Scandinavian language challenge day 2

I am continuing the Scandinavian language challenge I started yesterday. Today, I started Swedish. I am using Swedish in Three Months (1998), published by Dorling Kindersley under the Hugo imprint. This book contains a preface, a guide to pronunciation (and spelling), 12 chapters, reading practice (4 pages) a key to the exercises and drills, a min-dictionary and an index. The book contains 254 pages and is laid out clearly and attractively, with plenty of white space.

At the end of each chapter is a consolidated list of all the new words introduced in the chapter. The Danish and Norwegian books in the series do not have this helpful feature: they contain only separate short lists of new words in each section of a chapter.


The Swedish alphabet contains the same 29 letters as Danish (see day one of the challenge), except that it uses ä instead of æ and ö instead of ø.


The following points struck me about the description of the vowels:

  • Long o and long u are pronounced with very rounded and protruding lips. I have often noticed this feature listening to Swedes speaking English.
  • Long å is pronounced like English aw as in saw, eg båt (boat)
  • Short å is pronounced like English o as in got, eg fått (got). In general, the vowels are much shorter than English vowels. Vowels may be short or long. They are always short before a double consonant and almost always long before a single consonant followed by another vowel.

The following consonants require attention:

  • g, k and sk are mostly pronounced as in English, but before a stressed front vowel (e, i, y, ä, ö), g and sk are pronounced like English y and sh, and g is pronounced like German ch in ich.
    • spellings of the sound pronounced as English y are: g (as in the name Göran, dj (as in djur, animal), gj (as in gjorde (did), hjärta (heart), ljus (light).
    • spellings of the sound pronounced as English sh (but with rounded lips) are: sk (as in skida, ski), skj (as in skjorta, shirt), stj (as in stjärna, star), ti (as in station, station)
    • spellings of the sound pronounced as the German ichlaut in ich are: k (as in kär, dear), tj (as in tjugo, twenty) and kj (as in kjol, skirt)
    • ng is always pronounced as ng in English sing, not as in English finger.
      regna (rain) is pronounced reng-na
  • c is pronounced as in English sit, except in a few borrowed words where it is pronounced like English (eg camping).
  • j is generally like English y.
  • r is ‘trilled as in Scottish’, but is not trilled in the combinations rd, rl, rt, rn. The combination rs is pronounced rsh as in English harsh, even if the r and s are in different words (eg var snäll, please)
  • as in Danish, s is always unvoiced (like English sit, not like English rise)
  • l is pronounced clear (unvelarised) as in English lip, not dark (velarised) as in english all

The other consonants are pronounced broadly as in English.

Swedish consonants written double must be pronounced long, eg flicka (girl), kvinna (woman).


The main stress generally falls on the first syllable of the word, but occasionally follows on the last syllable in words borrowed from foreign languages. Words prefixed with the (unstressed) prefixes be-, ge- or för are usually stressed on the second syllable, eg: betyda (to mean), gemensam common), förklara (to explain).

Long vowels are much longer than in English. A stressed vowel is long if it:

  • comes at the end of a one syllable word, eg: tre (three), gå (walk); or
  • is followed by only a single consonant., eg bil (car), båt (boat). But the vowel is short in many common words ending in m or r, eg rum (room), hon (she).

Unstressed vowels are always short.


A distinctive feature of Swedish (and, indeed, Norwegian, but not Danish) pronunciation is tone. I won’t try to describe that complexity.

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