Swedish is a beautiful language. However, it can be a bit intimidating when you start learning it. You’re probably asking yourself lots of questions: Where do I start? How much time will it take to learn Swedish? What’s the best way to learn Swedish? Will I ever be able to speak Swedish the way native Swedish speakers do?
Yes, I think all Swedish language learners, be it beginners, intermediate, or advanced, can relate to that. Learning a language takes time and lots of mistakes for you to make, but this shouldn’t discourage you from doing it. That’s why we’ve prepared this ultimate guide to learning Swedish – to encourage you and show you that the best way to learn Swedish is to have fun while doing it!
The Best Way to Learn Swedish is to Not Be Too Harsh on Yourself
Throughout my experience as a Swedish teacher, I’ve noticed that the best way to learn Swedish is to not be too harsh on yourself, and be okay with making mistakes. Not following this first step is actually one of the main reasons why people stop studying Swedish – not because they’re not good enough, or because Swedish is that hard to learn.
We’re all human beings, and one of the most human traits is imperfection. Allow yourself not to know everything and make mistakes. Don’t think about how you’d look or sound. Don’t be shy with your teacher – it’s their job to correct and teach you; don’t be shy with your classmates – they’re probably feeling the same way you do; don’t be shy with native speakers – they probably find it very sweet that you’re trying to learn their language.
The Best Way to Learn Swedish is to Get to Know Swedish Culture and Mentality, and Fall in Love with Them
Getting to know the culture and people’s mentality is an enriching experience, and falling in love with them is definitely the best way to learn Swedish, or any language for that matter.
People who genuinely love Sweden and its culture find it much easier to learn Swedish than those who don’t. The most devoted and successful students I’ve had were studying Swedish because they were simply crazy about the Swedish culture.
Mys is a term referring to creating a cosy and warm atmosphere, and enjoying yourself or the time spent with your loved ones.
Fika literally means a coffee or tea break, often with something sweet on the side. However, it’s a lot more than just a break. It incorporates the concept of Mys, and it means to slow down and make some time for yourself or your friends, family, or colleagues.
Lagom means ‘not too much, not too little’ or ‘just the right amount’, and you can use it for pretty much everything: drink a lagom amount of coffee, eat lagom, live lagom!
Here are some recommendations on books to help you understand Swedish culture and mentality:
- The Little Book of Scandi Living
- Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living
- Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life
- The Little Book of Fika: The Uplifting Daily Ritual of the Swedish Coffee Break
- The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, although not as flattering to Sweden and the other Scandinavian and Nordic countries in general, is a wonderful book. It contains first-hand insights into the Nordic countries, weighing both their positive and negative aspects.
Find Time to Study, and Create a Study Ritual Inspired by the Swedish Concepts Mys, Fika, and Lagom
A big mistake many people make when learning a language is to think that just taking classes is enough. Well, it’s not. It’s really important that you find time to study – to actually sit down, do your homework, study grammar, and learn new vocabulary. 30 minutes every day is just lagom.
When you think about it, 30 minutes every day isn’t that much. And yet, it’s hard for a lot of people to find motivation. That’s why the best way to learn Swedish is to have a positive attitude towards studying from the very beginning. It really helps to create a study ritual and make yourself cosy and comfortable when studying.
So, create your own mys: light a candle, put on your sweatpants, play some chill music, bake some sweets for fika, and hit the textbooks! And don’t forget to always be lagom – with the coffee, the sweets, and the studying!
Surround Yourself with Swedish
As I said, 30 minutes of studying every day is just lagom. At least when we’re talking about conventional learning – writing your homework, doing exercises, studying grammar, etc. But language learning doesn’t stop there. You need to practice Swedish every day, 24/7. The best way to learn Swedish is to surround yourself with it, immerse yourself in it, incorporate it in your daily life. Here are some ideas on how to do that:
- Write new vocabulary on sticky notes and stick them all over your house.
- Change your phone settings to Swedish.
- Write your to-do and grocery lists in Swedish.
- Cook using Swedish recipes.
- Read ingredient lists and instructions for use in Swedish. Even if you don’t live in Sweden, it’s actually easier than you might think. I don’t live there, and I happen to buy products with information in Swedish all the time. Just pay attention!
- If you like playing board games, buy a board game in Swedish. Depending on your level, you can choose a game with just a few simple rules, or a game with tens of pages of rules to read through.
Read as Much Swedish as Possible: Textbooks, Books, and News
Textbooks and Complementary Language Materials
Regardless of wheter you’re learning Swedish in school, in college, on an onsite Swedish language course, or you’re taking Swedish lessons online, you’re probably using a particular textbook set. There are many good sets, but no matter how good they are, one textbook is never sufficient. Use as many textbooks and extra language materials as possible.
I can see book lovers smiling and book haters rolling their eyes. Either way, reading books is the best way to learn Swedish.
If you’re an advanced learner, and you want to prove yourself in Swedish, there are some amazing Swedish classics waiting for you to read them.
If you’re in Sweden, you can borrow books and textbooks from the library, or order new or second hand online. The biggest online bookstores in Sweden are Bokus, Akademibokhandeln, and Adlibris. You can buy second hand books from Bokbörsen and Studentapan.
If you’re outside Sweden and these websites don’t deliver to your country, keep in mind that they also offer e-books. If you still prefer paper, Amazon also has a wide range of Swedish books and textbooks.
If you’re a beginner in Swedish, the news website 8 sidor is a perfect place to start, as their articles are written in simple Swedish. It’s absolutely free, and you don’t need a subscription.
If you’re intermediate or advanced, you have plenty of options. The biggest and highest-quality online newspapers, SVD and DN, are, however, paid. Local news websites usually don’t require a subscription, and can be especially suitable for those of you living in or planning to move to Sweden, so that you know what’s happening in your area.
Use Language Learning Apps and Tools
Using language learning apps is an easy and fun way to learn Swedish, and the gap-fill game Clozemaster is a perfect start.
You can read more about Clozemaster and other language learning apps in the article 7 Best Apps for Intermediate Swedish Learners. It’s a comprehensive guide covering everything that might interest you, such as key features, advantages, and pricing.
- Kahoot! – an online game where a host asks a question on their device, and the other participants answer the question on theirs. The questions can be about everything from Swedish grammar and vocabulary to Swedish culture and traditions.
- Quizizz – an app where you can create and customize quizzes, polls, and presentations in Swedish.
- Quizlet – an app that offers interactive tools for learners of Swedish: flashcards, quizzes, and games.
Listen to as Much Swedish as Possible: Music, Radio, News, Podcasts, Audiobooks
Even if you’re a beginner and understand no more than just a few words, listening to Swedish from the very beginning will help you tune your ears to Swedish, as well as master the pronunciation and melody of the language. That’s the best way to learn Swedish and speak the way native speakers do. Besides that, nothing compares to the feeling you get when you’re beginning to understand more and more Swedish with every song or podcast episode you’re listening to.
Music-wise, listening to Swedish shouldn’t be hard. After all, Sweden is the home country of Spotify and a number of amazing artists. You’ve most certainly heard of ABBA, Roxette, Europe, Ace of Base, The Cardigans, Basshunter, Avicii, Zara Larsson, Tove Lo, etc., because they perfom(ed) in English. The good news is that there are many great musicians who perform in Swedish as well. Kent, Veronica Maggio, LALEH, Danny Saucedo, Movits!, Molly Sandén, Victor Leksell, Benjamin Ingrosso, to only name a few.
Here’s some music inspiration:
Radio, News, and Podcasts
I’d recommend you look at Radio Sweden’s website and on Spotify yourself, and find something that interests you, because there are numerous podcasts and programs on all topics. However, here are my personal recommendations and favourites:
- Radio Sweden på lätt svenska (Radio Sweden in simplified Swedish)
- Coffee Break Swedish
- Swedish Podcast for Beginners (Lätt svenska med Oskar)
- Simple Swedish Podcast
- Livet på lätt svenska (Life in Simplified Swedish)
For intermediate and advanced learners
- Nyheter (News)
- Sommar & Vinter i P1 (Summer & Winter on P1)
- Svenska Mord (Swedish Homicide)
- Språket (The Language) and Språktidningens podd (Språktidningen’s podcast) – a couple of amazing podcasts about all things related to languages and Swedish in particular – tricky grammar, difficult vocabulary, slang and swear words, etymology and language history, etc.
If reading books isn’t really your thing, you can try listening to them. Here’s where you can find audiobooks in Swedish:
- Storytel – I’m sure most of you have heard of it. Storytel offers both Swedish originals and translated books.
- Radio Sweden – Here you can listen to Swedish novels and short stories.
- YouTube – Here you can find beloved children’s books, as well as other Swedish originals and translated books.
Watch Swedish TV, Movies, and Series as Much as Possible
While reading and listening to Swedish is great, watching Swedish TV has two key advantages. First, body language and expressions can help you grasp meaning even if you don’t understand every word. This way, you don’t need to pause constantly to look up words. Second, watching with Swedish subtitles actually allows you to combine both reading and listening, making it the best way to learn Swedish.
When it comes to movies and series, I just have to say this once more: you’re extremely lucky to be learning Swedish in particular. Swedish cinema has left a significant impact on the world stage – from Ingmar Bergman’s thought-provoking, psychological dramas, to Nordic noir and exciting crime stories and thrillers.
And what’s more, Swedish cinema’s diversity and richness also translates to countless extra language resources for you! It’s as simple as that – you can just enjoy world-class cinema, watch the best Swedish movies and series, and learn Swedish!
Here’s where you can watch Swedish TV, movies, and series online:
- SVT Play offers a wide range of content: news, TV and reality shows, movies and series, humour and comedy, documentaries and educational programs, etc. However, some shows may not be available outside of Sweden.
- Urplay offers entertaining and educational programs for children and adults, documentaries, short videos, etc.
Among my favourite programs on Urplay are the language programs Svenska för alla (Swedish for Everyone), Studera svenska (Study Swedish), Svenska förklarad (Swedish Explained), and Jakten på språket (The Pursuit of Language). The first two are suitable for beginners, while the last two are suitable for intermediate and advanced learners.
For movies and series, there are many really good titles you can find on SVT Play, as well as on all well-known streaming platforms, such as Netflix, HBO, and Hulu.
Follow Swedish Bloggers and Influencers
Take advantage of what the Internet has to offer. Follow Swedish bloggers and influencers, and read about the topics that interest you: food, travel, lifestyle, sports, languages, etc. Or why not read about Sweden, Swedish culture and the Swedish language itself?
Here are some bloggers and influencers writing and talking about the Swedish language and culture:
- Clozemaster Blog
- Slow Swedish with Katrin Berndt on Instagram and YouTube
- Fun Swedish on Instagram and YouTube
- Learn Swedish Words and Phrases
- Swedish for Foreigners
- The Swedes
- På svenska
- Freudian Slip Productions
Practice Swedish as Much as Possible – with Natives, Your Classmates, Study Buddies, or Friends
If you’re already in Sweden, try to speak as much Swedish as possible. It’s definitely the best way to learn Swedish. If Swedish people switch to English, don’t get mad at them. They’re just trying to make it easier for you and don’t want to stress you out. Kindly explain to them that you want to practice your Swedish, and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help you.
If you’re not in Sweden, try to communicate with your classmates outside the classroom as much as possible. Make appointments to study together, go out and have a fika, talk about things and get to know each other, while, of course, speaking Swedish.
If you’re not enrolled to a course and don’t have any classmates, you can use social media to find friends and like-minded people. Join a Facebook group for people studying Swedish, and find a study buddy. Ask if anyone wants to chat or talk with you over the phone. Or why not make video calls and have a fika together?
The Best Way to Learn Swedish Is to Do All Those Things from Day 1
The best way to learn Swedish is, without a doubt, to start practicing it and immerse yourself in it from day 1. While all previous advice I gave you is important, this one is crucial if you really want to learn Swedish. I don’t want to promise you that it won’t take time because it will, but I want to promise you something else: it’ll be fun, and it’ll be worth it.