Blog » Learn Swedish » Swedish Learning Tips » Is Swedish Hard to Learn? Demystifying the Swedish Language

Is Swedish Hard to Learn? Demystifying the Swedish Language

Are you thinking about learning Swedish? I’m not surprised. After all, it is a language that has been described as beautifully melodic. Learning it can help you understand Swedish culture, make friends in Sweden, and have greater chances of finding a good job in the country of lagom. But you’re probably wondering, “Is Swedish hard to learn?

Learning a new language can feel daunting at first. Perhaps you’ve also heard that there are some aspects of Swedish grammar and pronunciation that can feel tricky to beginners.

Before you start your journey to study the Swedish language, you likely want to know what you’re getting yourself into. You want to know how much time and effort you’re going to need to invest to learn Swedish. In this article, I will answer the question, “Is Swedish hard to learn?” and explain some characteristics of this fascinating language.

“Is Swedish Hard to Learn?” Is the Wrong Question

The truth is, there are no “easy” or “difficult” languages. If that sounds doubtful to you, hear me out. We often talk about certain languages being harder than others. This is because those languages are further from our native language.

Certain languages have more in common with our native tongue and will thus seem easier. Other languages are very different from our language and will seem impossible.

So, “Is Swedish Hard to Learn?” is not really the right question. If you’re an English speaker, the more appropriate question would be “Is Swedish Hard to Learn for an English speaker?”

Is Swedish Hard to Learn for English Speakers?

Luckily, the answer to that question is no. Swedish is closely related to English, and the two languages have a lot in common. Would you like to find out just how easy Swedish is for those of you who can speak English? You’re in luck.

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) categorized how easy languages are to learn for English native speakers on a scale from 1 to 5. Category 1 has languages that are closely related to English and are considered easy to learn. Category 5 has languages that are very different from English and are considered exceptionally difficult.

According to the FSI, Swedish is in category 1. This means that Swedish is one of the easiest languages to learn if you’re an English speaker.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Swedish?

The FSI also conducted a study on how long it takes an English speaker to learn different languages. The languages of the highest difficulty, such as Chinese, could require 2200 hours to reach an advanced level. Languages that were among the easiest required 575–600 hours.

So, how long does it take to learn Swedish? The institute specified that you need about 600 hours of active learning to reach an advanced level of the Swedish language. That means that you could master Swedish in only a year if you study 11–12 hours every week.

Here are the approximate hours you need to study to reach various Swedish levels:

  • Beginner level: 200 hours
  • Intermediate level: 350 hours
  • Advanced level: 600 hours

Why Swedish Is Easy to Learn for English Speakers

The main reason Swedish is relatively easy for an English speaker is that the two languages are related. English and Swedish are both Germanic languages, and their shared Germanic origins lead to many similarities.

Similarities Between Swedish and English: Vocabulary

Because Swedish and English share roots, English speakers will find a lot of Swedish vocabulary familiar. The two languages have a collection of cognates—words that sound and look similar and have the same meanings. A few examples of cognates:

  • Vinter: Winter
  • Studera: Study
  • Tre: Three
  • Katt: Cat

Loanwords are another reason you have a head start when studying Swedish vocabulary. Swedish has loanwords from English, and English has loanwords from Swedish. A few examples of loanwords:

  • English to Swedish: Outlet
  • English to Swedish: Callcenter
  • Swedish to English: Ombudsman
  • Swedish to English: Smorgasbord (smörgåsbord)

Similarities Between Swedish and English: Grammar

Because the languages are related, the grammar, including the sentence structure, will follow a similar logic. Both languages use the sentence structure subject-verb-object (SVO) in simple sentences. This means that it won’t be long until you dare form your own simple sentences in Swedish! Check out the structural similarities in these examples:

  • Jag älskar dig: I love you.
  • Han går hem: He goes home.
  • De dricker kaffe: They drink coffee.

What’s more, Swedish verb conjugation, while not identical, is similar to English. All these factors facilitate learning.

Similarities Between Swedish and English: The Alphabet

Another similarity is the use of Latin letters. It’s true that the Swedish alphabet has three extra letters that don’t exist in English: å, ä, and ö. While the English alphabet only has 26 letters, the Swedish one has a total of 29 letters.

However, the remaining 26 letters are the same. This is another factor that makes it easier for an English speaker to learn Swedish.

Why Is Swedish Hard to Learn for Some?

It’s not all smooth sailing. While Swedish is relatively easy to learn in comparison with other languages, it still has a few quirks that make it a bit challenging.

Why Swedish Can Be Hard: False Friends

As mentioned, Swedish has cognates that can help you pick up vocabulary quickly. However, it also has false friends—words that sound and look deceptively similar but have a different meaning.

If you don’t keep an eye out for these false friends, you might find yourself face to face with a very confused, and perhaps even offended, Swede. As you look through the following examples of false friends, I’m sure you can imagine a few potentially embarrassing situations:

  • Bra (Means “good”, doesn’t refer to underwear)
  • Chef (Means “boss”, doesn’t refer to a person who cooks)
  • Gift (Means “married” or “poison”, doesn’t refer to a present)
  • Kiss (Means “pee”, doesn’t refer to an expression of affection)

Why Swedish Can Be Hard: Inverted Word Order

While it’s true that Swedish generally uses SVO word order, it does complicate things a bit with inversion in some sentences. Swedish sometimes uses inverted word order, switching the order of the subject and the verb. This most commonly happens after an adverbial or introductory phrase. A few examples:

  • Han vill träffa mig imorgon: He wants to meet me tomorrow. (Normal word order.)
  • Imorgon vill han träffa mig: Tomorrow, he wants to meet me. (Inverted word order. The subject “han” and the verb “vill” switch places.)
  • Jag ringde henne när vi kom hem: I called her when she got home. (Normal word order.)
  • När vi kom hem ringde jag henne: When we got home, I called her. (Inverted word order. The subject “jag” and the verb “ringde” switch places.)

While not super complicated, this quirk of the Swedish language can take a long time for Swedish learners to get used to.

Why Swedish Can Be Hard: The Genders

Another characteristic Swedish learners sometimes struggle with is that Swedish distinguishes between common gender nouns and neuter gender nouns. What gender a noun is will affect what articles, adjectives, and possessive pronouns we use.

For example, common gender nouns are preceded by the article “en”, while neuter gender nouns are preceded by the article “ett”. Many learn about the Swedish genders as nouns being “en”-words or “ett”-words. A few examples of how Swedish genders influence articles, adjectives, and possessive pronouns:

  • En fin bil: A pretty car.
  • Ett fint hus: A pretty house.
  • Min katt är liten: My cat is small.
  • Mitt glas är litet: My glass is small.

As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind when forming sentences in Swedish. In English, it is easy to learn when to use “a” or “an”. In Swedish, however, there is no easy rule to figure out what gender a noun has and when to use “en” or ”ett”. The gender of the noun is simply something you’ll have to memorize along with the noun.

Swedish Made Easy: Learn Swedish Fast

Fortunately, there are a ton of resources and tips out there to learn Swedish fast and easily. Read on in the Clozemaster Blog to find the best ways to master Swedish:

One of the easiest and most fun ways of learning Swedish is practicing the language with a Swedish learning app. Apps that gamify your learning experience can help you keep your motivation up and be consistent with your habits. Check out apps such as Duolingo, Clozemaster, and Rosetta Stone to find a new approach to language learning.

Final Thoughts: Is Swedish Hard to Learn?

So, what is the conclusion? Is Swedish hard to learn? If you are an English speaker, then the answer is no. Swedish is in the category of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. There are some characteristics of Swedish that make it challenging, such as:

  • false friends,
  • an inverted word order,
  • and the two-gender system.

However, as a result of shared Germanic roots, there are also many similarities between English and Swedish. Some examples include:

  • shared words, such as cognates and loanwords,
  • similar sentence structure and grammar,
  • and similar alphabets, both based on Latin letters.

As you can see, the reasons to give Swedish a shot are not few. Are you ready to start learning svenska? If you keep up your motivation with a gamifying app such as Clozemaster, you’ll be able to master Swedish in no time.

Learn Swedish faster with Clozemaster 🚀

Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in Swedish.

Take your Swedish to the next level. Click here to start practicing with real Swedish sentences!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *