Resources for learning Swedish

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Dictionaries

Dictionaries help you understand what words mean and how they are used. Often they also provide information on spelling, conjugation, declension and pronunciation. A good dictionary is an essential tool when learning a new language. Here are some dictionaries I recommend, but first a word on bilingual and monolingual dictionaries.

Bilingual and monolingual dictionaries

Monolingual dictionaries explain the words of a language using that language, while bilingual dictionaries provide translations from one language to another.
Bilingual dictionaries are ideal for finding out how words can be translated between two languages. However, they may not contain as much information about the translated words.
If you use a bilingual dictionary to find a translation, it's advisable to also consult a monolingual dictionary to ensure you understand how the word is used. Relying solely on a bilingual dictionary often results in unnatural, word-by-word translations.

WordFinder

WordFinder offers over 500 dictionaries in the same interface. You can choose which dictionaries you want to use, and you can look up words in them at the same time. There are bilingual dictionaries with many language pairs.
I’d particularly like to highlight Natur och kulturs Stora svenska ordbok, a monolingual dictionary that explains Swedish words in a simpler way than Svensk ordbok (SO).
WordFinder can be used both in the browser and as an app on your computer or phone.
Pricing: subscription

Ne.se

Among NE's dictionaries, I particularly recommend Svenskt språkbruk. This dictionary shows how words and expressions are used, e.g. which phrasal verbs a verb can form, which prepositions they use, etc.
Pricing: subscription
 
NE erbjuder flera tvåspråkiga ordböcker mellan några vanliga europeiska språk och fyra enspråkiga ordböcker.
NE erbjuder flera tvåspråkiga ordböcker mellan några vanliga europeiska språk och fyra enspråkiga ordböcker.

Svensk ordbok (SO)

Svensk ordbok published by the Swedish Academy (SO) is a monolingual dictionary available for free on svenska.se. The dictionary is also available as an app for Android and iOS.
SO is mainly intended to be used to look up definitions and usage. It is easier to look up spelling and conjugation in SAOL (see below).
Pricing: free

Svenska Akademiens ordlista (SAOL)

Svenska Akademiens ordlista (SAOL) is a monolingual glossary available for free on svenska.se. The glossary is also available as an app for Android and iOS.
SAOL is primarily intended to be used to look up the spelling and conjugation of words. There are therefore few explanations and examples. I recommend SO or any other dictionary to look this up.
Pricing: free

Folkets lexikon

Folkets lexikon is a Swedish-English dictionary created collectively by people on the internet, similar to Wikipedia. People can add words, translations, synonyms and comments. They can also answer questions about existing entries to improve them.
Generelly, I’d say that the content is of good quality, and the entries contain the information needed for picking the correct translation.
The entry for ska mentions several meanings of the verb and synonyms help the user pick the right translation.
The entry for ska mentions several meanings of the verb and synonyms help the user pick the right translation.
Pricing: free

Wiktionary

Wiktionary is also a dictionary created collectively by people on the internet, and it is in fact part of the Wikipedia family. There is both an English version and a Swedish version. I generally think the English version is better, but try both and see what you think.
Wiktionary often has pretty fleshed out definitions paired with translations and examples. Many words also have usage notes, that help learners to use the word correctly.

Tyda.se

Tyda.se is a Swedish-English bilingual dictionary. The translations aren’t as comprehensive as other dictionaries and nuances are often lost. Nevertheless, tyda.se has many examples, which can help when learning how to use a word.
Pricing: free

Courses and books

There are many online Swedish courses and books available. Here are a few top recommendations based on their my own opinion and recommendations from others.

Duolingo

Duolingo offers a somewhat comprehensive program for studying Swedish. With its interactive lessons, gamified approach, and emphasis on vocabulary, Duolingo provides a structured and engaging environment for learners to learn the Swedish language at their own pace. (Emphasis on learn, not master.)
One downside of using Duolingo for learning Swedish is the poor quality of audio recordings and the lack of thorough grammar lessons.
Currently, Swedish courses are available in English, Arabic and Spanish.
I think Duolingo is a good starting point, as it’s gamified approach can offer some motivation. But I’d recommend moving away from it as you progress.
Pricing: freemium

Memrise

I haven't tried Memrise myself much, but Swedish students I know report that it's more tailored to your individual needs than Duolingo. It teaches you things you actually need, not I'm crying and the onion's laughing.
Beware, though, of the Memrise AI features, as they tend to generate heavily English-influenced sentences and expressions.
Pricing: freemium

Babbel

Babble has personalized lessons tailored to individual learning styles. It puts a lot of emphasis on conversation skills and cultural insights. In my experience, Babbel offers more suitable content for advanced learners than Duolingo and Memrise.
Pricing: freemium

Rivstart

Rivstart is the most popular Swedish language learning book series. It takes you from A1 to C1. It emphasizes practical communication skills through interactive exercises, clear explanations, and cultural insights. The series covers various topics and includes audio tracks to enhance listening and pronunciation skills.
The main pros of this book series according to me:
  • Well-structured
  • Focused on practical language use
  • Has real audio recordings (not computer-generated such as Duolingo and many apps)

Form i fokus (A, B and C)

The grammar book series Form i fokus is aimed at helping learners master essential grammar rules and structures in the Swedish language. It provides somewhat comprehensive explanations, examples, and exercises to reinforce learning.
In my opinion, this is a good complement to Rivstart.
Furthermore, linguistically trained learners may be frustrated with the sometimes oversimplified explanations. Are you one of those? As soon as you know enough Swedish, I’d recommend picking up Svenska Akademiens språklära (SAS). Or if you're really advanced and have a good grasp of linguistics, Svenska Akademiens grammatik (SAG) would be a great choice.

Other tools

DeepL

DeepL is a machine translation tool that offer quite reliable translations from English to Swedish and vice versa.
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Machine translation can be problematic for language learners because it
  • may provide inaccurate translations, leading to misunderstandings
  • discourages active learning and critical thinking necessary for language acquisition
  • can create dependency, hindering the development of language skills and fluency.
The more context (longer sentences and phrases) you provide, the better the resulting translation will be. If you want to translate a single word, put it into a sentence or use a bilingual dictionary instead.
Pricing: free
DeepL sometimes offers alternative translations. In this case, the English you is ambiguous from a Swedish perspective.
DeepL sometimes offers alternative translations. In this case, the English you is ambiguous from a Swedish perspective.

Anki

I have written an entire article about Anki – yes, it’s that good. Read more here:

Glosbe

Glosbe is a kind of dictionary (they brand themselves as the biggest online dictionary) that stands out for its rich collection of example sentences in multiple language pairs. Users can explore the contextual usage of words and phrases in translations to better understand language nuances. That's also what I recommend using it for: collecting example sentences. The dictionary capabilities are quite rudimentary.
Pricing: free

ChatGPT

Using ChatGPT and similar LLMs may do wonders for your motivation. It’s easily accessible and you can use it for translation, practicing conversation and many other things.
However, while ChatGPT can provide conversational practice and instant feedback, it has limitations. The responses may lack nuance and cultural context. It’s evident that ChatGPT understands Swedish through English, as American culture and English expressions and phrasing often shines through.
It is best used as a supplementary tool rather than a primary resource. If you’re looking for machine translation, I’d recommend opting for DeepL.

YouTube

YouTube can be a valuable resource for learning Swedish by watching Swedish YouTubers. Immersing yourself in authentic content like vlogs, entertainment or lifestyle videos can provide exposure to the language in a natural context.
This approach offers a more engaging way to improve vocabulary and listening skills compared to text books.
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I recommend avoiding YouTube channels that explicitly teach Swedish, as many of them are of quite poor quality.
Pricing: free

Google Translate

I never recommend Google Translate. It is problematic for the same reasons as other machine translation tools, but on top of that, it delivers more inaccurate translations than, for example, DeepL. If you want to use machine translation as a tool in your Swedish toolbox, I would recommend DeepL.

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