014.
Vocabulary: Natural forces including storm (storm), orkan (hurricane) and eld (fire), as well as useful collocations (common word combinations) including vara över (be over), gå under (go under), sätta eld på (set fire to), krossa ditt hjärta (break your heart).
Grammar: Expressing the future with kommer (att); (det kommer aldrig vara över för mig, jag kommer älska dig tills jorden går under…) and tänker (jag tänker aldrig dö). The two are a bit different; you use “kommer att” to express a prognosis, whereas tänker shows a strong intent.
Challenge: Håkan mentions his age three times during this song. Can you say how old you are in Swedish?
Sång till friheten — Björn Afzelius
Almost every Swede knows this song and is able to sing along to it. It’s popular at weddings, although the subject of the song, “the most beautiful thing I know,” isn’t about a person.
Vocabulary: Words about nature, like stjärnorna (the stars), vindarna (the winds) and vågorna (the waves), and body parts, like lungor (lungs), ögon (eyes), händer (hands) and hjärta (heart).
Grammar: You encounter a lot of different plural endings in the words mentioned above. When they end in -na, they’re in the definite form (stärnorna = the stars but lungor = lungs).
Challenge: If the song isn’t about a person, what is it actually about?
Vi har bara varandra — Di Leva
Come along to the ’80s! This is a karaoke hit by Thomas Di Leva, who often sings about cosmic topics and is associated with flower power.
Vocabulary: Many nature words: fiskarna (Pisces), fåglarna (birds), vargarna (wolves), rötterna (roots), äpplet (apples), ägget (egg), träd (tree), löv (leaf).
Grammar: You get to hear a lot of actions taking place in the present tense. Fiskarna simmar, fåglarna älskar, rötterna strävar…
Challenge: Find a pen and paper and draw all of the actions that take place in the song.
Sommaren är kort — Tomas Ledin
If you ever go to Sweden in the summer, you will hear this summer classic that expresses how Swedes feel about summer: “sommaren är kort, det mesta regnar bort.” Essentially, it’s about seizing the sunny days and living for the moment, and it’s so popular, we had to include it in our Swedish playlist.
Vocabulary: Lots of words related to the seasons and the weather: höst (autumn), sommar (summer), regn (rain), solen skiner (the sun is shining), moln (clouds), vindens fart (the speed of the wind), varmt (warm), skugga (shadow).
Pronunciation Tip: Solen skiner idag provides a perfect opportunity to try and nail the sj-sound (as in sju). Listen and sing along!
Challenge: Describe the weather outside today in Swedish.
Ligger med en ful — Little Jinder & Markus Krunegård
Little Jinder is a singer and producer from Stockholm. Markus Krunegård is from Norrköping and was the lead singer of the band Laakso.
Vocabulary: Words to describe places and directions: genom mörkret (through the darkness), genom stan (through the city), högst upp (at the top), längst ut (furthest away), överallt (everywhere).
Grammar: The Swedish equivalent of “like” is the filler word ba — short for bara (only) — and shows up a bunch of time in this song. It’s used when retelling a conversation you had. Dom ba jomen han mår bra, jag ba aa nice, vi hörs jag måste dra; Dom ba kan du lägga av, jag ba de e inget bra.
Challenge: Is this a sad or a happy song? Why?
Min stad — Frida Hyvönen
Frida Hyvönen is a singer-songwriter from Västerbotten in Northern Sweden, and this song is a reflection on urbanization, on living in cities and the countryside, as well as how urban Swedes in the South view the North.
Vocabulary: Words about Stockholm and its sights and parts of the city: Mariaberget, Västerbron, Hornstull, Gamla stan. We also encounter a bunch of useful expressions like i valet och kvalet (on the horns of a dilemma), inget att skryta om (nothing to brag about), slå en lov (take a stroll).
Grammar: Many verbs in the present and past tense: tittar, går upp, häller upp, fotar; kom, köpte, växte, såg. The first person “jag” is omitted because it’s obvious that the singer is using the first person. It’s quite common in colloquial Swedish to do so.
Pronunciation Tip: Did you know that there are some differences in pronunciation in northern and southern Sweden? For example, “sju” in northern accents sounds like shu — without that difficult sj sound mentioned above. Frida Hyvönen even alludes to this in the lyrics: Nästa steg är att du ber mig säga sju, which is a testimonial of how that pronunciation is exotic enough to Stockholm people to make them mockingly ask someone from the North to say it.
Challenge: Aldrig varit längre norrut än till Gävle? Inte fan är det något att skryta om! Do you know how far north Gävle is? If not, find out!
Our full Swedish playlist is a lot longer than this, so listen through and find a type of artist that you would usually listen to — that’s definitely the best way to learn with music. And we’ve got one final challenge for you: Find your favorite song from this Swedish playlist, look up the lyrics, translate them and figure out what the song is about. Good luck!