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Swenglish is a colloquial term meaning either:
- The English language spoken with a heavy Swedish accent
- The English language spoken or written heavily influenced by Swedish vocabulary, grammar, or syntax
English heavily influenced by Swedish
Swedish is characterised by a strong word stress and phrase prosody that differs from that of English. When Swedish prosody is used in English speech, it makes it sound more melodic, and this is even more apparent when Swedish stress patterns are used on English words. This is one of the most apparent causes of Swenglish.
There are words that are similar in meaning and pronunciation, that have different stress patterns. For example, verbs that end with -era in Swedish are often French loanwords, where the French word ends with a stressed -er. The Swedish word gets its stress point at the same place, but this is not true in English. A native Swedish speaker might mispronounce generate as [dʒɛnəɹˈeɪt] by following the pattern of the Swedish generera ([jɛnɛrˈeːra]).
Swedish lacks many common English phonemes. These are sometimes replaced by similar-sounding Swedish phonemes, or other English phonemes that are easier to pronounce. Standard Swedish does not have any diphthong vowels, but many more monophthong vowels than English. For example, when using the nearest Swedish vowels for the English words "beer" and "bear", a native Swedish speaker might pronounce both as [beːr]. In general, Swenglish will sound very articulated, due to Swedish vowels being more strongly articulated and not as often reduced to schwas.
Swedish also lacks some consonant phonemes common in English, such as [θ] (voiceless dental fricative), which is typically replaced by [f] (voiceless labiodental fricative) or [t] (voiceless alveolar stop), leading to "three" being pronounced as "free" or "tree". Other missing consonants include [ð] (voiced dental fricative, changed typically to [d̪]), [z] (voiced alveolar fricative, changed to [s]) and [dʒ] (voiced palato-alveolar affricate, changed to [tʃ], [tʂ], or [j]).
Vocabulary and grammar
As with most non-native speech, native Swedish speakers may pick the wrong word when speaking English based on what sounds right in their own language. While Swedish and English share many words, both from their Germanic origins, and from later French and Latin influence, there are several Swedish-English false friends, such as nacke meaning ’nape, back of the neck’ (similar to English "neck"), and eventuellt meaning ’possibly’ (similar to "eventually"). Some loanwords have a more specific meaning in Swedish than the original English, such as keyboard meaning only ’electronic keyboard, synthesizer’. Compare the list of Swedish-English false friends on Swedish Wikipedia.
Many Swedish compounds and expressions translate directly into English, but many others do not, even if the translations can be understood. For instance, the Swedish ta med means ’bring’, but is often translated as the literal "take with". In June 2010, BP's Swedish chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg famously caused a PR uproar after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by referring to the common people as "the small people", drawing upon the Swedish phrase den lilla människan.
The Swedish language term svengelska refers not to Swenglish, but to spoken or written Swedish filled with an inordinate amount of English syntax and words, with the latter sometimes respelled according to the norms of Swedish phonetics, or calqued into Swedish.
- "Europeans and their Languages" (PDF). Special Eurobarometer 243 / Wave 64.3 - TNS Opinion & Social. European Commission. February 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2011. According to this Eurobarometer survey, 89% of respondents in Sweden indicated that they know English well enough to have a conversation (p. 152). Of these 35% had a very good knowledge of the language, 42% had a good knowledge and 23% had basic English skills (p. 156).
- Moon, Colin (2002). Sweden - More Secret Files: Swedish, Swenglish and What they Really Mean. Uppsala: Today Press. ISBN 978-91-974192-1-5.
- Test Your Swenglish. Lists some common mistakes of Swedish speakers of English.