This is the continuation of the post Moving to Sweden as a doctor : PhD admission. In this post, I will discuss my experiences in studying Swedish language.
All people who have a personal number in Sweden have the right to learn Swedish language. If you are a temporary or permanent resident in Sweden, you get a personal number, and that enables you to learn Swedish language free of cost. You can choose to go either to Folksuniversitiet or to SFI for learning Swedish (some courses in Folksuniversitiet are paid courses). Both these institutions teach Swedish, but in different ways. Folksuniversitiet follows the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and has courses starting from A1 to C2 level. At Folksuniversitiet, you need to have cleared the exam for C1 level to be able to practice as a doctor in Sweden. If you go the SFI route, you do SFI-C and SFI-D courses. SFI-C is roughly equivalent to 5th standard level of Swedish and SFI-D is equivalent to 7th standard. People without secondary education start at SFI-A, but you as a doctor has got University education, and you are therefore eligible to start at SFI-C directly.
Once you finish SFI-D, you can start ‘Svenska som ändraspråk (SAS)’ course. While SFI consists of basic level courses, SAS enables you to learn Swedish as a second language. SAS has various levels : SAS-G, SAS-1, SAS-2 and SAS-3. SAS-G consists of four sub-levels. If you performed well in the final exam of SFI-D, you can go directly to the third or the fourth level, so it is important to prepare well for SFI-D if you would like to finish studying Swedish fast. SAS-3 is equivalent to having learnt Swedish at 12th standard level. To work as a doctor in Sweden, you need to complete SAS-3. Clearing SAS-3 would also mean that you are eligible to take University level courses in Swedish language. When you start practicing as a doctor, you might want to study short University courses as a part of continued education. Nearly all courses are in Swedish, so it is good for you to clear SAS-3 rather than to clear C1 from Folksuniversitiet. In addition, the completion course for doctors from outside Sweden only accepts SAS-3, and not C1. So, even if SAS-3 seems to take longer time than C1, I would say it is worth the effort. It is likely that you have waiting times between passing one SAS course and joining another. My recommendation is to study Swedish during the waiting time and appear for the SAS exam directly if possible. Most kommuns allow you to appear for the SAS exam without having to go to the course. If you are in Göteborg, you can apply for the SAS exam directly here against a fee of 500 SEK.
It takes around 2 years to learn Swedish if you learn intensively. I studied part time, so it took longer. Starting SAS-1, you have the possibility to do distance course. This was helpful for me because I could now study and do the assignments during weekends. You need to show the proof for Swedish proficiency only when you apply for the medical license, so you are allowed to take the medical license exam (kunskapsprov för läkare utanför EU/EEA) before you have finished studying Swedish. I passed the theory part of the medical license exam while I was still doing SAS-G course, so my advice is to start preparing for the medical license exam as soon as you finish SFI-D. I will write about preparing for the medical license exam in the next post.