My Swedish (language) story

It comes to no surprise that life after the PhD can bring you anywhere. In the beginning, many students from abroad think that they are going to spend between one and a maximum of five years in Sweden. Afterwards, they will continue their work-life journey somewhere else. That is one of the most common reasons they do not study Swedish. In this post, I will try to encourage you by sharing my personal experience and information from my colleagues on where to learn the Swedish language and why it might be important.

First, I will tell you a short story. I live in Solna, but work at KI campus Flemingsberg. Every morning I take the KI commuter bus at 7.20 and spend around 30 minutes reading or sleeping. No surprise, that once, leaving the bus, I forgot my favourite winter gloves on the seat. I was sad because it was a gift from my very close friend. Luckily, the same day, when I was going back home with the bus from Flemingsberg, the bus driver announced that at the front seat there were several things, lost by the passengers. There I found my winter gloves. However, a small detail could have completely changed the happy-end of this life episode. The driver made the announcement in Swedish, and without speaking or understanding this language my chances to get my gloves back were close to zero.

KI provides many opportunities for new students and researchers to study Swedish. In cooperation with BBi Communication, newcomers learn not only the basics of the language but also more about the culture and life in Sweden. I recommend this course to those who also want to meet new people outside their department. Moreover, after the completion of the two basic courses, you can continue studying with BBi. In this case, your PI can pay for the course (many have specifically allocated funding for that). So if you are interested, check their website and talk to your boss.

The second place where you can go to study Swedish is SFI – Swedish for foreigners, but this option is available only after getting a Swedish personal number (personnummer). Courses are free of charge. There are many schools around the city, so there is no problem in finding the most convenient school. There are several levels of studies at SFI: A, B, C and D. Usually, students who speak also English, in addition to their mother tongue, directly go to Level C. However, I heard many complaints about the inefficiency of SFI because of big groups (up to 25 people) and no speaking practice: everybody simply switches to English.

I was lucky enough to get into the group at Level D to an amazing young teacher from Serbia. Seeing my determination in learning the language, she transferred me to a Level D group with the non-English speaking students. I ended up with five adults from some Arabic and South American countries. The size of the group allowed me to ask the teacher any question about grammar or my writing. During the breaks, I had to speak Swedish in order to talk to my classmates.

This is my tip: try to get into a non-English speaking group. It will help you to overcome the initial shyness and insecurity of not speaking properly.


The book that I used for studies at Komvux

After SFI you can continue with Komvux.They provide education for adults necessary, for example, for future admission to the university. The municipality (kommun) where you live pays for your courses at Komvux. However, it is important to get an A-E grade in order to continue with the next levels. If you want to know the details about the national exams (nationella prov, NP) at SFI and Komvux, check here. The completion of the NP and the final certificate Svenska som andra språk 3 (SVA3) are necessary for Socialstyrelsen for legitimation as a specialist with foreign education, for example, medical doctors or nurses.


My first NP at ABF Stockholm. You need your knowledge, dictionary, a pen, water bottle and banana =)

The third place to check for the Swedish courses is Folkuniversitetet. I have never studied there but heard many good comments from my colleagues about the university courses.

Last, but not least, I will definitely recommend checking SVT Play no matter what is your level in Swedish. It is an incredible source of the news, old and new movies, documentaries, and popular science films. I constantly improve my listening and understanding skills by watching the channel with subtitles in Swedish.

Set your goal first.

No doubts, the information above will bring any benefit if there is no future purpose and determination to learn the language. For example, set a goal to work as a medical doctor in Sweden. Speaking Swedish is only one of the many steps on the way to läkarelegitimation, but one of the most important ones. Note, that if you already speak the language, for the certificate you might only need to complete an exam, for example, Tisus. In addition, in terms of career, it is no secret, that one of the key things that helped many to get a job in the industry after graduation was their ability to speak Swedish.

My overall conclusion is: learn Swedish. Start as early as you can.

It is easy to fall in love with Sweden (or a Swedish person) to wish to stay here much longer than just a year or two. Study Swedish in respect to the country, you are going to spend at least six months or maybe the whole life. For the sake of your future career. To understand better people with whom you work and have a Friday- or any-other-day-fika. Learn Swedish because of its beauty and melodic tune. Lycka till!


Photo: taken by the author, cover image dowloaded from

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