|How to prononunce Swedish, and some useful phrases|
After you read this title, maybe you wonder; 'Me? To Sweden? Never!'
If you feel that you just said that, and you are from Great Britain, the rest of Europe or somewhere even remotely close to Sweden, you might just have to rethink. It is, in fact, the destiny for every person from the afore-mentioned areas to at least once visit the banana-shaped country in his/her life. Do not try to fight it. When you celebrate your 50th-55th birthday, a strange tractor beam will go out from some country-side town in Sweden and draw you closer and closer until you actually sit there with your car, motorhome or any other mean of transportation, and your dog. So, I thought, I might as well put together a little phrase list for you to enjoy and show off with in Sweden.
In Swedish, there are the same letters in the alphabet like in english-speaking coutries, except for the letters 'å', 'ä' and 'ö'. Maybe you recognize this, because we all know that any word in Swedish can be created by taking a German-sounding word and put rings and dots over them, for example Öktöbërfëst. Sounds Swedish right?
But I'm afraid that's not very Swedish, so maybe I should use some other examples. 'Smorgasbord' and 'ombudsman'. Sound familiar? Now to the magical part; Swedes will be amazed by your Swedish-speaking abilities if you write 'Smörgåsbord' instead. Pronounced [smúhrrgohsbúúrd]. If you are familiar with French, I can use this example of å-ä-ö pronounciation, å=[au], ä=[ai], ö=[eu]. In English however, the pronounciation would roughly be like this; å=['o' in 'corn'], ä=['ai' in 'lair' will do just fine], ö=['u' in 'nurse' will do just fine here]. The 'å' in this example was long, there are also short versions of this letter, there are these variations in 'ö' and 'ä' also, but 'å' is more outstanding. It is, in short version pronounced ['o' in 'not']. Long versions are used in front of single consonants and short in front of double consonants.
I will now use the abbreviation 'sh.' for short version and 'lo.' for long, and an example of a word pronounced this way.
*One important thing to remember*: If you dont' feel secure about pronouncing words, it doesn't really matter. Swedes will be so delighted to hear someone even trying to speak their language.
The other letters are:
A. In English there is no sh. 'a' as pronounced in Swedish. The closest would be the 'uh' sound in 'blunt'(Ex. 'hatt'=hat) The long
one is darker, like in 'a' in 'father'. (Ex. 'hat'=hate). Pretty similar languages huh? This may seem daunting at first to keep track of long and short vowels, but you'll learn.
B. Like English. (båt=boat)
C. Pronounced [s] in front of soft vowels (e,i,y,ä,ö), [k] in front of hard vowels (a,o,u,å) (citrón=lemon)
D. Like English. (dum=stupid)
E. Sh. pronounced like [eh] in 'rent' (hyra), the lo. version doesn't exist in English, it's like a French 'é'. Very long. (spel=game). It is not pronounced [i] like in English. Ever.
F. Like English. (full= full, drunk)
G. Like [g] in go (gå). Never like [g] in 'gym' (gym). Or like [j] in front of soft vowels.
H. Like English. (hot=threat)
I. Lo. like [ee] in English 'bee'(bi) . Sh. like English 'litter' (skräp).
J. Like 'y' in 'year' (år).
K. Hard like 'c' in 'cat' (katt). Soft like 'tj' (see below) in front of soft vowels.
L. Like English, not as 'thick' though. (Lera=mud)
M. Like English. (Mur=wall, not a room wall (vägg) but like the Berlin Wall (Berlinmuren) or the Chinese Wall (kinesiska muren))
N. Like English. (natt=night)
O. Sh. like 'o' in 'rotten' (rutten), lo. like 'oo' in 'roof' (tak), but not exactly. But it will do.
P. Like English. (päron=pear)
Q. Not used in regular Swedish words, prononced like 'k' (see above).
R. Like a Scottish rolled 'r'. (rulla=to roll). This is used in the 'official' language, there are dialects in which 'r' is pronounced differently.
S. Like English. (sur=sour)
T. Like English. (tunna=thin(pl), barrel)
U. This is non existent in English and is know to be very hard-pronounced for native English speakers. Round your lips and try to say 'oo' as in roof, put your tongue slightly forwards towards the lower teeth ridge.
V. Like English. (very=väldigt)
X. Like English, 'ks'. (ýxá=axe)
Y. Say 'ee' and round you lips.
Z. Only in loan-words. Pronounced like 's'. (zoo=zoo)
Å,Ä,Ö. See above.
tj= say 'cheese' without the 't' sound in front of it.
sj= same as tj. Or hard like 'ch in Sc. 'loch' in front of hard vowels.
sk= like 'ch' in Sc. 'loch'in front of soft vowels.
sch= same as tj, sj.
gn= in the word 'ugn' (oven) for example prononuced ng-n. [oongn]
ng= never like ng-g like in English, but 'ng' has to be pronounced together.
gj ('gjorde'=did) pronounced 'j'
hj ('hjälpa'=help) pronounced 'j'
ssj - not so common in modern Swedish, but still...like 'ch' in Sc. 'loch' or like the 'soft' version of 'sj'.
Swedes will of course understand you even if you get this wrong. Actually, many people in Sweden have a hard time noting the difference between soft 'sj' and 'tj', but as long as you're not a very advanced learner, you don't have to take note of this. If you really have to know, 'sj' is pronounced with the tongue a bit forwards in the mouth, when saying 'tj' the tongue is somewhat retracted. But, like I said, there is no obligation to learn this.
N-words and t-words
Before I say anything else, maybe the, what I call them, 'n-words' and 't-words' should be mentioned.
The equivalence of 'a/an' in Swedish is 'en/ett'. There are no rules when to use 'en' [änn] or 'ett' [ätt], you have to learn it by heart.
Let me take some examples:
en stol (a chair) stólen [stuulen] (the chair) stolarna (the chairs)
ett hus (a house) huset (the house) husen (the houses)
en liftare (a hitchhiker) liftaren (the hitchhiker) liftarna (the hitchhikers)
There are some words which are the same in singular as in plural. We have that in English too, 'deer/deer', 'fish/fish' and so on.
Some of these words in Swedish are:
krig (war, nominative singular) krig (wars, nominative plural)
träd (tree, nom. sing.) träd (trees, nom. pl.)
rum (room, nom. sing.) rum (rooms, nom. pl.)
skepp (ship, nom. sing.) skepp (ships, nom. pl.)
If you don't know what nominative is, it is the 'first case' when putting a case on words.
The ones there are in Swedish are:
Nominative (the 'basic form' such as 'room'('rum'), 'tree'('träd')or 'galaxy'('galáx'))
Genitive (expresses ownership i.e. Emma's, Charles', Peter's. Although Swedes do not use the apostrophe, well, some do, but it's because the 'Anglification'. It is not correct.)
Dative (in the sentence 'I gave the cookies to him', 'him' is the dative case of 'he'. The sentence is in Swedish 'Jag gav kakorna till honom', whereas 'honom' is dative case of 'han', 'he'.
Accusative (in the sentence 'I gave the cookies to him', 'cookies' are the accusative object)
jag-mig [mäj] = I-me
du-dig [däj] = you-you
han-honom = he-him
hon-henne = her-her
vi-oss = we-us
ni-er = you-you (pl.) (or sing. polite, not used very much)
de-dem =they-them (both pronounced [domm])
Genitive in Swedish
Like I have said, the genitive case expresses ownership. I will now write the personal pronouns with their genitive form.
jag-min/mitt(n-words,t-words)=I-my (pl. 'mina')
du-din/ditt =you-your (pl. 'dina')
han-hans =he-his (pl. 'hans')
hon-hennes =she-her (pl. 'hennes')
vi-vår =we-our (pl. 'våra')
ni-er =you(pl.; sing. pol.)-your
Some phrases and words.
My name is...= jag heter...
What is your name?= Vad heter du (sing.), ni(pl.)?
How are you?= Hur mår du?
Good morning= God morgon
Good day= God dag
Good afternoon = God eftermiddag
Good evening= God kväll
Good night= God natt
A more colloquial way to say 'hej', is 'tja'. Use this only to people you know well, or people younger than yourself.
Do you have any fish?=Har du någon fisk?
Yes= ja (long, dark 'a')
No=Nej (like 'nay')
And= och [okk]
I can't speak Swedish.= Jag kan inte prata svenska.
I can speak a little Swedish.= Jag kan prata lite svenska.
My Swedish is utterly perfect.= Min svenska är otroligt perfekt.
If, about, in (in, pertaining to time, ie 'in two hours', 'om två timmar')=om
If you really want to seem Swedish, use these 'Swenglish' (svengelska) phrases:
'I don't feel again you'=I don't recognise you
'Do it if'= do it again, for example if you did anything wrong.
one=en, ett, also the equivalence of 'a, an' in English. There are no rules when to say 'en' and when to say 'ett'. Just guess.
six=sex (yes I know, it's embarassing, but just say it)
seventeen=sjutton (hard sj sound, a bit like Sc. 'loch' but not really as hard)
twenty=tjúgó (it isn't really pronounced [tjugu] very often, as people think it takes to long to say. Therefore Swedes say [tjuge] or [tjugi]. But, of course, all of those are right to say)
...just keep adding on...
one-hundred=étthúndra (you can simply say 'húndra' too)
...just keep adding on...
one thousand=ett túsen (or túsen)
...keep adding on...
one million=en miljón
two million=två miljóner
one billion=en miljard
two billion=två miljarder
I would like a room for (number)= jag skulle vilja ha ett rum för (siffra)
I hope you enjoy your stay in Sweden, and remember to bring your 'Liftarens guide till galaxen' (I won't tell you which book it is, only that is involves some sort of guide)
Have a nice trip, trevlig resa!
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