Top 10 Things to Know About Swedish

This one is for my friends (Zane!) and family (parents!) coming to visit, plus that nice couple from Chicago I met on the Flygbussarna back from the airport:

ikeabetTop 5 words to know in Swedish:

  1. Hej / Hejdå = Hello / Goodbye. Sounds like “hey”/ “hey-doh”. Variations = hej hej (hi!)
  2.  Ja / Nej = Yes / No. Sounds like “yaw” / “nay”.
  3. Tack = Thanks. Sounds like “tack”. Variations = tack tack, tack så mycket (thanks!, thanks so much)
  4. Ursäkta = Excuse me. Sounds like “oo-shek-ta”. Variation = ursäkta mig (excuse me)
  5. Sverige / Svenska = Sweden / Swedish. Sounds like “sveh-ree-ya”. Always interesting to learn how people in other countries say their own country or language. Kinda makes it weird we don’t just say it like they do…


Top 5 things to know about Swedish Pronunciation:

  1. å = sounds like “o” as in “hoard”
  2. ä = sounds like “ai” as in “hair”
  3. g = sometimes sounds like a hard g, sometimes sounds like a “y”. Gatan (street) sounds just like its spelled, but anything that ends like “berg” sounds more like “berry”.
  4. k = sometimes sounds like a hard k, sometimes sounds like a “sh”. Kök (kitchen) sounds like “sherk”, and kötbullar (meatballs) sounds like “shut-boo-lar”.
  5. j = basically just totally unpronounceable to a non-Swede. It’s sort of like blowing air, but more complicated. Notoriously, the hardest words to pronounce in Swedish are the words for “seven” (sju) and “nurse” (sjuksköterska).


To hear some Swedish words spoken by real Swedes, here are some examples:


And for some clothing words I especially tried to learn:


And when in doubt, make it even more melodic, just like the Swedish Chef:


As an extra bonus, here are the (mac) keyboard shortcuts for those Swedish vowels!

  • å = option-a
  • ä = option-u, a
  • ö = option-u, o
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2 Responses to Top 10 Things to Know About Swedish

  1. Sheila Morris says:

    “J” is pronounced like “y” most of the time–ja, jungfru, jacka, Johansson. It’s only when it gets together with “s” or “k” that you get that “whoosh” sound. I describe it as “whsh”. Ah.. it does that in some French loan-words, too–jasmine, Jeanette. “SK” often sounds similar.

    “K” behaves rather like English “c”; hard or soft depending on the following vowel. Like in “circus”.

  2. Joachim says:

    Consonants like g and k before vowels are soft when the vowel is open (say ä and watch what your mouth does) and hard when the vowel is closed (say å and watch again what your mouth does). Thus gärna = “järna” and gata = “gata”.

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