My favourite Swedish learning resources

Israel

Pianist-composer, polyglot, Hongkonger, explorer, ex-programmer, ex-author-to-be, son and brother. Discovering myself through discovering the world. Blogging my language adventures and spreading the Cantonese joy.

Hot off the heels of my successful finishing of my Swedish exam (i.e. sitting it…again we’ll get the results later), I’ve decided to do a brief summary of the Swedish learning resources I (honestly) liked the most in the 3 months I’ve learnt it. Each person has their own method of learning and hence preferred resources and materials, but if you happen to be a learner like me, or you just need a good list to get started learning Swedish, varsågoda! By the way, you’ll soon realise that I’m a big fan of electronic means of learning!

Getting started

Colloquial Swedish: although I’d done some vocab (and other stuff that I don’t remember) beforehand, my Swedish studies didn’t really take off until August, when I found more time to go through this book quickly. (Thanks to writing this post, I now have a sure response when people ask how long I’ve learnt Swedish – fluent in 3 months! I kept saying “several” or “4 or 5” months before.) I don’t like to dwell on this kind of textbook too long, especially the exercises, because I’d rather move on to ‘authentic’ materials as soon as possible, just like Steve Kaufmann. But this gave me a solid foundation to build up on, and particularly helped me find out similarities and differences to German.

Duolingo Swedish course: my number one resource to “fill in the holes”. Since I quite like to skip ahead with a lot of reading and listening (LingQ/Glossika) in newer languages, there are often “holes” in my vocabulary and general knowledge; in the worse case I can’t even say “boy”. Here is where Duolingo comes in handy: it covers a lot, is quite slow in pace and sometimes teaches not immediately useful vocabulary, which is ideal for expanding or supplementing basic vocabulary that I might have overlooked.

Vocabulary building

Memrise has several excellent Swedish courses categorised as nouns, verbs, etc. They are quite comprehensive and the several hundreds in each course suffice to provide a good, solid vocabulary bank to draw on – note that in order to make these words useful (i.e. from passive to active), you must encounter them in context and then use them, instead of just doing the courses!

Listening

Klartext is a news podcast published every weekday evening, and as it describes itself, it’s news “explained in easy Swedish”. As a habit I created when learning German, I always look for listening content created on a daily basis so that I regularly have new stuff to listen to – news is the best genre. In fact Klartext is the only podcast that suits my needs – which leaves something to be desired when I got past the phase of needing easy/slow Swedish, but I’m still following it anyway. Guess what, just leave ‘auto-download’ in your podcast app on and consume whatever it downloads while you ride a bike or something. Look it up on your favourite podcast app.

I also bought an audio book called Historien om Sverige, as recommended by Steve Kaufmann, but didn’t have time to finish it since it’s soooooo freaking long…and it really doesn’t do much unless you have a pretty good level already (like me now, instead of 1.5 months ago). The fact that I didn’t get the physical book counterparts, as it’s actually an entire series with many volumes, makes it even harder to comprehend the audio book.

Reading

I usually group reading and listening together – I’m a big fan of making these two senses work together to consolidate knowledge – for the sake of clarity I’ll write about them separately.

Text i fokus: absolutely my favourite language textbook of all time. I found it in the local Akademibokhandeln, and hopefully you could find them for sale online too. It consists of two books, which have the same format: you read through a medium to long text, and then answer questions that mostly help with consolidating new vocabulary/phrases (especially phrases!) and sometimes check your understanding, such as true/false questions or blank-filling or short questions. Each book has around 27 texts, categorised by difficulty as A, B and C (for some reason it goes like ABCABC… instead of being grouped together).As my learning philosophy consists of using repeated exposure to acquire vocabulary, this kind of extensive reading is what I love. The only downside: no solutions to the questions are provided, as this is probably intended to be a classroom textbook.

LingQ is a site where you can access a rich library of texts with audio of all genres, from news and podcasts to stories; you learn vocabulary by ‘lingQing’/saving them from texts and revise them by either flash cards/games or seeing them in other texts (my preferred way). You can be a free member, allowed to save only 20 words (seriously, words still count even you delete them) or fork out $10 a month for unlimited – I got an unbelievable groupon discount as a new member, and nope, I haven’t decided what to do with yet when this discount runs out. Downside: their Swedish library isn’t as rich as the more ‘mainstream’ languages, so you’ll either have to make do with the limited content like their podcast, or import your own – which can be a real hassle especially if you want to import audio as well (you know, to make the most out of the method). Oh and you can get tutors and writing corrections here too – but they cost ‘points’, and I have better suggestions down there.

Readlang is basically the same thing, except there isn’t a big company behind (I think), so the translations come from Google instead of users, the library is user-supplied and probably smaller, and the overall method isn’t as systematic or clearly laid out. The great part is that the only hindrance non-paying users get is a limit on the number of phrases you can save per day, and the number of words in a phrase, and it’s still way better than a free account at LingQ; it costs $5 a month to remove these limitations, and personally I suggest you support them by doing so. I mustn’t forget to mention the browser extension that enhances any page with their functions, which I use in combination with…

Klartext, its mother-site Swedish Radio, and another site 8sidor also have a lot of news in text with audio. 8sidor is just a computer-generation narration, whereas the Swedish Radio has actual reporters reporting – beware, though, that the audio (on sections others than Klartext) might not match up with the text completely (paraphrasing, missing paragraphs or additional interviews and stuff), so don’t rely completely on the text as a transcript or a clutch.

Speaking

italki – at first for a while I insisted, “I’m in Sweden. Why would I need an online Swedish tutor?” Then I realised getting a personal tutor is the only way I can get an hour of conversation dedicated to my learning alone, where I can ensure I get to speak for most of the time (unlike big groups in language cafés) and can talk about whatever topic I wanted to, particularly the oral topics for TISUS. To be honest Swedish tutors are definitely costlier than other languages, but, well, it’s me who chose this language…

Language cafés: a supplementary way to practise. If you happen to have one nearby, it’s a good way to get time to speak regularly, in addition to making new friends (particularly important for me as a not-very-social person, and trust me, you won’t want to end up feeling lonely in Sweden). On the downside, as mentioned above, you don’t always get your chance to speak in a big group. There may also be beginners requiring you to teach them instead, or the theme of the discussion might not go where you want it to/something you’re interested in, so you end up just nodding your head all the time…

Writing

This is where I kinda failed, but I can still recommend some things I did or believe to be helpful.

Writing a diary: I use Journey to keep a diary, and every day, in replacement of my beloved OhLife (sigh) – some nights I just casually ponder over which language to use. In this kind of free writing you can feel free to use phrases you’ve learnt, or even informal spellings (talspråk).

Writing essays: this really depends on your goal and interests. But if you happen to get a topic and actually write an essay on it, be sure to post it on italki or lang-8 for corrections. (I did it once, which you can read here.) If you want a topic, look in places like /r/writingprompts or simply google things like [writing/essay][prompts/topics]. There are hundreds of them easy available for you to pick from.

That’s it! P.S.: I’ll update this post if I come across anything I really like or if I realise something I’ve forgotten 🙂

P.S.2: some links in this article are affiliate links, which means you get to support me, my learning and my blog by clicking on them – sometimes you even get a reward yourself!