After five months of my first arrival in Sweden, I past the B2-level Swedish exam yesterday! Though not an expert at all, I am writing to share my experience of learning Swedish, and hope that it would be perhaps useful for those who plan to study or live in this country.
1. Who should learn Swedish?
Proficiency in Swedish is definitely not a prerequisite for doing a master degree in Sweden, given that almost all people here speak fluent English and most of the master programs are conducted in English. However, it would be a different story if you plan to work here after your study.
Even if it is not the case, knowledge of Swedish would be a merit when you are looking for a master thesis, applying for an extra job or internship. Though I have not made up my mind, learning Swedish makes my life easier: I can now understand most of the posts and mails, order food without opening translate.google, book an appointment with doctor independently……; most importantly, Swedish connects me with the local society and opens more doors for me.
2. How difficult is it?
Same as English, Swedish also belongs to the family of Germanic languages. Therefore, for you who are reading this blog (that means you certainly speak English), learning Swedish should not be impossible! Moreover, if you also speak other Germanic languages such as German or Dutch or it will further speed up the learning process!
Family tree of Germanic languages
Spoken Swedish is marked by the tone/pitch/accent, which makes it one of the most melodious languages in the world. It is common for one simple word (e.g. sova = sleep) to contain two pitches (sò and và). In same rare cases tone even changes the meaning of the word (e.g. the written word “tomten” means both Santa Claus and yard, and can be differentiated only when it is spoken).
Swedish resembles English in many aspects. For example, it shares all the tense with English (infinite, present, past, past perfect) and most of the personal pronouns. On the other hand, it is similar to German (but much simplified of course) in terms of sentence structure and similar to French in the way that all nouns are characterized into three groups (den, get and plural).
3. How to learn it?
The most flexible, efficient and common way to learn Swedish is through registration at SFI (Swedish For Immigrants). It is part of the government policy that aims at fostering the integration of immigrants into the local society, so it is completely FREE for whom with a personal number! At SFI, you may either choose a weekend course (6 hours on Saturday) or during the weekdays (3 hours X 2 or X4). The best thing is, new course at SFI starts once in a month, therefore there exists no deadline before you are determined to learn Swedish! Just follow these four steps to register:
- Pay a personal visit to SFI center (Hornsgatan 124, Stockholm) during its open hours
- At SFI center, choose which time and SFI branch suit you
- You will receive a letter (usually takes one week) from SFI, indicating your start time and location
- Go! (The first class is mandatory, absence leads to re-registeration)
Besides SFI, there are of course feasible alternatives or supplements, for example:
- My classmate Dimitri uses an language app duolingo
- My classmate Manuel attended an intensive language course offered by Karolinska Institute
- My classmate Reno recommended me Radio Sweden på Lätt Svenska, to listen to broadcast in Swedish at a slower pace.
- My Swedish teacher Adina recommended SVT Play to us, in which we can watch Swedish programs with or without English subtitle
- I plan to visit the language café at KTH starting from next month, at possibly look for a language partner!
When I take a retrospective look, I realize the journey of learning Swedish is challenging, but not circuitous because of the excellent study opportunities available at SFI, and the love and support from people surrounding me! I would like to end this post with the quote from my favorite politician Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.“.