swedish vocabulary

Swedish vocabulary – why context is king

If you want to boost your Swedish vocabulary, there are many fine methods out there. Flash cards, for instance (a piece of paper with the Swedish word on one side and the English on the other) can be a very efficient way to build up a greater vocabulary.

Any vocabulary exercises have limited value, however, if they’re not combined with putting those words into a meaningful context. Knowing the Swedish equivalents of English words is a good (and sometimes necessary) first step, but it keeps the language learning at a shallow place in your mind. If you want to learn how to speak intuitively, you don’t want to keep translating words in your mind.

In order to realise this, we have to know, for instance, that the Swedish word “hund” doesn’t mean “dog”.
“What? Yes, it does!” I hear you scream. And of course, in a sense you’re right. But what “hund” in reality means, is not “dog” (or “perro”, or “собака”), it just refers to that same animal as the word “dog” refers to. What you want to do is to move away from translating words into their English counterparts, so that when you read or hear “hund” you have a mental picture of a dog. Not a picture of the word dog, but of the thing in itself.

So how do you get away from this inward translation process? Well, initially it is inevitable. With increasing fluency, however, the linguistic processes become increasingly automated. But you can also speed up the process by making sure that the vocabulary you do learn is reinforced by meaningful content. Don’t just download a list of useful words (you could probably learn a Swedish-English dictionary by heart without being able to speak Swedish properly). Instead, learn the words within their, so to speak, natural habitat. And spend as little time as possible repeating the same word in Swedish and English (dog, hund, dog, hund, dog, hund).
Context is king.

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