|Introduction to Swedish© by Urban Sikeborg, Stockholm (1997-98)
Swedish - a brief presentation
  Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap. 7 | Chap. 8 | Chap. 9 |
On this page Why learn Swedish?
Swedish and its relatives
Will it take long to learn?
How can this course help me?
Introduction to Swedish: Table of contents
How to download this course as a Word file
Lexin Swedish-English / English-Swedish dictionary
About the author and this course
Why learn Swedish? Swedish is a fascinating and expressive language. It is also a melodic language, admittedly difficult to pronounce like a native because of its characteristic sing-song rhythm, but otherwise not more complicated to learn than English.

Most Swedes born after World War II do speak or understand English - many of them very well, actually - and you will probably be able to have a memorable and enjoyable stay in Sweden without any deeper knowledge of Swedish. But you will find that just a few words of Swedish will work as a wonderful door-key to the Swedes, who have a reputation of being rather reserved to strangers. Addressing someone in his or her native language is a matter of respect, a way of showing that you play by their rules, so to speak.

To learn a language means to learn to understand the culture where it is spoken and the people who speak it. In a way, to learn a language opens up a new world.

Swedish and its relatives Swedish is a member of the Indo-European family, to which almost all European languages belong (with the exception of the Finnish-Ugrian, Basque, and Caucasian languages), and has many features in common with all of these. Its closest relatives are Danish, Norwegian, and Icelandic. The latter has due to its isolation remained remarkably intact from the Viking Age and therefore is very difficult to understand for other Nordic speakers.

Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes usually do not have any difficulties in communicating with each other. Even though Danish is slightly more closely related to Swedish than Norwegian, its "hot-potato-in-the-mouth" pronunciation is the main obstacle when Danes and Swedes speak with each other, whereas Norwegian in that respect is very similar to Swedish.

All in all, the differences between the languages are not very big - most Swedes would probably even find it difficult to tell whether a text was written in Norwegian or Danish. Since Swedish also is the second official language of Finland, a basic knowledge of Swedish will thus enable you to understand and make yourself understood in several countries.

Will it take long to learn? There is no natural language which does not require years of study to master completely, but you will soon acquire an impressive passive vocabulary. You will find that signs and headlines become more and more comprehensible and that you within a short time will be able to browse through a Swedish newspaper and get a good grasp of what is said.

Learning Swedish is facilitated by the fact that over the centuries it has borrowed thousands of words from Low German, French, and English; some very common words in English have in turn been borrowed from the Vikings. This means that many words will be familiar to you from the very beginning.

How can
this course help me?
A language is more than just a collection of words and without a basic knowledge of the grammar, your linguistic proficiency will most likely be very limited.

The purpose of this introduction to Swedish is to enable you to start reading and practising Swedish on your own, with the help of a good dictionary. The course presents a brief outline of Swedish grammar, with the emphasis on the spoken, everyday language, and includes 186 speech samples (Wave files in PCM format). The words selected are, with few exceptions, among the most frequent in the Swedish language. No previous knowledge of grammar is required.

It is advisable to browse through the rules for pronunciation in Chapter 9 before each chapter. Otherwise you might end up sounding disquietingly like the Swedish Chef in the Muppet Show.

Table of contents
Name of Chapter Introducing
1 How to introduce yourself Personal pronouns
-er and -ar verbs in the present
2 Greetings and goodbyes Common phrases
Temporal expressions
3 Things in general and particular Nouns in the singular
Indefinite and definite forms
4 Even more things Nouns in the plural
Cardinal and ordinal numbers
5 What is yours like? Adjectives (weak and strong inflection)
Possessive and demonstrative pronouns
6 To compare and to be compared Comparison of adjectives
'Ingen', 'någon', 'varje'
7 Doing and being Tenses
Conjugation of verbs
8 Questions and statements
[My apologies - this chapter remains to be written.]
Relative pronouns and conjunctions
9 A guide to pronunciation Comments on dialects
Pronounciation letter by letter

Strange spellings
Download this course You can also download a file (ca 150 kB) with Introduction to Swedish in Microsoft Word 6.0 format by clicking here.

The compendium consists of approximately 40 pages and contains all the chapters above, with the exception of Chapter 8.

Interactive dictionary

The Lexin interactive Swedish-English/English-Swedish dictionary, by courtesy of Skolverket (Swedish National Agency for Education).

Write a word in Swedish and press the button Search. To change to the English-Swedish dictionary, select option "Look up an English word". You may use the characters }, {, and |, instead of the Swedish letters å, ä, ö.

Translate a Swedish word.
Look up an English word.

Try to correct unknown words.


About the author

Urban Sikeborg (b. 1963), Technical Communicator in Financial Management at Intentia R&D, Stockholm. This introduction to Swedish grammar was written for his course Communicating in Swedish, designed and conducted for the international students at Stockholm School of Economics 1995-1998. [Photo: Håkan Skogsjö, 1998]

Copyright Urban Sikeborg,
Stockholm 1997-1998

Stockholm School of Economics, Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm
Phone +46-8-736 90 00, Fax +46-8-31 81 86
This page was updated on 21 December 1998.