Sweden is a great place to visit, and learning a bit of the language is a great way to start your vacation early and help yourself during your trip.

How to pronounce Swedish words and Swedish Phrases

While the Swedish language uses almost the same alphabet as English, with a few additional letters, there are some clear differences in pronunciation. We will start with vowels and move on to unique consonants and combinations.

“a” is pronounced “ah” like the “a” in “saw.”

“e” is pronounced “eh” like in “sell.”

“i” is pronounced “ee” like in “heel.”

“o” is pronounced “ouh” with a sound between “oh” and “oo.”

“u” is pronounced “oo” like in “cool.”

“y” Is is challenging for English speakers and is pronounced “oo” with the lips pulled up and back, which makes it sounds almost like “uhh” but not quite.

“å” is also challenging for English speakers. The best way to explain it is to try and “oh” and “ah” at the same time to reach a sound somewhere between them.

“ä” is pronounced “aa” like the “a” in “cat.”

“ö” is pronounced “uh” like in “fun.”

“j” is pronounced like our y consonant sound. For example the “y” in “young.”

“g” is pronounced like an English y consonant sound if it is immediately before an “e”, “i”, “ä”, or “ö”. Or it is pronounced like an English g if it is before an “a”, “o” or “å.”

“k” is pronounced like a “sh” if it is before an “e”, “i”, “ä”, or “ö.” Or it is pronounced like an English “k” if it is before an “a”, “o” or “å.”

“rs” is pronounced like “sh” from “mush.”

Swedish Phrases and words to learn before you go

No matter where you are traveling, it’s a good idea to learn some basic words and phrases to communicate. This is especially important for information which might be written, such as signs. Let’s walk through a possible scenario using. You arrive in Sweden. You want to call the person you’re meeting to let them know you’ve arrived. Looking around, you see a lot of signs with strange words. Some of them have helpful symbols, others do not. Suddenly, one sign catches your eye. The Swedish phrase “Offentlig Telefon” is printed clearly. Luckily, you have learned that that Swedish phrase means public telephone.

After calling your friend, you realize you need a washroom after your long flight. You find the sign that reads “Toalett” and follow it. When you locate the facilities, one door is labeled “Herrar” for men, and the other is labeled “damer” for women. After utilizing the appropriate toilets, you head toward the “Utgång” or exit, of the airport to collect your baggage and meet your friend.

This is just an example of how learning a few basics of the local language can make travel smoother and less stressful. So what words should you focus on learning before you go? There are basic nouns that are helpful for navigation and simple communication of needs, and a couple of other words which have to do with politeness. In total, 50 to 100 words is all you need to function at the start. Luckily, Swedish also has many English cognates, or words, that appear similar and hold the same meaning in both languages. Here are some helpful cognates you may recognize.

“Öppen” means “open” in English. “Toalett” means “toilet” or “restroom” in English. “Polisstation” means “police station” in English. “Bussen” means “bus” in English. Last but not least is “bank” which, of course, means “bank” in English.

Some are a little less obvious but are still somehow familiar.

“Utgång” means “exit” in English and sounds sort of similar to “out-going.” “Ingång” means “entrance” in English and also sounds similar to “in-going”. “Fullt” means “full” or “no vacancies” in English.

Even with the cognates, there are many words and phrases in Swedish that sound very different to English. Here are the numbers zero through ten listed in Swedish. Noll, ett, två, tre, fyra, fem, sex, sju, åtta, nio, tio. To ask the cost of something, you would ask “hur mycket kostar den?” Which seems similar to “how much costs them?”

Time-based vocabulary can also be useful. Here are the days listed Monday through Sunday in Swedish. Måndag, Tisdag, Onsdag, Torsdag, Fredag, Lördag, and Söndag. “Today” is “idag,” “tomorrow” is “imorgon,” and “yesterday” is “igår.” “Morning” and “afternoon” are “morgonen” and “eftermiddagen” respectively. To ask the time you would say “vad ar klockan?”

Transportation words are also helpful. “Train” in Swedish is “Tåget,” “tram” is “spårvagnen,” and “boat” is “båten.” “Bus stop,” “tram stop,” and “train stop” are “busshållplatsen,” spårvagnshållplatsen,” and “tågstationen” respectively.

Finally, some basic pleasantry words are useful. To introduce yourself, say “jag heter [name].” To ask for someone else’s name, say “vad heter du?” “Yes” is “ja” and “no” is “nej.” “Please” is “snälla” or “vänligen,” “thank you” is “tack,” and “your welcome” is “varsågod.” Saying “excuse me” can either be “ursäkta mig” or “förlåt.”

To greet someone say “Hej.” To say “goodbye” use either “adjö” or “hej då.” If you don’t understand someone, let them know by saying the Swedish phrase “jag förstår inte.” And finally, to ask if someone speaks English, say “talar du engelska?”

Luckily, almost everyone in Sweden speaks English well. If you get stuck, you can always get help. That said, it’s always polite to learn some basics of the local language before you go, even if you don’t technically need them.