Anneli was born in Stockholm, but grew up in the rural countryside in Dalarna. She did a BA(Hons) in musicology in Stockholm, and was involved in various pop bands before moving to the UK at the age of 25. She has since done a PhD in music psychology while at the same time founding Swedish Made Easy (http://swedishmadeeasy.com/), through which she offers Swedish lessons via Skype/in person, translations and subtitling. She blogs regularly on her website and also for the US-based site Nordic Spotlight.
Anneli also works as an Evaluation Consultant, and is currently involved in some projects in England where she is evaluating the impact of music provision in care homes and children’s hospitals. She lives in Nottingham with a husband and a dog, is almost religious when it comes to Swedish yearly traditions (Donald Duck medley on Christmas, Dinner for One and Ivanhoe for New Year, julmust, semla, Midsummer shenanigans, crayfish and Lucia), and enjoys pondering over the links between language and music, and over the complicated love affair that seems to go on between Sweden and the UK.
Where did the idea of Swedish Made easy come from?
It was kind of an accident actually. I was studying for a PhD in music psychology and needed to earn some extra money on the side. I ended up taking some Swedish students on in 2005, and it snowballed from there. For the past 2 years I have been working more or less full-time with it, and it is absolutely fantastic. I love being able to help people improve their language skills, teach them about Scandinavian culture, and help them to develop on a personal level. I work mainly via Skype, but I teach corporate clients in their workplaces too. It is such a fun and varied job and you get to meet amazing individuals, many whom I miss when they stop taking lessons.
Who is your typical client?
It would be someone who has a Swedish partner/spouse, and who wants to be able to have a conversation with their in-laws, or they might think of moving at some point, or they may have bilingual children. I also have learners who are looking to relocate because of work or who have Swedish heritage and want to get closer to it.
What do you think the challenges are in terms of learning another language? Any specific challenges for an English speaking person learning Swedish?
There are many different challenges, depending on the individual. If you are someone who only speaks one language – for example English – and have little knowledge of grammar in general, then you will find that you’ll need to not only learn how Swedish is constructed, but also how your own mother tongue works. Many clients find this fascinating and somewhat unexpected – that they learn more about their own language as a result of learning another language. Some learners have particular challenges – some might find pronunciation particularly hard, whereas others don’t. Most people become self-conscious when they speak. This is completely natural, and I focus a lot on conversational Swedish to make people more comfortable in those situations.
You are also a Music Psychologist, what does that actually mean? Please tell us about your research.
I have a PhD research degree in music psychology. As a music psychologist, I try to explain and understand musical behaviour and musical experience. In my own research, I have looked at how and why people listen to music in office environments. I found that music could be relaxing and help concentration when employees chose to listen, but annoying and distracting if they were forced to listen. There were also many factors in the surroundings that people took into account when they listened at work – other colleagues and clients, how they would be perceived by others, what type of task they were doing, and so on.
How do you think music can help language learning?
From the perspective of a language teacher, I think it can be a very useful resource for some learners. If someone enjoys music, or if they can find a particular artist/song/genre that they enjoy in their target language, then that can be highly motivating. It is also very useful in order to learn the rhythm, tone, stress and pronunciation of the new language – to approach the language from the “musical side”. Also, the lyrics can be a powerful tool to approach the more poetic and cultural side of a language. I mean, there is only so many “John has a cat” –kind of sentences you can take.
From the perspective of a language learner myself, music was a very big part in the development of my own English skills (pop and rock music in particular).
Can you recommend any other Swedish books/online/media resources that are good for learning Swedish?
The thing that most people say is the key is to speak to a native. Today, this is easier than ever before as you can Skype and FaceTime with people from all over the world. This is especially important for learning Swedish, as there is a big difference in how it’s written and how it’s spoken. So you can learn out of a book, but that won’t help you develop your speaking or listening skills.
In terms of websites, I think 8sidor.se and the programme Klartext on Sveriges Radio P1 are very good, they report news in an “easy-to-read/hear” Swedish, it is slightly simplified. I also like Lexin’s Bildtema and Animationstema – google them!
Do you have any other advice for Swedish-English families?
For the native person – make sure to include the non-native speaker as much as possible, although it must be in a way that is not patronising.
For the non-native speaker, try and absorb as much as you can. Be like a parrot – repeat new words over and over again. Don’t be afraid of sounding silly, try and take a few risks. Also, try and learn the structure of sentences and not just single words. And remember – just because your other half speaks the language fluently, does not mean they want to/is able to teach the language.
Facebook: Swedish Teacher Anneli Haake