Learning a language doesn’t just have to be done in a classroom. We’ve all heard people tell us being “embedded” in a foreign culture is one of the best ways to absorb a language, but what does that mean?

I’ve been living in Sweden for almost 2 years and 6 months now now (3 years in January 2018). I squeezed 4 weeks of Swedish in before my daughter was born in April 2015 and I’ve attempted to attend SFI twice now, both aborted attempts. But, what happened in between April 2015 and now? Did I absorb any Swedish by osmosis like it had been suggested to me or am I a lost cause. Well, it turns out that I do know a thing or two…I just can’t speak it! And, I think this is how it happened…


1. Children’s Books

S has both English and Swedish books but they are both equally simple. Everyone knows how baby books work…there is an image and a few words corresponding to the image. Well, it’s done wonders for my comprehension, too. I can now read the whole of Kanin Paket and understand it fully (Ha!)


2. Duolingo app

The Duolingo app is by far and away the best language learning app I have come across. I wish I could remember who it was that recommended it to me. I won’t give spoilers about the app apart from it is easy to use, looks good and doesn’t interfere with your life. On another note, I have a friend who started an Instagram account called Duolingololz  in homage to the brilliantly funny phrases that Duolingo comes up with. “Jag är en talande älg”.


3. Subtitles

It sounds obvious but I mean in the sense that you watch Swedish subtitles, not English ones. Perhaps start out with English subtitles whilst watching Swedish tv or films. But, seeing/reading and hearing Swedish is a great way to flex that left side of your brain needed for learning a language. I didn’t really pay much attention to it but just by consistently seeing and hearing Swedish simultaneously has really helped in my comprehension and recognition of Swedish.


4. TV shows and films you are familiar with + subtitles

Whilst watching ‘Hela Sverige Bakar (JUNIOR)’,  or ‘The Great Swedish Bakeoff’ to us English-speaking folk, I realised that programmes that had a familiar format or repetitive format were really good to follow. Add some Swedish subtitles to it and now I’m all up on the Swedish baking lingo… syltkakor, anyone?


5. Radio (music station, not talk radio)

I can’t bear quiet… if I’m in the house by myself there has to be something “on”. So, it’s usually the radio. Thanks for that, Mum. I grew up with Radio 4 playing ALL THE TIME. I liked it, it was strangely comforting. But, Swedish talk radio??? Oj! So, it’s music stations. I find it really weird that they don’t have digital radio here, so I picked the first radio station that I found – Mix Megapol. Although the constant Christmas music is doing my head in a bit, it does have the perfect mix of mostly music and a bit of chat. They talk quite fast but it’s good listening practice!


6. Books you are already familiar with

An acquaintance who has been living in Sweden for almost 10 years recommended that I start reading a novel I’m really familiar with in Swedish. So, I started reading Harry Potter. It’s great!! To be honest, it’s just another excuse to read Harry Potter, again. But, from a language point of view, this is a great exercise in written grammar and helped me enormously with sentence structure and “thinking Swedish”.


7. Lättspråk radio and television

There are quite a few Lättspråk or “easy talk” radio and television programmes being produced now, especially by SVT, Sweden’s public service broadcaster. You can find them by searching online for Radio Sweden på lätt Svenska or check SVT Play online. I’ve listened and watched a couple of times and found it enormously helpful. I’ve found that the more I listen and watch, the more I get out of it. But, like all of the suggestions here, it’s cumulative.


8. 8sidor.se

This website is a bite-size news and current affairs website which specialises in easy Swedish. You can read the stories or listen to them and because they are so short, you can do it on the tube or walking to work. I was introduced to this website YEARS ago by a friend and I recommend anyone who is learning Swedish to give it a shot. You can visit the website at 8sidor.se – lättlästa nyheter


9. Newspapers

Reading, reading, reading, about anything! It once took me 30 minutes to read the weather forecast in Swedish on the back of Dagens Nyheter but now I can glance at it and know the forecast for the next 3 days (thanks to those handy images – haha!). But, seriously, practice, practice, practice.


10. Change your language settings on your phone

I have mixed feelings about this particular suggestion because I did it for about 6 months in 2014 and it almost broke me. Most of us are permanently attached to our phones and use them to fulfil event the smallest of tasks, note taking, maps etc. I think this is a really great exercise in reading and comprehension but it’s annoying as hell when you’re in a hurry. Suddenly, just figuring out how to use WhatsApp or the calculator becomes a guessing game!!


 and..Appoint a friend

Having someone in the same boat as you is a huge comfort! And, learning with someone is also a lot more fun. We all text, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook the most ridiculous things to each other so why not use it to learn Swedish, too. Pick a friend, obviously with permission, who you assign as your only-texting/whatsapping-in-Swedish friend. And, don’t cheat!! Only use Google translate to translate words, not entire phrases! You know you’ll get found out anyway because Google translate will translate “Dinner” as “meat hook” or something equally stupid.


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