Have you always wished to speak Swedish? You know, more than “hej då”, “tack så mycket” and “jag tycker mycket om Sverige.” Well, if you’re serious about Swedish and have some time, there’s no better way to learn the language than by going to Sweden to study on location.
One way to learn Swedish in Sweden is to sign up at Folkuniversitetet’s International Swedish University Programs (ISU) in Lund.
Lund is in many ways the perfect place to study Swedish. Situated in the south of Sweden, it isn’t far from Copenhagen Airport. It’s a smallish town (76,188 inhabitants) but it is not far from Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö. Chances are you’ll be happy staying in Lund. Lund, founded around 990, has cobble stoned streets, old houses, a beautiful cathedral and a prestigious university which draws thousands of students and yields cozy coffee shops and interesting little stores everywhere.
“Anyone who knows Sweden, knows that Lund is a bit special,” says Nancy Ressaissi, Director of the ISU programs in Lund. “Being in Lund means our students can go to Berlin over the weekend; they can easily go to Copenhagen ... the entire region has really come into its own lately, much thanks to the Öresund Bridge.”
Ressaissi, an American, has lived in Sweden since she was twenty.
“Which means that now I have lived longer in Sweden than in the U.S.,” she says, laughing.
ISU was established in 1975 in the spirit of promoting international understanding and aims to increase the knowledge of Swedish language and culture. It is instituted under the auspices of the University Extension division at Lund University – Folkuniversitetet, an adult educational association of five foundations: the extramural departments attached to the universities of Stockholm, Uppsala, Göteborg, Lund and Umeå.
Ressaissi explains that the ISU programs in Lund offer three options for language training: the summer program, the academic year/semester program, and the Internet based courses.
“The interest in the Swedish language has really grown during the last years,” Ressaissi continues. “We obviously have a good product, lots of experience in the field, excellent teachers….”
Åse Falk is Student Advisor at ISU and she says it’s important for students to know where they end up at the end of a course.
“Because of our structure, the student always knows how far he will go,” she says. “We won’t just drop you in the middle. You will learn Swedish.”
What does the typical student look like?
“It’s hard to say. Our students range in age from 18 to 70,” Falk continues. “People come for a lot of different reasons. They might have Swedish roots, like many Americans, or they might be interested in the Swedish nature, like many Germans, or they might have some other reason. The Swedish crime novels, for instance, have really raised awareness for and interest in Sweden. As has Astrid Lindgren. Then there’s a group of professionals, who don’t really need to know Swedish but decide to study because they’re coming to live in Sweden.”
Ressaissi agrees. “It’s not only about the language, it’s also about being part of the Swedish society. Of course most Swedes speak English, but it’s nice to be able to speak Swedish if you are going to stay here for a while.”
ISU programs welcome applications from people all over the world. But in order to come to Sweden, you may need a visa. Americans who come only for the summer courses (which are two or three weeks long) need not apply for a visa, however should they want to stay longer than three months, they do need one. If you need one, you must obtain the required visa before coming to Sweden. Please contact the nearest Swedish embassy/consulate for more information. Remember that the visa procedure can take time, so make sure you begin preparing early on. American students wondering about credits should check with their university or college if they have accepted ISU courses for credit — some, but not all, have. The structure of the academic/semester program is based on eight modules, from beginners to advanced levels.
“And we offer all the steps; some other schools might have gaps because they don’t have enough students,” says Falk.
How well you succeed in learning Swedish depends on you. When I ask Ressaissi and Falk if it’s easier for people who already speak another language, they say that it doesn’t seem to be the case.
“It all depends where you’re from, too,” says Falk. “Asians naturally have a harder time with pronunciation than Germans, for instance. But it really seems like your own personal motivation is what will make your summer course, or your academic year, successful.”
How does one find a place to live?
“Younger people often stay with relatives in or around Lund, grandparents or a cousin perhaps; older people either rent a student room or an apartment. I always say ‘It’s difficult to find housing in Lund, but it’s not impossible.’"
ISU offers intensive three-week sessions as well as a new, super intensive two-week session this year in August. Each session includes 50 classroom hours of language instruction (listening, reading, speaking and writing — with emphasis on communication); the program includes museum visits, social activities and excursions to places of historical and cultural interest. The activities are included in the program at no extra expense. Levels range from beginner to advanced fluency, classes are held in Swedish from the very start.
The dates for the 2009 summer programs are:
June 22 - July 10, July 13 - July 31, August 10 - August 21.
Price: 5,900 SEK (about $760) per course (note the same amount of hours (50) apply for the three-week courses and the two-week course).
Last day to apply for summer courses is May 30.
Price for the academic year/semester: 20,000 SEK (about $2,500) per semester.
Price for the Internet based courses: 3,995 SEK (about $520).
A registration fee of 600 SEK ($80) applies to all courses. (Exchange rates fluctuate a lot. Check the conversion from Swedish kronor prior to registering.)
If you have no grandmother or cousin to stay with, finding housing for a summer course is easy (it’s housing for the academic year that is difficult). Here are some organizations you can contact:
Bo Poolen: www.bopoolen.nu/english/index.php
Lund Tourist office: www.lund.se/templates/Page____58791.aspx
International housing office at Lund University: www.lu.se/o.o.i.s/11969
In all cases make sure you tell them you will be participating in Folkuniversitetets summer course in Swedish. For more information: www.folkuniversitetet.se/isu
Other language courses this summer are available in Uppsala and Stockholm or at the renowned Swedish schools, Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska läroverket, www.sshl.se/wwweng/utbildning/sommarkurssv.html, just outside of Stockholm and Grennaskolan, www.grennaskolan.se/Sommarskola_en.html, on the eastern shore of Lake Vättern.