Like all language learning, it all starts with you. The best way to start, especially if you are already in the country, is to immerse yourself in the local culture. Do not be scared of looking like a fool. Go out and try! Whoever you can find is a potential aid. Speak to people in taxis, in shops, on the street, ask for directions, etc. Whatever makes you converse with the locals is positive.
As in other countries with good English speakers, such as Holland or Norway, beware of English! Try to hide the fact that you can speak the language fluently, or at least do not let yourself slip into English. Many Swedes speak the language extremely well and will easily answer your broken Swedish in English. Use English, if you must, for words you do not know or for translations. However, even if you do not know the exact vocabulary, try to explain the term in Swedish if you can. Not only can it be a fun experience, but it develops your conversation skills. When learning a language, always keep your sense of humour: be ready to laugh!
To get started, language courses are an excellent option. They offer you a framework for learning and also allow you to meet other people. To find language schools and classes, use the internet or the local classified sections of newspapers. Many different programmes are available and you can also enrol in Summer schools. Prices may vary widely and are not always indicative of quality.
SFI – Swedish for Immigrants
If you are resident in Sweden and you do not speak the language, you are entitled to Swedish for Immigrants (Svenska för Invandrare - SFI). Essentially SFI consists of free Swedish lessons offered by your local council. The only requisite is that you are aged 20 or over. If you are a student receiving benefits, you need an authorisation to study SFI.
The programme used to have a bad reputation, but recent improvements have made the course much more efficient. The teachers are trained to deal with complete beginners and tests are done to assess your language level. At the end of your course you usually obtain an SFI degree giving your level in Swedish. To apply, just go to your local SFI office with your passport and your resident number (personbevis). Information about your local SFI programme is generally available on your local council’s website.
The Folkuniversitetet is the Swedish equivalent of the British Open University. It offers programmes for employed adults or people wanting to undertake further studies. Courses are not free, but are usually relatively cheap. The Folkuniversitetet is present across Sweden and offers Swedish courses. The organisation has an excellent reputation. To find out more just have a look at their website or go to their local office.
If you do not have time for language courses or prefer one-on-one teaching, private classes are the best option. The main advantage is that the teacher can tailor the lessons to your needs. The quality of private teaching really depends of your tutor, which can be assessed by his experience and teaching certificates. Of course, some less experienced teachers may be great and offer you a dynamic approach. The main thing is to feel at ease with your tutor, so do not be afraid to change teacher if necessary. This option tends to be more expensive. You can organise one-to-one teaching through local language schools, but it is usually recommended (as it is cheaper) to find private tutors through internet or classified sections of newspapers and magazines. Have a look at your local university, announcements are often put up.
Language exchanges are an excellent option to increase your conversation skills. Pair up with a Swede who wants to learn your language of origin. This might be tricky with English, as most people speak it very well. However, don’t be scared to ask a native to go for regular Swedish speaking coffee breaks. Announcements for language exchanges can be found on specialised web sites or are often posted up at universities. Have a look in our classified section, under language exchanges.
As we have already said, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in both in and the local culture. The main difficulty you will find in Sweden is that many people will tend to speak to you in English, as it will in most cases be easier for them. However, if you hang out with a group of Swedes, they will inevitably slip into Swedish for anecdotes and jokes.
Watch Swedish television (even if you understand little, it is amazing what this will do to help tune you’re ear to colloquial Swedish) and when you progress a bit, try to read local newspapers. A bilingual dictionary is also recommended, as it can help you with vocabulary and usually includes sections on grammar and verbs.