How to learn a language you don't like?

Hi all.
The title is of course a bit of an exeageration. And I don’t want to come off as rude.
But on the other hand I would very much like to know what you think would be a good way to tackle learning a language you’re not particulier interested in but it is necessary for you to learn.

I strongly believe the number one factor for language learning is your motivation and time you put into a language.

My case is, I’m a Dane, who have moved to Sweden (most likely for life). Since I have landed a job here.
I’ve never particularly liked the sound of Swedish as it just sound like a wrong version of my mother tongue (no offense ment). However, now that I live here in Sweden I think I should learn the language. Though of course everyone insists on speaking English here it feels kind of awkward to do it. (They switch to English as soon as I try to say anything in Swedish/Danish).

I know that everyone says that Scandinavians understand each other. But that does not seem to be the case. :frowning:

My issue is, I do not have that burning motivation for Swedish, which I got for other languages.
I try to do daily listening and reading in Swedish on LingQ and in books. But I zone out super fast.
I also end up “mentally pronouncing” the words as I would in Danish when reading the books outside of LingQ.

On top of that I haven’t really been able to find content which is compelling for me in Swedish (I have Emil i Lönneberg). :slight_smile:

So yeah, what would you do to learn a language, when the people switch to english, you zone out when listening, and read everything with the wrong pronunciation?


I have some observations which I have gained while learning German.

  1. Since Sweden is your new home. Therefore, knowing the language is very important. Since not knowing the language people can cheat you off while you have no clue. It happened multiple times to me while living in Germany as a student.
  2. Poor customer service by Germans if you do not know their language. Let’s say it is a subconscious thing. Once they know that I have learned a little bit of German, customer service has improved quite a bit. At the end of the day, you are the beneficiary.
  3. People say “very interesting” things behind your back about your nationality and whatever. Had I not known German, I would not have known about it. You are missing out on very interesting “gossip”.
  4. Again, missing out on reading good literature. I do not know about Swedish authors but German authors are damn good.
  5. Entertainment factor.
  6. It is a very exhausting experience mentally when you are living in Germany and you have to ask locals to switch on to English or they switch to English automatically.
  7. You are living in your own small world. Living a lonely existence, so to speak.
    Enough reasons to motivate you, I mean, you earn money in Sweden but have no respect for their language.
    It is a tongue n cheek comment, but want to motivate you maybe like in Hitler style :wink:
    For the first two years, the German language did not fit into my future plan. I just wanted to finish my degree offered in English and then move to the USA. However, I said enough is enough. Once I have hopped over this “noise phase” where the German language looks like empty noise, you will start appreciating how beautiful the German language is, and in fact, Germans speak “words” and “phrases” :wink:
    In my case, it took me “600” hours of active listening to get over it. Outside Lingq, I have done roundabout 1500 hours of active listening in the last 11 months. And, what I noticed is that at this point Germans stop speaking to me in English at least shopkeepers and people at a clinic/a pharmacy.
    Maybe you should put in more hours into listening and start watching Television series in the Swedish language, you may start to appreciate the fact that Swedish may not be a wrong version of your language, but a smaller sibling of your language ;).
    I am not sure if you are into listening to radio plays. I have listened to a lot of these radio plays(amazon prime offers them free of cost as part of a subscription) in the German language. I love them to the core. awesome character voices, background noise, and music, etc. In other words, you are literally hooked on them.
    Maybe you should try them out in the Swedish Language. You need to find “Why” once you find it, it will act as fuel for you. Then, it is just a matter of time soaking the language.
    I have convinced my mind “German language” is my “wife”. It is a mind trick on my end to shut off any negative voice so every day I spend time with my German wife :wink: It is a lot of fun this way rather than treating learning German as a chore.
    That’s it

Thank you Asad!
Can definitely relate to some of what you talk about. Though I would say that people in Sweden are in general very nice, and I understand enough to know that nobody have tried to tick me etc. :slight_smile: Though there can be a bit of Danish/Swedish rivalry going on sometimes.

Also I would like to say that I do have respect for their language. What I ment with the post was just that I do not have a particular drive for learning Swedish as a language. But I do have reasons.

Good to hear that after some time people stop switching to English. That’s my main annoyance right now, that I can’t talk with people because they constantly switch.

I think I’ll try and get even more listening hours in, it seems like you put in a lot of effort!
Not exactly sure what radio plays are? do you have some links I could follow? :slight_smile:

Haha, I’ll try and treat it a bit like a partner I’d hopefully that can help with it not feeling like too much of a chore. :smiley:

again thank you. :slight_smile:

I’m just curious, if nearly everyone can understand you when you speak English, and they switch to English when you try to say anything in Swedish/Danish, then why do you feel so compelled to learn Swedish? Why not just stick to English since everyone can understand you? Not meant to offend or be rude, I’m simply curious!

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Yes that is one of the big issues I struggle with. (No offence taken what so ever). :slight_smile:
For all purposes I could spend my entire life here in Sweden and only speak English.
But I would like to learn Swedish, since I want to have friends here and not be “the foreigner”.
Also right now the entire company is switching to English, because I’m the only one who does not speak Swedish. Which also feels very bad.

So basically, I have many good reasons why I should learn Swedish. But I also find myself struggling with giving the language the attention I know it requires if I am to learn it well.


Ah that makes complete sense! I definitely understand that. The only thing I would say is try to find ways to make it at least somewhat enjoyable. Once you learn a certain number of words, you can begin to listen to podcasts, youtube videos, movies, etc that are of interest to you, making the learning process a bit more bearable.

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I think the content is a big barrier of entry for you here as you seem disinterested in Swedish culture and topics/themes. Maybe I’m wrong on that and this won’t be particularly helpful. I would try to find Swedish dubs or translations of things that you like from other languages. You may not be the kind of person that likes to re-watch or re-read things either so it might not be a good strategy to do that, but you could always look for new content from languages that have content that you do like and get the Swedish versions. For example, I enjoy many of the Japanese light novels more than the Korean ones I’m finding. Additionally, many more people read and talk about them (in many languages) so I end up reading the Korean translations of those. I could see this being more difficult in Swedish though, as I imagine not as many things are translated or dubbed into it because of the insistence on English (like you say) and the much smaller population of the country creating a smaller demand for it.

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Hi, Magn0733!

Interesting dilemma :slight_smile:
In my experience, there are several strategies on how to make this work, but it should always start with a compelling WHY (it should never start with some vague motivation, enthusiasm, it must be fun - attitude, etc.).

  • So, what’s your purpose that keeps you going when you don’t feel like it, when you’re frustrated, when things are boring / not interesting, etc.?
  • Example 1: If you are a competitive person à la Michael Jordan (see the documentary “The Last Dance”) or David Goggins (see his book “Can’t hurt me”), you might interpret switching to English as a sign of “disrespect” (of course it doesn’t have to be, because you could also interpret it as facilitating the flow of communication, being helpful, etc.). But if you choose this interpretation, your aim might be to leave the Swedes “speechless”: “What, you’re from Denmark? I can’t believe it. You sound like a native!”
  • Example 2: Fall in love with a Swedish “partner”. Usually, love is a great motivator :slight_smile:
  • Example 3: Find some Swedish friends online / offline and hang out with them
  • Example 4: Join some Swedish clubs (sports, chess, whatever)
    In short, having a deep human connection with locals is very helpful in this context!
  • Identity
    In general, it’s a good idea to expand your existing identity (here: being Swedish “and” Danish). Because if there is an inner resistance à la “Swedes are Swedes and Danes are Danes. Period!”, you’ll have great difficulty adapting to the Swedish language and culture.

  • Culture
    You could write a list of 7-10 things you like or find interesting about Swedish culture and dive deep into them
    Let’s say you are a huge NHL fan, then you could focus on Swedish ice hockey clubs and players. That is, as soon as you approach a B1 level, you could start reading the sports section about them, going to online forums and interacting there, watching YT videos about Swedish ice hockey games, etc.

  • Define your concrete (i.e. SMART) goals for example by writing a post on LingQ à la Herbm:

  • Make yourself accountable when you miss one of these concrete goals!

  • Habits and systems
    Apart from the previously mentioned aspects (especially purpose), establishing good habits and systems is key to acquiring challenging skills. See, for example, James Clear, “Atomic Habits”:
    Once established, habits are quasi-addictions that make us independent of fleeting experiences (low motivation, frustration, boredom, etc.). For some background info on “mental pain” as a default mode of successful learners, see: Entrar - LingQ
    But, since you seem to have already acquired a good level of Russian, you probably know how to play the language acquisition game.

In sum:
If you know your why, have solved some (latent) identity issues, found out something interesting about Swedish culture, defined SMART goals, hold yourself accountable and established good learning habits/systems, there’s nothing (low motivation, no fun, boredom, etc.) that can stop you!

Good luck


A few comments. My guess is that when you try to speak to people in Swedish they believe you are speaking Danish or that you sort of struggle when speaking in Swedish. I think most Swedes to some extent have problem understanding spoken Danish. With just a little practice, most would do much better but I don’t see a lot of Swedes trying to improve their Danish comprehension unfortunately… Anyway I think this problem will go away gradually as your accent improves.

I understand your point about Swedish not being exciting coming from Denmark. The bar for things you will find interesting is probably way higher in Swedish because of the similarity of the language and culture. But since Swedish is so similar you should also be able to read interesting things already using lingq. I would try to find things that you are already interested in and read about those in Swedish instead of Danish or English. There are a lot of forums, blogs and podcasts here and there is most likely something that caters to your interests. If you need tips feel free to ask and I’ll try looking.

Zoning out is probably one of two things. Uninteresting material or lack of comprehension. Either way, if you can manage to find something that interests you, my best bet is that any lack of comprehension will sort itself out rather quickly.

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Hey, thank you for your anwser. :slight_smile:
Yes, I try to find compelling content. I think no matter the language if the content is good it’s easy to be engaged.
But as you say very little (as far as I can find) is translated into Swedish.
I have however bought 2 childrens fantasy books similar to Harry potter. So slowly going through those. They are compelling. But I find myself pronouncing it in a Danish way as soon as I get “hooked” on the story.

I do have a few series that I like and I try to take an episode a day. But I’m soon gonna run out of episodes. Guess I’ll have to keep searching. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the answer Peter!
Some really good stuff in there that I will try to implement.
I think most important is the clear goal.
As you say I have learning Russian quite well down. So I know how to go about learning a language.
But I’ve been struggling with the WHY.
I think it could be a fun experiment to write down the 10 things I like about the culture/country and find content related to that. :slight_smile:

Already have a wonderful girlfriend. So not gonna change her out. :wink: But I will see once I can hold a basic conversation if I can get my colleagues to speak to me more in Swedish, and hopefully from there it will take off.
Unfortunately now the country is shut down to corona. So I meet about 0 people in real life. :frowning: Unless you count the clerk at the magazine.

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“make it at least somewhat enjoyable”
“making the learning process a bit more bearable”
Having taught almost 10k hours in languages and math (plus some basics in object-oriented programming / relational databases), I can assure you that learners, especially teenagers, with this attitude (“it should all be enjoyable, interesting, entertaining, etc.”) are the first to collapse when things get hard, uncomfortable, frustrating, etc.

Therefore, this attitude shouldn’t be the default mode of learners, at least if they want to be successful!

You’re welcome!
Yes, I agree, coming up with a good WHY could be a tough nut to crack because it seems so easy to fall back on English in Sweden.
And, of course, I’m not against interesting and enjoyable content per se. Unfortunately, content in the early stages of the language learning process (A1-B1) is often not very compelling. So it’s a good idea to rely on habits / systems.
However, “Dreaming Spanish”, for example, has a wonderful approach to learning Spanish, esp. for (absolute) beginners:

It could give your learning process a boost if you can find a similarly minded YT channel or podcast in Swedish.

On the other hand, it might be better to develop some deeper online / offline connections with Swedes first.
“So I meet about 0 people in real life”
Yes, this is a serious problem. Of course, you could ditch your existing girlfriend and start dating Swedish girls (“Honey, it’s nothing personal, it’s just for language learning”). But, it’s not worth ruining your personal life for acquiring an L2 :slight_smile:
However, you might find online forums on games, sports, outdoor activities, etc. in Swedish where you can interact with native speakers.
Or you could look for online tutors on Italki and Co…

Good luck

PS -
If you want to accelerate your language learning process in Swedish, an SRS like Memrise with free flashcard decks for Swedish (let’s say the 2000 or 5000 most frequent words) could be very helpful. See:

I did this in Brazilian Portuguese (because of my background in Latin and Romance languages), so I was able to reach a B1 level in reading/ listening in a very short time.
Extensive reading on LingQ is great as a language acquisition tool, but it isn’t always the most efficient way in all stages of our language learning journey.

I had the same feeling about German, it seems so unchallenging when your target language is very close to your native language. However, reading and listening about topics of interest here on LingQ was fun to do and really helped me out to obtain a level I am comfortable with at the moment :slight_smile:

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Hi Wnint.
Yes, it does seem they have a harder time understanding me then visa versa. And I think that’s why they switch to english. And I sure hope so, as it’s hard to get talking input when I have to find shows online etc.

With the excitement, yes. It’s not that the language isn’t exciting, it’s that it’s basically my own language but changed in weird ways. :smiley: (I’m sure you feel the same way about danish). xD
So it does not feel like learning a new language, but rather it feels like I have to unlearn my own or change it a lot.
And yes, it’s a bit weird, I can basically read the most complex stuff and understand 98% but I can’t have a simple conversation. I think it’s because all of my comprehension right now is delayed. If i try to think about what the word means I can almost always figure it out. But that’s not possible when talking.
I’ve bought two childrens fantasy books which I’m enjoying reading at the moment.
But I’m not sure it’s the best way for getting conversational ready.

I’m currently using for contetn, but if you know of other places i’d be very happy to know.

Thank you very much for your anwser. :slight_smile:

“it’s that it’s basically my own language but changed in weird ways”
That sounds like my experience in Dutch and with Spanish / Portuguese. So, it’s good to know I’m not alone :slight_smile:

“But I’m not sure it’s the best way for getting conversational ready”
If you struggle primarily with conversation/pronunciation (pitch accent in Swedish, for example), it would make more sense to focus on the oral dimension. That is, interesting podcasts, (slow) spoken news, talk radio, audiobooks, TV series, maybe Netflix, Italki and Co., etc.

In short: You can diminish the interferences by listening and speaking a lot in Swedish!

OK, that’s it for today.

Have a nice day

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“Extensive reading on LingQ is great as a language acquisition tool, but it isn’t always the most efficient way in all stages of our language learning journey.” What do you mean by this? (Im not disagreeing with you, I just would like you to elaborate)

Hi, SrHagfish!

I just published a kind of matrix with input/output options for language learning in general. See: Entrar - LingQ

I hope this makes my position reg. “extensive reading on LingQ” clearer.

Have a nice day

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No doubt it will get better. After all, there is a huge amount of people living in Sweden who don’t speak perfect Swedish and people aren’t switching to English all the time. I just think a lot of people freeze a bit when they hear Danish sounding words. When you are able to tone down the Danish sounds a bit the problem will disappear. :slight_smile:

I think you will find a lot of different opinions on what the best way to reach fluency is. Personally I believe listening and reading are the most important. I reached a pretty decent level in English with almost no speaking at all. So I think this is possible, at least if the languages are not too far apart. In my opinion, speaking practice plays a part but mostly in later stages. To build the foundation, listening and reading make more sense to me. If you don’t know how to say something, you probably haven’t heard the thing you want to say enough times.

If you have found something you enjoy reading go with that. But I would try to find to find something equally interesting to watch or listen to. I feel youtube is great for content these days (just stay clear of the trending page…). Without knowing what you are interested in I can’t really make more than a general recommendation.

Held og lykke~

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Hi, wnint!

“a lot of different opinions on what the best way to reach fluency is”
IMO, there are many misunderstandings about “fluency” because it’s often poorly defined or just implicit. So, we should distinguish at least the following fluency aspects:

  1. Fluency reg. the four basic categories listening/speaking and/or reading/writing.
  • An L2 learner can be good at listening, but still have many problems at speaking.
  • Native speakers may be good speakers and even good readers, but a lot of them are usually poor writers because school just teaches the basic stuff.
  1. The fluency level, for example. in the oral dimension
    Are we talking about basic/conversational, more advanced, or even native-like fluency?

  2. Domain-specific or general fluency?
    Even native speakers aren’t able to talk about everything if they have no clue what they’re talking about. The same is true for learners of an L2.

  3. Prepared fluency (in exams, presentations, etc.) or unprepared fluency?

So, there is not a single fluency dimension, but rather a matrix of different fluency dimensions.

“speaking practice plays a part but mostly in later stages. To build the foundation, listening and reading make more sense to me”
Well, “speaking early” is optional, but possible even without much prior exposure to the L2. See point 3b) here: Entrar - LingQ

However, it’s usually impossible to have a long, meaningful (even complicated), free-flowing discussion at the (absolute) beginner stages. That’s not how the language learning/acquisition game works.