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Moving to Sweden: The Swedish Language
The second article in a series about moving to Sweden. This article focuses on the Swedish language, tips for learning the language, and tips for getting around in Sweden.
To be honest though, knowing Swedish is not a prerequisite to moving here. In fact it is really not necessary at all. Basically every Swede under the age of 45 is fluent in English. You might even be able to argue that any Swede under 60 is. And they do not hesitate to use their English. Some people even choose to study abroad in Sweden because they want the experience of going to a different country and not having to know the language. Which speaks well of the Swedes mastery of English.
However, if you plan on moving to a country you had better learn the language. No one wants to cater to you because you haven't shown enough respect to learn the spoken language. It's just rude. So learn the language.
There are plenty of options. Some people are proactive. For those people I suggest checking with a university near you. Some larger state schools offer Swedish courses; even some of the smaller community colleges offer Swedish sometimes. Check around. The University of Oregon and University of Colorado definitely offer Swedish.
If you don't have a university nearby but still feel proactive grab a do it yourself Swedish course. I've never taught myself a language. I have no experience here at all. But even just getting used to what words look like and the basics will help.
If you are less proactive and you already made it to Swedish without knowing the difference between "Ã¤" and "Ã¥" don't worry. Swedes are socialists. They want to teach you for free. And they will. Grab a class at a university in Sweden. Stockholm University focuses almost solely on grammar at first. Which makes it difficult to get that speaking thing going but gives an excellent base to work from.
There is also the Swedish for immigrants classes. Back in the olden days they actually paid you to take these classes. Those days are no more. Although there has been talk about reinstating this plan. But nonetheless, these classes are designed to get people out speaking into Swedish society quickly. Depending on where you take these classes, and who you talk to they can be very good.
Both of the in-Sweden Swedish options are pretty solid. Some people will argue that the Swedish for immigrants is better because it focuses on getting people speaking quickly. Others will argue that the grammar is better because of the base it gives. I don't know. Depends on what you're looking for I suppose. Personally, already having a very solid base I would have opted for the grammar option.
Now that you're on your way to learning the language it pays to be a stubborn son of a bitch. Because as I said, Swedes speak English. And they speak it well. And they want to practice. Or show off. And they will. So when they hear you speak broken Swedish they switch to English. Ignore them. Continue on in Swedish. Fight through. It might end up being a two-languaged (yup, language) conversation, but that's ok. In fact, it's pretty cool. You will find that immigrants are more willing to continue on with you in Swedish. Probably because they remember how it was. Relish that. And remember it when you become fluent.
One way to practice is to find a buddy. A language exchange if you will. Swedish for English. Swedish for Swahili. Swedish for whatever. It's a good way to practice. And maybe even make a friend. If your only language is English it might take a while. Spanish, Russian, French. You're sitting a little prettier. It all comes down to good old economics. You need to have something to offer, something that is not readily supplied. And unfortunately English is. But that's ok. Because everyone wants that native speaker for that extra help. So put up a sign at the schools or even online. Someone will bite.
So while it might be tough in a country where the majority of the population is fluent in English. Where American TV dominates the airwaves. Where American movies rule. Where English-language magazines, books, and even radio is available with little to no effort. It is well worth it.
Moving to a different country involves a certain social responsibility. A social contract if you will. An important aspect being adapting, in some way, to the local culture. The best way of doing that is to learn the language. Without the language, you miss out on Swedish news from the source. On hilarious Swedish conversations in the train. On getting to know a person in their native language. You can't truly appreciate a country, whether it is Sweden, or anywhere else you choose to move, without learning the local language.
So there it is. Learn Swedish. It's worth it. And it's pretty cool being able to say you speak another language. Even if it is only spoken by a few million people in the world. If anything that makes it even cooler.