While I try to focus more on career/work related stuff here, I couldn’t resist writing a post on learning Swedish.
This is one of the most important skills you can master in Sweden. Speaking Swedish will vastly improve your career opportunities and will help you integrate into the culture.
You’ll have a much better experience living in Sweden if you speak the language.
A lot of the recommended tools that come up in a quick google search are too basic for a serious language learner and it can be difficult to find clear information in English about the language courses available to foreigners.
I hope I can give you more useful help. I will share the resources and courses available to you in Sweden that will help you become fluent in Swedish. You can skip to the end to read about my recommended approach to learning Swedish in Sweden.
Do you know a great resource I don’t mention here? Please help other language learners by sharing it in the comments below!
Free Courses to Learn Swedish
These introductory courses are offered by each kommun* (municipality) and are available for free to anyone that has a personal number. You can start and stop whenever you like and they have classes available during the day or evenings. Once you complete SFI, you can move on to more advanced Swedish levels (also free and available in the evening) called Svenska som andraspråk. The best school where you can take these courses is ABF, but there are other good schools if you can’t make it to that one.
* If you live in Lidingö for example, then you have to take your SFI courses in Lidingö because it’s a separate municipality. You can request to take the courses in a different municipality like Stockholm – some municipalities will let you switch and others won’t. It might be something to keep in mind when you’re looking for a place to live.
After getting to SFI level C (which you can do in 2 or 3 months), then you can move on to these more advanced lessons. They are also free and administered by the government, but offer a much faster pace of learning. If you can get into one of these programs, I would recommend it. Unfortunately, they’re only available as full-time and are during the day.
Be careful about the kommun thing here as well. You need to live in Stockholm or have a kommun that’s willing to transfer you.
Another full-time and free option is called Korta Vägen or “short way”. This is a 26-week program that runs twice a year and combines language learning with work experience. This is the absolute best option for learning Swedish. I highly recommend doing this program if you can.
Free Tools/Resources to Learn Swedish
This is an online newspaper written in simplified Swedish delivering local and international headline stories. The articles are short and the vocabulary is useful. It’s a great way to start reading in Swedish.
Radio Sweden provides audio news in simplified Swedish and is a great way to practice your listening comprehension. Daily episodes are about 15 minutes in length and can be listened to on their website or as a podcast. I like to listen to one episode each day on my way to work.
You can download Sveriges Radio Play (iTunes App) (Android App) to get Radio Sweden på lätt Svenska and other Swedish podcasts on your phone. The other podcasts are difficult to understand for a beginner, but you can also find some children’s programming that’s a good way to practice listening.
Lättläst means easy reading and your local library will have a section devoted to books in simplified Swedish. All you need is your personal number and address to register for a library card. An easy way to start reading is to get a lättläst book that you’ve already read in English. I read Pride and Prejudice when I started. A word of warning – the storyline is also simplified, so don’t get mad if your favourite scene has some liberal changes.
Lättläst Audio Books (iTunes App) (Android App)
The library also offers audio books for loan through an app called Biblio. You need your library card and pin-code (which you get when you get the library card) and you can easily loan and listen to audio books on your phone. Their selection of easy Swedish audio books is not as extensive as their regular lättläst books, but it’s good enough for our purposes.
It’s not the most versatile app, but it’s FREE. Other audio book apps on the market cost 200 kr per month.
Talking opportunities (aka the best way to learn)
There are so many ways you can practice listening and speaking real world Swedish… but sometimes it’s nice to start in a “safe” learning environment. Below are a couple of meetups to get you started with speaking Swedish. In general, I think it’s good to have an intermediate understanding to attend one of these, but you could go anyway and use it as more of a listening exercise.
Many other venues offer Swedish speaking get togethers, like your local library.
Paid Courses to Learn Swedish
There are many language schools available in Sweden. I don’t really recommend this route because there are so many free tools and courses available. I’ve personally gone to Folkuniversitet, because I heard they were good and they’re not too expensive (compared to some of the other ones out there). Medborgarskolan is another option you could check out.
If you’ve studied a bit of Swedish and aren’t sure at which level you should start, you can take a free online test with folkuniversitet as a first step.
The Recommended Approach to Learning Swedish
If you spend a few hours actively learning Swedish each day, then you don’t need to spend any money on classes. There are a lot of great, free tools that you can use to practice reading and listening to Swedish. And since you’re living in Sweden, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with native Swedish speakers in the language.
But I can tell you from my own personal experience, it’s hard to learn Swedish like this. Everyone speaks English in Sweden, which is great usually… except when you’re trying to learn Swedish. It’s hard to stay motivated when you can always switch to English and be understood.
For this reason, I think it’s important to take classes if you really want to learn. Especially when you’re starting out. This will help you get in the habit of speaking and listening to Swedish.
The next question is – should you do paid courses or free. I’ve tried a bit of both and I can honestly say that the quality of the free courses is on par or oftentimes better than the paid courses.
You may hear people complaining about SFI (it’s full of unmotivated people, it’s a mixture of too many different educational levels, etc.). The intro levels of SFI can be like this, but the further up you go the better the classes get.
If you’re studying in the evening, then I recommend taking SFI and moving into Svenska som andraspråk after. If you can do this language study thing full-time, then the absolute best option is the full-time, free course called Korta Vägen.