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Introduction to Swedish(

By Urban Sikeborg, Stockholm 1997–98


• Swedish – a brief presentation 1

1. How to introduce yourself 2
Personal pronouns. ‘Är’, -er and -ar verbs in the present

2. Greetings and goodbyes 4
Common salutary phrases. Temporal expressions

3. Things in general and particular7
Nouns in the singular. Indefinite and definite forms

4. Even more things 9
Nouns in the plural. Cardinal and ordinal numbers

5. What is yours like? 12
Adjectives (weak and strong inflection).
Possessive and demonstrative pronouns

6. To compare and to be compared 16
Comparison of adjectives. ‘Ingen’,‘något’, ‘varje’. Adverbs

7. Doing and being 19
Tenses/Conjugation of verbs

8. A guide to the pronunciation of Swedish 29

Introduction to


By Urban Sikeborg
Stockholm 1997©

wedish 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, butotherwise 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 reputationof 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 is a member of the Indo-European family, to which belongalmost all European languages (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, andDanes 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 – mostSwedes 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.
There is no natural language which does not require years of study to master completely, but you will soon acquirean impressive passive vocabulary. You will find that signs and headlines become more and more comprehensible and that you within short 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 Englishhave in turn been borrowed from the Vikings. This means that many words will be familiar to you from the very beginning.
But a language is more than just a collection of words; without a basic knowledge of the grammar, your linguistic proficiency will most likely be very limited. This introduction to Swedish presents a brief outline of Swedish grammar, with the emphasis on the spoken,...
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