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Why I’m learning Swedish (and how you can too)

So, you’re moving to Sweden! How much have you thought about… Swedish? As you know, all master’s programmes at KTH are taught in English, and there’s a generally high level of English spoken by Swedes, young and old. In your day-to-day life in Stockholm, you can manage quite easily without knowing Swedish. 

So, why learn Swedish?

Where it becomes more relevant is your personal life. If you learn the vocabulary around you, from grocery store goods to public transport instructions, you’ll save time at the very least. But socially, the Swedish community is tightly knit, so the language can be critical for integrating in the long-term, for example, if you plan to work in Sweden after studies. 

In addition – like English, Swedish is a relatively simple language (grammatically). For example, verbs are conjugated according to verb tense, but not subject. As a Germanic language, many words have the same roots as the equivalent in English. So, if you speak English (or even better, English and German), you’ll have a foundation to build off. 

Options for learning Swedish

1 | Introductory course at KTH 

When I first arrived in August 2020, I enrolled in the introductory Swedish course at KTH, which you can take to earn A1 level certification. But, it was still early in the pandemic, the course was fully online, and the format didn’t suit my learning style for languages. It’s now back in a normal format, and more details can be found here

2 | “Osmosis” 

This is the approach I took for most of 2021, and I recommend it – to an extent. After dropping the KTH course, I embraced a more organic form of learning by trying to get as immersed in the language as possible. I befriended Swedish classmates, played with a Swedish women’s club soccer team, watched Swedish Netflix with subtitles, and made an effort to learn a vocabulary of things I encountered regularly. This approach was key for developing an ear for the language and distinguishing the vowel sounds I initally struggled with. But overall, it’s difficult to practise Swedish through daily interactions and spontaneous conversations; most people here will default to English if they notice you’re not fluent. It’s courteous, but not great for learning.

3 | Learn online with Learning Swedish

This is a free online course provided by the Swedish Institute (SI). I studied several of the online modules during 2021 as well and found it beneficial as an introduction to structured vocabulary and grammar basics.

4 | Swedish for Immigrants (SFI)

By the end of last year, I wanted to get more serious, so I enrolled in classes at a local school, which is possible through the organisation SFI for free with a personnummer. I study 5 hours per week, in-person at a school 10-minutes away. It’s taught entirely in Swedish, and the class is dynamic, with a variety of lecturing, writing exercises, online trivia, and conversation practice. The pace is steady but designed for long-term learning, so I’ve considered switching to an intensive course for academics once I’m done with my thesis.

In review… you do you!

For me, learning Swedish has been really rewarding and insightful, even though I’m still far from fluent. Language is always intertwined with culture – it shapes the way we think and articulate our feelings. I have gained a lot of perspective on Swedish culture, events, and people by devoting a little time to the language. As a longer-term student, it’s been a positive part of my experience. 

At the end of the day, it’s up to you. Whether you decide to pursue resources for learning online, in-person, or not at all, you will still live a relatively normal life while in Sweden as an English speaker. 

// Claire

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