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


8 surprising perks to living in Sweden that anyone can take advantage of

From endless refillable coffee to free advice for entrepreneurs, moving to Sweden comes with a whole trove of low-key benefits that Swedes are so accustomed to they barely get a mention. The Local’s reader Gemma Casey-Swift shares a shortlist of the more hidden perks she’s discovered.

8 surprising perks to living in Sweden that anyone can take advantage of

Yes, the weather is shocking. University is also free for EU citizens (equally shocking, depending on where you’re from). But beyond the absurd levels of cleanliness, superb transport infrastructure, and the comfort of knowing that if you’re off sick, your boss won’t bother you, there are many other sweet little perks to living in Sweden that everyone should know about.

Refillable Bryggkaffe (even on trains)

Sweden’s love for coffee is deeply ingrained in its culture, with Swedes consuming twice as much of the brown stuff as the average American. One delightful daily perk is the availability of free bryggkaffe (filter coffee) refills almost everywhere, even on trains — which embarrassingly I only realised after three years of commuting between Gävle and Stockholm. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

Juicy tax reductions for home improvements with ROT and RUT

Nobody likes the T word, but before you start yawning, please take advantage of these significant tax breaks when sprucing up your home thanks to two popular tax deduction programs. 

The ROT deduction allows homeowners to get up to 150,000 SEK in tax reductions for renovations, repairs, and maintenance work on their property. The RUT deduction also covers domestic services such as cleaning and babysitting. These programs make home improvement more affordable while boosting the local economy by supporting small businesses.

Free dental care for kids and youths up to age 23

Sweden’s commitment to public health also extends to dental care, where children and young adults receive free dental services until they turn 23. Regular check-ups, orthodontic treatments, and emergency dental care are all included. If only I was 10 years younger.

SEE MORE: How much will I have to pay to go to the dentist in Sweden?

You get paid extra to go on holiday 

If you’re employed in Sweden you’re entitled to a holiday bonus, known as semesterersättning. It typically amounts to 12% of your monthly salary and is paid out during the holiday period so you don’t have to feel guilty about that extra margarita. The idea behind this perk is to ensure everyone has the financial means to enjoy a well-deserved break, promoting a healthy work-life balance and overall well-being. If I could hug Sweden right now, I would.

READ ASLO: Why you get paid MORE when you take time off in Sweden

Affordable guest apartments and communal BBQ areas

If there’s one thing the Swedes have truly mastered, it’s the art of apartment living. Not only do most apartment blocks come with pretty little shared courtyards equipped with barbecues and garden furniture, but many also offer gästlägenheter (guest apartments) or gästrum (guest rooms) that residents can book for as little as 200 SEK per night. Now you have no excuse when your siblings and their swarm of toddlers want to come and visit.

Delish dagens lunch deals

It’s no secret that eating out in Sweden ain’t cheap, but thankfully, you can get special “dagens lunch” (today’s lunch) deals almost everywhere. Even upscale restaurants offer these lunchtime specials, which typically include a main course, salad, bread, and coffee for a very reasonable price. For anyone in Stockholm, Artilleriet and Tennstopet are two great places serving up weekday lunchtime specials for less.

READ ALSO: ‘Dagens’ lunch specials – an unexpected window into Swedish society

Transferable parental leave 

Is it even possible to write this article without mentioning parental leave?

EXPLAINED: Sweden’s 480 days of parental leave: What you need to know

It’s well known that Sweden’s policies in this department are among the most generous in the world, but slightly less well-known is a new law that came into force a few weeks ago, allowing parents to transfer up to 45 days of leave to a close relative. This means Grandad or Aunty Emma can help out with childcare and actually get paid for it. Cute.

Extra support for jobseekers and aspiring entrepreneurs 

Searching for work or starting a company can be daunting, which the Swedish government seems to understand. Both Business Sweden and Stockholm Stad offer free sessions with business counsellors to support start-ups and small businesses.

The rusta och matcha program also pairs jobseekers with career coaches for personalised job search assistance. Additionally, Arbetsförmedlingen (the Swedish Public Employment Service) covers travel expenses for job interviews, making nationwide job opportunities more accessible. These perks can offer a welcome boost during times of career uncertainty. 

All the small things 

Strangely, it’s often the little day-to-day things – not the big things – that make me appreciate my life here. Yes, the weather isn’t exactly great, but I can always daydream about where to spend my holiday bonus over two free coffees and a good dagens lunch deal. 

I hope I’ve missed many other small perks that the people of Sweden can enjoy. Please share any that spring to mind in the comments!