Essential Swedish words and phrases before you travel
Asking “Where is…? questions in Swedish.
If you’ve already learned and practiced Essential Swedish 1 you’ll be ready to tackle the next 12 essentials.
These are words and phrases that’ll help you ask “Where is …?” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, a bus stop, or the subway or railway station, a bank or an ATM.
You may also want to know if the person you’re talking with speaks French, German, Spanish, Italian, or English – that is, one of the languages you may speak as well.
The Next 12 Swedish Phrases: “Var är…?”
Pronunciation Tips for Swedish:
In the following group of phrases, you can practice a few typical Swedish sounds:
r – is a rolled tongue-tip “r” (like a Spanish “r”).
u – say “ee” but round your lips.
s before ä – has a “sh” sound: “ursäkta”
-tion ending – in the phrases below, it’s pronounced “hon”, with a very breathy “h”.
Traveling in Sweden…
A few years ago – after taking a Hurtigruten trip along the Norwegian coast – we spent a week in Stockholm . We learned a lot about the history of Norway and Sweden and wrote about it in A Cruise and Norwegian Language Politics…
When you arrive at the Stockholm Arlanda airport, which is located about 25 miles north of Stockholm, you are immediately impressed by the Arlanda Express train, both by its fare (+/- $40) and its speed.
You can catch the train right below the terminal. It has WiFi, runs every 15 minutes and takes about 20 minutes to Stockholm Central Station.
A less expensive option (about $13) are the Flygbussarna airport shuttle buses, or the Flix Bus, starting at about $6. Both take close to an hour, depending on traffic.
While we were in Stockholm, we took a train ride to Uppsala, which takes about 40 minutes. Exploring the fourth-largest Swedish city with the oldest Scandinavian University (founded in 1477) turned out to be a very pleasant day trip.
Now, that we have also been to Denmark, we can really appreciate the similarities between the Nordic languages.
“Var är…?”-Questions Answered…
Asking “Var är…?” questions could let the person you are asking assume that you speak Swedish.
The result will often be an answer and a stream of Swedish words you may not understand.
It would therefore be good to know some basic directional words and phrases in Swedish – left, right, straight ahead, etc.
Check back with us for next 13 Swedish phrases in a few weeks.
Swedish polite phrases and greetings….
Travelers visiting Sweden can learn and practice 50-100 essential words and phrases here. We’ve posted the first 11 below.
Play back and compare.
(See “Learn and Practice Tips” below!)
The First 11 Swedish Phrases
Learn and Practice Tips
- Click the black arrow to hear the Swedish speaker.
- Click the red dot once to record yourself, click the black square to stop recording.
- When you click the black arrow again, you’ll hear the native speaker and then yourself.
- Do it several times until you sound like the Swedish speaker.
Why learn these Phrases?
Whenever you travel to a country where you don’t speak the language, you’ll encounter situations when these words will be useful.
Let’s say, you’ve ordered your first meal in a restaurant in Sweden and as the waiter serves you, you simply say “Tack”.
Even if the waiter knows that you don’t speak Swedish, your effort may make him smile …
And beyond “Please” and “Thank you”, basic greetings really are the staple of first words you should know in any country you visit.
Some Pronunciation Tips
Swedish is a Germanic language and shares many sounds with German, Dutch and English. However, while most consonants are pronounced similar to English, some of the vowels have different sounds in Swedish.
Here are examples from the list of phrases below:
“a” in “Ja” sounds like “a” in “father”
“å” in “Varsågod” sounds like “aw” in “saw”
“ä” in “Ursäkta” is close to “a” in “many”
“o” in “god” is close to “oh”
“o” in “morgon” is close to “o” in “frost”
Note: the “g” in “morgon” and “mig” has a “y” sound, as in “yes”.
But don’t worry too much about the above. Try to listen and match the pronunciation you hear to the words you see.
You’ll pick up the differences fast!
Walking in the country side…
While there’ll be many opportunities to use basic greetings in Stockholm and other Swedish towns, knowing them when you’re outside of a city is even more important.
Being a visitor in a Sweden will make you much more welcome, when you make the effort to greet people in Swedish.
Yes, the Swedes are one of the most English-speaking people in Europe. But surprising locals you meet with just a few Swedish words and phrases will often get you a smile.
Personal Experiences and a Little History
In 2013 we took a trip to Norway and Sweden. During our trip we met several Swedes and also stayed in Stockholm for a week. We learned quite a bit about the common Swedish/Norwegian/Danish history and wrote about the Norwegian Language Politics in our Gamesforlanguage Blog.
We noted there: “The story of the peaceful dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden (in 1905) makes interesting reading for history buffs, who also may be intrigued by the (Norwegian) people’s election (!) of the Danish (!) crown prince as their new king.”
In 2017 we very much enjoyed our 2 weeks in Denmark and wrote about it in our European Travels 8 post.
While we certainly found many similarities between the Nordic languages, we found Swedish easier to understand than Danish.
If you just compare the first 11 essential words of both languages, you’ll notice that 6 are nearly identical (except for “tak” – Danish vs. “tack” – Swedish)
The next 12 Phrases
Once you’ve mastered some of the basic words, polite phrases and greetings, it’s time to learn asking some “where…?” questions.
Even with GPS-enabled smart phones, you’ll often want to know where the bathroom is or the next ATM, information those phones still don’t have!
The next 12 Swedish phrases you’ll find in Essential Swedish 2.