Is this your shortcut to a job in Sweden’s tech industry?

How do you get a job in Sweden’s competitive tech industry if you’re new to the country and don’t speak the language? Enter SFX-IT, a specialised language course tailored for foreign techies living in Sweden.

Is this your shortcut to a job in Sweden’s tech industry?
Photo: nullplus/Deposit Photos

Programming languages are the same worldwide but the same can’t be said for local languages. Here in Sweden, you can often get by in English but if you really want to integrate you need some Swedish under your belt.

This is true in all walks of Swedish life and the tech industry is no exception. It’s the basis of SFX-IT, a Swedish language course that comes with a side serving of tech industry lingo, coding courses, networking opportunities and other professional pointers.

Day students who attend the programme at the C3L Center for Lifelong Learning in Tyresö, 30 minutes south of central Stockholm, split their time between language lessons and other tech-related topics.

Find out more about Swedish for Programmers

SFX-IT also organises frequent seminars in partnership with local tech companies. Just recently, consultancy firm Axakon was invited to SFX-IT to talk about the Swedish IT market and the kind of skills that are most in demand.

Axakon’s talent manager Tobias Carlsson explains that having a presence at SFX-IT is mutually beneficial for everyone involved.

“We knew it would be a win-win situation for both of us. It’s good to help the community of people coming to Sweden and wanting to learn more about the IT market here.”

Of course, no good deed goes unrewarded and in turn, Axakon’s presence at SFX-IT connects the firm with Sweden’s up-and-coming foreign tech talent.

“It’s a very good place to market ourselves since we are always recruiting people. We’re growing and that’s a room full of people who are within the IT market and possibly looking for work.”

READ ALSO: Swedish for Programmers: the secret to getting a job

Tobias explains that the seminar, which is in Swedish, covers generic information about the Swedish tech market as well as topics students were keen to hear more about concerning networking and the recruitment process.

“We just focus on keeping the Swedish simple and speaking slowly,” says Tobias. “Then if anyone has any questions or wants me to repeat something, I go over it again.”

It’s a great way, he says, to meet potential candidates as well as excellent branding for the company.

“We usually don’t put out ads, we just recruit through knowing the right people,” explains Tobias. “Meeting 30 new students, we get to know a lot of people who are interested and have the right knowledge. One student is coming to their second interview with us today.”

Online language lessons

Not everyone has the time to travel to Tyresö for daily lessons on-site. For those people, who may be working full-time or have other commitments, SFX-IT also offers an online evening course.

Find out more about Swedish for Programmers

Venezuelan software developer Yennifer Chacon moved to Sweden four years ago. She had already tried SFI and found it not to be a good fit, so was curious when a colleague at Ericsson mentioned SFX-IT.

Photo: Yennifer Chacon

“I thought it sounded very interesting because she told me it wasn’t just Swedish but also you can take programming courses and get a certification.”

Yennifer was quick to sign up and take the programming test required to get a place on the programme. She explains that while there is one two-hour class per week, she supplements this with a few hours of independent learning and homework.

“All the work is really focused on IT and programming,” she says. “I think that’s really good because it’s focused on your area and things you are already interested in.”

SFX-IT Swedish tutor Karin Arhamn explains: “I try to slowly introduce Swedish words which you can use when you work with computers or programming.”

She says that lessons are conducted through a system called ClassLive which can be accessed through SFX-IT’s online portal. All students need to do is tune in for two hours a week and follow as Karin presents the lesson using a PowerPoint.

“I instruct them on grammar, read to them and create subjects for discussion on ClassLive. I let the students have influence over what they want to learn and this gives a direction to what we work on during the lessons.”

Photo: SFX-IT Swedish tutor Karin Arhamn

READ ALSO: Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'

Yennifer is confident that her Swedish has improved since starting the course and is already beginning to see the learning take effect each day at work.

“In my team, there are many Swedish people so even though I am not brave enough to start a conversation in Swedish, it has really helped me to communicate with them and integrate more than before.”

It’s not just Yennifer’s Swedish language skills that SFX-IT has helped her to improve. She now also has her certification in Java, one of two programming languages students have the option to learn.

“You read a book and at the end of the course you take an exam to get a voucher for a certification. This is great for your CV; the certification itself is worth more than $250 (€216) but you get it for free.”

She is quick to encourage other foreigners to choose SFX-IT if they are keen to learn Swedish and pursue a career in Sweden’s tech industry.

“I really would recommend anyone to join it. It’s been very good for me and will be very good for anyone else who really wants to learn Swedish.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by SFX-IT.


13 sure signs you’ve mastered the Swedish language

Anyone who's attempted it will admit that the Swedish language has its tricky aspects. The unique sounds, the rules regarding word order, and the frankly obscene number of plural forms all make it difficult to master, leaving many learners uncertain how to reply when asked the inevitable questions of 'do you speak Swedish?' and the ensuing 'so are you fluent?' The good news is, if you identify with most of the items on this list, you're well on your way.

13 sure signs you've mastered the Swedish language
Learning Swedish is about more than just picking up the grammar. Here's how you know you've cracked it. Photo: Simon Paulin/

Locals no longer switch to English for your sake…

Learning Swedish is a bit of a catch 22: to improve your language, you need to talk to native speakers, but most of them have a tendency to switch to English the moment they detect a sniff of uncertainty.

It's always a milestone the first time you make it through a conversation with native friends without them needing to translate a term for you or dissolving into laughter at your mispronunication or misunderstanding. When people stop challenging you to say the phrase 'sju sjuka sjuksköterskor', or when you don't even flinch if they do, you know you've officially levelled up.

… but you sometimes do

This one's another paradox. Many Swedes, particularly of the younger generation, tend to slip English words and phrases into conversation, even with other native Swedish speakers. Most of the time, there's a perfectly usable Swedish equivalent, but phrases like 'you only live once', 'crazy', and 'oh my God' often creep into informal speech as well as TV programmes and adverts.

It's probably due to picking up these phrases from American TV or films, or switching language to add emphasis or nuance to a phrase, and it's not surprising because of Swedes' high level of English: switching between languages, also called code-switching, is common among bilinguals across the world.

Swedish learners, however, tend to be diligent about using the Swedish they know whenever possible. Once you start saying 'najs' (pronounced like 'nice') instead of 'trevlig' on occasion, or otherwise peppering your speech with English phrases again, it's actually a sign you're confident in your Swedish.

You know when things are good or bad

Good and bad are among the most frequently used terms in any language, but the Swedish variations are loaded with nuances the beginner might miss. 'God/tt' is used to describe food and in some set phrases, while 'bra' means 'good' in a more general sense, and 'fin' usually emphasizes appearance. 

A fin smörgås? Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

It's the same when it comes to the negative words, and the two translations for 'worse' (sämre and värre) often confuse non-natives. Here, the rule is that you use 'värre' to describe something inherently bad, and 'sämre' if the object you're describing is neutral. It sounds impossibly fussy, but after time it becomes second nature.

Prepositions? No problem

Prepositions are the little words like 'on', 'in', and 'from' or '', 'i', and 'från' in Swedish, and while they're usually small words, they can cause big problems since their usage varies from language to language.

For example, if you're asked where your colleague is, a native English speaker might say 'hon är i toaletten' (she is in the toilet) directly translating the usual English phrase. But that will get you some strange looks, since in Swedish it implies she's literally inside the toilet bowl, and the correct phrase is 'på toaletten'. Another preposition problem is the difference between 'i en timme', 'om en timme', and 'på en timme', so if you know when to use each of those, give yourself a pat on the back (that one's got a direct translation: 'en klapp på axeln').

You don't know how you survived without Sweden's ultra-specific vocabulary

Linguists generally think that the language you speak doesn't have an impact on your values, but if you're learning Swedish through living in the country and chatting with locals, your cultural perceptions are bound to change. How did you go so long without a specific word for an unsightly pile of groceries on a supermarket conveyor belt (that's 'varuberg'), not to mention the classics 'fika' and 'lagom'?

And when it snows, you've got no shortage of words to describe the scene outside, whether you're dealing with 'slask', 'pudersnö', 'kramsnö', 'snömos', or the explosive-sounding 'snökanon'. A promising sign that your Swedish skills are soaring is when you start using these words in your native language too, because they just sum up what you want to say so precisely.

That feeling when you know the exact word to describe the type of snow on the ground. Photo: Helena Wahlman/

It’s infiltrated your English

The flipside to the above is that you might find your Swedish instincts taking over a little too much. This might be due to false friends (saying 'under the year' instead of 'during') or translating things too directly (saying food has 'gone out', based on the Swedish verb 'gå ut', instead of 'expired' or 'gone off'). It's the downside of language-learning no-one ever warns you about; the more expertise you gain in one, the more your others deteriorate.

Swearing and oj-ing in Swedish

When you've just stubbed your toe or fallen off your bike, practising Swedish is the last thing on your mind. The words you use in times when emotions are running high are instinctive, so if 'fan' or 'oj!' come out before the equivalent terms in your first language, the chances are good that you're close to mastering Swedish.

Filler words

Along similar lines, the words you use when you're thinking of what to say next are also a giveaway of your language skills. Once you've swapped your 'erm' and 'like' for 'ah' and 'liksom', you'll be sounding Swedish even when you're getting tongue-tied.

Photo: Emelie Asplund/

You’ve picked up the local lingo

There's the Swedish you learn in your textbook and then there's the Swedish you actually use. When you start picking up the local grammatical quirks and dialect words, you know you've made it.

In Skåne, that might mean saying 'påg' and 'tös' instead of 'pojke' and 'flicka', and if it's the birthday of the child in question, you might call them the 'födelsesdagsgris' (literally 'birthday pig', but we promise this is an affectionate term). In Stockholm, you might refer to the main train station (T-Centralen) as TC, the subway as 'tricken' or a taxi as 'en bulle'.

You no longer bat an eyelid when you reach the 'slutstation'

Some would argue this is a measure of maturity rather than language proficiency. The Swedish language has a lot of words that on first glance sound amusing or downright rude to English-speakers: 'fart', 'sex', 'kock', 'bra', and of course the aforementioned 'slutstation'. When you start to wonder why people are giggling at the words 'speed', 'six', 'chef', 'good', and 'final stop', you know that your Swedish is becoming instinctive.

You know when to use 'hans/hennes' and 'sin/sitt/sina'

When it comes to possessives, 'hans', 'hennes', and 'sin/sitt/sina' all mean 'his' or 'hers', but the first two refer to something belonging to the subject of the sentence, while 'sin/sitt/sina' introduce something belonging to the sentence's object.

If that sounds boring, just remember it can be an important difference in a sentence like 'Jonas och Henrik är vänner och Jonas älskar sin fru' ('Jonas and Henrik are friends, and Jonas loves his [own] wife' — good for Jonas) and 'Jonas och Henrik är vänner och Jonas älskar hans fru'. In the second example, Jonas is secretly in love with his good friend Henrik's wife. Oj oj oj oj.

Oh, Jonas. File photo: Wavebreakmedia/Depositphotos

You inhale your yeses

When you first started speaking Swedish, you may have wondered why people seemed so surprised at your most mundane statements. Swedes have a habit of breathing in to signal that they are listening to you (usually written as 'ah'), and the word 'ja' (yes) is also often said on an inhale. If you've noticed yourself or others doing this and want to learn more about why this phenomenon exists, The Local has investigated here.


“There's no cow on the ice”. “If there's room in the heart, there's room for the bottom.” “He always shits in the blue cupboard.” “There's a dog buried here.” Those are the direct English translations of just a few of Sweden's curious idioms, and if you know the meaning behind them, you're doing well. And if not, well, you can find out here.

Was there a moment when you realized you'd cracked the Swedish language? Or are there any areas that still trip you up? Members of The Local can comment below.