5 Innovative Ways To Perfect the Swedish Accent
Are you taking the initiative to learn Swedish for an upcoming job relocation or business trip? You may have mastered grammar and vocabulary only to find yourself choking when it comes to simple conversations. This is understandable. Speaking Swedish has an entirely different tone and rhythm from what you’re used to, with plenty of unfamiliar sounds thrown in. Here are the top five ways for you to perfect your Swedish accent and, little by little. Train yourself to speak like a native Swede!
1. Be careful with your vowels.
As in most languages other than English, the vowel a makes the “ah” sound, as in “father.” The sounds of e, i, o, and u are familiar, but more alien to foreigners will be the vowels y, å, ä, and ё.
While the y makes a sound similar to the clipped German ü, å sounds more like the English short o, ä sounds like the short e, and ë makes a guttural sound similar to the vowel in “fur.” Mastering this aspect is essential to perfect your Swedish accent!
2. Be aware of consonants that change their sounds.
Luckily, the pronunciation of the Swedish alphabet is pretty straightforward. But, like in English, the consonants c, g, and k will change from hard to soft depending on what sort of a vowel they precede. Before the soft vowels e, i, y, ä, and ö, c is pronounced s; g is pronounced y, and k is pronounced ch.
3. Practice difficult sound combinations.
Swedish diphthongs may look strange, but they are all equivalents of English diphthongs. Practice each of these letter combinations to polish your Swedish accent. For example:
- tj and kj are both like our ch.
- sj, rs, and sch are like our sh.
- The sound ng always carries a soft g, as in the word “bling.”
- As in Latin and German, the letter j is like our y.
- Keep in mind, the y sound is also made by the letters dj, gj, hj, and lj.
4. Keep certain sounds soft.
Various consonants have sounds that are ever so slightly different from the way they are in English. For example, their t sounds like a hybrid of our t and th, with the tip of the tongue placed against the teeth. Similarly, the d sound is more like a dh, closer to the th in “their” than our conventional d.
5. Get your pitches right to improve your Swedish accent.
Swedish is a very tonal language. Syllables are spoken in either a high or low pitch. This gives the Swedish accent its characteristic singsong quality, something which has disappeared from most other western languages. As this cannot be learned through a book, your best bet to perfect your tonality is to listen to native speakers and imitate them.
Swedish people may insist on speaking to you in English out of politeness. So, you may find it difficult to find someone to practice your Swedish accent with until your language skills have advanced beyond the intermediate stage. Get started speaking in a classroom setting by sending us an inquiry, or look into our Swedish classes –all taught by native speakers.
This article was published on March 11, 2014, and updated on July 9, 2021.