Discovering Sweden through the Language

Photo: Simon Paulin/

Camilla Sveréus is the Swedish language instructor at The Swedish Program. She received her BA from Uppsala University where she studied Swedish, Spanish, French, and general linguistics.

Learning a new language in a country where it is spoken is very different from studying a foreign language in your home country.

In the beginner’s course, the content is designed to be useful for you in your everyday life here. You learn how to order your “fika” at a café, and after class you can go try out your newly acquired skills. When you walk around or ride the subway in Stockholm, you start recognizing and understanding words in the ads and signs, and you can pick up some things that people say. It’s a satisfactory feeling of being a “Stockholmare” for a while, rather than just a tourist. In other words, learning a language while living abroad is fun.

But studying Swedish (or any new language) is not only about understanding the language as such. It is also about creating a greater understanding of the culture. You will learn Swedish traditions, habits and beliefs in all your classes and from everyday conversations with Swedes.

But you will also learn about culture through the language itself. There are words and expressions that are hard to translate and need explaining. And there are structures, ways of expressing things, and linguistic traits that are just different from what you have seen before. Learning a language, even just on a basic level, opens your mind to new ways of thinking and living. It is useful knowledge, not only for the time you spend in Sweden but also for any other language learning experiences or cultural exchanges that you might have in the future.

You will also see how learning a new language is humbling. Being a beginner will make you very understanding of people who are struggling to learn your own language, and impressed with those who have. And using the basic knowledge you have forces you to step out of your comfort zone where you are able to express anything you want with grammatical correctness.

I believe the most successful language learners are the ones who can manage to do that, to challenge themselves to try, and have a laugh instead of being embarrassed if the interaction doesn’t turn out the way they planned. They learn from their mistakes, and next time they might get it right.

That is the nice thing about being a beginner: you can learn so much in such a short time, and the progress becomes very noticeable. At the end of the course, you will be able to sit down and have a short chat in Swedish about life in Stockholm. That is a nice way of finishing off your study abroad experience with us. I look forward to having you in my class as we together discover a new language and ways of understanding culture.