No Dark Magic

books, Sweden, and computers, not necessarily in any order

How to Learn Swedish beyond A2

Posted at — Apr 12, 2020

Duolingo is a service a lot of people come across when they start learning a language, and it’s cool, but doesn’t push the story further than A2 level.[1] How to push it then?

From easier to harder

  • (reading, listening, speaking) Radio Sweden på lätt svenska — the biggest news from Sweden and the world. Read out by a native speaker, slowly and clearly, every weekday. 5–10 minutes. Since this program has the text of the news on the website, it’s very easy to use for the technique that language learners call ‘shadowing’ — pronouncing a text as close to a recording of a native speaker as possible.

  • (reading, listening, speaking) 8sidor — same as Radio Sweden på lätt svenska, except they speak a bit faster and cover more stories.

  • (reading) a score of “lätt svenska” (simple Swedish) books is available at the libraries.

  • (reading) Swedish wikipedia — it has 3.7 million articles, taking the third place in the ranking after English and Cebuano.[2]

  • (reading) news or short non-fiction books on familiar topics. Whenever I write about a Swedish book, I try to include a note on the language difficulty (‘Swedish books’ tag).

  • (listening) audiobooks — available from the libraries and private companies. Audiobooks are good for learning since it’s just one person talking, and at a pretty uniform speed, without any background noise or speech fillers (and there’s a chance the library has the printed version of the book to follow along too).

  • (reading) fiction books or in-depth articles on arbitrary topics.

  • (listening) SVT, Swedish national television. It has a website with the current programs as well as an archive, and apps for both iOS and Android. All the programs have Swedish subtitles available. There’s also Språkplay app which builds on top of that, making the subtitles interactive and showing translations of some words.

  • (writing) LangCorrect gives you writing prompts, and when you post a text (which can be just a couple of sentences or a couple of pages) notifies native speakers who show up and make corrections with explanations.

  • (listening) podcasts — oh, podcasts. I am 70% sure that almost every Swede is producing a podcast or two. The language difficulty varies — I’d recommend starting with those where just one person talks (and not five). There’s a bunch of websites to find podcasts in Swedish — poddtoppen,, bra podcast all split them into categories (true crime is apparently a huge one).

  • (speaking) and local libraries in Swedish cities often have weekly language cafés where learners can practice conversation with patient people. Search by ‘språkcafé’.

  • (listening) podcasts but now on 1.5–2x speed. Plenty of players provide the functionality of speeding up, but my favorite is AntennaPod because it does all the things and is free, open-source, and privacy-friendly on top of that (and it’s available on f-droid too).

  • (writing) working through an advanced grammar textbook with exercises, for example ‘Avancera Gram’ by Marianne Mathlein.

  • (speaking) paying a tutor to speak in Swedish and correct your mistakes a few times a week, possibly online.

  • (writing) chatting with other learners and native speakers in realtime: r/Svenska, a subreddit for learning Swedish, has a Discord group.

  • (reading) legalese on the government’s website — they have a newsletter too.

  • (reading, listening, writing, speaking) going for full-time study of Swedish to a university of your choice for a semester or a few. If you have a residence permit, the tuition is free.

  • (reading) natives writing without editors but with slang and other difficult words, i.e. forums:

Except for paying a tutor, all of these options are free if you have access to the internet and a library. And of course just trying to use Swedish every chance you get, especially if it’s hard, is the ultimate training.

Other notes

Studieledighet is a kind of unpaid leave which the employer must grant if the employee wants to study something. It doesn’t need to be Swedish, it can be anything from a driving license education to business development, as long as it’s not self-study (so sitting at home with a textbook is not a valid cause for this kind of leave). The length of studieledighet is unlimited, you can take it for a day or for a year, and it can also be part-time. The employer can postpone this leave for up to six months, but they must grant it if you’ve worked for them for half a year. The costs for the studies might be subsidized by your trade union, check the conditions if you’re a member.

Libraries provide their services for free. They’ve got books, e-books, audiobooks, music, sheet music, comic books, movies (as a streaming service as well as on DVD), videogames, and all sorts of events. The largest offering is in Swedish and English, but other languages are usually represented as well. The few librarians I’ve had a pleasure talking to were impeccably knowledgeable and happy to help. I can’t recommend Swedish libraries highly enough.

Youtube is another way of learning: a catalogue from WordLab.

1. as defined in Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, A2 is elementary usage of the language — i.e. a person can somewhat have a basic conversation on some simple and familiar topics if everyone speaks slowly and doesn’t make sudden movements.
2. both Cebuano and Swedish wikis got quite a bit of help in creating articles from a bot written by a Swede who has a Cebuano-speaking wife, but there’s still enough to read.

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