Hi @beeswedish, I will be moving to Sweden this fall. Is Swedish a difficult language to learn?



I do not know if I am the right person to answer this question. After all, I do not know if learning your mother tongue even counts as learning a language. I can only answer as the person teaching the language, and what I have understood from that.


First of all, I believe it depends on your own mother tongue, and what other languages you speak or used to speak. Swedish vocabulary is not very different from English or German, if you compare to, say, Russian, or Tagalog. Learning new words is often easier if you recognise the etymology. Added, in general, learning languages is a skill you pick up, and the more languages you already know, the easier it is to learn a new one.


Second, we have to clarify what we mean with difficult. To me, it can mean two things – complicated; or simple, but hard, work. Learning any language involves both aspects. Unfortunately, it is very hard work to learn a language, and the worst thing is, it seems to get worse with age. It is not impossible, but it takes time and it is often very dull, especially revision. Of course, it is much nicer to watch some TV than to revise your grammar exercises. A combination of two factors can help you to overcome this laziness. First, motivation. I have seen it many times, if you have a real reason to learn, it seems to be easier. It could be that you want to speak to a loved one, get a job, or read literature untranslated. The second on is fear. This is also my job. Many students have to be a little bit scared of their teacher in order to switch off the TV and open their books.


As I have observed my students going through good and bad times with their language learning, I have understood that Swedish is a comparatively easy language – at beginner’s level. Conjugating Swedish verbs is a piece of cake, compared to any Latin language, for example, or Russian. It is a bit annoying with en and ett, but honestly not worse than the masculine and feminine forms of any other language. Cases were consciously removed centuries ago, in order to rationalise the language. There are not that many tenses.


But, the difficult bit starts when you reach advanced level. Not so much because of intricate grammar, or some unexpected rule that no-one told you about. In fact, you should have been exposed to every grammatical detail when completing a B1 course.


No, the problem is more when it comes to expressions. Swedish is an idiomatic language. I have the impression that people in general do not say exactly what they think; they only repeat what other people have said in similar situations before. Of course, sometimes, you have to say what you are really thinking, that is really important, but in most everyday conversations the same phrases are just repeated over and over again. I have met many talented students who formulate their thoughts with great skill, but they are consistently misunderstood and regarded with scepticism by Swedes who are not used to hearing anything original.


This, and pronunciation. More on that shortly.