Pronouncing Swedish

by Erik Wilhelm Gren

A Little Note Before You Start

Warning: This will be a long article. This article is not intended to be “read once and be done with”, but rather an article to which I will point you to later on whenever we discover a new sound.

That being said, feel free to read it all and, if you’re a complete beginner to Swedish, I highly recommend you to listen to the basic pronunciations of the alphabet. However, don’t get stuck on this page until you think you’ve managed the entire phonetic palette that’s present in the Swedish language. Because, that’s just not feasible. Instead, just introduce yourself to these funny sounding noises that you will be able to produce with your mouth sooner or later.

Contextual Pronunciation

Swedish is a language with very clear and strong both consonants and vowels. Just like English, sadly, Swedish relies heavily on contextual pronunciation. What I mean by that is, pronunciation of each letter might vary a lot depending on the surrounding letters; its context.

Some lucky languages, like Spanish (except for some few letter-combos like ll and rr) and Japanese, don’t rely on contextual pronunciation. This means that once you’ve learnt to pronounce the letters, you can read every word in the language. Other languages, like English and Swedish, do heavily rely on this form of contextual pronunciation, which makes them a lot trickier to read and pronounce.

Comparisons to English

Since English has a lot of different dialects, with British English and American English being the largest groups, some comparisons to english sounds might not be entirely accurate for you and your pronunciation of that specific word. Therefore, only take these words as hints but always refer to and rely on the link with the sound being spoken out clearly by a native Swedish speaker.

Pronunciation of Single Letters

Whenever you say the entire alphabet in order, you use the letters’ names. These names, in a way, do not entirely reflect the exact sound of the letter whenever you see it used in a word. This might sound strange, but its actually completely normal and occurs in English as well.

For example, if you say the letter W, it sounds like “double yuu”, but in reality, whenever you see W in a word, the sound of the W is only the initial “w”-sound. For example, “Why”, “We”…

The following table of letters and sounds all refer to the letters’ names. This does not mean that all letters are always pronounced like so when they’re inside a word in a sentence.

Pronouncing the Alphabet

Here is a list of all the names of the Swedish letters.

Letter Phonetics “Sound in English”[1] Actual Sound
Aa /ɑː/ Na~aw! (so cute!) Aa
Bb /beː/ - Bb
Cc /seː/ - -
Dd /deː/ - -
Ee /eː/ - Ee
Ff /ɛfː/ - -
Gg /ɡeː/ - -
Hh /hoː/ - -
Ii /iː/ Bee Ii
Jj /jiː/ Yeet! -
Kk /koː/ Corpse -
Ll /ɛlː/ Election -
Mm /ɛmː/ m&m -
Nn /ɛnː/ The End -
Oo /uː/ - Oo
Pp /peː/ Peripheral -
Qq /kʉː/ - -
Rr /ærː/ or /æRː/[2] - -
Ss /ɛsː/ Espionage -
Tt /teː/ - -
Uu /ʉː/ - Uu
Vv /veː/ - -
Ww /²dɵbːɛlˌveː/ - -
Xx /ɛks/ Excellent -
Yy /yː/ - Yy
Zz /²sɛːta/ - -
Åå /oː/ - Åå
Ää /ɛː/ - Ää
Öö /øː/ I heard someone Öö

Long vs. Short Vowels

Every Swedish vowel has two ways it can be pronounced. Either with its long pronunciation, or with its short pronunciation. Whenever you refer to a single vowel by itself you use its long pronunciation.

Long Vowels

Letter Phonetics “Sound in English”[1] Actual Sound Swedish Words
Aa /ɑː/ Na~aw! (so cute!) Aa Apa
Ee /eː/ - Ee El
Ii /iː/ Bee Ii Mobil
Oo /uː/ - Oo Otrlligt
Uu /ʉː/ - Uu Utomhus
Yy /yː/ - Yy Blyg
Åå /oː/ - Åå Hål
Ää /ɛː/ - Ää Härlig
Öö /øː/ I heard someone Öö Kök

Short Vowels

Letter Phonetics “Sound in English”[1] Actual Sound Swedish Words
Aa /a/ - Aa Apa
Ee - - Ee Energi
Ii - - Ii Flicka
Oo - - Oo Ont
Uu - - Uu -
Yy - - Yy Yxa
Åå - - Åå Åsna
Ää - - Ää Äckligt
Öö - - Öö Ömtålig


Letter Phonetics “Sound in English”[1] Actual Sound Swedish Words
Bb /b/ - Bb Banan

  1. These English examples are very inaccurate representations of the actual sounds! Please take these examples with a big grain of salt.

  2. In standard Swedish, the letter R is pronounced as /ærː/. However, due to some history with Denmark, southern Sweden has a dialect that is somewhat influenced by Danish. The most notable difference is in the pronunciation of R where the southern Swedish dialect uses a so-called Guttural R.

    The southern Swedish dialect happends to be the dialect to which I am native to. It’s called Skånska in Swedish due to its main use in the Swedish province of Skåne.

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