Thread for bilingual DiSers

This thread is for:

  1. Bilingual DiSers to share experiences about being bilingual
  2. Questions from non-bilinguals about the bilingual experience

Who on here considers themselves bilingual anyway? I can think of a couple

  • Bilingual and (at least) twice the fun!
  • Monolingual and only a standard amount of fun
  • I speak a bit of another language(s) but I’m not bilingual

0 voters

Yeah, I guess I was bilingual English/French for a while when living in Paris but it always felt like I was winging it sometimes, even after a year and a half there

Swedish took much longer to get my head around because I never learned it before moving here and everyone speaks English to a pretty high level here

Fully English/Swedish bilingual now. Probably spend 80% of my time speaking Swedish and it’s nice to be able to move into a higher gear than my Swedish colleagues at work when dealing with International stuff

Can’t remember any of my French anymore though

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Yeah, you sound fully Swedish to me from what I’ve heard when we’ve met, though I wasn’t sure at first how much Swedish you did speak! :sweat_smile:

French is such a bastard language btw. Had it for years in school and just couldn’t get the hang of it.


I’ve retained a lot of the basics of French from school but only really used it in shops/hotels when I’ve been on hols there in the last 15+ years. But recently I’ve started a new role at work and half my team are based in France so I’m trying to get past beginner level before I visit them whenever that will be. It’s not easy!

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English and a bit of Hebrew. Tempted to learn Yiddish as it’s just such a rich language. So many wonderfully sounding and, at times, funny words that trip off the tongue. My girl is a full on polyglot, speaking English, Swiss-German, French, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin. Somewhat tempted to get know Swiss-German better, but I’m not that bothered to learn and she’s not bothered to teach me. We get on great.


@SleepingCapybara, what is your other language if you don’t mind me asking? Just curious :nerd_face:

The thing with French is that if you live in France all of this latent stuff that you learned in school that you had no idea that you had retained suddenly all comes out, so that’s good

But so many french people speak SO GODDAM FAST that you sometimes find yourself trying to decode what seems like one long 123 syllable word which is really actually 3 paragraphs of a philosophy textbook, an 18th century poem and the epitaph of a fallen Communard all rolled into one


I speak English and Scots.

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Any particular tips for learning Swedish other than the obvious?

I can muddle through a crime fiction novel and understand 75% of what is going on in films / programmes / general conversation, but feel totally unable to express myself properly. This is after living here for 4 years now, which feels pretty pathetic. I speak English over 90% of the time.

We now have a daughter (9 weeks) so will be interesting how that pans out, language wise (wife is Swedish).

In general (not Swedish-specific) I really think that you have to make a decision to start speaking it. You need practice in constructing sentences, get the sounds right, etc.

Maybe talk to your wife and see if ypu can have like, 30 min of Swedish conversation every day or something? It will be slow at first but think it’ll improve pretty quick!



Don’t do this :slight_smile:

Easier said than done i know but it’s the only way

Also - if your daughter is like other kids i know with mixed-language parents, when she grows up a bit she will almost certainly choose to speak Swedish as her first language (its probably what kids at nursery will speak). To the extent that if you talk to her in English to give her that bilingual start…she will respond to you in swedish. So you better start learning :smile:



where to begin? there’s so much to say

If you’re not too stressed about learning quickly then let yourself just grow into it. There’s a natural time flow with kids as they grow and develop and you read them bedtime stories and learn along with them a bit. Having said that I had a kid with my Estonian-Swedish wife about 5 months after we moved here so you’re lagging a bit if you want the little 'un to bring you up to speed

If you want to learn quickly then I’d suggest you do a Comvux evening course like SvA1, 2, 3 which are high school equivalency (years 1, 2 & 3). They are free (at least they are in Stockholm) and you have the added bonus of not only learning Swedish but being able to put on your CV that you are flytande på svenska with certificates to prove it

It might seem like a bit of a scary step to take but you can contact your local Kommun and they’ll give you a free series of tests to check you’re at the right level to start. Once you do start and you’re given actual exercises to do ie things to talk and write about outside of your daily experience your skills will accelerate

I thought I was crap when I started SvA1 but once the task is a critical essay of a novel or a 10 minute powerpoint presentation on a historical event and you know you can do that in English it just becomes a simple task of learning some jargon and idiom and then you have those things in your language toolbox

The thing for me that really accelerated my Swedish though was working in a school as a TA with years 2/3/4. 8 to 12 year olds… you’ve got to be super sharp as they really put you to the sword with everything - wouldn’t recommend doing that though if you can avoid it :wink:

If you work for an international company but have Swedish clients to take care of then it’s not a bad thing to ask your bosses to pay for some specialist business Swedish lessons

Russian. I’d put my level at C1, I suppose. I have to talk my way around some things (I need more verbs in my diet), but I’m fluent enough, and can watch a Russian-language film without bother

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I am a freelancer dealing with UK clients all day. Most of the friends I have made here love speaking to me in English, and my wife and I have always spoken in English despite numerous attempts to try and stick to Swedish (actually we have started adopting a bit of Swinglish, which is probably bad). But yeah, I definitely have to find a way to speak more for sure.

I have no issue with that, and is pretty much what ends up happening already with my in-laws and in group discussions down the pub or whatever. I can understand what people are saying, but struggle to formulate my response, despite knowing most of the words and grammar I need to say what I want to say. I just freeze up a bit and then revert to English. I do need to stay very focused too - if I zone out, which I often do, then conversations just wash over me a bit.

I will look into this for sure. I feel my understanding of Swedish grammar is reasonably good so it would be fun to put it to the test and establish what level I am actually at. I could ditch the freelancing and get a job with a Swedish / international company easily enough, but doesn’t feel like the ideal moment for that right now!

doesn’t exist

honestly, this is one of the best and worst things about Swedish. The grammar rules are so basic that they don’t really demand any discipline - Great! - but there are so many thousands of undantag from the basic rules anyway that you can really only learn a lot of what’s right and wrong through making a lot of mistakes and having people correct you


Lived in Sweden for 4 years but my Swedish is very basic. It’s embarrassing really, but I work in English and a lot of my friends are international so it’s been very easy to be lazy and coast. Need to sort some lessons out now that we’ve bought a house as it’s a very strong community and there isn’t a tonne of patience for switching to English (which is fair enough).

Also have to accelerate it when we have a kid as we’ll need to know Swedish reasonably well then. I’m English, my gf is Brazilian and we will be in Sweden so it’s hard to know how to navigate that. We’ll figure it out though I’m sure.

Do SvA1, 2 & 3 at Komvux man

I got straight As, you’ll be sweet

Yeah I think I’ve had just about the minimum to scrape by with all the baby stuff (doctors, midwifes etc) so far. I had to do one midwife meeting on my own as wife had a sore throat, and basically gave them a bunch of misinformation, although I suspect the outcome might have been in the same in English.

Always get the feeling people are too polite to do this! Then when my wife does correct me, I get frustrated when she can’t explain why - I guess in a lot of cases it is just exceptions as you say.


Yeah may do, though my gf had a really shorty experience at SFI and isn’t confident with language learning so we might bite the bullet and get a tutor and learn together. We’ll see, but the main thing is to get learning in whatever way!

My company used to pay for a teacher but that disappeared quietly, unfortunately.

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ik wil tweetalig worden maar mijn Nederlands is een beetje slecht