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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimWidman

Swedish is a difficult language! / Svenska är ett svårt språk!

Hello all of you who learn Swedish on DL! / Hej alla ni som lär er svenska på DL!

I have always suspected that Swedish is a difficult language although it is my native language. Today I really got myself into trouble with it.

Jag har alltid misstänkt att svenska är ett svårt språk fast det är mitt modersmål. Idag fick jag verkligen problem med det.

I am learning Spanish here (taking the Swedish course also just out of pure curiosity) and to get some more practice I bought a novel + audio in Spanish, thinking that it would be a good exercise to read, listen and translate.

Jag lär mig spanska här (går svenskakursen också enbart av ren nyfikenhet) och för att få lite mer övning köpte jag en roman + audio på spanska, i tron att det skulle vara en bra övning att läsa, lyssna och översätta

Well, I could listen and hear the spanish words, read the spanish words, and also understand the context.

Tja, jag kunde lyssna och höra de spanska orden, läsa de spanska orden, och också förstå sammanhanget.

But I couldn´t translate into Swedish! Translating to English on the other hand was a less difficult task.

Men jag kunde inte översätta till svenska! Att översätta till engelska å andra sidan var mindre svårt.

So if you find Swedish a hard language to learn - you are probably totally correct.

Så om du tycker att svenska är ett svårt språk att lära sig - då har du antagligen helt rätt.

November 27, 2018

36 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JessePaedia

I didn't find the Swedish course that hard. I don't really consider Swedish a particularly hard language in itself, it is about as hard as learning a Romance language or another Germanic language. The only thing I find hard about Swedish is the lack of opportunities to use the language.

There is a lot of Swedish media, such as music, films, radio shows, and YouTube videos, however, it's difficult to find people to practice speaking Swedish. When I meet Swedes, I would try to speak Swedish, but we would both end up speaking English. This is because Swedes speak better English, than I speak Swedish. However, when I meet people from Spain or Latin America and speak to them in Spanish, my level of Spanish is usually higher or on par with their level of English. As a result, I am able to practice speaking Spanish for longer.

If Swedes didn't speak English well, like they did in the past, maybe it would be easier to learn Swedish.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimWidman

Ja, du har helt rätt. Den vitt urbredda kunskapen i engelska är ett problem, särskilt för engelsktalande som flyttar hit eftersom de i så gott som alla vardagssituationer kan uttrycka sig på sitt modersmål och bli förstådda och bli tilltalade på sitt eget språk.

Men nu skrev jag ju inte det här enbart för dem som har ett annat germanskt språk som modersmål utan faktiskt med tanke på hela DL-gemenskapen. Det finns faktiskt de som har t. ex. tagalog eller koreanska som modersmål och lär sig svenska via ett tredje språk, t. ex. engelska, som de inte heller behärskar till perfektion. Min avsikt var att uppmuntra dem.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Thomas-Steve

We English speakers have to try harder, no question about it. I've walked into stores and had clerks I've never seen before switch to English (without me wanting or asking them to) after I've said nothing more than "Hej". Which I don't mind saying usually knocks me back a step. But especially if there's a cue, you just have to do whatever takes the least amount of time so you give in and go with the flow.

I've known exchange students and people working as servers in restaurants do pretty well with Swedish in a short time. It can be the same with people who find work in pre-schools. A bricklayer from Great Britain with no formal training in Swedish at all was told after two years of doing construction work that there was nothing SFI could teach him that he didn't know already.

On the other hand it's common to hear about engineers and other professionals who have been in Sweden for ten years or longer who, because everyone constantly speaks English with them, are unable to speak or understand Swedish at all.

The widespread use of English is convenient for tourists and an advantage for Swedes but I think that for English-speaking residents it's a terrible hindrance. If I didn't believe Duolingo and other forms of training weren't useful I wouldn't use them, but I'm convinced that direct, personal interaction is crucial.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimWidman

Ärligt talat så tycker jag att vi är oförskämda när vi väljer att tala engelska med alla och envar. Det är naturligtvis bra, som du skriver, på turistnivå, men när vi vet att vi talar med någon som är bosatt här och har för avsikt att stanna länge bör vi värna om att dela med oss av vårt språk. Det ger en helt annan dimension till livet när man förstår allt som sägs omkring en även om det mesta är oviktiga saker. Om du förstår dem har du åtminstone en möjlighet att själv avgöra om du tycker de är viktiga eller inte.

Jag tror att många svenskar känner sig bättre, mer betydelsefulla och respekterade när de talar engelska. Jantelagen i praktiken!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Thomas-Steve

Oh I don't know. 'Oförskämda' may be a little strong. But I think I know what you mean. Personally I find it annoying sometimes to see advertising done entirely in English, or hear conversations sprinkled with English phrases. But it's fun to speak a second language, at least sometimes. I can't blame anyone for it. Speaking for myself, I respect enspråkiga gamlingar och småbarn as much or more than anyone. Bottom line is that I'm determined to learn you guy's language as well as you've learned mine. Whether that breaks jantelagen eller inte. ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ca23sere

I'm exactly in the opposite situation. My native language is Spanish (I'm from Argentina) and I'm learning Swedish from English (DL doesn't have the course from Spanish) : ). I didn't find it difficult in that way, probably because English and Swedish are quite similar from my point of view. I don't translate the Swedish to Spanish, instead, in my mind I translate Swedish to English. Either way, I wanted to point out that I found, in my opinion, that slang words and phrases in English are very similar to slang words and phrases in at least the Argentinian Spanish. Not the words itself of course, but the ideas behind. I mean, both slangs are more similar than the formal languages. I don't know how the Swedish slang is, but I hope that the more we know the more we realize the similarities in both languages. I've mentioned the slang because it is the real language spoken, and it has a huge difference in regard to the written language or the formal language, there are probably more differences in both Spanish. Translate from spoken Spanish to formal Spanish is hard even for natives : )


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GuyANDERSO2

Wow that’s really impressive. I do agree that Swedish and English are similar. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Skidbladner

That a native speaker has trouble finding the right words when translating into the native language, has very little to do with the with the difficulty people have learning said language. I find your problems much more likely to be a remnant of how Duo teaches languages.

How difficult Swedish is to learn has of course a lot to do with how far your native language is from Swedish. For those who have English or German as first language it is on the other hand one of the easiest natural languages to learn.

Why does so many people in Sweden then believe that Swedish is hard? That's because of the only real difficulty: To stop speaking with a very heavy accent. If a lot of people that has lived in Sweden for decades still speaks with heavy accents a lot of people will assume that the language is hard, although this only is true for the ability to speak it pitch-perfekt.

tl;dr
It is easy for a speaker of a Germanic language to learn a fully functional although heavily accented Swedish.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MatthewKramer

I am an American of Swedish ancestry who learned a few Swedish words as a child but mostly picked it up a bit by being in Sweden. I learned German decently many decades ago, as well as a little French. I never formally studied Swedish until Duolingo.

I find Swedish really easy. I think it is grammatically easier than German, although the pronunciation is a little more unforgiving. It is structurally so much like English, with plenty of cognates. I am lucky in that I pick up pronunciation very readily, which is a big plus in Swedish. When I was in Sweden, people were not really sure where I was from, so they would not always switch to English on me-a couple of times they answered me in German and I was often getting asked for directions by Swedes!

It is easier these days because there was no internet when I was young and no opportunity to check out Swedish websites, etc. The one thing easier about German is that I find a lot of people I can speak it with!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimWidman

Hahaha! And I am often spoken to in English because of the way I look!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Thomas-Steve

A Chinese SFI classmate of mine found it too difficult translating Swedish directly to Mandarin, so he gave up trying, translating it to English instead.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimWidman

Does this mean that the SFI classes are of mixed nationalities? That would certainly not make it easier to learn.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Thomas-Steve

Well sure. We had people from everywhere. It was pretty cool really. I was the only North American. Two from South America, many from Africa and the middle east, one from the Philippines, two Russians, two Chinese, two from Thailand, several from Kyrgyzstan, the Ukraine. I would give our teacher a five out of five star rating. But one problem was that she eventually had to start saying "Jag förstår inte engelska" to people because nearly everyone had English to some extent, and they'd use it to ask her questions.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GuyANDERSO2

Well Swedish has been easy for me so far after I completed the Norwegian course. Also Spanish and Swedish are very differnt languages so it’s probably clashing a bit. But stick at it, it’s a very nice language. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hanspersson

I recognize what you say about the translation issue although in my case it would be going via English between Swedish and German. However, I notice that it's getting to be somewhat less noticeable as I start delving into the de->fr course so that I need to work on my German from a different perspective, so to speak. At this point I'm definitely doing that course more to practice my German than to actually learn French.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RowanM.1

I find Swedish relatively easy (so far at least), especially because of its similarities to English and German, not to mention its close relatives Danish and Norwegian. The hardest languages of the ones I'm studying (or at least trying out) are probably Greek and Hebrew. Russian is pretty challenging as well, although I'm getting the hang of one or two aspects of it. Then there's Japanese with not one, but three different writing systems! But Swedish and the other Scandinavian languages are, for me at least, among the easier ones to get to grips with. Mostly the same alphabet as English, apart from a few umlauts, relatively straightforward grammar (prepositions can be tricky though) and plenty of cognates with English, Danish and Norwegian (got to watch the frukost/frokost difference between Swedish and Danish though!).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimWidman

Yes. Like chess - a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.

On a basic level Swedish is easy if you are familiar with another Germanic language. And thank you for pointing out that it is your own opinion your talking about instead of speaking for the whole of the world as many others seem to do. :D


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KurtThornb

Well you have to speak very clearly and on cue into the computer. I often say things correctly but I start speaking too early so the computer tells me I am wrong.

Tja, du måste tala mycket tydligt och på cue i datorn. Jag säger ofta saker rätt men jag börjar prata tidigt så datorn säger att jag har fel.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hexagore

I expect the hardest thing about learning Swedish, at least for me, is being able to understand normal spoken colloquial Swedish (and in my case speak it without a horrible accent - I’m Northern English and this apparently makes my Swedish sound a bit Danish).

One of the things I’ve been doing, though, is watching all of Game of Thrones with the Svenska subtitles on and realising just how much English is full of idioms and expressions that can’t be translated literally into Swedish, that speaking Swedish seems to require a lot of work to find the closest matching sentiment - something I find very difficult indeed!

I wonder if this this part of what you’re experiencing with translating from Spanish, too?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimWidman

Surely. It was the major problem. I can often pick a word or an expression in Spanish and find a corresponding word or expression in English, but in Swedish I have to make a choice between several different words/expressions that do not fully cover the whole concept of the Spanish/English ones. It seems to me that Swedish words are "narrower".

Personally I wouldn´t worry too much about speaking with a heavy accent as long as vocabulary and grammar are correct enough to produce understandable language. I do also speak with a heavy accent - the one of Stockholm!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hanspersson

I'd say this is a common problem between any two languages: the concepts covered by words don't entirely match which makes translation tricky.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kiteo

I’m informally translating a Swedish novel to English as practice - and struggling so often to translate the breadth of meaning of Swedish words into simplistic-seeming English ones by comparison. I think that might be a function of translating.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimWidman

Yes. This was the real challenge. To find the closest matching words, and to keep the language on a constant level of complexity without deviating too much from the original.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kiteo

I don’t know, English is my native language, and I’m finding Swedish so damn easy. I mean, it’s still a long slog, but it’s sooooo similar to English!! Then again, the other languages I’ve more or less seriously been exposed to are some Romance languages, Farsi, Indonesian and Thai (eeek), so...

I suppose if one does not have a Germanic language as native, Swedish will be challenging, even more so if not super comfortable with any Indo-European language.

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