Why Learn Another Language?
In the twenty-first century, multilingualism is becoming the norm. It’s estimated that over half the world’s population is at least bilingual and this figure is growing. So where do you fit into this changing world? Do you see yourself as part of a dynamic population of world citizens or stuck on a shrinking monolingual island? The real question should be: why not learn another language?
If you’re at all curious about the world beyond your own day-to-day routine, speaking Swedish (or any other language besides your native tongue) can upgrade your life by increasing opportunities for career, living, travel, friendship, adventure and love. The more languages you speak, the bigger your world becomes.
And there is absolutely no reason to be discouraged, or to tell yourself you don’t have the talent for it. The idea that only children can become bilingual is simply a myth. You can learn to speak another language no matter your age or educational background; maybe you’ll never be mistaken for a native speaker, but you will be able to communicate – and that is what languages are for. Speaking a language is about connection, not perfection. So let’s ask a new question: who do you want to connect with?
A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking Swedish gives you access to the world of 9 million native speakers in Sweden and parts of Finland.
Swedish is considered one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to understand. The grammar and sentence structure are very similar to English, but with fewer irregularities. The language is pronounced very differently from English – and includes some sounds that English doesn’t have – but mastering new sounds becomes easier with practice.
Because both languages have Germanic roots, they also share thousands of cognates – words that sound the same and have the same meanings. Consider these sentences in Swedish – made up almost entirely of Swedish-English cognates:
Kan du hjälpa mig? Var är campingplatser nära här?
Say the sentences out loud a couple times. Even if you aren’t sure how to pronounce the words yet, saying them as you would in English will unlock a few words right away. Kan sounds like can, hjälpa sounds like help, mig sounds like me, Var är could be where are, campingplatser might be camping places, and nära här sounds like near here. In context, it’s now easy to guess that du means you. So Kan du hjälpa mig? Var är campingplatser nära här? means Can you help me? Where are camping places near here?
Not only is Swedish relatively easy to start understanding early on, speaking it will give you a huge head-start to understanding other Germanic languages like Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and German.
With Babbel, you can learn Swedish without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
We add courses on a regular basis so the opportunities to learn and improve are always growing. And if you own an iPhone, Android, or Windows 8 phone the key to speaking Swedish is already in your pocket.
Having a little Swedish in your conversational repertoire will open up the world to you on multiple levels:
For Business – being bilingual isn’t just good for your resumé, it can change your career. As the most spoken language in Scandinavia, knowing some Swedish can be extremely advantageous for anyone doing business in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, or Finland. Because so few non-Swedes speak Swedish, learning the language gives you a rare skill and can make you an in-demand specialist.
Traveling – Even though most Swedes can speak some English, they obviously don’t speak it to each other. When you can speak the local language the country opens up to you in ways that monolingual foreigners could never even guess.
Living Abroad – When you speak Swedish well enough to travel without a phrasebook in hand, the idea of staying longer in Sweden can become tempting. Cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg offer opportunities for students looking for a semester abroad, and professionals looking for good pay and a high quality of life.
Brain Training – Even if you decide to only learn Swedish as a hobby, knowing multiple languages will keep your brain healthy and nimble, even in old age. This is because knowing another language creates another network of connections among your neurons. The higher your neural interconnectivity, the better your memory and problem-solving skills.
Swedish Culture, Unfiltered – Sweden is responsible for some significant contributions to art and culture. So whether you want to break into the epicenter of pop music production, enjoy the films of Ingmar Bergman and Roy Andersson without subtitles, wander through the High Baroque architecture of Stockholm, or learn how to really cook köttbullar, speaking the language will let you participate more directly. Knowing Swedish will also give you unfiltered access to Swedish literature like Stieg Larsson’s gritty “Millenium” trilogy and the Nobel prize-winning poetry of Tomas Tranströmer. Speaking of the Nobel prizes, they were established by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel in 1895 and continues to honor the greatest international achievements in literature, science and peace. If you are among the 4 million Americans who can claim Swedish ancestry, learning the language can also help you get closer to your roots.
Ways to Learn Swedish
About a million people around the world speak Swedish as a second language, which brings the total number of Swedish speakers to 10 million. Although it isn’t a widely-studied language in the United States, there are still many ways to learn it:
In The Classroom
Classroom instruction with a teacher and other students is the most traditional approach to learning a language. Many Americans have already learned a language this way in high school, although often not with the best results. Many people who are motivated to become fluent find that classes offer a good balance between language instruction and chance to listen and speak.
Learning one-on-one with a tutor allows for a completely tailored learning experience and more opportunities to practice speaking. Compared to a classroom, where the teacher has to split attention among dozens of pupils, private tutoring usually yields quicker results. However, private tutoring doesn’t come cheap; you’ll need to be prepared to pay a high hourly rate for an experienced tutor.
Audio Courses and CD-roms
For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that can quickly become outdated.
Online Swedish Courses
Online learning has made immense progress in the past several years and has become a viable alternative to more traditional forms of instruction. It’s becoming the norm for people with very little time or money to spare who still want to make progress with their learning. Compared to the above method, subscription-based online programs are always updating, improving and adding courses that don’t require buying a new module.
To Pay Or Not To Pay?
What do the methods mentioned above have in common? They all cost money. For thrifty folks who have a little more patience and motivation than the average learner, there ways to learn Swedish for free:
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who want to learn each other’s languages take turns as teacher and as student. For example: if you meet for two hours, you can speak in Swedish for one hour and then switch to English for the next hour so that you both get some practice. But be aware, just because someone is a native speaker does not mean they are a good teacher. This can still be a good option once you already know some Swedish and just want to practice, but you must be prepared to teach your counterpart English. Tandems are free for both parties, but a significant time commitment.
OK, so it’s only free if you don’t count the airfare or room and board, but nothing helps you become fluent like living in Sweden. But immersion is no magic bullet. If you haven’t arrived with at least some knowledge of Swedish vocabulary and grammar, passive listening will not be easy and will not make you fluent without further study. Before taking the big plunge, you can simulate immersion by streaming Swedish radio and TV online, watching Swedish movies and doing multimedia lessons online.
If you are a real self-starter then you don’t need more than a Swedish grammar book, dictionary and some vocab books to start learning the language. Books could get you reading Swedish after lots of studying, but won’t help with listening comprehension or speaking.
Free Online Courses and Mobile Apps
There are hundreds of ways to learn Swedish for free on the web. From Swedish grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
Some websites offer free interactive learning material, like Duolingo and Memrise, but programs like these focus on writing and reading at the expense of listening and speaking. They also rely heavily on user-generated content, which means the quality is inconsistent and the accuracy of the information goes unverified. It’s possible to learn Swedish online for free, but be prepared to deal with language lessons that are dull, inflexible, too basic, poorly designed, or else littered with ads.
Learning Swedish with Babbel
Learning with Babbel costs you less per month than your morning coffee, is ad-free and has been made by a team of language experts, educators and designers – so you are guaranteed a top-quality learning experience for the best value.
Here at Babbel we believe that the key to effectively learning Swedish, or any language, is having fun. Commitment and discipline will always be important factors, but real engagement is what helps you to retain information and maximize your learning potential. Here’s what you can expect from Babbel’s online Swedish program:
Cover all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.
iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. Your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices – so you can learn anytime, anywhere.
Set your own pace and learn what’s relevant to you with courses organized by topic and theme.
Regular course updates and new lessons so you always have access to the freshest, most up-to-date material.
The Babbel Community lets you connect with other users so you can practice your Swedish with native speakers or other learners.
All the material you cover is stored in your Review Manager, where you can continue to practice and improve on what you’ve learned, even if you decide not to continue with a paid subscription.
Don’t like the service? We offer a 20 day money-back guarantee – no questions asked.
Try a free Swedish lesson with Babbel and see for yourself just how enjoyable learning can be.