Swedish Language Blog

How Do YOU Learn Swedish? Posted by on Apr 17, 2009 in Swedish Language

I’ve been asked recently whether I prefer language courses or self-study, and which of those two is more effective when it comes to learning Swedish. My answer: neither. The most effective is moving to Sweden and using the language in every day life.
However, that option was not feasible for the person asking the question, and we ended up having a very interesting discussion about pros and cons of learning Swedish abroad.

I must say, right off the bat, that I am a firm believer in language courses with a live, if possible – native speaking instructor. Self-study is just not for me. Why? I’m a feeble person with a frightening lack of self-discipline required to be successful when studying a foreign language alone.

Having said that, Swedish is a surprisingly easy language (when compared for example to Spanish or Russian or Finnish) to learn using the teach-yourself system. It’s fairly straightforward as far as the grammar issues go, it’s rather similar to English (though I understand that some English speakers might disagree here, still, it’s closer to English than let’s say Hungarian), and the only major obstacle could be the funky pronunciation. That problem can be easily solved with a proper application of CDs and other listening materials.

So, even if you are like me and would much rather sit in front of the computer and watch cats playing on youtube, it’s not impossible to learn at least the basics of Swedish on your own. But to move on to a more advanced level, I think that a structured language course is helpful. Or even more than helpful – it’s indispensable.

So, how do you learn Swedish? Do you study alone? If you are not in Sweden, how difficult is it to learn Swedish where you live? Do you attend a language course? Are there any Swedish classes you would like to recommend? I am directing the question about language classes mostly to people outside of Sweden, because I can imagine that apart from big cities in big countries finding a Swedish class can be a challenge. For those in Sweden, I’m sure you’re all familiar with SFI and FU (no, this is nothing nasty – this is the somewhat unfortunate abbreviation of Folkuniversitetet).

So share with us – how do YOU learn Swedish? Tell us what works for you and what doesn’t. Your experiences and recommendations could be invaluable to another person in the same situation half way across the world.

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  1. Michael:

    I do not have the opportunity for the best approach–living in Sweden. So I am doing self study using a number of resources. I began working through the Teach Yourself series on Swedish. I supplement that by reading Aftonbladet or DN online every day. I try to get through an article. This teaches everyday usage. Other interesting Swedish web sites are also valuable. I have a grammar book for reference. I just got the Byki CD from Transparent Language. This helps with pronunciation. I know what I really need is a change to converse, make mistakes and be corrected. But, I have picked up a good working knowledge so far (I have studied other languages, so that helps too). Motivation is the key. In my case it is interest in language and interest in Swedish (my great grandfather came from Sweden).

  2. Chris:

    I’m doing a combination of the two. I’m learning Swedish at home for a year, through one hour (or more) a day of self study. Next fall, however, I will be majoring in the Swedish language at college. I plan on testing out of the first two classes if I can reach that level before I go.

    Helpful websites:


    A newspaper in simple Swedish for beginners.


    A short course. It’s great for people like me who self-study. We need all of the information we can get to fill in the blanks!

  3. Carol D:

    I live in the Portland, OR suburbs and have taken community (non-credit) Swedish classes through Portland Community College’s adult learning program. However, these are 3 hrs one night a week for 8 or 10 wks with no homework, so I really have to admit they were pretty worthless. There wasn’t even an official text, although the teacher(s) did have handouts. Although I did learn a little about grammar, I was disappointed for the most part. A shame, since my husband is Swedish and we visit his friends and family every year or two. Pronunciation ties my tongue into knots and even listening, the words all run together. It’s very frustrating.

    You would think with a native speaking Swede as a husband it would help me learn, but his English is so perfect many people don’t even notice his accent (until he says something silly like he’s going to “move” the lawn or says something about not liking the smell of shemicals (meaning chemicals, of course).

  4. Peter Miller:

    Hittills har jag slutfört åttio timmar lektioner i svenska på kvällskurs på Calgary Scandinavian Centre.

    We follow a course from the Svenska Institutet and our teacher uses exercise books that she has collected over the years.

    There are many Swedish-English dictionaries but none are better that the on-line “Lexin Dictionary” for Swedish Immigrants and the “Svenska Wiktionary”.

  5. Darlene:


    I have learned quite a bit of Swedish, first from simple computer programs such as Rosetta Stone, Talk Now and World Talk, then I decided it was time to take two years of Swedish in a class given at the American Swedish Museum in Philadelphia. Taught by native speakers, the classes got me to the point where I was THINKING in Swedish, not just speaking, reading and writing. That’s when I felt comfortable with the language. I also allow myself to make mistakes, which is very “freeing.” A rather neglected high school German background also helped…

  6. Linda från Kalifornien:

    Jag har studera svenska på BHLI i Beverly Hills, Svenska Skolan i Los Angeles och nu med LearnSweden på skype.

    I learned a great deal from BHLI but for me time and a 2hr commute once a week proved too difficult. We used Nya Mål textbooks also used by SFI. It was an 80min lesson weekly. My instructor a native of Sweden, is also the Headmistress of the Svenska Skolan i Los Angeles. So I transferred to that school, however again the commute was very tiring. My two youngest children also attended the courses.

    I decided to try LearnSweden.com, it is based in Stockholm and they use Skype to have a live session with a native Swedish instructor. I am enjoying this method, since I don’t have time to drive to LA and I also have one-to-one instruction for 50mins twice a week. But also my instructor has become a friend. She shares with me things of Sweden and if there is a specific interest I have, we use it as the focus of the lesson.

    My lessons are geared towards verbal fluency and pronunciation. I have a good grasp on reading and understanding Swedish, it’s more the listening and responding that I seek confidence with. As I am a visual learner, the reading and writing flow well, but listening and understanding is more difficult for me.

    For convenience LearnSweden.com works for me, but I prefer an actual classroom setting. I also have Rosetta Stone level I, but I knew all that they had to teach and didn’t find it helpful at all. Even the pronunciation part with the mic is not so good. My husband is a native of Sweden and the voice analyzer did not think his Swedish pronunciation was correct. So for all the expense and fancy features, I personally did not find Rosetta Stone worth it.

    I also have Pimsleurs Swedish, In-Flight Swedish,Teach Yourself Swedish and some other Swedish Podcast lessons. I find them ok for review and practice, but I don’t feel I learned much. But again this is only my thoughts on the matter.

    If one can attend courses at least twice a week for an hour or two, I believe Swedish can be learned without too much difficulty. Being in Sweden and surrounded by the language in daily life is probably the best way to immerse oneself into thinking in Swedish. I had 2weeks with my in-laws and it has improved my ear for understanding the spoken language. I still have a long way to go but I shall trudge on…

    Sorry for the length, I’ve a passion for Swedish and Sweden. Thanks for reading…

  7. Mike:

    i found myself seriously bored one day in 2006..and somehow came to the conclusion to add a swede to msn. I initially spoke english, and as i gained a few contacts, i decided to have a go at learning swedish. I use swedish regularly and met a swede at my university, she was surprised –


  8. John Eastlund:

    Playing with Google translate also helps:


  9. ann:

    After finishing my FU, SFI and SAS (Svenska som andraspråk) courses via Komvux, I moved out of the country to Estonia. In Tallin there is Öppna förskola (Swedish tradition of moms and kids getting together once or a few times a week) at the Swedish Churck, St. Mikeal, in the old town. I am able to go there with my 3 year old and continue to practice my Swedish. Oddly enough, it’s easier speaking Swedish with ex-pat Swedes rather than in Sweden itself — everytime we return to Sverige for a visit communication difficulties increase a hundredfold.

  10. Luke (Sydney):

    70% from Anna’s blog of course 🙂

  11. Kevin:


    Conversational groups are invaluable. i am interested having heard about the skype language program, which I will look into.

    Now in SFI (pre-sats level), I feel comfortable conversing in Swedish, but often have moments of catastrophe, and find I then switch to English.

    However, in the group, my friends and I share the goal to stay in Swedish so that whenever I slip out of Svenska they will hold me to our promise.

    What we sometimes forget is that communication is much more than words – it is affect and movement. Therefore, having the cues in a situation – seeing facial expression or a gesture, for example – boosts your comprehension, just as it does in your native language.

    I think that there is far too little use of language-learning approaches that raise the impact of feeling and movement during learning sessions.


  12. Kenia:

    Hello Anna,

    I’ve been following some lessons I found online at http://www.onlineswedish.com/main.php, and they’ve been good to get started. However self-study seems not to work so much for me, since I’m not constant at learning.
    I found a list of verbs at http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Swedish_verbs that is great, because it has a large amount of verbs in all tenses.

    Reading the news in swedish at http://www.dn.se is a good training too, I use Babylon translator to look up the words I don’t understand. I recommend this translator to everyone, the swedish-english/english-swedish glossaries are very good.

    I must say that the grammar posts here on the blog have been very helpful too, because of your straightforward explanations.

    I plan to find a good method of learning, and I had been wondering which one would be the best one, so I sincerely thank you for this great idea you’ve had of giving us the opportunity of sharing our experiences at learning the language.


  13. Jimmy Cappaert:

    Try svt.se/rapport. You can watch “Rapport” there, the Swedish news. I watch it every night, it’s about 30 minutes and you’re up to speed with what is going on in Sweden.

    Also, you do not only hear the language, but you can also enable subtitles in Swedish (Rapport textat). It’s then very easy to follow the words and then hear and see them pronounced.

    Lycka till!

  14. AA:

    Svenska Skolan :: http://www.theswedishschool.org/

    I have a great difficulty with languages so a classroom environment is amust for me. I have tried to also read various news web sites, Swedish comics, and listen to music when sung in Swedish.

    All have helped to varying degrees; but, nothing beats reading books then re-reading with a CD that pronounces the text. Then repeating. And, repeating again. 🙂

  15. Kenia:

    Yes Jimmy, you’re right, http://www.svt.se/rapport is very good for hearing the language (with subtitles of course). Didn’t know about that site, thank you!

  16. John Eastlund:

    Here’s a fun way to learn Swedish:


    (some of the language may not be appropriate for youngsters however)