A couple of weeks ago, I think it was Daniel, who mentioned that he would like to know how Swedish should be pronounced. I have not responded right away, simply because I was thinking about what the proper answer should be.
You see, there are as many ways to properly pronounce Swedish as there are regions in Sweden. People in Skåne say things their way, people in Jämtland say things their way and people on the border with Finland say things in a way that… oh well, I’m not even going there
My hairdresser is from Jämtland and her accent is so thick you could slice bread with it. I have seen and heard her switching between Swedish and English when other Swedish customers can’t understand her.
There is such an animal as rikssvenska (rikssvenska eller standardsvenska är det svenska standardspråket som talas i Sverige), and people do learn it in school, but what they learn and how they actually speak in daily life are two different things.
You see it even on TV. There is no one standard accent – different presenters and newscasters say things their way.
But compared to other languages (like English, for example) Swedish is pronounced pretty much the way it’s written.
There are certain rules and if you follow them, chances are people will understand you.
A good start to becoming familiar with how Swedish is pronounced is right to the right of this post. See that BYKI box with Swedish word lists? Give it a try, most of them have audio files so you can both read and hear the word or phrase listed.
Normally, the letter combinations that give Swedish learners the most trouble are:
- sj – pronounced in as many ways as there are regions in Sweden (good examples are: sju, or sjuk, or the superhard – sjuksköterska)
- kj, ke, ki, kö – these combinations can be tricky as well.
- rs – this one can be confusing, because it not only applies when there is “rs” in the middle of a word, but also when one word ends in “r” and the next one begins with “s”
Try to find words with these letter combinations in the BYKI word lists to the right and listen carefully to how they should be pronounced in rikssvenska.