Learning Swedish: the fast way to fluency

If you’re an international resident of Stockholm, learning Swedish can seem a painfully slow process. Perhaps you’ve become reluctant to risk even trying to speak the language with the locals – after all, their English is largely faultless.

Learning Swedish: the fast way to fluency
Photos: SIFA

But the truth is you’re missing out. Learning Swedish could help you make new connections, open up greater opportunities, and give you the chance to better understand your host country. 

A new, intensive course offered by the City of Stockholm has been designed to help you chart a clear path towards Swedish proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening. And while the course is completely free, it’s primarily aimed at graduates – and can help you move forward at surprising speed.

Learn Swedish in Stockholm the fast way – find out the upcoming application deadlines to start studying in March

Pace-setting for professionals

The course, Intensive Studies in Swedish, is provided by SIFA (Stockholms intensivsvenska för akademiker), which is run as part of the City of Stockholm’s adult education programmes.

It provides Swedish courses designed to help highly-educated professionals push themselves – with plenty of help from their teacher and class-mates. Students come from all around the world, including across Europe, Russia, the Middle East, North America, and South America. To apply, you need to be a resident of Stockholms Stad municipality and be used to studying at a high pace.

Structured support 

Unlike the free, national Swedish for immigrants (SFI) programme, SIFA’s courses have a distinct structure. You can therefore only join on a few particular dates during the year (keep reading for more details). New students signing up for Intensive Studies in Swedish will start from either SFI C level (for those without any prior knowledge of the language) or SFI D. 

You can eventually work your way through six courses – each usually lasting nine weeks – across three levels. After finishing a course, you usually start the next one immediately (although you can delay this and return to the next level later on if you so wish). 

 You can sign up for either the online course or the classroom option. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the latter is also currently done through remote study. However, the classroom course still involves up to 25 hours of teaching hours per week. 

The online course, on the other hand, involves no more than three-and-a-half hours of teaching per week. You’re then free to do the remainder of your studies in your own time – whenever and wherever you wish.

Intensive studies in Swedish: find out more about the online and classroom options

“It’s intensive and that’s what’s good about it,” says Paulina Dekoj, a teacher on the online course. “There’s a structure that keeps everyone on the same page. But people can also manage their own time to do what they need every day.” 

The pace helps people who “know a couple of languages already” to thrive, she says. But Dekoj also emphasises how SIFA provides flexibility to support its students. “I have a 30-minute one-to-one session with each student weekly and that can be in the evening if needed,” she says. “If you’re too busy with work or kids, you can also double the 9-week length of a course.”

Clearly defined goals and benefits 

SIFA has been teaching Swedish to graduates since 2005, mainly through courses tailored for specific vocational groups. The new Intensive Studies in Swedish course is for all qualified graduates and prepares you for working life in Sweden or undertaking university studies in Swedish. SIFA puts equal emphasis on reading, listening, speaking, and writing, as well as developing your grammar and vocabulary. 

Anirban Dey, who moved to Stockholm from India in 2018, has been studying at SIFA since early 2020. He says he had already tried an SFI course at a different institution, which had left him “disheartened”.

Photos: SIFA/Anirban Dey

“I found the course structure disorganised and I couldn’t find the motivation to continue,” he admits. “But at SIFA, there’s a distinct starting point, tiered outcomes on an almost weekly basis and a clear end goal. I’m fully motivated to continue until I reach my goals.”

In addition to your career or studies, learning Swedish could also prove vital to long-term integration. Sweden’s government recently outlined proposals that would require people applying for Swedish citizenship to demonstrate Swedish language skills in speaking, writing, reading and listening.

“Language is the key to work, but also the key to society,” said Morgan Johansson, Sweden’s Justice and Migration Minister as he outlined the proposals. The government is also looking separately at whether language skills should be required for permanent residence in Sweden.

Ready to learn Swedish the fast way? Click here to find out more about SIFA’s Intensive Studies in Swedish and how you can apply. The application deadline for the next online course is March 5th and the deadline for the next classroom course is February 26th.

For members


How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Stockholm?

The cost of renting an apartment directly in Stockholm has risen over the last year, but the price of sublets is stable or falling. Here's how much you can now expect to pay in Sweden's biggest city.

How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Stockholm?

Sweden’s housing market is tightly controlled, with rents from the big private and municipal landlords set in negotiations with the Swedish Tenants’ Association, or Hyresgästsförening. Subletting rents – theoretically at least – are supposed to cover the costs of the apartment without making a profit.

So far this year, the hikes agreed with the Tenants’ Association have been well below the headline rate of inflation, meaning rents are falling in Sweden in real terms. The latest statistics on sublets, meanwhile, indicate that, in many areas, rents have been falling even in nominal terms – without being adjusted for inflation.

“In the wake of economic crisis, interest rate hikes and inflation, more and more Swedes are seeing the need to rent out part or all of their property,” explained Fredrik Strömsten, chief executive of Qasa, which runs Blocket’s property listings site, in a report in April.

There had, he said, been an “explosive increase in the number of sublets”. 

How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Stockholm directly? 

The most recent rental numbers from Statistics Sweden data back to the end of 2022.

These show that while upmarket areas like Östermalm and Södermalm are the most expensive areas to rent in, so-called “first-hand apartments” (apartments rented directly via the municipality’s housing queue) there are only about a third more expensive than much less desirable areas of the city. 

These rates, however, give quite a misleading idea of the real cost of living in these parts of the city.

With queues for rental apartments in these areas running to longer than ten years, most foreigners coming to the capital are unlikely to ever get a chance to rent at such rates, and we’ll get to that further down in the article.

Nonetheless, rents across Sweden are rising more slowly than inflation and Stockholm is no exception. According to Hem & Hyra, the news site run by the Tenants’ Association, the big private and municipal landlords proposed hiking rents by an average of 9.04 percent at the start of the year, but by the end of February the Tenants’ Association had managed to bargain this down to 4.22 percent.

So if you’re lucky enough to get to rent an apartment directly from a municipal or private landlord, you can expect to pay about 5 percent more than the numbers in the table above. 


What are rents like outside central Stockholm? 

If you decide to live outside central Stockholm, rent can be considerably cheaper, but it can also more expensive if you live in the desirable municipalities such as Täby, which is home to the Danderyd area where many of Stockholm’s richest have their villas.  

How much does it cost to sublet an apartment in Stockholm? 

As a foreigner coming to Sweden, you are much more likely to end up subletting an apartment, using sites like Blocket or The Local’s own rental platform

Although Sweden’s rental rules are designed to prevent subletting for profit, in reality you will often find yourself paying a hefty premium.

But according to the most recent statistics from Blocket and Qasa, sublet rents are stable or falling as cash-strapped renters are forced to sublet rooms or their entire apartments.

The number of sublet announcements on their platform for Stockholm was 78.8 percent higher in the first three months of this years than it was in the first three months of 2022.

As you might expect, sublets in Norrmalm, Östermalm and Södermalm are the priciest, going for roughly double what you would pay for directly leasing an apartment in these areas.