Absolute beginner #1 - Hej! An introduction to Swedish

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The Swedish language

Swedish is a small Scandinavian language spoken in northern Europe. It’s the administrative language in Sweden and some regions in Finland and belongs to the Germanic language family. This means that Swedish is related to German, Dutch, and English but also, more closely, to Danish and Norwegian. In fact these languages are more or less mutually intelligible (depending on how much exposure the listener has had to the languages) because of the common origin in Old Norse.

If you already know one of these languages, Swedish will definitely feel somewhat familiar to you.


Now, let’s learn your first bit of Swedish! To greet someone in Swedish, you use the word hej, which sounds much like hey in English. However, this is not an informal expression but the most common neutral greeting. It’s one of the most important bits of Swedish that you could ever learn.

hej då
good bye

Simple sentences

Swedish is considered easy to learn in that sense, that you don’t need to modify words depending on whom you are talking about. In English, for instance, you have to conjugate the verb, as it’s called in fancy linguistic lingo, depending on who performs the action.

be vara
(I) am är
(you) are är
(she) is är
(we) are är

Can you spot which word är is related to?

So to start constructing sentences in Swedish you only have to have a subject: a thing that IS something. Jag and det are good words to start with. Then you move on with är and then you add something that your subject is going to be.

Jag är amerikan.
I'm an American.
Jag är britt.
I'm a Brit.
Det är bra.
It's good.
In spoken Swedish, you’ll mostly hear jag being realized as /ja/ and är as /e/ or /ä/. That is, both words lose their ending consonant.