Guest review: what happened on Dennis’ Swedish home language immersion course

With interest in home language immersion programmes growing day by day, there is no doubt that the trend for language immersion holidays is showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon. But, naturally, they always throw up the same questions and concerns…

“What exactly does living and learning with your teacher mean?” “What will it be like?” “Will I like my teacher?” “What happens after the lessons are over?”

So when Dennis, USA, came along full of enthusiasm for his trip to Sweden where he would do a Swedish home language immersion course, we couldn’t wait for him to return and give us the lowdown on his time there. Would it meet his expectations?

We needn’t have worried. I caught up with Dennis, who combined immersion language course with a few weeks of his own travelling throughout Sweden, on his return to the US.

Talking to him was a delight as he filled me in on how his language course resulted in the perfect blend of sightseeing, culture, language learning, all while making new friends along the way.

What drove you to choose a Swedish language immersion course?

My family grew up in Minnesota, where there is a very high population of Swedes and other Scandinavians. In the 1850s and 60s, they immigrated in droves and had many sub-communities in our area.

My parents never spoke Swedish, as they were quite young and encouraged to learn English and fit in but I took an interest in it. When it came time for me to go to the University of Minnesota, we were required to study a language, and they offered Swedish. Both my brother and I studied it.

I finally retired a few years back and one of my retirement goals was to pick it up again – keep at it and keep improving. The immersion course seemed like a great, personal way to get a jump start on this goal.

What was your first impression of your Swedish hosts and home?

I instantly felt comfortable and accepted by my host couple, Anna and Bengt, and I was very pleased that we had been put together.

Anna (about 65) is a school teacher, she did a lot of my structured lessons, and Bengt (70s) was retired and was quite limitless in his hobbies and interests. I can easily describe them as well educated, politically concerned, interested in art, history, music, film, culture, and an awareness and care for the world.

Where I am from, we have an attitude knows as “Minnesota nice”, kind of a phoney pretence of niceness, a standoffishness. This family did not have an inkling of it.

view from family home window on to lake in Sweden

View from Dennis’ home stay

What was your typical day like?

To understand the typical day, you’d need to understand the family set up a bit more. Anna and Bengt’s children are all adults now and have moved out, creating more room for others to come on board.

Currently they house a young Swedish man, along with an Iranian teen, which is part of a government outreach program, so there is still a full house. The boys each have responsibilities (including cooking family dinner every night), that they stick to to pull their own weight. Their cooking skills did not go unnoticed… not bad at all!

I would sleep in as much as I needed to, then slowly get up and at ‘em with some coffee and European continental breakfast, whether it was bread, jams, meats and cheese, which Anna always kept well stocked.

As Anna would head off to teach every morning, we would usually decide how to structure the lessons the evening before. Lessons would always be a bit different – news, films, my book from Swedish language class from home. There was no set agenda but they asked me what I needed to work on most (which for me was listening to spoken Swedish at a slower level).

Anna would also read short stories to me, there’s something that really attracts me to listening to Swedish. She read to me 3 nights in a row, then would do a comprehension check. This was absolutely one of my favourite listening techniques, it was calming and musical to me, and not something I could ever get at home!

Lunch was light and informal, some days I would just be alone and walk (they lived on a lake), or spend time with Bengt. They were super flexible. As you can tell from the photos, it is a walker’s paradise here, and it could not be more idyllic.

Home language immersion lesson in progress in Sweden

Anna reading to Dennis

Which day was your favourite and what did you do?

This is a difficult question, as every day was wonderful, but one day Bengt had a special day in store for me. He said we were going for a day out but there was a rule; whilst in the car, we could only speak in Swedish. We headed out towards the coast and took in a castle, museums and lunch out. This was a day that had it all -private lessons, scenic drives, culture, history and food. This was some serious hosting going above and beyond!

As for other days…
– I popped into Anna’s school and met her students from all over the globe
– We headed out as a family to catch the local football game (the boys loved sports, so we had plenty to talk about)
– We went into the city for a demonstration against petrol, backed with other Green supporters (added bonus; you can always get to meet people when you’re anti-Trump, anytime, anywhere)
– Everyday came the chance to get fresh air and enjoy the peaceful views

How did your Swedish improve during your stay?

My listening comprehension has improved and over time I would like to do the immersion again to see how much I have improved now that I have the experience to go on.

It terms of being an immersion experience, this holiday was exactly as I wanted it to be. There were times where I had mental fatigue and had to ask them to stop speaking in Swedish to me so I could mentally shut down a bit, but they were fine with whatever I needed.

Did it feel like you had Swedish friends / family when you left?

view of lake near Swedish home in Sweden

The lake near Dennis’ home stay

We have been emailing since I left. Bengt gave me a collection of classical comic books in Swedish (with notes!!!), which he did as naturally as handing me a stick of gum (this was amazing to me!). He also made me a film in Swedish with English subtitles, as well as a CD with the Swedish lyrics typed out.

These gifts were so thoughtful, and so natural to my hosts, it is hard to explain the warmth it all gave me.

What was the most challenging?

Listening to Swedish for hours! It was exhausting for me. They would switch to English with me, and speak Swedish to each other. But your brain is always on a workout in an immersion course.

What advice would you give to other travellers?

Go for it! Don’t go with any preconceived notions, and go with the flow to make it easier for your hosts and for yourself.

This course was a huge step for me, I wouldn’t even consider living with another family in the past, but based on this I would go back again, to the same place without a second thought. Not for a moment did I feel like I didn’t belong or it wasn’t a home away from home.

Has Dennis’ review inspired you to go learn to speak another language?

You can read more about his Swedish language immersion course here.

Or feel free to browse other language courses we have on offer to find the language immersion programme to suit you.