Swedish is a North Germanic language, closely related to Norwegian and Danish (and through them, related to Icelandic). Spoken by over 9 million people, Swedish is the national language of Sweden and the official language of the Åland Islands. It is also an official language of Finland (along with Finnish), though only the mother tongue for about 6 percent of Finns.
Swedish is notorious for its extra vowel sounds, giving Swedish nine (!) different vowels. Most are pronounced differently than English, and some don't even have a true English equivalent; some may be close, but sound like a combination of two vowel sounds. This can be very confusing, but you probably won't hear enough Swedish to know the difference, as they can be very slight. If you don't get it exactly, you will still be understood. All vowels can be pronounced short or long which means that Swedish has 17 different vowel sounds (short e and short ä is almost the same in some places of the country - especially in the accent spoken by certain elders in the Stockholm region). This rule does not apply for most of the accents in the Norrland region.
Please note: in Swedish 'y' is a vowel and not a consonant.
Consonants are closer to English, but some combinations can be downright tricky, i.e. 'sj' in "sjutton." Some pronunciations depend on the vowel following it, and so the vowels are divided into "soft" and "hard" vowels. A, o, u, and å are the hard vowels, and e, i, y, ä, and ö are the soft vowels.
If going to Sweden, especially if going to any other place than Stockholm, probably the most important thing you should know in Swedish is the name of the place you are going to. Most people speak very good, fluent English, but are oblivious about the English pronunciation of the town/city you may want to visit - and this may cause significant issues at train stations, airports or bus stations since many places have pronunciations that are very different from what an English speaker would expect when looking at the written name.
Many other places are pronounced in rather simpler, less tongue twisting fashions. Stockholm, Kiruna, Malmö sound in Swedish very much like they do English. If taking the train or plane to Copenhagen, remember the Swedish spelling is Köpenhamn, and is pronounced Shop-en-hamn. As most trainstations do not have public announcements or information boards in English, this may be useful. Similarly, in Sweden, Helsinki is always referred to as Helsingfors (Helsing-forsh), and all roadsigns and announcements within Sweden use this term. If going to Norway, Oslo is pronounced in a fashion rather close to the one in English. And if you want to take the ferry to Turku in Finland, remember the Swedes call the city Åbo (a close pronounciation being Oh-boh).
AM and PM are not used in Swedish, but rather the 24-hour clock. If you want to say 1 AM you should say "klockan ett", which means "the clock one". And "It is 1 AM" is "Klockan är ett" which literally means "The clock is one". Consequently, if you want to express 1 PM you should say "Klockan tretton" which means "Clock thirteen". "It is 1 PM" is "Klockan är tretton", meaning "The clock is thirteen". However, most Swedes take the easy way out and say "Klockan är ett" assuming that the person they talk to understands if they're referring to AM or PM.
"Half past" is not used in Swedish. Instead, the half hours expressed are halves of the coming hour, so 1:30 becomes "half two".
Please note that the first day in week in Sweden is Monday, not Sunday.
Bus and train
Except for the big cities, this will draw a blank stare from the waiter. Most Swedes are aware that pork is not kosher, but apart from that, almost all non-Jewish Swedes would not have any idea about kosher rules. Jews constitute roughly 0.15% of the Swedish population, and outside the big cites the great majority of Swedes have never met a Jew.
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