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  5. Listening is hard.


Listening is hard.

I'm just about done with my tree, and on my way to Sweden in 3 weeks. I've been supplementing Duolingo with tons of news and other reading, and I can easily read 90% of Swedish text at this point...

But can we just talk about how hard listening is?!

I've been listening to Swedish radio and podcasts for short amounts of time each day, but I have yet to hear a single complete sentence that I can understand. I'm picking up phrases little by little, but as soon as I hear one word I know, I tune out of the rest of the sentence because my brain is busy translating that one word.

If anyone has any tips on listening, feel free to share, otherwise maybe we can just commiserate :)

March 22, 2015



If you haven't already found it, I would strongly recommend to listen to "Nyheter på lätt svenska" produced by Klartext att Sveriges Radio. High quality news reporting in slow and clear swedish. http://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt?programid=493


Every day I take a walk around the building I work at and listen to Klartext with both headphones. It has helped out immensely. I wouldn't say that I completely understand the news stories, but I can generally give you the broad ideas in the stories.


This is EXACTLY what I've been looking for - my friend who is learning spanish found a podcast called Slow News in Spanish but I never thought there would be anything like that for Swedish! Thank you!!!


I don't speak Swedish but I have thought myself other languages so I know what you're talking about. No matter how capable you are of reading the language and how high your level of grammar and vocabulary until you're immersed in the language for quite some time and are forced into speaking it and understanding the spoken word you will not be fluent. I'm sure once you go to Sweden your ears will gradually over time become tuned to understanding the language better :) Eventually you won't even have to translate in your head.


As for listening tips, I would always tell people to watch children's TV shows to start off with.


I have the same issue, and I've been in Sweden since November. Being immersed in the language has only made it better by an infinitesimal amount, and even when people say very simple things to me I have to sit there and mentally translate it for five minutes before being able to respond. I suppose I'd say just keep listening, find someone you can practice talking to (I can't manage to muster up the courage for this step, honestly), and keep working. Music is something that really helps me learn in any subject, but especially with Swedish, so I'd really recommend that. And, as Shanow22 said, children's shows are a good way to learn (even if it does feel a little silly). Altogether I'd say just keep at it I suppose! It's slow going, but practice does make perfect.


I've had this problem in every language I've studied. It helps to find clearly narrated videos on subjects where you already have some idea what they're saying -- you start with those, and then gradually work your way up to more difficult things. I'm a science and engineering dork, so I love dubbed National Geographic and Discovery Channel shows (easy to find in Spanish and Portuguese, but not so much in Swedish =) ), tech companies' marketing videos, and news anchors with especially slow, clear delivery. Once I can understand most of what I hear on those, I move on to videos and radio with more regional accents, and then to real people talking.

I'm struggling a little to apply this process to Swedish (probably because so many Swedes speak English that there's less market for Swedish-dubbed American science shows =) ), but I really like Shanow22's suggestion of children's shows, and it might be worth looking around Youtube for some slow-talking Swedish videos on subjects that you already know a lot about. The other thing that I've been doing is listening to news stories on Sveriges Radio, and reading the little written blurbs first. That way I have an idea what the story's about and what words they're going to be using, and I can make them out a little better.

But yeah: listening IS hard, and the only thing I can say is, it does eventually get easier! =)


I'd like to point out that on Youtube you can slow down a video to half speed. Since it's difficult to find swedes speaking slowly, this is an option for any video! It really does help :)



I had no idea you could do this. (I usually use Firefox, so I'd never seen the option. Googled it, tried Chrome, and there it is!) Thank you!


Try Svt Play, a lot of good shows can be seen from abroad and it is subtitled in Swedish. Science documentaries has Swedish narration but I haven't checked if they are geolocked (the risk of geolocking is greater for imported content).


One thing I've learned is it is really helpful to watch english movies/scenes that you are extremely familiar with (such as disney movies) that are redubbed in swedish. This way, you know exactly what will be said before they say it, and it takes out the translating step automatically (most of the time ;p). I have the same problem as you, but this has helped me a lot.

swefilmer.com has tons of english to swedish dubs. It's literally my favorite site on the internet.


If you can get your hands on it, I'd suggest books combined with audiobooks, You listen to the audiobook while reading along.


I went to google children's shows in Swedish so that I could help you out. And I just happened upon this! I will say the video is pretty funny.


Here you go! A cartoon in Swedish with Swedish subtitles. Watching a show with subtitles helps you get your ear more in tune with the individual words of the language. Have fun! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpmVrgTGclA


I asked a question on how to train yourself to think in a language: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/7665766

There are many helpful comments, I hope it helps you


For those who want to watch children shows and Disney movies in Swedish but are stuck in a different country here's my tip:

  1. Download Google Chrome
  2. Google 'Hola.' It is a free VPN which downloads straight to your browser. Download it.
  3. Go on Netflix. When you get to the homepage click the little hola button on your browser and scroll down until you find Sweden.

What Hola does is it changes your computer's IP address so that it thinks you are in whichever country you select. Your Netflix account will adjust as well so you will have access to Swedish Netflix. Almost all animated movies (including Disney) have Swedish voice overs so that you can watch a movie in Swedish and may have an easier time following along if you've seen the movie before. :)


Lyssna Är inte svårt för mig. Jag höra mycket svenska xD. Jag startade lyssna på dag 1! Bara har en liten kul,ja? Sökta kul videos i svenska! Jag gÖr det med alla mina språk!


If you can find Swedish video with Swedish subtitles, that can be very helpful. Failing that, Swedish video with English subtitles is better than nothing. Either way, watch the same videos multiple times really trying to understand what is being said. When you think you get it, turn off the subtitles.


My advice would be to get four or five good Swedish films, and watch them repeatedly with the Swedish subtitles turned on. Eventually some common phrases will become second nature. I found that understanding spoken Swedish was almost a "binary" experience. I struggled for about a year, and suddenly, within the space of a couple weeks, all the practice kind of "clicked." I still couldn't (and can't now for that matter) understand everything I heard, but there's a point where your ear can at least distinguish the individual words without much effort. It just takes a lot of listening to Swedish to get there. Once you reach that stage, listening becomes enjoyable, because you can at least look up the words you don't know, instead of that feeling of being totally overwhelmed.


Can you or anyone recommend any good Swedish movies?


i've been living in sweden now for about 4 months and it's difficult to listen and understand when someone is speaking to me. even when they slow down for me to hear. like you said, you tend to focus on the words you know. i have my girlfriend and some of her friends to help me, (even though i feel stupid if i don't pronounce something right). another way that could help, is record yourself saying a bunch of sentences, then listen to them. there's also a program online, "say it in swedish" that you can download the programs. that helped me before i found Duolingo.


Slightly off-topic, but maybe useful as you will soon be in Sweden. If you can afford it, I highly recommend signing up for a Swedish course at Folkuniversitetet (www.folkuniversitetet.se). I have taken courses from them in Göteborg and Stockholm, and in both cases I learnt a lot of Swedish, had a terrific time, and met really interesting classmates with whom to practise Swedish.

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