My experience in Sweden as a Duolingo learner
I wrote a little post about me going to Sweden directly after I had finished my tree (see here) and promised to write a short summary of how I got along.
Short background: German is my native language and Duolingo is my main source of Swedish tuition. I have taken a 1-semester-course at university over 4 years ago which only covered the basics. I have also tried to learn with a text book, but wasn't really motivated at that time. And then I found Duolingo in April of this year and was really motivated to prepare for my trip... :)
My trip to Sweden and my experience there
I was lucky and got to visit a Swedish friend of mine for one week. I told her that I am trying to learn Swedish and we actually talked quite a bit in Swedish then... which went a lot better than I thought. We still mostly talked in English though, but mostly because we talked a lot about stuff that was still too difficult to express in Swedish for me (I visited her together with two other friends for nyckelharpa lessons, she is a professional musician). Of course, she was talking slowly and clearly, which also made it easier to understand her. But I had other positive experiences with other Swedes. A bit more detail:
One of my friends who joined me on the trip has lived in Sweden for some time and is quite fluent in Swedish. We visited a friend of hers once. He only spoke a bit of English, some German words now and then, but he mostly talked Swedish with us. It was difficult to say something on my own, but I actually understood most of what he talked about...
I can say the same thing about when we met strangers and my friend talked in Swedish with them.
I was worried about the cliche that Swedes will immediately switch to English if you try to talk in Swedish to them. This actually happened only once to me at the reception of the resort where we were staying while checking in. Otherwise, the Swedish people I talked to seemed to be happy to talk in Swedish with me and most of the time it was me who switched to English when I didn't know how to continue in Swedish... :)
I actually thought that it was easier to understand real spoken Swedish than for example trying to listen to Swedish radio or TV.
While my listening was better than I expected it to be, reading and understanding was even better. Of course, I didn't get everything, but it felt quite natural and I think I might actually be able to start reading Swedish books soon to get even better!
Things I think I need to improve based on my experiences
I really need more practice in actually using the language, i.e. in talking or writing and coming up with sentences myself. Most of the time when I switched to English because I didn't know how to say something in Swedish, I actually realized afterwards (sometimes only a few minutes, sometimes after a few hours) that I could've continued in Swedish, but I just couldn't think of how to say things fast enough. So I think I really have to start using Lang-8 or something like that.
Even though I could understand a lot of spoken Swedish, I also noticed that I only understood a lot of things through context, body language etc than by actually understanding what was being said. So I will have to improve my vocab, but I also think Duolingo really gives you a lot of useful vocab. As I said, I only recently finished the tree and although everything was gold, there's still a lot of repetition to be done before I know all those words by heart!
The same for listening: I understood a lot, but it could've been better ... which is why I've made it my goal to regularily watch something at SVT Play (really useful, the videos there have subtitles a lot of times, too)
I was really positively suprised how much Swedish I actually learnt in this short time and was able to understand. So, yeah, I can now say from experience that Duolingo is not just some kind of toy or online game... if used correctly, you actually learn the language and you will be able to use it! Of course, it's not perfect and you will not be fluent after you have finished the tree. But you might just suprise yourself and you'll certainly be able to understand and talk!
So, thanks to everyone who is involved in making this course possible! Tusen tack!! Thanks to you my stay in Sweden was even better!
I just finished my tree and I couldn't be happier! This was my ONLY mean for leaning swedish, and I can actually read wikipedia articles in swedish now. Thanks to the amazing people who were behind it! I'll keep practicing and as soon as I visit Sweden, i'll tell you all about it.
Nice, congratulations! Looking forward to your feedback! :) I can totally understand the thrill you're feeling right now, I have that all the time too... not so much in Sweden, because a lot of great stuff happened there in a very short time, but looking back I'm still very often suprised how good everything went with my Swedish :D
Hej! Ja, jag åkte till den södra delen av Sverige. Vi hyrde en bil i Kiel (Tyskland) och åkte från där genom Danmark till Hörby i Skåne. Men vi stannade i Hörby bara för en natt när vi körde till Sverigeoch när vi körde tillbaka till Tyskland, så jag har inte sett mycket av södra Sverige. Vi stannade i en liten by i Västmanland nära Sala och Västerås för större delen av vår resa.
(Oh, wow, that was a lot of Swedish writing, I hope it is understandable and at least somewhat correct)
Hey Vivi ....In what city your family live in Sweden? In the capital? :)
Yes, I had an excellent trip! :) I visited different parts of Sweden... we drove from Kiel,Germany, with a rental car, stayed on night in Hörby in Skåne, but our main destination was near Sala & Västerås in Västmanland. But we also visited Stockholm for one day (to visit the friend of one of my friends who I mentionend in the text), Falun (only for a concert, though) and a little town near Tobo in Uppland.
Great! I know how you feel man, when watching Bron and other swedish shows i understand very little but on the few occasions i have gotten to speak with Swedes/Norwegians I had no issue communicating at all
Yeah, something about real-life-interactions makes things a lot easier to understand. I can recommend SVT Play for this, though, since they have a lot of subtitles. I hope I can use that to slowly work towards watching Swedish stuff without subtitles. And even if it doesn't help my listening comprehension, it at least helps my general understanding of the language :)
SVT Play is an excellent resource. It annoys me a little that the subtitles can be so different from what they're actually saying, though.
The weirdest experience was watching Ginas värld and having them translate Norwegian into Swedish subtitles... my brain just couldn't process that at all, since Norwegian is so close.
Yeah, that also confuses me sometimes, but I can understand why they are doing it (sometimes it's just too much too fast, which can be broken down to fewer words etc.)
What really confuses me sometimes is when the people suddenly start speaking English and they translate that to Swedish... ^^
What a great post. So inspiring! Congratulations and thanks a lot for sharing.
Thank you, good to hear that you enjoyed reading it and it also makes me happy that I could inspire you! :)
It was really good to read your story. Thank you.
I'm a good ways away from being able to visit Sweden (I live on the West Coast in the States), but the last couple of weeks I have been Skyping with a couple different people from Stockholm. I have received a number of independent compliments on both my Swedish and my accent, which really surprised me. They especially seem to like it when I use things like "det finns' or "som heter" correctly, rather than using a literal translation of what I would say in English.
My guess is that Duolingo teaches kind of how people actually talk, and it also helps cement the patterns of speech into your brain, so that it becomes easier to say things (mostly) correctly. Maybe this makes it easier for natives to understand you and not try to switch back to English?
I highly recommend finding people to speak with regularly in Swedish. I am noticing a huge improvement in my own skill since doing that myself. I use italki.com, but I imagine other means exist as well. Fortunately, I have found people who can speak slowly for me, but over time I expect they will be able to talk at regular speed. I struggle from the same things you talked about, where I know the words but it takes some time to think of them.
I'm happy that my text was interesting for you! :) I also think that Duolingo teaches a lot of quite natural and useful construction, but I was thinking more along the line that I might have an advantage in pronounciation, since German is closer to Swedish (still not really that close) than English. Duolingo is really motiviating, too, which is certainly a plus compared to other teaching methods. And I've been a big fan of this spaced repetion type of learning (I think they are using something like that to determine which words you need to strengthen) for quite some time.
Yes, finding someone to talk to is a good idea. Thanks for reminding me about iTalki! I read about that some time ago, but forgot it. Maybe I'll have to give that a try!
Hej! Jag är på nivå nio i svenska, och det här inlägget var mycket inspirerande. Tack så mycket, och lycka till!
Wow, can't wait for when I'll get a chance a do something like this. I really want to eventually become fluent in Swedish, French, and Dutch (even though the only language I'm good at now is English ;)). Anyway, I was wondering how you made your friends that live in Sweden/speak Swedish. I live in California and I doubt if I've ever even come across a Swede. Can you mainly only meet them if you live in Europe?
It's a bit of a strange story... I met her through my musical activities. She was teaching in a workshop here in Germany, my friends, me and her kind of connected and she invited us to come to Sweden... so, yeah, not that typical ;) I also met some Swedes here in Germany at Swedish-style Midsommarparties. Maybe you have some of those in California, too?
I have no idea how common it is to meet Swedes outside of Sweden ;) I haven't met that many in Germany either and mostly just as teachers at workshops, to be honest. One of my friends who joined me on the trip has lived in Sweden some time ago, so we were also able to meet some friends of her that she met during this time.
Grattis! Jag vill verkligen få kläm på svenska som gjorde du. Förhoppnignsvis kommer jag åka till Sverige för att studera nästan år :)
Tack, tack! Jag hoppas att du kan åka till Sverige snart! Och jag vet inte om min svenksa är bättre än dins. Jag var tvungen att använda Google translate för att fröstå din första mening. ;)
Jag pratar mycket med svenskar, så naturligt lär jag mig många nya uttryck. Det är samma med mig, jag använder Google Translator hela tiden ;)
Very interesting. Especially the part about that you thought Swedes would change to English immediately. I thought so as well! I'm glad for you and I hope to have a similar experience as you are having right now. Wish you the best of luck in Sweden!
I've heard from a lot of people on- and offline before that Swedes do that all the time and that it is hard to practice your Swedish... maybe it was different for me, since I did not stay in one of the bigger cities like Stockholm but was out in the countryside. And I also of course had the advantage that I was visiting a friend who was more than willing to practice with me.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I am visiting Sweden in a few months time so this is very encouraging for me.
I hope you'll have a great time in Sweden and will also let us know about your experience afterwards! :)
Very inspiring! Would you say that your feedback could also pertain to someone who is not German, but knows English at a very proficient level? Wild guess, of course.
Honestly, I have no idea. I think me being German gives me an advantage in learning the language. In vocab there are a lot of similiarities and many words that are the same or almost the same, it's the same for English, I think, but it happens a lot more with German words. In grammar many constructions are quite similiar, too, but this is the case for English too, I think. There's probably also an advantage in pronounciation. The German pronounciation is not that close to the Swedish one, but sometimes close enough and I think the English pronounciation is a bit farer away from Swedish. I once got a compliment on my good pronounciation in a moment when I thought I was speaking pretty poorly and probably sound quite German... so, whatever that means... But I honestly don't think that these advantages were really super helpful in real-life, because everything is happening too fast for this to actually help a lot.
But it all depends on you, I guess. If you go to Sweden speaking Swedish with a thick Texican accent, I think people will switch to English more often than they did for me. But of course not every English native speaks with a Texican accent. And the same goes for German... if a German would speak Swedish with a thick Bavarian accent, people would probably also not really be inclined to talk Swedish ;) And understandingwise... if you're putting effort in learning the skills here, I think you'd probably have the same level and possibilities like me. Being able to learn and understand from context is important though and I don't really know how good Duolingo is for that, if you have never learned another language to a proficient level.
So... yeah... I don't think that me being German has played that big of a role in Sweden itself. I think it gives me an advantage in learning the language, but for actually using it in real-life... I think not so much.
I am a swede learning German, it's nice to hear someone learning "the other way around", so to speak. :)
P.s I really like your name!
Är du en musiker?
Ha, yeah, really interesting to see someone who's learning "the other way around". How are you getting along? Is being a Swedish native speaker helpful for learning German (just like German is helpful for learning Swedish... I wrote a little post as an answer to somebody in this thread here on this topic).
Ja, jag är en musiker. Det är inte mitt jobb, med der är min passion. Jag spelar gitarr, nyckelharpa och vevlira. Jag älskar absolut senvsk folkmusik och dans... polska, schottis, vals, slängpolska etc. Det är också en grund varför jag lärar mig Svenska. Till exempel, jag oftas besöker workshops med svenska musiker för att lära mig spela nyckelharpa, så jag tänkte att lära mig Svenska är en bra idé. På fredag ska jag åker till den nästa nyckelharpa workshop i Tyskland :) (jag hoppas att min svenska var ok ^^")
Yes, knowing Swedish is definitely helping me learning German! :P I also find that Swedish and German share more words together than English does. Some words are tricky though, because they have different meanings in German and Swedish. Like the word "lustig", which means "funny" in German but "strange, weird" in Swedish!
Ich finde, dass schwedische und deutsche Wörter oft ziemlich ähnlich sind. he he! Aber die deutsche Grammatik und Folge der Sätze... Schwerer... :P Besonders finde ich den Konjunktiv schwer zu benutzen. Man benutzt nur Konjunktiv für wenige Verben in modernem Schwedisch. (vara -> vore, få -> finge, gå -> ginge)
Du skriver bra, men det finns ett par småfel, om det är okej för dig så kan jag rätta till lite! :)
'Ja, jag är en musiker. Det är inte mitt jobb, men det är min passion. Jag spelar gitarr, nyckelharpa och vevlira. Jag absolut älskar svensk folkmusik och dans... polska, schottis, vals, slängpolska etc. Det är också en anledning till varför jag lär mig svenska. Till exempel så besöker jag ofta workshops med svenska musiker för att lära mig spela nyckelharpa, så jag tänkte att det är en bra idé att lära mig Svenska. På fredag ska jag åka till nästa nyckelharpsworkshop (? :D) i Tyskland.'
Jag gillar också folkmusik! Både svensk/nordisk och tysk! Nyckelharpor och vevliror är verkligen häftiga instrument!
Ha, yeah, there are false friends! I can't come up with one right now, but "lustig" is a good one! Didn't know about that!
Tusen tack för din korrigiering av min liten text! Din tyska är också bra och det finns bara småfel:
Ich finde, dass schwedische und deutsche Wörter oft ziemlich ähnlich sind. he he! Aber die deutsche Grammatik und der Satzbau ("die Folge der Sätze" would be understandable, though... but we have an extra word for that, so why not use it ;) /edit: Something that just popped into my head, if you say "Folge der Sätze" you would mean the order of the sentences, whereas "Satzbau" refers to the word order and how one specific sentence is made up... so what did you actually mean? :) ) ... ist schwieriger... :P ("schwerer" is okay, it does mean "more difficult", but I think "schwierig" is more natural -and you forgot the "ist") Besonders den Konjunktiv finde ich schwer zu benutzen (you could leave the "zu benutzen" out, but then "schwierig" would be more natural, too. Sorry I can't explain the change I made in the word order... :) ). Man benutzt den Konjunktiv im modernen Schwedisch nur für wenige Verben. (vara - vore, få - finge, gå - ginge)
Oh, du är också intresserad av folk musik och känner nyckelharpa och vevlira? Det är spännande!! Jag har träffat svenskar i Sverige som har inte vetat vad en nyckelharpa vara... men det finns en bild av en silverbasharpa på femtio kronor lapp! ^^ Eftersom vi delar detta intresse och båda lära oss tyska/svenska, det kanske skulle vara en bra idé att hjälpa varandra? Vad tänker du?
Thank you for the corrections! ^^
Yes, I gladly answer any questions you have about Swedish, I always love discussing languages, whether it be Swedish, German or another language! And maybe you can help me with some German too, but right now I don't have much time to study because I work a lot! :P
Självklart så känner jag till vevliran och nyckelharpan! De är båda vackra instrument! :) På tal om sedlar så kommer de att byta ut de gamla sedlarna snart, femtiolappen med Jenny Lind och harpan försvinner! :(
( de nya sedlarna: http://www.riksbank.se/sv/Sedlar--mynt/Sedlar/Nya-sedlar/50-kronorssedel/ )
Självklart kan jag också hjälpa dig med din tyksa! Och det finns inte så många människor som veta vad en nyckelharpa eller en vevlira vara. Det är cool att du känner instrumenterna! Spelar du också en instrument?
I was thinking of some kind of "language exchange" at some point, maybe even through mail or something. But only once you have time for that! I'm fairly "booked out" too in the next weeks... lots of stuff at work and also many musical stuff... I'll be at workshops basically every weekend till the middle of October now :X
Och jag vet att femtiolappen med harpan försvinner! That is really sad! And I'm also very happy that I had the chance to go to Sweden this year before the femtiolapp with Jenny Lind and the harpa disappears! My girlfriend and me kept 3 femtiolappar because of that and will probably put them in a frame ;) We also were at a spelmanstämma and many people seemed to be quite sad about the change. To you know the reason behind it? We're also changing all euro banknotes here in Germany, apparently the old ones were to easy to fake.
Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing your experience in Sweden. Are you still studying Swedish? In addition to Duolingo, which are your other favourite Swedish resources. Thanks.
Hi! Yes, I'm still studying Swedish, but I haven't used Duolingo in a while since I finished the tree a good while ago and didn't feel like repeating the same things over and over again. To be honest, I'm not really using any formal resources anymore. I used to do Memrise courses for a while, but haven't done this a lot in the last few months. I switched over to reading Swedish websites, books, watching Swedish TV etc. - so just using Swedish as a "normal" language. Speaking and writing are still the biggest difficulties, since I don't really get any practice on a usual basis. Understanding written and spoken Swedish is no longer a real problem, though :)
Thanks for the info. Wish you all the best for your language learning journey.