Best methods and resources for learning Swedish?
December 14, 2013 7:07 AM   Subscribe

I have decided that one day, sooner rather than later, I should like to move to Sweden. In order to get a job there, it would probably help to learn the language.

I have Rosetta Stone Swedish, which I will make my way through every evening. I think that at bedtime I will probably find a nice Stockholm classical music station to stream - I'll likely pick up some bits and pieces from that.

I think that in the new year I will enrol in a Swedish course at uni, as well.

Any other Mefites out there who have learned or are learning Swedish (or, I suppose, any of the similar Scandinavian languages), are there any particular educational resources or, indeed, tips, tricks and "hacks" you might recommend?
posted by turbid dahlia to Education (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I got nothing on Swedish, but if I were you I'd try to focus on active language skills; Rosetta Stone and listening radio are mostly passive. If you are scientifically inclined, you might look at some of the academic work on second language acquisition.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:33 AM on December 14, 2013

I had the same plan before I found my current, all-consuming job. And who knows, maybe I'll revisit this plan one day. Meet you in Stockholm for fika!

Swedish radio and TV are pretty good about making a lot of their stuff available:

Here is the Swedish TV; I recommend the documentaries, and my all-time favorite is the garden-and-cooking show Trädgårdsonsdag, but this year's series has ended. BUTTTT!!! They are showing Julkalendern episodes now, which is an Advent series for the family, I recommend it.

Sveriges Radio has classical channels and general news.

For learning the language, I stick with the time-tried textbook, Swedish: An Elementary Reader, but I like old-school methods.

There are many resources on the web, Sweden has well-developed programs for immigrants needing to learn a language.

Some good sites:

Swedish and working life for immigrants


Some simple introductory phrase tutorials

Now excuse me, I have 14 episodes of Julkalendern to catch up on :)
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:58 AM on December 14, 2013

Pimsleur is awesome and they have a Swedish course. Check secondhand markets (eBay etc) for cheaper copies.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:00 AM on December 14, 2013

Almost all Swedish radio stations stream online, and are useful for getting a feel for the language. Check out Sveriges Radio for the state radio channels, and Radioplay for some of the commercial ones. I especially recommend Nyheter på lätt svenska for simplified Swedish news.

There are lots of Swedish children books out there: definitely check some of them out. My favourite is the Pettson and Findus series, but you can't beat Astrid Lindgren for traditional Swedish childrens lit.

Swedish has certain commonalities with French and German, so if you have experience in those languages, they can be useful frames for helping learn Swedish.
posted by troytroy at 8:07 AM on December 14, 2013

Seconding Pimsleur. It doesn't go very far with Swedish, but it does get you to talk a lot and helps develop a good accent. Lycka till!
posted by meijusa at 8:12 AM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

What I did: I found myself a private Swedish teacher in the city where I was living and took ten lessons. The most important thing is to get the grammar and the basic quirks of the language sorted out.
Parallel to that, as others say, try to listen to Swedish podcasts/radio/TV to get the language into your ear. I came to Sweden in '91 - there were far fewer easily accessible resources at the time, and I had quite a hard time making myself understand these people. Much easier now to develop some listening skills.
posted by Namlit at 9:34 AM on December 14, 2013

Another viewpoint: Your necessity for learning the language with regards to getting a job may vary greatly depending on the job and workplace. If you are looking to work at a large multinational (as I do in Denmark), then the corporate language would be english and there would be no need, and, for some places, no actual requirement, for knowing swedish. Now, that's not to say that for the off-time, and general cultural integration, it would be a great idea learning the host country's language - but, for work it may only be a "nice to know" rather than "need to know".
posted by alchemist at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2013

I do not know any Swedish, but as someone who speak a second language at home and spends about two hours each day on foreign language study, I have some general ideas and tips.

* I am generally an adherent on Stephen Krashen's input-based theories. In short, focus on comprehensible input. I think a big mistake people make is trying to speak too soon. I would wait until you have a few solid months with the language before attempting to speak with natives. Primary reasons are (1) you won't have very much to say and (2) you won't understand very much of what is said back to you.

* related to the previous point, focus on vocabulary acquisition. I think this is best done by learning vocabulary in the context of your comprehensible input, but some people also like frequency lists of vocabulary. In either case, I highly recommend using an SRS system such as Anki to commit vocabulary to long-term memory.

* there is no such thing as a "hack" for language acquisition. After motivation, the biggest factor is time with the language. And, it is best if this time is every day. It is much better for you to spend 30 minutes a day than three hours on Saturday.

* Rosetta Stone, for the most part, is not that good. The program was developed as a program for teaching Spanish, which I understand it does fairly well. However, the Spanish program was used as a cookie-cutter for all other languages, and languages are definitely not one-size-fits-all. Pimsleur is quite popular although I find it pretty boring because it does not teach very much vocabulary - a lot of it seems to be about asking women out for a drink. That said, I think Pimsleur is very good for drilling listening and pronunciation. I think Pimsleur is a good supplement to a language learning program.

* Book - If you read French, Assimil has a Swedish book, and I happen to be a big Assimil advocate. Otherwise, I am generally a fan of the Teach Yourself series, and they do have a Swedish book. I am sure there are other self-study books that some Swedish students might be able to recommend. Whatever the text, please make sure that it comes with audio files on CD or mp3.

In summary, keep your motivation up and be consistent in spending time with the language.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:11 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am an immigrant to Sweden and work with employment issues here, to a large extent with other immigrants and refugees. Feel free to memail me.
My usual advice is to start working through Safir (google safir svenska and pick a link) and to check if the Swedish Church or someother Swedish org is represented in your town. I disagree about holding off on speaking; early and much practice is strongly recommended as Swedes are not great at intuiting mispronounced Swedish. They also are highly unlikely to give you space to practice once you are here as their English is generally really good. I would more than strongly advise having your employment and residence in place before moving. Swedish is actually a pretty easy language for English speakers to pick up.
posted by Iteki at 2:43 PM on December 14, 2013

This is all excellent stuff, thank you everybody. A lot of different methods and approaches to consider. It is probably all a pipe dream, emigrating to Sweden, but I suppose it's a goal. I have met a few Swedes here in Brisbane and yes their English has been excellent, and I am sure I could survive quite easily in Sweden knowing only a handful of phrases. But it would be pretty rude of me to be comprehensively pig-ignorant, hence my formative attempt. Tack, everybody!
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:59 PM on December 14, 2013

Now the language thing is on its way of having been answered, I may add a few lines about living in Sweden (looking out of the window here. It's 8.20 in the morning and pitch-black, rain has been pouring down for hours, it's 4 degrees Celsius. Some light will eventually come around ten, I hope, and will be gone at three p.m. And This Still Classifies As South Sweden). Have you seen the new Hobbit movie? The short scene in Bree: add some asphalt and that's it, totally.
Summers can be great (at least there's light - lots of it), even if they sometimes aren't at all (moar rain...), and although people tend to be a bit surprised about lowish average temperatures even when the sun shines. The winters are always dark (and that's DARK) and, especially in the southwest, nasty as a rule: rain, slush, traffic-debiliating icy periods (just had one last week), more rain, mist, and did I mention dark (and rain).

So I cannot enough second what Iteki says, do learn the language, it's a survival tool; else you'll find yourself half of the year or more isolated in a work-drive-tv/internet loop with nothing else happening. Out there, I assure you, only water is happening at this point (a miss by the developers of the Outside game, I'm reading).
Do visit this time of the year for a test. Spend some time in Stockholm, Göteborg and, say, Östersund in late November for three distinct perspectives.
posted by Namlit at 11:23 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

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