Archive for Swedish Diction

Episode 56

Posted in Podcasts, Swedish Diction, Norwegian Diction by thedictionpolice on March 9th, 2012

This week Swedish soprano Gisela Stille is with us to discuss the texts "Längtan heter min arvedel" and "I drömmen du är mig nära". We concentrate on the fun rounded H [ɧ], what I keep calling the C that turns back in over itself (but is officially called C with a curl) [ɕ], some of the differences between colloquial speech and lyric diction and a reminder of some spelling rules. At the end of the episode, I also compare some of the sounds of Swedish and Norwegian.

Both of our poets today were members of the Swedish Academy at the same time. "Längtan heter min arvedel" is by Erik Axel Karlfeldt, who was also a member of the Nobel Committee and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature posthumously in 1931. "I drömmen du är mig nära" was written by Tor Hedberg (Wikipedia doesn't have this article in English!) and set to music by Emil Sjögren.

On the episode, I refer often to Anna Hersey's terrific article in the NATS Journal of Singing (Jan/Feb 2012 edition) "An Introduction to Swedish Diction." If you aren't a subscriber to the Journal, the online link to the article shows up incomplete and with phonetic letters defaulting to regular letters, so if you are really interested in this topic it's important to get a copy of the actual article. Back copies of the Journal of Singing are also available for purchase.

A big thank you to Anna Hersey for letting me know about her article, and to the people who have recently written about their own diction books and dissertations! I'm always thrilled to have new resources and as I wade through all this material, I'll keep everyone posted on what I find!

Please contact me with questions, comments and suggestions (or new diction resources! :-) ) here, at the Facebook page, on Twitter @dictionpolice or directly at


Episode 43

Posted in Podcasts, Swedish Diction by thedictionpolice on September 27th, 2011

This is the second part of our 2-part series on Swedish diction, with mezzo-soprano Sofi Lorentzen discussing the text to Sibelius's Fågellek. This week we're talking about consonant combinations and clusters, including:

DJ, GJ and HJ (all the j-glide); LG [lj]; GN [ŋn]; NG [ŋ] and NK [ŋk]; KJ and TJ as well as the soft K [ɕ]; SJ, SKJ, STJ and SK before soft vowels [ɧ]; and the R combinations RD [ɖ], RG [rj], RL [l], RN [ɳ], RS [ʂ] and RT [ʈ].

Our text for today, Fågellek, is by Finnish author Karl August  Tavaststjerna, considered the first modern Swedish writer in Finnland. If this link works, I found a Swedish site that Google translated here. There are no free online recordings, but some that are available for purchase are Essential Highlights of Karita Mattila and Kim Borg Sings Sibelius Songs (which also has both songs from Episode 42 as well!). The preview clip I found is available at Passionato Classical Music Archives as well.

I also found a cute YouTube called Simple Swedish which is good for a laugh, and a website to learn called Learning Swedish Online that offers the first 7 lessons as a free download.

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments or suggestions at


Episode 42

Posted in Podcasts, Swedish Diction by thedictionpolice on September 19th, 2011

This week we're branching off into a new language--Swedish! In the first of a 2-part series, mezzo-soprano Sofi Lorentzen discusses the vowels and consonants of Swedish, with two songs from Sibelius' Opus 36, No. 4 "Säf, säf, susa" and No.1 "Svarta rosor". The new phonetic letters that we introduce this week are for the letter U [ʉː] & ] and for the soft K sound [ɕ].

"Säf, säf, susa" is a poem by Gustav Fröding, "Svarta rosor" by Ernst Josephson, a Swedish portrait painter. Composer Jean Sibeluis was Finnish, but most of his songs are to Swedish texts, not surprising since both Finnish and Swedish are equally the official languages of Finnland.

Wikipedia has a page on Swedish pronunciation, which I used to help prepare for the interview. The alphabet and writing systems website that I mentioned on this episode is Omniglot, a great resource for all languages which includes tips on learning languages, useful phrases and tongue twisters! They also have a pronunciation page for each language (including Swedish) which includes a phonetic guide.

Some of the YouTube clips I found for these songs include:

"Säf, säf, susa" with Jussi Björling (and uncredited orchestra?), Birgit Nilsson with the Vienna Opera Orchestra and Håkan Hagegård with Warren Jones on the piano.

"Svarta rosor" with Jüssi Björling (again an uncredited pianist!) and a recording from 1902 of Björling's teacher John Forsell with pianist Armas Järnefelt (a contemporary of Sibelius, who studied at the music institute in Helsinki with him).

There are many more, these are just a few to get you started!

As always, feel free to contact me with questions or comments here, at the Facebook page or directly at


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