I'm applying for positions in Sweden, but come from another Nordic country. Most recruiters require that I speak both Swedish and English. Currently, I can easily keep up a conversation in Swedish and write with OK grammar, but not perfect.

I know I can write a top notch cover letter in English, but believe my Swedish efforts would be mediocre at best. I could of course deliver the same content in Swedish and ask a native speaker to proofread, but I'm afraid it wouldn't shine.

I need to communicate that I am fluent in Swedish, but I would also like to leverage my English skills which are beyond my competetion.

Should I write a letter that stands out in English or a mediocre one in Swedish?

What points should I balance when making this choice? Thanks for any input.

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    Be aware that all Swedish professionals essentially speak fluent English. Even the Baristas will serve you in English. I would bet good money that anyone reading your English cover letter will be able to read it and appreciate it. Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:14
  • 1
    Baristas, yes. Professionals... don't count on it.
    – Stoney
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 9:32
  • If you want to write a Swedish cover letter strongly consider getting a professional to help you. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 8:30
  • @Ramhound right -> write. I see what you did there... Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 22:39
  • Auto-Correct exists but grammatically correcting a commentary after 5 years isn’t possible.
    – Donald
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 23:20

3 Answers 3


I would probably write a paragraph or 2 in Swedish explaining that I am bilingual and can read and write Swedish fluently. This will cover your concern about the company believing that you can not read or write in Swedish but allow you to shine in your native tongue. Alternatively you could write the same letter in both languages. I would probably get some help from someone to proof read to help you improve your non native version though I would still note that I was fluent in both languages.

However if the company will require you to deal primarily(or completely) in your non native language then only use that language when applying.

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    Well my native language (Icelandic) is of little or no value, but English is my near native alternative.
    – Stoney
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 9:44
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    Since Swedish is important, I think I'll go for your second suggestion and write it in Swedish. By default, they'll think I don't know Swedish, which means I'd be cut off in the first filtering of resumés. I'll just have to put in extra effort to make it shine in Swedish.
    – Stoney
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 9:49
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    @Stoney: I believe this answer covers a good strategy for non-domestic applicants (and I'm from Sweden). :-) If you're applying for an IT-job that isn't particularly customer facing and the employer doesn't require fluency in Swedish then very few HR-people in Sweden would filter non-Swedish applicants out (YMMV). In general, showcasing your work skills and communication skills is considered more important than speaking Swedish language "super-fluently".
    – Spoike
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:58

If you cannot write a good letter, you might not really be fluent in Swedish. It's a bit of a catch-22. I can easily see how writing in English would put you at a disadvantage but I have difficulties envisioning a scenario in which writing a letter in broken Swedish would be better.

I don't know about Sweden specifically but generally speaking if it's not a deal breaker (this employer is English-friendly, your function does not require too much client interaction, you have other strong selling points) then you can write in English, mention your actual language proficiency in the resume and sort it all out with the recruiter later on. If it is genuinely important (say you work in PR, advertisement, etc.), writing a mediocre letter will reflect badly on your language proficiency but sending a good one with someone else's help won't do you much good either as the discrepancy between the quality of the letter and your actual language level will be quickly noticed.

At the same time, I would argue that the main reason to choose English that it would enable to communicate more effectively and wouldn't expect that to provide much of an edge over the competition. Many job offers in Europe mention English as a requirement but apart from some very specific positions, you won't be hired because of this (and if English proficiency is an important prerequisite for a position then chances are that the recruiter will be biased toward hiring a “native speaker” and not merely people who can write English well).


I'm really surprised that nobody seems to have suggested the possibility of asking someone who does read and write the target language fluently to go over your text with a fine-toothed comb and correct any mistakes. In fact, that's usually a good idea even if the target language is your native language.

Everyone makes mistakes occasionally in writing, and when you are going over a text repeatedly it is easy to start overlooking even really basic mistakes like having swapped the position of two words or missing out on a word (prepositions in particular can be very easy to miss the absence of) or using different tenses in different parts of the document where the same tense is called for. By asking someone else (who is good with the language) to read through it and point out any such mistakes, you make it much less likely that any such mishaps slip through to the final version of the document, which is especially important with a job application. Computerized spell-checks only go so far; there are many cases which they won't catch, and even computerized grammar checks are imperfect at best, particularly when a document has to be basically letter-perfect.

Of course, you'd probably want to also point out that (in this case) Swedish is not your native language and that you are still learning, so that they don't expect the same kind of language proficiency as from a native when you get to speak to them and are let down because of that.

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