Your fastest route to learning Swedish

Want to learn Swedish but feel stuck? You’re not alone. While many international people who move to Sweden get by with English, doing so can create a gnawing sense that you’re not fully embracing your new life and the opportunities it could offer. 

Your fastest route to learning Swedish
Gerard Fauria from Catalonia is learning Swedish at SIFA

But if you want a challenge, the City of Stockholm offers a range of free, intensive Swedish courses that can help you make rapid progress towards fluency. These courses, provided by SIFA (Stockholms intensivsvenska för akademiker), which is part of the city’s adult education programmes, include three Sfx programmes for professionals, as well as two more options for intensive studies in Swedish without a vocational orientation.

Students come from across the world – but you’ll only study with classmates with a similar level of Swedish to yourself and who are ready to study at a fast pace. We spoke to two SIFA students about the courses and how what they’re learning is giving them new optimism about their future lives in Sweden. 

Discover all SIFA’s intensive courses in Swedish (apply by April 15th to start studying in May)

A big milestone

“Before SIFA, I felt like I was still living like a tourist in Sweden,” says Alesia Peshku, a student taking Intensive Swedish for economists, lawyers and other social scientists – SFEJ. “You might know a little Swedish but you’re not part of the conversation that brings you closer to the social life or cultural life. After starting at SIFA, it became so much easier to pick up on what’s going on around me and discuss that with my colleagues. I’ve also had the opportunity to read many books in Swedish and that’s a big milestone for me.”

Alesia, originally from Albania, moved to Sweden in 2017 to do a Master’s in international marketing. While she was enthusiastic about learning Swedish at first, she admits she lost motivation after enrolling with the “chaotic” nationwide Swedish for immigrants (SFI) programme, which she says had “a lot of students and no clear curriculum”.

By contrast, SIFA’s Swedish courses are aimed at graduates who want accelerated learning and you can be sure that nobody new will join your class during a course. You start studying at the level that’s right for you and even a beginner can complete six or seven nine-week courses in 18 months – leaving you fully prepared to work or study in Swedish.

Alesia Peshku in the Swedish city of Västerås

A ‘super-motivating’ study structure

Alesia, who started at SIFA in January 2021, is now on SVA2 and will soon be moving onto the final course, SVA3 (SVA stands for svenska som andraspråkSwedish as a second language). So, what sets SIFA apart? 

“The study pace, the quality of the content and having a plan,” she says. “It’s been super-motivating to know that I’m going to start a course, and in nine weeks I’m going to take an exam and move on to the next one. The teachers are also genuinely caring and want you to progress.” 

Her course is one of three Sfx programmes for professionals, along with Intensive Swedish for engineers and architects – SFINX and Intensive Swedish for educators – SFP. Alesia, who lives in Bromma, studies remotely for around 30 hours per week (including regular meetings with her teacher, group sessions and lots of studying in her own time), while also working full-time as a marketing consultant. 

“You can live in Sweden and speak English,” she says. “It’s just that knowing Swedish gets you into different conversations – in that sense, it’s life-changing as you learn more about what people here think and feel.”

She’s also delighted with the impact on her career. “I work for different clients and with one of them, I had almost all the communication in Swedish, which was very, very good,” she says. “Learning Swedish not only boosts your confidence but also your access to the Swedish jobs market.” 

The fast way to fluency: learn more about SIFA’s Swedish courses for professionals (apply by April 15th to start studying in May)

Drop the apps to get serious

In addition to the well-established courses for professionals, SIFA also now offers Intensive studies in Swedish with no vocational orientation to residents of the City of Stockholm (Stockholms Stad). There are two options within this: a full-time classroom course and a part-time course (which you do remotely). The classroom element takes place at SIFA’s school in Södermalm in central Stockholm, although it is currently split between classroom and remote learning due to Covid-19).

Gerard Fauria, from Catalonia, moved to Stockholm to be with his Swedish boyfriend last year and says he had already picked up some Swedish during their six-year relationship. But his level has improved dramatically in just three months since he began an intensive classroom course at SIFA.

Obviously, I started out with Duolingo as everyone does,” smiles Gerard, who lives in Södermalm. “I think it’s good if you take it as a hobby, but it’s not so good if you really want to learn the language.”

Photos: Gerard Fauria in the classroom at SIFA/Alesia Peshku in Stockholm

When he moved to Sweden in April 2021, he tried with the language but found it a struggle to express himself. “I usually spoke Swedish with my boyfriend’s mum but I wasn’t comfortable and it was really hard to make a point,” he says. “The good thing with SIFA is that everyone is used to studying in a fast way. It’s a great way to get immersed in the language.” 

Gerard studies for between 30 and 40 hours per week, with around 20 hours of classes (some in the classroom and some remotely), as well as homework that includes essays and preparing presentations. While there are only seven or eight students in his class, they include people from the US, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Hungary, Tunisia and Vietnam.

The diverse student group really appreciates the Swedish approach to teaching. “I’ve had the same teacher twice, which is great,” he says. “We have to give her written feedback every second or third week and she takes it seriously and tries to adapt the class accordingly.” 

Gerard is currently working in a restaurant, but he has a degree in law and economics and says he’s almost ready to start applying for Swedish jobs in these fields. “Now I would feel comfortable working in a Swedish environment, so I feel like SIFA is doing a great job,” he says.

Want to learn Swedish? Take a look at all SIFA’s courses – and apply by April 15th to begin on the fast-track to fluency in May  

Member comments

  1. Isn’t there a similar programme in Malmö or Skane? How’s this programme different than other SFI Swedish programmes?

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For members


Card, status, or permit? The different types of permanent residence document in Sweden

There are multiple types of permanent residence documents in Sweden, which can lead to confusion about residency status. The application processes and rights granted depend on your citizenship and what you're doing in Sweden.

Sweden's law on residence permits (uppehåstillstånd)
What do the different residence documents mean for your rights? Photo: Janerik Henriksson / TT

Certificate of permanent right of residence (Intyg om permanent uppehållsrätt)

For EU/EEA citizens

This applies to EU or EEA citizens who have lived in Sweden with right of residence under EU law for at least five years. EU/EEA citizens have right of residence in Sweden if they work, study, run their own business or have sufficient funds to support themselves, and their family members also have right of residence as long as they live together in Sweden. After five years, they automatically gain permanent right of residence.

A certificate of permanent residence is a document which shows that the holder has permanent right of residence. This certificate documents the residency status the holder already has, rather than granting a new residency status. It’s not a necessity in Sweden, because your EU citizenship is enough to grant you permanent right of residence after five years, but it may be used when contacting other national authorities, for example. It can be ordered from the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) and is free. Certificates of permanent right of residence can only be issued to those who have (or had) right of residence as EU/EEA citizens.

You can lose your permanent right of residence if you move away from Sweden for more than two years.

Permanent residence card (Permanent uppehållskort)

For non-EU/EEA citizens living with a non-Swedish EU/EEA citizen

Permanent residence cards apply to non-EU/EEA citizens (also referred to as third country citizens) who have lived in Sweden continuously for at least five years together with an EU/EEA citizen who has right of residence (discussed above). Swedes are not usually considered EU/EEA citizens in this context, but Swedes who have recently lived in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland may qualify.

A permanent residence card shows that a non-EU/EEA citizen has the permanent right to live and work in Sweden through living with an EU/EEA citizen in Sweden for over five years. It is free to apply for. While the EU/EEA family member does not need to apply for the permanent residence certificate, the non-EU/EEA member does need to apply for the card, because they are more likely to need to prove their right of residence.

You can lose your permanent residence card if you move away from Sweden for more than two years.

Note: a permanent residence card (permanent uppehållskort) is not the same as a permanent residence permit card (permanent uppehållstillståndskort), discussed below.

Permanent residence permit (Permanent uppehållstillstånd/PUT) and permanent residence permit card (Permanent uppehållstillståndskort/PUT-kort)

For EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA citizens

This applies to non-EU/EEA citizens, as well as EU/EEA citizens who do not qualify for right of residence under EU rules, but qualify for a residence permit under Swedish rules (e.g. if they are not working, studying or able to support themselves, but moved to Sweden as a family member of a Swedish citizen).

Permanent residence permits can be granted to both EU and non-EU citizens. A permanent residence permit (Permanent uppehållstillstånd) is a permit granted by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) under Swedish law, rather than under EU law.

There are different permits for workers, students, family members and researchers, and there are certain specific criteria that must be met (for example, workers must earn above a salary threshold) as well as a fee to pay.

If the permit is granted, the applicant will receive a residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort/UT-kort). After between two or four years depending on your type of permit, residence permit holders can apply for a permanent residence permit card.

In most cases, you will have to apply for a work permit if you also wish to work, but check with the Swedish Migration Agency if you are unsure.

Although described as a permanent residence permit, this residence permit can be revoked if you leave Sweden for more than one year. If you inform the Swedish Migration Agency before you depart, you can be away from Sweden for up to two years before losing your residence permit. 

Permanent residence status (permanent uppehållsstatus) and residence status (uppehållsstatus)

For British citizens and their family members who moved before the Brexit transition period ended

This only applies to British citizens after Brexit, and it is available to those Brits and their close family members who moved to Sweden and were resident under EU law (ie. were working, studying, or had the means to support themselves) before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st 2020.

Brits and their family members who fulfil the requirements were until December 31st 2021 able to apply for either residence status or permanent residence status, depending on how long they have been living in Sweden. Those who have lived in Sweden for at least five years with EU right of residence can receive permanent residence status; those who have lived in Sweden a shorter time receive temporary residence status which can be upgraded to permanent once they reach the five-year mark. The post-Brexit residence status grants them the same rights they had under EU law regarding living and working in Sweden, meaning that they do not need to meet the stricter requirements for permanent residence permit holders.

You lose the permanent residence status if you are away from Sweden for five years or more.

Swedish citizenship

The only type of residence document which is truly permanent – as in, it cannot be revoked – is Swedish citizenship. The rules for becoming a Swedish citizen vary somewhat depending on whether you are a Nordic, EU or non-EU citizen, but as a general rule you must have lived in Sweden for five consecutive years (or three if you live with a Swedish partner), have lived an “orderly” life during your time in Sweden (no large debts or crimes), be over 18 and be able to verify your identity.