Although it is super easy and convenient to get around speaking only English in Sweden, there are several reasons why learning Swedish will help you on your journey here. Here is a list of my top 4.
1. Learning Swedish makes it easier to find a job.
Many international companies in Sweden have English as their main language. Most likely you can find such companies, especially in the tech industry. However, it is not uncommon that they still require at least a basic level of Swedish and you’ll find it on many LinkedIn job offers.
Based on my own experience, I felt it mostly during lunch or fika breaks. If you don’t speak any Swedish, you might feel a bit more excluded in some crowds. Many people are simply more comfortable speaking Swedish in casual settings and they will truly appreciate it when you try, even if you make mistakes. Learning Swedish made all the difference for me.
2. Learning Swedish allows you to connect with people.
Nelson Mandela summarised it perfectly with this quote:
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
And this I encounter all the time. In the cafes and shops, sometimes even when I am on a walk around the lake and I stop for a bit to enjoy the view, some people try to make small talk to connect with me. When I didn’t understand, I’d use my polite: “English, please.” and they would just have that little bit of disappointment in their eyes. The sparkle would just disappear.
It’s already hard for many Swedes to speak to a stranger, it’s even more difficult for them to do it in English. They speak English so they will understand you but it’s not the way to connect with them (unless they are used to using English all the time).
3. You begin to understand the Swedish culture more.
There are countless Swedish words, phrases, and even Swedish songs that just do not make sense in other languages. They are however important part of the Swedish culture.
Some examples include words such as fika, lagom, or duktig… Make sure to learn what those mean. What I think could be even more important is the Swedish songs. It’s really fun to sing them when you know them and very weird when you try to translate and understand them. This includes the children’s songs they sing during Midsummer or those they sing at student ‘sittning‘ (evening parties).
4. You feel more confident when you can speak some Swedish.
Surprisingly, even the little “Nej, tack.” you say when they ask you in a shop if you want a bag goes a long way. Slowly you’ll begin to understand the common phrases in the shop or on the tram. Tram announcements are important and they are always in Swedish. So it’s good to know why the tram suddenly stopped and everyone is getting out. 😉
And those are only a few reasons why learning Swedish (even if just the basics) will be useful for you while living here. If not for these, it might even be fun to learn a new language just for yourself. You never know when it could become useful. If you don’t know where to start, look at SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) or contact your university, which might be offering Swedish lessons for international students. Some universities (such as Lund University or Dalarna University) offer also online courses. Here are some more tips on how to learn Swedish.