If you’re interested in learning Swedish, make SFI your first port of call.
What is it and how does it work?
SFI, aka Swedish for Immigrants, is a state run organisation that provides free Swedish lessons for immigrants. Tuition is offered at several different levels and is available on both a part and full time basis, including evening classes. The goal is to provide you with enough Swedish to be able to work or to continue with your studies. All you need to apply is a Swedish personal identity number.
Start from scratch or even minus
Even if you’re a complete beginner and don’t know a word of Swedish, there are different levels of beginners, ranging from those who are illiterate and have never learned another language to highly educated people who have already mastered several languages. SFI therefore requires you to come to a short interview and test before you start so that you can be placed in an appropriate class.
A whole range of surprising benefits
SFI is not just for learning Swedish; its courses also aim to provide an overview of Swedish society and how it operates. Depending on where you come from, this can mean mind-boggling differences on a whole range of issues such as government forms and women’s and children’s rights. Swedish and civic instruction aside, I found that SFI also had many surprising benefits.
• It’s a great way to get out of the house and meet people when you’re new in town and don’t know anyone
• You’ll meet lots of other foreigners who find Swedes as unfathomable as you do, so you can do all your laughing/complaining there in an understanding and Swede-free zone.
• You can make real and unexpected friends – some of the women I met at SFI have become dear and valued friends, even though the only thing we had in common at the time was that we were new arrivals in Sweden and spoke English.
• The chances are that there’s at least one other person in the class whose Swedish is worse than yours and for brief moments, you can feel like a language whizz.
What I learned on my first day at SFI
1. Where Latvia is – courtesy of a dynamic Latvian girl, who when asked to introduce herself to the class, got out of her chair and confidently strode up to a map on the wall, pointed to it and said, “I am Anna from Latvia”. (Prior to this I would have been hard pressed to pinpoint Latvia in an Eastern Baltic state line-up). Unfortunately, the next person to introduce himself was from America and he didn’t feel the need to point it out on the map so the whole “show and tell” momentum died. Anna from Latvia, however, definitely made an impression.
2. That I will never be a real Stockholmer – courtesy of our lovely teacher Hans, who claimed that to be considered a real Stockholmer, your family must have lived here for seven generations. I still don’t know if he just made it up because he could claim this rare pedigree, but he stuck to his guns on that point, even after many months and several rounds of beer. (Not at SFI premises of course.)
I probably learned some Swedish too but the only Swedish I clearly remember from my time at SFI is the answer to “What would you say to cheer on runners in a race?” which I remember because it was the only answer I got wrong in my final multi-choice test, ruining an otherwise perfect score. The answer, in case you’re wondering or in case it’s still on the test, is “Heja Heja”.
How to sign up
See http://www.stockholm.se/ForskolaSkola/Svenskundervisning-for-invandrare-sfi/ and press the language button in the top menu for google translate. To apply for SFI in Stockholm, go to the SFI centre at Hornsgatan 124. The nearest metro is Zinkensdamm, which is on the red line. You will need to bring your passport, your personal identity number and be registered at a Stockholm address.
Did I mention it’s free?
What are you waiting for? Go for it – Heja Heja!
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