This visit to Sweden I’ve decided that rather than throwing my hands up in stunned amazement at the variety of sounds in the Swedish language, I will make some effort to understand them (it only took eight years for me to come to this!).

Yesterday’s revelation was that the letter k has two distinct pronounciations, which seems freaky to an English speaker.

I’ve been reading the signs in front of churches – kyrka – and saying (in my head), something like kirk-ah.

I have been wrong.

Kyrka is pronounced more like sheer-ka because the first k is pronounced “like ch in check, but without the initial t sound” when it comes before a “soft vowel” like y, and the second k is pronounced as one might in English.

As it is in kaffe (for “coffee”), which is pronounced as you think it might be: calf-eh.

All of which means that the Swedish for “church coffee,” which is kyrkkaffe, and which has a stunning number of ks, sounds something like sheer-calf-eh.

What wonders will I find today?

Thanks to Olle for turning me on to k’s wonders.


Oliver's picture
Oliver on October 22, 2013 - 15:23 Permalink

I had a (false) epiphany once that the words in other languages are te same as in English and the sole object to comprehension was the spelling. Like of course the k that begins kyrka makes the sound “ch” as in “church.”

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 23, 2013 - 12:32 Permalink

Things go off the rails, for your theory and for my seemingly newfound grasp, as soon as you cross the brdige to Denmark and then “chicken” becomes “kylling”, pronounced ku-ling.