From Business Trips to Language Success: Olivier Delbeke's Journey to Mastering Swedish

Exam Success, Challenges, and Cultural Insights: An Inspiring Journey

Embark on a captivating language journey as we delve into the inspiring story of Olivier Delbeke. Motivated by his experiences during business trips to Göteborg and his fascination with Nordic countries, Olivier embarked on a remarkable quest to learn Swedish. Through dedication and strategic preparation, including participating in intensive courses and language meetups, he overcame challenges and achieved fluency. Discover Olivier’s valuable insights, resources, and strategies that propelled him to success, and get inspired to pursue your own Swedish language aspirations.

1. What motivated you to start learning Swedish in the first place?

A few business trips to Göteborg where everything was perfect except that I couln’t speak the language, plus a natural attraction to languages and nordic countries in general.

2. Can you share your experience with the Tisus exams? How did you prepare for them?

TISUS in Uppsala in May 2022. My strategy for the last days is always the same : staying one week at the location of the test before the actual test : study and visit during the day, talk to local people in the evening, and think the whole week in the language you’re studying. This worked perfectly for swedex B2, TISUS and German telc B2. For Swedish, I participated to three intensive TISUS preparation courses with onlineswedish, including one dedicated to writing, which for sure made the difference.

3. How long did it take you to reach a level where you felt confident to take the exams?

I had been learning Swedish since three years, but from Belgium, and I’m not that young anymore (47). For sure, it can go faster 😉 I was not confident at all, but as I just did it as a hobby, I did not have any stress.

4. Did you face any challenges during your language learning journey? If so, how did you overcome them?

Not living in Sweden has been the biggest challenge. Fortunately, thanks to the COVID crisis, many språkcafés and Swedish courses became available online, and that made everything much easier.

5. What resources or methods did you find most helpful in improving your Swedish language skills?

Training ;-), on a daily basis when possible, and keeping it as fun as possible. Exercise your listening comprehension with podcasts/TV/streaming with things you like, exercise talking at språkcafés (that’s very cool too), read interesting books to improve your vocabulary and help you understand the grammar, and participate to courses to learn writing and get the answers to your questions.

6. Did you participate in any language exchange programs or language meetups to practice speaking Swedish with native speakers? How did that impact your learning?

Most exchanges were språkcafés, with few or no native speakers, but it goes really well even with other learners. I also talk to a native speaker once a week, and that is of course also very helpful.

7. How did passing the exams positively affect your personal or professional life?

Well, it can’t be bad for your self-confidence, right ? I notice that it also impresses people when you speak several languages “for no reason”. That’s just cool. Now, I’m the first choice of the sales people when they need a technical expert to come along to Sweden or Germany on a business trip. Nice !

Knowing Swedish gives you also the possibility to understand Norwegian and Danish (to some extent).

8. Were there any specific strategies you used to boost your vocabulary and comprehension skills in Swedish?

Watching TV (VPN recommended), listening to podcasts during your daily commute, and reading books. In the beginning, I also learned a list of the 2000 most used words, which was very helpful.

9. Did you find any cultural aspects or differences in the language that were challenging to understand? How did you overcome them?

Swedish is very minimalistic (words are very short (ö, nån, nåt, få, …), there is nearly no redundancy and not everything is pronounced) ; pronounciation can vary a lot from one place to another, or from one cultural group to another. These reflect quite well the swedish society. Swedes are not very talkative and tend to keep conversations to a minimum, so don’t expect them to talk to you without a reason, but do it yourself and you’ll have good surprises (sometimes).

10. What advice would you give to others who are currently learning Swedish and aiming to pass the exams?

Don’t be afraid, go for it, even if you don’t feel ready. In the worst case, you will see how it goes and reduce your stress for the next time. Have fun while you learn. Do things you would normally do in your language, but in Swedish. Try to use every opportunity to exercise.
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