Swedish Language Blog

5 Tips for Learning Swedish Effectively Online Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in Swedish Language

Hej! Det var länge se’n! – Long time no see!

After a several months’ break from blogging, I’m back with 5 great tips to help you effectively learn Swedish on the Internet! These are methods I’ve used personally and found particularly helpful in my journey toward Swedish fluency. Of course, I have lived in Sweden for a few years, so the majority of my experience and fluency is thanks to my location, but during my time outside of Sweden, I’ve come up with several tricks to learn a language effectively – in this case, focusing on Swedish! So I hope you find these tips useful in your own language-learning endeavors!

1. Learn some basic vocabulary – first!

Obviously, an important part of learning a language is learning vocabulary. If you don’t know any vocabulary, you simply have nothing to say, or at least no words to express what you might have to say. So first, before grammar or anything else, which can be quite overwhelming especially if you don’t know what the words in the examples mean, learn some very basic useful vocabulary words. Begin with some simple nouns and verbs – move on to specifying words like adjectives and adverbs later. (Although I say this, learning any word, regardless of what it means or how ‘irrelevant’ it may seem for a beginner, by all means, learn it! You will be able to use it in the future, and you will be glad you happened to learn it.)

A great way to learn vocabulary is by signing up for Transparent Language Online Swedish. The service offers a comprehensive method for memorizing vocabulary so that you can move on to the next steps of learning grammar. Many of the words you are presented with also have audio pronunciations, so it’s a great way to train your ear to hearing Swedish as it’s really pronounced! Knowing the pronunciation of the words you’re learning is essential to being able to memorize them properly as well as preparing for conversations with real, native Swedes. Transparent Language also offers online courses with a professional tutor, so if that’s your way of learning, don’t forget to check out their website!

Another great service for learning pronunciation is called Forvo. Just type in a Swedish word and hear it pronounced by a native speaker! Great tool that I’ve used for every language I’ve every experimented with.

2. Find parallell translations

One of the best ways to learn a new language, in my opinion, is by comparing a text in the target language (Swedish) to a translation of it into a language you know (English). A great place to find parallell translations is LyricsTranslate. Not only do you get to see line-by-line translations, but they’re set to music, too, so you can get to know some Swedish music as well! And what’s even better is that you also get to hear how everything is pronounced! (Beware, though – Swedish singers are notorious for unclear pronunciation. But it can be fun anyway!) Use the lyrics translations to learn both new words and grammatical structures.

3. Look up exactly what you want to say

Don’t dumb down your language in order to find simpler words with the excuse that you’re a ‘beginner’. For example, if you want to say devour in Swedish, don’t look up eat just because it’s a more common (and perhaps more useful) word. Look up devour, because that’s what you really want to say. (Just for the record, eat is äta in Swedish and devour is sluka.) You also get brownie points when talking to Swedes because you, a n00b of Swedish, knew how to say sluka and not just äta.

4. Do not fear differing ways of expressing things

You might be surprised to know that ‘having a cold’ in everyday Swedish speech is not att ha en förkylning. Rather, it’s ‘being with a cold’, or att vara förkyld. And you don’t wake up at ‘half-past eight’, but rather halv nio, or ‘half-before nine’. Unfortunately, not everything can be directly translated. That’s how language and math differ. But this is the case with all languages – not every culture says the same thing in the same way. Heck, Koreans use their adjectives as verbs – your shirt isn’t blue; your shirt is ‘blue-ing’. It’s inevitable, but you’ll be happy to know that Swedish belongs to the same language family as English and there will be a minimum of difference in expression (put into perspective). It’s totally natural and should be accepted rather than feared (like many things on this planet, ping #humanrights.)

5. Practice, practice, practice!

You can dream as much as you want about speaking fluent Swedish, but you’ll never get there if you don’t actually get started! So, start making word lists for yourself or by checking out the word lists Transparent Language Online Swedish has to offer). Alternatively, think of a simple sentence you want to learn how to say and look up the words one-by-one. ‘The boy eats the apple.’ It doesn’t matter if you pick the perfect translation or use the appropriate form of the word in the beginning – just say (or write) what you can. Do not be afraid of trial and error – that’s what language-learning is all about! Once you’ve figured out to say your simple sentence, then try expanding it. ‘The tall boy eats the green apple.’ ‘The tall boy eats the green apple because he is hungry.’

Even better, make it personal! Learn how to say, ‘I went to the park today.’. Actually, keeping a blog or diary is one of the best ways to practice your active language skills. Try pronouncing your entries and eventually forming sentences by speech without writing them down first. Trust me, I know it’s rather difficult in the beginning but it is so worth it – you’ll get much better in no time!

To find some words to practice with, Wiktionary is a great place to start. Most entries also offer conjugations of all types!

Another wonderful way to practice a new language is by joining language exchange websites such as My Happy Planet and finding people to exchange languages with. That’s actually how I stuck with Swedish and ended up in Sweden in the first place – I made a really good online friend from Stockholm who kept me inspired to keep learning. She also helped me tons with pronunciation and grammar! So having a language partner can really be a plus.

Hope you all have found these tips to be useful! Have a great remainder of your summer (if you’re in the northern hemisphere) and good luck learning Swedish! 🙂

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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.


  1. sona:

    Hej, I like this article very much. I have a diary too and it keeps nagging me about how lazy I am – but at least I know if I haven’t practiced for a long time.
    I’d like to add a good site for beginners – livemocha – there’s some basic vocabulary too (and it has motivating system of point collecting, yay).
    Too bad the ABBA songs are in English, though.

  2. Linas:

    These are good suggestions! For Swedish, I have also found good use of KlarText news podcasts in simplified Swedish (do look it up). You may also try 8sidor, although I personally preferred KlarText.

    If I may make one suggestion relating to your point #2 regarding parallel translations I would propose that the learners try reading an Interlinear bilingual book in Swedish: http://interlinearbooks.com/swedish/ – the original text by Selma Lagerlöf is really not very complicated, and the Interlinear method of translating it makes the text easy to understand.