Forum lesson: personal hygiene, sex, and pregnancy

Duolingo's courses are not very adult in nature, which is perfectly fine, but it also means we don't get to teach some words and phrases that might still be important to know.

One such example is the topic of personal health and sexuality, as anyone who has ever had to buy tampons in a foreign language can attest to.

I've put together a small list of four categories totalling twenty nouns that you may want to learn, with a few extra new words sprinkled on top of the examples. Pay attention to the examples - I've deliberately used some idiomatic differences between the languages. I hope this is of some use to you. :)


1. Mens, or menstruation for the longer term
en-word, def. mensen, pl. menser, def. pl. menserna
English: "menstruation"

  • Jag har mens = I'm on my period
  • Mensen är sen = My period is late
  • Jag hatar mens! = I hate periods!

2. Menskopp
en-word, def. menskoppen, pl. menskoppar, def. pl. menskopparna
English: "menstrual cup"

  • Min menskopp är genomskinlig = My menstrual cup is transparent
  • Vi säljer massor av menskoppar = We sell loads of menstrual cups

3. Mensvärk
en-word, mostly uncountable, def. värken
English: "menstrual cramps", "menstrual pain"

  • Hon har väldigt kraftig mensvärk = She has very bad period pains

Worth noting is that while värkar is a fully functioning plural form of the word for "pain", it mostly refers to contractional labour pain.

4. Binda
en-word, def. bindan, pl. bindor, def. pl. bindorna
English: "sanitary pad"

  • Varför häller de blå vätska på bindan i reklamen? = Why are they pouring blue liquid on the pad in the ad?
  • Bindor får inte läcka = Pads mustn't leak

5. Tampong
en-word, def. tampongen, pl. tamponger, def. pl. tampongerna
English: "tampon"

  • På vilken hylla finns tampongerna? = In what aisle are the tampons?
  • En tampong är liten och ser ut som en vit kula = A tampon is small and looks like a white bullet

6. Choklad
en-word, mostly uncountable, def. chokladen
English: "chocolate"

  • Choklad, vin och Netflix = Chocolate, wine, and Netflix

We actually do teach this word in the course, but my wife insisted that I add it. (Also, many thanks to her for helping to compile the list - especially given that she's a midwife.)


7. Kondom
en-word, def. kondomen, pl. kondomer, def. pl. kondomerna
English: "condom", "rubber"

  • Kondomen gick sönder = The condom broke
  • En kondom är ett billigt skydd mot könssjukdomar = A condom is cheap protection against sexually transmittable diseases
  • Kondomer finns i många olika färger = There are condoms in many different colours

8. P-piller
ett-word, def. p-pillret, pl. p-piller, def. pl. p-pillren
English: "contraceptive pill", "birth control pill"

  • Det är viktigt att ta sitt p-piller varje dag = It's important to take one's contraceptive pill every day
  • P-pillret smakar socker = The contraceptive pill tastes like sugar
  • P-piller innehåller olika sorters hormoner, som östrogen = Contraceptive pills contain various kinds of hormones, like estrogen

The initial p- prefix stands for preventiv-, which is essentially the same word as the English "prevent(ion/ive)". Other contraceptives frequently include it as well: p-stav ("birth contral implant", lit. "preventive staff"), p-ring ("vaginal ring"), p-plåster ("contraceptive patch"), and a few more.

In addition, the morning-after pill is called akut-p-piller ("emergency contraceptive pill"), and mini pills are called minipiller.

9. Spiral
en-word, def. spiralen, pl. spiraler, def. pl. spiralerna
English: "coil", "IUD"

  • Det ska inte göra ont att sätta in en spiral = Inserting a coil is not supposed to hurt
  • I Sverige är kopparspiraler gratis = In Sweden, copper IUDs are free


10. Samlag
ett-word, def. samlaget, pl. samlag, def. pl. samlagen
English: "❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤"

  • Det genomsnittliga samlaget varar i drygt fem minuter = ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ lasts slightly longer than five minutes on average
  • Våra grannar har högljudda samlag = Our neighbors have noisy sex

Obviously, there are many words and colloquialisms for having ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ in Swedish as well. Common synonyms include ligga med (lit. "lie with", better translated as "sleep with"), quite simply ha sex ("have sex"), and the very colloquial knulla ("f*ck").

11. Samtycke
ett-word, mostly uncountable, def. samtycket English: "consent"

  • Jag lär mina barn om samtycke och om att säga och respektera ett "nej" = I teach my children about consent, and about saying and respecting the word "no"
  • Domstolen ifrågasatte det påstådda samtycket = The court questioned the alleged consent

12. Glidmedel
ett-word, mostly uncountable, def. glidmedlet
English: "lubricant", "lube"

  • Glidmedel används av gynekologer = Lubrication is used by gynecologists
  • Det här glidmedlet luktar hallon = This lube smells like raspberries

13. Kön
ett-word, def. könet, pl. kön, def. pl. könen
English: "sex", "gender"

  • Fostrets kön spelar ingen roll alls = The baby's sex/gender doesn't matter at all
  • Numera kan båda könen jobba som läkare = Both sexes/genders can work as doctors nowadays
  • Konstiga utslag på könet måste kollas upp omedelbart = Weird rashes on one's sex must be checked immediately

This requires some additional explanation. In English, strictly speaking, "sex" refers to physical body parts, whereas "gender" refers to social constructs and individually perceived identity. (I know this is clearly not always how the words are used, but please assume it is for the sake of the explanation.)

In Swedish, we use kön for both of these. This can obviously be quite confusing if you're talking about transsexuality or taking a course in psychology. It's also a source of headache in e.g. medical journal systems - for instance, I know there have been a few cases where trans men have completed the legal FTM hurdles and kept their reproductive systems in order to have children, only to subsequently find out that they could not be registered as pregnant in the system because they now had male social security numbers which were rejected by the computers.

14. Onani
en-word, uncountable; verb form onanera
English "masturbation"

I won't provide examples since I think this is already just borderline acceptable on Duolingo. Use your imagination.


(We already teach graviditet, the word for pregnancy, and gravid ("pregnant") - both of which are ultimately derived from the Latin word for heavy.)

15. Förlossning
en-word, def. förlossningen, pl. förlossningar, def. pl. förlossningarna
English: "delivery"

  • Hennes andra förlossning tog bara tre timmar = Her second delivery only took three hours
  • Förlossningar blir roligare med lustgas = Deliveries are more fun if you use laughing gas

Also, "to deliver" is att förlösa, and we use förlossningen for "the delivery ward". The word for "give birth" is föda.

16. Kejsarsnitt
ett-word, def. kejsarsnittet, pl. kejsarsnitt, def. pl. kejsarsnitten
English: "caesarian section", "c-section"

  • Kejsarsnitt kan vara planerade eller oplanerade = Caesareans can be planned or unplanned
  • Ett kejsarsnitt är ett operativt ingrepp = A c-section is a surgical procedure

As in English, the word stems from kejsare ("emperor" - Caesar) + snitt ("cut", "incision").

17. Barnmorska
en-word, def. barnmorskan, pl. barnmorskor, def. pl. barnmorskorna
English: "midwife"

  • Svenska förlossningar sköts av barnmorskor = Swedish deliveries are handled by midviwes
  • Det tar minst fem år att bli barnmorska = It takes at least five years to become a midwife

"Midwife" is a protected title in Sweden. You need to first become a registered nurse, then get a master's degree in midwifery, and finally deliver at least fifty babies yourself before you can apply to get a license. The lowest possible amount of time this will take is four and a half years, but you typically need at least a few years work experience as an RN before you can get into the midwife programme.

Just like Norwegians and Danes, we can also use jordemoder, but it's mostly archaic in Swedish and used for stylistic purposes.

18. Missfall
ett-word, def. missfallet, pl. missfall, def. pl. missfallen
English: "miscarriage"

  • Ett missfall är en fruktansvärd upplevelse = A miscarriage is a horrible experience

19. Provrörsbefruktning
en-word, def. provrörsbefruktningen, pl. provrörsbefruktningar, def. pl. provrörsbefruktningarna
English: "in vitro fertilisation"

  • En provrörsbefruktning kan vara en välsignelse = An IVF can be a blessing
  • Provrörsbefruktningar utförs av obstretiker = IVFs are carried out by obstreticians

Yikes, what a long word. Let's break it down:

  1. prova = try
  2. rör = tube or pipe
  3. be- = prefix historically denoting causality
  4. frukt = fruit
  5. -ning = suffix to create a noun

From these, we get provrör = test tube, and befrukta = fertilise or impregnate.

20. Abort
en-word, def. aborten, pl. aborter, def. pl. aborterna
English: "abortion"

  • Kvinnans rätt till abort är en debatterad fråga = Women's right to abortion is a debated question
  • Aborter är olagliga i en del länder = Abortions are illegal in some countries

That's all! I'm considering writing more lessons on things that won't make it into the course (not just adult stuff), so if you have any feedback, I would really appreciate it. :)

August 17, 2017


A couple of notes from another native speaker:

  • "kula" can be a somewhat confusing word as is described here. It translates to both "bullet" (in this case, a cylindrical thing) and "marble" (a sphere).

  • "onani" an ett-word? Really? I can't think up an example where en/ett would apply to begin with, but the definite form would be "onanin".

  • "förlossning": apparently deliveries are quicker in English: "Hennes andra förlossning tog bara tre timmar = Her second delivery only took two hours" ;)

August 17, 2017

Yes, why have a child in Sweden when it's faster in English indeed. :p Also changed the gender of onani, you're obviously right - I must have made a copy-paste error. Thanks!

August 17, 2017

Thanks, this is awesome!

August 17, 2017

Det är fantastiskt. Tack så mycket!

August 17, 2017

Fantastisk sammanställning! Jättebra! Jag har bara två invändningar eller funderingar:

1) Skulle det möjligen vara bättre att använda 'genitals' 'sex' i betydelsen 'kön(sorgan)'? 2) Hela resonemanget med könsbytesproceduren känns lite för omfattande. Jag vet inte om det egentligen klargör så mycket. Personligen skulle jag nog stryka det.

August 17, 2017

Tack för feedbacken! Replying in English because I always do. :)

  1. I considered teaching that as an additional sense well. Not really sure which way is better but it could absolutely be argued either way.
  2. You're probably right. I mostly included it because I know some people who'd be interested in reading that, so I'll keep it, but in general I agree it's a little superfluous. :)
August 17, 2017

Why wouldn't this be allowed in the course? I mean I get why swearing isn't allowed but this is real life stuff that people deal with every day! At any rate, thanks for the list!

August 17, 2017

This is really helpful, thank you!!!

August 18, 2017

Great post! I am very much looking forward to your next one.

August 18, 2017

This is great and all (and thank you for your time and effort) but...

That's all! I'm considering writing more lessons on things that won't make it into the course (not just adult stuff)

If it's not adult stuff then... why won't it make it into the course?

August 24, 2017

Well, for instance, I've twice seen requests for onomatopoeia in Swedish, and others have requested lessons on folklore with accompanying explanations. Both of these - and others - are very interesting topics, but completely out of the scope of the course. Other subjects may contain more expert terminology (for instance, somebody asked about computer programming) which would also be fun but not suitable for the course.

August 24, 2017

It's a shame that Duolingo is so focused on beginners. Surely there could be some capability to have intermediate/advanced sections of the tree that get unlocked once you've completed the basic tree. :(

August 24, 2017

That would have been lovely, or just optional content. It's been well over two years since bonus lessons were prepared, and those are still not launchable.

August 24, 2017

I would very much like to see large amounts of bonus lessons being available to buy with lingots (which are basically useless today) and also require your entire tree (or at least large portions of it) to be unlocked. Basically, I'd like more vocabulary to be available for those who want it.

What is the reason for the bonus lessons being launchable?

August 24, 2017

I would, too!

We only know that there are technical difficulties preventing courses that don't have them from getting them. That's everything I know. :(

August 24, 2017

Blah. Technical difficulties. For two years. That an engineering team consisting of more than 50% of their employees are still unable to fix.

I would love to see what goes on behind the scenes at Duolingo. I'm sure it's... interesting, to say the least.

Look at what Discord does with less employees (20, I believe)...

August 24, 2017

As a developer myself, I'm willing to cut them some slack. I doubt it's the decision of the developers, and I presume there's a good reason for letting other things take priority. Still, yeah - it's very annoying.

August 24, 2017

Yeah, I'm not blaming the developers exactly. I have a lot of development experience myself.

I reckon there is a massive mismanagement problem there, to be honest and the developers don't really get to do anything they want (or perhaps even need) to without massive amounts of A/B testing (sigh); QA; research; blah blah blah.

I believe that it's likely that they have taken the non-engineering aspects of running a company way, way too far and as a result the platform hasn't REALLY changed at all, not significantly anyway, since the beginning.

August 24, 2017

There's also a massive communication problem with the community, from the looks of things - not even with the course contributors themselves.

I'm guessing that the last time you heard anything about said bonus skills was circa two years ago.

August 24, 2017

Yes - or, rather, I wasn't a member of the team back then so I'm going by second-hand information. :) We're getting a bit off-topic, though...

August 24, 2017
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