When you learn a foreign language, you might find that it has some difficult sounds that you are not used to making. Fortunately, Swedish is a relatively easy language to pronounce. While there might be a few hard sounds, the vast majority of them are found in the English language. To further help you, Swedish pronunciation mirrors the intonation patterns we’re accustomed to in English. What this all boils down to is that if you’re learning to speak Swedish, you will have an easier time than you might with some other languages.
When you begin to study Swedish pronunciation, you should start with the alphabet. After all, when you first learned the mechanics and written form of English, you started with the alphabet! Swedish has the same twenty-six letters that English does, with an additional three—å, ä, and ö. These are added to the list of vowels, along with y, making a total of nine vowels.
“A” is pronounced differently depending upon whether it is long or short. When long, it is pronounced like the “a” in far. If short, it sounds like the “a” in the Spanish word casa.
• E – is pronounced like the “e” in deck, even when long. It never sounds like the “e” in deep. In Swedish pronunciation, another vowel takes that job.
• I – is pronounced like the “e” in the words be or deep.
• O – can be pronounced two different ways, generally depending on context. It can sound like the “oo” in too, or it can be pronounced like the “o” in the word for.
• U – is a trickier vowel since there is no sound in English exactly like it. The closest example would be the long “o” sounds in the English words two and you. However, the sound is created more from the front of your mouth, with the tip of your tongue touching your teeth.
It is important to really practice these vowels, along with the following ones and the consonants that sound a bit different. Swedes will not be able to understand you if you cannot grasp Swedish pronunciation.
• Å – as the “o” in the word for.
• Ä – as the “ai” in the English word fair
• Ö – as the “ea” in the word earn.
• Y – like the “y” at the end of names such as Terry.
Consonants are mostly the same, but there are a few differences.
• J – sounds like the “y” in yes.
• K – sounds like the “k” in keep or the “sh” in sheep.
• R – is rolled, just as in Spanish but not as forcefully.
• S – like the “s” in summer; never like “zz”.