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Tonghe's Notes

Reading Books in Swedish

It took me more than a year to finish reading my first Swedish novel Tio över ett, a teenage romance story set in mining town Kiruna. I got this paperback from a shelf at Uppsala University where people leave their used books. You'd most often see conference proceedings and PhD dissertations – dozens of brand new copies at once – left there.

I also bought the audio version from Bokus.com, because you can download DRM-free MP3 files from there.

Once you have the MP3 files, you can practice dictation with them. It's handy to listen to the recordings using a piece of audio software, such as Audacity or Tenacity.

The idea is: First you read the text and look up new words when you feel like to. Don't worry too much about missing key points in the plot. Think of your brain as a machine learning algorithm. By feeding language data (text and voice) into it, assuming you have an adequate grasp of Swedish grammar, your brain will work out how this language works.

Then you practice listening by writing down every word you hear. This takes enormous amount of time. So you don't need to do the whole book. You probably don't have the time to either. Although I haven't done much dictation on this book, I can feel some slight improvement at listening Swedish.

This week, I started reading Alkemisten by Paulo Coelho. I find more unknown words in this book, as it's set in a different time and geography. But the text flows on beautifully, I just can't put it down.

I use a pencil to underline new words. Look them up when I feel like to. On top of this, when I finish a page, I'd try to summarize the plot in one or two sentences in Swedish. And I'm happily surprised to see I can actually output some coherent Swedish.