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How to Practice Swedish with Native Speakers at Home and Abroad

How to Practice Swedish with Native Speakers at Home and Abroad

Most people who learn a foreign language learn it so that they can one day have real life conversations with native speakers. When you start out learning Swedish and crack open your first textbook or listen to your first episode of SwedishPod101, having a real Swedish conversation can feel like a pipe dream.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth. While it does take a significant amount of time and effort to become fluent in Swedish, having a conversation might not be as far off as you think. In this post we’ll look at three ways you can boost your Swedish conversational skills and start talking to native speakers!

1) Find native speakers and practice with them

At home (locally)
If you don’t live in Sweden it might be hard to meet native Swedish speakers. If you happen to be in a major or international city your chances may be better. Check and see if your city has a general language exchange. Chances are there could be a Swedish speaker there who is learning another language. If you live in Europe it is a lot more likely that you’ll meet someone to practice Swedish with.

Some cities in Europe (not just Stockholm), even have meetups or clubs solely for the purpose of practicing and learning the Swedish language.

On the net (internationally)
Practicing your Swedish in person with a Native speaker is probably the most interesting option for honing your speaking skills, but if you can’t find a Swede where you, live the next best option is to look on the net. Luckily for language learners the past 10 years or so have seen an explosion on online language exchange sites.

On these websites you can search for someone who is a native speaker of your target language and is learning your native language. A couple language exchanges worth looking at are Wespeke and Hellolingo.

The idea behind a language exchange is that you meet with them via video or text chat, and half of the time they help you practice your target language (in this case Swedish), and for the other half you help them practice English. Practicing via an online language exchange is a highly effective way to practice your conversational Swedish.

How to Practice Swedish with Native Speakers at Home and Abroad

2) Work on Swedish pronunciation

Pronunciation is often an overlooked skill when it comes to learning a foreign language. Most people think of a good foreign accent as a luxury rather than a necessity. In some ways I suppose their right. As long as your accent isn’t utterly horrible you will be able to understand and be understood when using Swedish.

But what most people don’t talk about is how having a good accent boosts your listening and comprehension skills. If you can hear a sound from a foreign language and know how to make it yourself then you’re more likely to understand native speakers when they talk at normal speed, and you’re also more likely to remember any new words or phrases you come across. Having a good Swedish accent means that Swedish no longer sounds foreign. Instead it sounds familiar, maybe even natural.

Luckily Swedish pronunciation doesn’t give English speakers the same level of difficulty as in languages like Arabic, Russian, or even Mandarin. Swedish is much more closely related to English, so the alphabet and sounds by and large will sound a little more familiar when compared to other languages.

So how do you go about perfecting your accent? The best way is to break down the Swedish language into its individual sounds. Make note of any sounds that are the same or similar to English and of those that are different. Of the Swedish sounds that are different, spend your time practicing the ones that you find the hardest to say correctly.

Find a good resource on the Swedish sound system and do your best to mimic mouths of native speaker and follow their tongue placement (these are what essentially make up a foreign accent). Wikipedia as a great article on Swedish phonology with diagrams and native recordings of individual vowel sounds to help you accomplish this.

After you’re comfortable with the individual sounds of Swedish you can start linking together words and phrases. This is where accent practice starts to really get fun and interesting. Get your hands on some native Swedish audio either from a something like TV show, song, or podcast.

Play the audio back and listen closely a few times. Take note of how Swedish words blend together in spoken speech. Then do you best to imitate what you hear, trying to match the speaker’s emphasis and intonation(I should point out here that SwedishPod101’s playback feature is perfect for this). Record yourself and compare it to the original recording. Rinse and repeat until you are comfortable with the audio selection and then move on to something more difficult. This how you can breakthrough the accent barrier and really start to make the Swedish language your own.

How to practice Swedish with native speakers at home and abroad

3) Learn phrases not just individual words

Learning grammar and individual words is great, but it’s not the only approach you should take if you want to speak Swedish fluently. In addition to your regular grammar and vocabulary try learning whole Swedish phrases, even if you aren’t totally sure how they work grammatically. Learn phrases that are specific to your needs.

It’s a good idea to learn phrases that are grouped around a certain setting or subject such as simple greetings or introductions, questions for getting to know someone, or maybe even romantic phrases for dating in Swedish. You can even learn filler phrases which you can use so that you have something to say when well….you don’t know what to say.

Learning phrases like this will help you become conversational faster. You may not understand what you’re saying literally, but as long as you know the general meaning behind the phrase and know when to use it, you’ll be able to talk like a Swede. Eventually your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary should catch up with the phrases you know.

How to practice Swedish with native speakers at home and abroad

Final thoughts

Learning Swedish should feel like an adventure. There will be plateaus and periods in your learning where it feels like you’re hitting a wall, but being able to speak with native speakers and have real conversations will help you combat language fatigue. After all, talking to someone face to face in a foreign language is one of the main reasons we start learning in the first place!

So, best wishes on your journey through the Swedish language. I hope you found these tips useful and good luck with your learning!

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