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.



My Swedish Career: ‘You need to win the hearts of the Swedish people to be able to succeed’

After moving from Nigeria to Sweden, Arinze Prosper Emegoakor struggled with adapting to life in Sweden while staying true to his cultural roots. Now he's starting a business with the aim of telling stories about his African culture and identity - through socks.

My Swedish Career: 'You need to win the hearts of the Swedish people to be able to succeed'
Photo: Maria Stenström

Arinze had tried living in Sweden before returning in 2011, but it was only on his second stint in the country that he felt able to settle down.

“When I was 20 years old, I travelled to the Netherlands and met my ex-wife there who is Swedish”, he recalls. “I lived in Sweden for a short period, but I couldn't stay. It was too difficult for me to adapt to the environment. But I came back, and since 2011 I have been living here in Malmö.”

After joining a kickboxing-gym in the southern city and going out every night to build a social life, Arinze joined the Pan African Movement for Justice. The organization aims for equality for people of African descent in Sweden, and it was here that he found a purpose in his adopted country.

“I got involved in the Pan African Movement for Justice and became a board member of that organization. That provided me with a strong network of people that motivated and educated me. These people are doing something positive in society. That started my journey in Sweden,” he says.

After moving, Arinze remembers struggling with his identity and finding a balance between staying connected to his roots and adapting to his new environment.

“Being raised in Africa and having lived most of my life in the western world, there was a constant struggle about what I believed in and who I was”, he notes.

“The environment in which I was raised and the Swedish norms are very different in terms of how people express [themselves] and how they see things. I want to be a contributor to this society. I don't want to sit and observe. How do I do that and still keep to my core values? How do I adapt and not attract any unnecessary attention? Being an African man while also being a member of Swedish society was hard at first.”

It was all about finding a comfortable balance, something he now thinks he's achieved: “What I did was accept who I am and who I have become. Through my journeys and my stay in Sweden, I've become a hybrid of culture and identity.”

“I cannot completely behave or act like I was in Africa because of the culture and norms in Sweden. But I still have my original values. I mixed my values with the norms of Swedish society. That is the balance.”

During his childhood in Nigeria, Arinze spent a lot of time with his grandmother, who he credits with introducing him to the power of storytelling.

“I found that the people don't usually say 'do not steal' or 'do not lie', but people tell you stories”, he says. “In this story, the thief will get what he deserves. There's a powerful message there. Through storytelling, you take up these values automatically.”

His roots in the Nigerian Igbo culture inspired Arinze to start his own sustainable bamboo sock company called Akụko. And he has put the power of storytelling at the core of the company.

Through the colourful collection of socks, he hopes to start conversations and tell the story of his culture.

“Through storytelling, movement and style esthetics, we make people curious to find out more”, he says. “The design of my first collection is inspired by a musical instrument called ogene, which is a kind of gong. In my village, it is used to call for meetings. When people want to call for a meeting they tell the town crier, and he will go around to play the ogene to gather people.”

Akụko isn't the first business Arinze has started. He learned valuable lessons after starting up an entertainment company for Afrobeat music in 2014.

“We had shows in Malmö and Stockholm. It was fun, but we failed financially”, he says. “I started to wonder: why did we fail? I found that the Swedish people aren't easily impressed, especially when you're an outsider. You have to be humble and connect to them. Win the heart of the people, connect with the society and community around your brand. Go for value and the money will come.”

Arinze hopes that his work on his second business, and its roots in his native culture, will inspire more people of African descent to follow their goals and dreams. “

If they want to start their own business they should go for it”, he says.

“They need to see more people who are like them doing positive things. We can inspire the next generation to do so, be role models. I have documented the blueprint of my journey, and I'm ready to share it with anyone that needs tips about how to crowdfund or how to start up a business. People can always contact me for support on how to realize your their goals in Sweden.”