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Author: Steve the vagabond

Hi, I created Silly Linguistics. If you like life on the silly side, you have found just the right place

Learning through media

I taught myself German and it was a long arduous process. With Swedish I wanted to take it easy and do things a bit differently. So I just watched music videos of Disney songs I knew, watched Swedish vloggers (even if I didn’t understand much) and read Swedish memes. I am still far from fluent but I am starting to get a solid foundation and can read a lot of simple texts in Swedish now. I am having a lot of fun with it.

With this article I wanted to show you some of the things I have found on my Swedish language learning journey that I think will make your Swedish learning experience a bit more fun and you can also take these ideas and apply them to other languages you are learning.

Disney Music Video

You may be wondering why this section is called Disney Music Videos and not music videos in general. I too was surprised at how useful specifically Disney Music Videos could be. If you are like me and millions of others, then you grew up watching Disney movies. Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast are probably among the list of movies you have seen.

What make music videos from Disney movies so great is that you probably know the plot of the movie and the English words of the song. Disney always translates the songs too so now you can watch the song in another language. Disney translates their movies into a lot of different languages. One of their later films, Frozen, was translated into 47 different languages. That means not just the dialogue but all the songs too.

So you know the original words and the melody, which will make the song more familiar. But there is another thing that makes them very useful for language learning. Many people have made a “S & T” (subtitles and translation) versions of popular Disney songs. These provide subtitles of the language being sung and a translation of the language. Sometimes the translated version changes the meaning a bit to make the song sound better in the other language.

S & T music videos are so useful because you can just enjoy the song, read the language or see how the song was translated from English. It is interesting to see how translators handle slang and different idioms. The most useful part of S & T though is the repetition practise they can provide for you. Words take a while to learn. You need to see them again and again.

I learned the Swedish word “glömma” (forget) from an S & T of “A Whole New World”. A lot of words in Swedish are similar to words in German and I already knew German at the time of first learning Swedish. So I would watch the Swedish version of “A Whole New World” every now and then and would come across “glömma”. It didn’t look like any of the other Germanic words for “forget” that I knew so it really stuck out.

It was one of the first new Swedish words (words that didn’t look like an English, German, Dutch or Afrikaans word that I already knew) that I learned and it felt really cool to learn new words just from watching music videos. There are tons of movies and videos that have been translated. Here are some links to get you started.

“A Whole New World” Swedish S&T

“Be Prepared” Swedish S&T

“Colours of the wind” Swedish S&T

“Under the sea” Swedish S&T


Vlogging is a great way to practise listening comprehension. Another plus of watching vlogs is that you are listening to the language as it is actually spoken, rather than very formal language from a textbook. Sometimes you find really old textbooks at a book sale and the language taught in those is probably quite different to the daily language.

One vlogger I watch translates her whole video into English which is very useful for learners. You can either watch in Swedish or you can turn on the subtitles and you can get a translation of what she is saying. This way if you don’t understand a word you can just look at the translation and then look up the English word to get the spelling of the Swedish word. It’s very exciting encountering a new word in the wild and being able to look it up. Sometimes you hear a new word and don’t really know how to spell it so it is very difficult to look up but if you know the English word you can find the Swedish word much more quickly.

Clara Henry
Hur mycket kan min mamma om mig (How much my mother knows about me)

Most vloggers don’t do this but it is still good to watch them. Even if you can’t understand a news report or listen to a lecture in Swedish, watching vlogs is a good way to practise conversational Swedish. Here are some vloggers I watch

Jacob Öman
15 saker som tjerer gör som killar inte vet (15 things girls do that guys don’t know)

Varför jag rakade av mitt hår (Why I shaved off my hair)

Chris Whippit
Besöker dyraste lägenheten i Strömstad (12 miljoner) (Visiting the most expensive apartment in Strömstad 12 million)

Vad händer när jag släpper en telefon från 30 meter (What happens when you drop a cellphone from 30 meters)

Memes and cool pics

Memes have become an integral part of online culture. So why not read memes in Swedish? One of the best ways to get better at something is to practise it every day. Why not read a few sentences of Swedish a day? With memes it becomes very easy. Most memes have about 2 to 4 sentences which people at almost any ability level should be able to handle. Here are some of the pages in Swedish I follow. There are also a bunch of pages posting various cool stuff in Swedish. I will add them below too

Roligt ska det vara

Ett gott skratt


Min värld av teckningar och tavlor

Roliga Filmer och bilder

Bara Svenska Memes

Balans i Centrum

Den inre kommunikationen med dig själv

How to learn a language

My journey to running a language media company has been a bit unorthodox. I studied Computer Science at University for years. I first got my Bachelors Degree, then worked as a programmer, then I went for my Masters Degree. After my Masters, I got a job as a programmer, but I got sick a few months in and was booked off work. After 2 weeks off away from work I decided that I was sick of programming and didn’t want to go back. So I resigned and tried to see what else I could do out in the world.

I did odd jobs for my parents and people that I knew. I made a program here and there. Working in my own time was a better experience than being stuck behind a desk. I discovered the online language community in late 2014 and realised that I really liked talking about language. I discovered translation work which brought in a bit of money, which was nice. As I explored the language space online I realised that there was so much out there, but also that there was a lot more stuff that could be done.

How did language first evolve?

It is a question that has intrigued us for as long as humanity has been around. Some ancient myths talk about gods bestowing the gift of words upon us. We are fascinated by this very complex thing that we do pretty much effortlessly. It is so effortless for us that we often don’t even realise how amazing it is. I think we, as humans, are always asking questions and trying to understand our world, and language is an essential part of the human experience.

People often wonder what it would be like to have telepathy. Well, no need to wonder. We have it already. We can communicate complex ideas just by making sounds, or as I am doing now, writing them down using a system designed for capturing spoken word on the page. It is no surprise to me that our ancestors must have come up with all sorts of explanations for how it must have come about.

But did it really just pop up out of nowhere? No, that doesn’t seem likely. As much as humanity might have a lofty opinion of its own place in the world, we are just as subject to the forces of nature as any other species. There must be an evolutionary reason for how languages ended up developing. I was watching a video about birds and how they evolved. Every living thing alive evolved from an older form. But looking at modern birds, you realise that if they evolved from older forms then that means that one of those older forms didn’t have wings. They didn’t just pop up out of nowhere already having wings. Evolution is a slow process that takes countless generations to end up at the situation we have today.

How online culture is continuing to affect the language we use every day

Symbols initially start out quite straight forward, like an arrow or a picture of a buffalo. Over time they can become more abstract, like a save disk icon or a thumbs up which require a bit more cultural background. Sometimes symbols can ascend to truly independent ideas that have taken on a life of their own.Meme culture likes to reference and self reference popular culture. A dumb button prompt in a Call of Duty game has become a stand out in internet culture. In the real world we have lots of gestures like a wave or a shrug to communicate attitudes. In the digital world memes can become the source of new ways to communicate, like the famous “F” inspired by Call of Duty.

Humans are always looking for ways to connect with the world around them and to communicate their thoughts and desires. There is no greater example of the infinite possibilities of language than the growth of “F” into a crucial and ever present member of our online expierences.

How are “frog” and “spring” related?

Proto Indo European is the grandfather or great grandfather of English (depending on how you count). This means that we can trace elements of Modern English all the way back to Proto Indo European which was spoken about 4000 BC.

Proto Indo European, like any language, had its own peculiarities. One of them was the “s-mobile” which refers to how the letter “s” sometimes just didn’t stay there in some words but did in others.

The s-mobile is indicated by a bracket around the letter s in words that have been reconstructed in Proto Indo European. We have to reconstruct them because no one wrote Proto Indo European down. We reconstruct words by looking at Modern Indo European languages like English, German, Spanish, Italian, Persian and Hindi and start finding connections between them.

English, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and a few others are part of the Germanic group of languages. They all descend from a language linguists call Proto Germanic.

If we don’t have direct evidence that a word existed then we say the word is reconstructed and we apply a star at the beginning. If a document exists that has the word in question in it, we say the word is attested.

The word for “bull” in Proto Indo European is *(s)táwros. Here we can see the star and the brackets. We know that the s was mobile because it appears in some descendant languages but not others.

The word *(s)táwros became “steer” in English, and “Stier” in German, but in Greek, the “s” wasn’t inherited, so we get “tauros”.

So what does this all have to do with spring and frog? Well, they are actually related because they both come from a Proto Indo European word with an s-mobile in it.

One last thing we need to know about to make sense of this. When Proto Indo European developed into Proto Germanic in Scandanavia, the sound “p” became “f”. But this did not affect other descendants of Proto Indo European. So for instance, it is “father” in English but “pater” in Latin.

But here is where things get weird (if s-mobile wasn’t weird enough already!). The sound change (also called a sound shift) of “p” becoming an “f” did not affect words that had the combination “sp”.

So in the Proto Indo European word *(s)preu (which means jump), when the “s” was present, the “p” stayed and turned into the word “spring”, but when the “s” wasn’t present, the “p” became a “f” and the word developed into the word “frog”. So “spring” and “frog” are what linguists called cognate which means they descend from the same source.

And now you can tell people that the frog is named after the fact that it jumps