First impressions of Sweden

So, Sweden is a pretty incredible place.

I just came back from Stockholm where I stayed from Thursday (Aug. 1st) to Sunday (Aug. 4th), and I can say with confidence that Sweden isn’t entirely what I expected it to be…it’s more!

We arrived on Thursday at noon. Immediately, we converted 200 Norwegian kroner ($33.72) to 210 Swedish kronor (not including the exchange fee, of course; that made it only about 180 Swedish kronor), but it turns out we didn’t need the cash during the trip as cards work perfectly fine just about everywhere. This includes on the plane itself. My conclusion is that I don’t think it’s necessary to have more than a small emergency stock of Swedish cash on you in Stockholm, likely because Sweden is a pretty high-tech country and Stockholm is a very international city.

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Swedish decks on Memrise

My last deck on Memrise now has 307 people who are learning Swedish from it! To celebrate its success, I created another deck, this time not on all kinds of Swedish words, but specifically the body parts in Swedish. Check it out here!

For those who don’t know what Memrise is, it’s an online flashcard-and-memory game where you learn words and, through Memrise’s spaced repetition algorithm, you get tested on those words just when you’re about to forget them. It’s free and has worked fantastically for me, and seems to be doing a great job of teaching words to those people using my decks, too!

Foreign music artists

I mentioned way back when that singing can help to learn a language. Listening to artists in my target language is one of my favorite ways to boost my vocabulary and listening/speaking abilities. Here are some of my favorite artists for each language; give ’em a try! The more asterisks (*), the more I love them.

Chinese
* alan (c-pop j-pop) – Japanese, Mandarin
* Alex Fong (c-pop) – Cantonese
* Janice (c-pop) – Cantonese
** Jay Chou (c-pop) – Mandarin
Joey Yung (c-pop) – Cantonese
* Jolin Tsai (c-pop) – Mandarin
* Stephy Tang (c-pop) – Cantonese

Dutch
Eva De Roovere (folk pop)
* Jurk (nederlandstalig pop)

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News sites in other languages

Here is a useful list of links for news article sites (like newsnow.co.uk and onlinenewspapers.com and newspaperindex.com) to practice reading in other languages (* means they’re some of my favorites):

Danish
Akhbar (Danish news in Arabic) – Arabic
** Avisen (news) – Danish
* B.T. news) – Danish
Berlingske (news) – Danish
* Børsen (news) – Danish
The Copenhagen Post (Danish news in English)
Dagbladet Information (news) – Danish
DR (news) – Danish
* Ekstra Bladet (news) – Danish
** Erhvervs Bladet (business) – Danish
Ingeniøren (news) – Danish
* Jyllands-Posten (news) – Danish
* Kristeligt Dagblad (news) – Danish
* Politiken (politics) – Danish
TV2 (news) – Danish

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Common foreign words and their pronunciations

Learning similar languages can be quizzical for a number of reasons. Here’s a quick glimpse into some incredibly common words in English, Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch. Notice how the Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch ones are pronounced:

English

Norwegian

Swedish

Dutch

yes ja (“ya”) ja (“ya”) ja (“ya”)
no nei (“nye”) nej (“nay”) nee (“nay”)
I jeg (“yiy”) jag (“ya”) ik
me meg (“my”) mig (“may”) me (“muh”)
me (stressed) meg (“my”) mig (“may”) mij (“may”, “my”)
you (nominative) du du je (“yuh”)
you (nominative, stressed) du du jij (“yay”, “yiy”)
you (objective) deg (“dye”) dig (“day”) je (“yuh”)
you (objective, stressed) deg (“dye”) dig (“day”) jou (“yow”)
it den, det (“deh”) den, det (“deh”) het

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My Swedish resources

It’d be silly for me to continue for too long about learning Swedish without mentioning the resources I use, so here’s a list of what I’m currently using, as well as an explanation of when I use it; it’s the Swedish equivalent for my Norwegian resources and my Korean resources:

  • Penn State University Swedish lessons: Used from the very beginning for basic vocabulary and grammar. I happened upon a really nifty bunch of Swedish lessons from a professor. They have been extremely helpful from the get-go, and I advise this to be one of the first things you look at if learning Swedish. There’s a great rundown of not only vocabulary, but also bits of grammar, but never enough to overwhelm you. Definitely one of my favorite finds.
  • LingQ: Used to start learning words. This can be used from the very beginning! LingQ is a fantastic site that allows you to hover your cursor over words in their different language lessons and stories and see the meaning. When you feel comfortable with a word, you mark it as known and move on. This is also the tool that gives me those nifty, auto-updated language badges on the right sidebar.
  • Google translate: Used all-the-freaking-time to define single words. Here’s how it normally works for me: I see a word in LingQ or hear a word in a podcast (also coming up), and then look it up via Google translate if I know how it’s spelled. I hardly ever use Google translate for translating phrases, because if you give it more than one word, it often messes up. For best results, translate FROM your target language INTO English, as Google translate tends to have a better grasp on English than some of the other languages. It’s also decent enough to use vice-versa, but I don’t trust its English-to-Swedish, etc. translations as much as the reverse. Remember, in the beginning, when translating something in Google translate, don’t use ambiguous sentences that can be translated in multiple different ways; try to stick to simple sentences until you can tell when Google translate is wrong, at which point you can feed it more complex things.

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Germanic mutual intelligibility

I’ve written about how learning one language can help you learn another. Let me show you some examples of what I mean:

English

Norwegian

Swedish

Dutch

also også också ook
always alltid alltid altijd
expensive, dear dyrt dyrt duur
(to) have (å) ha (att) ha hebben
(to) hear (å) høre (att) höra horen
must måste moeten
north nord norr noord
tonight i kveld ikväll vanavond
(to) want, (to) will (å) ville (att) vilja willen
welcome back velkommen tilbake välkommen tillbaka welkom terug
with med med met

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A Swedish love affair

I’ve been starting a new chapter in my life over the past few months, which seems to happen every summer; bit by bit, a transformation makes itself known over the horizon, and by the end of the season it’s palpable, improving my character in some way or another. There are a few rather large changes happening in my life right now, which I will get to in a separate post. In short, I have amazing friends, and I learn this anew every once and awhile, it seems!

However, I can tell you that I have satisfied myself with re-solidifying some of the Spanish that I learned from school, and can use it more actively. Satisfied with this, I move on to my next challenge: learn Swedish!

Why Swedish? Because I’ve had a love affair with the language ever since my Swedish friend introduced me to the band Sarek, which is a Swedish folk-pop group made popular through Melodifestivalen (I wish they’d made it to Eurovision!). About this time last year is when I was deeply into my learning Dutch mission, and I will be continuing this one for a number of months.

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