Swedish is the first language I study completely by myself, so I had to create my own method. When starting to study a language independently you might find it confusing to navigate through the resources and apps the internet offers. It’s normal to try out a few, discard the ones that don’t work for you, and adjust your routine along the way.
I have been fascinated by Sweden since my days in Japan, where most of my close friends were Swedish and I became acquainted with the sound of their beautiful language. I picked up a few words, but not much more.
Last year I decided to give it a try for the sake of learning, without any hurry to become fluent. Some things have changed since then and now I’m willing to speed up the process.
First resources: language learning apps
For starters, I tried the super popular Duolingo. The app is a very intuitive, easy to use and it’s completely free. The exercises include translation of sentences, matching a word with its meaning, typing what you hear, or say what you hear. Duolingo lets you produce your first simple sentences from the very beginning, so it really feels like you are making progress. On the other hand, some of the sentences you will practice are a bit unnatural. I also find its repetition system doesn’t match my learning speed.
After playing with it a bit I decided to keep it as a side resource for when I have some extra time or I want to refresh some topics.
Memrise is my everyday buddy. During my commute, when I prepare lunch, whenever I have some spare time I open it and practice. As the name suggests its main purpose is to help you memorize information. It has type in exercises and multiple choice questions repeated at increased intervals to maximise your ability to retain vocabulary. It has a pro version but I have been using the free one and it has been working just fine for me. It’s a great tool to build your first core vocabulary: thanks to it I was able to start reading simple texts soon. It will likely not improve your speaking skills unless you make an effort and produce sentences with the words and expressions you practised.
Among the apps I use for my Swedish studies, Babbel is the most solid. Its lessons include new vocabulary, grammar, a dialogue and a review of what you just learned and they take about 15 minutes to complete. Moreover, it has a review manager function that helps you memorize words and expressions through the spaced repetition system. I like to get firm grammar foundations and through Babbel, I got my first contacts with rules and structures. It costs about 5£ a month for the 6-month subscription. I got a 50% discount when I purchased it and it has been worth its price.
Grammar and pronunciation
Learningswedish.se is my reference site for grammar and overall a great website to study Swedish. It has clear and thorough explanations and exercises to practice the theory. It also includes a complete guide to pronunciation to make sure you get Swedish word stress, accent and prosody right.
Here you can find plenty of audio material and dialogues in a natural, everyday language. I have experienced some difficulties understanding spoken Swedish and it’s super useful for me to listen to the dialogues while reading the script. I also use the texts on Learning Swedish for shadowing.
Listen, listen, listen!
Listening is essential when learning a language. Even if you don’t understand much of what is being said you should try and get exposed to the sound of your target language as much as possible. Little by little you’ll start recognising words and sentences.
Movies are one of my favourite things, so I try to combine study with pleasure by watching one or two films in Swedish every month. It’s an effortless way to keep practising in my free time. I’ve recently started watching the Millennium series and surprisingly I could grasp more than a few sentences. What a great confidence boost!
I’ve been looking for good Swedish youtubers, but for now, I only follow Clara Henry. I like her sassy attitude and her vlogs are entertaining. I would love to find more Swedish vloggers to follow, so please feel free to leave a comment if you know any.
Boost your vocabulary through reading
During my latest trip to Sweden, I bought a Bamse comic to practice reading. It’s a magazine aimed at kids and it uses a cute, childish language, but through it, I’m picking up many everyday expressions. And how happy I was when I first opened it and realised it was surprisingly easy for me to understand.
My next goal is to become able to read my beloved Moomin series books. I’m already anticipating the sense of satisfaction I’d get from that.
A good online dictionary I use is Folkets lexikon.
I also have the Rivstart books on my desk, waiting for less busy days. I like apps and online tools, but I also need to have real textbooks to browse. I’m looking forward to properly working on these, hopefully from next month.
Do you know any resource to study Swedish? Are you learning a language by yourself, and if so what tools do you use? I’d love to hear from you!