In Swedish, with English Subtitles

Swedish FlagImage: Copyright © Allie Caulfield / CC BY

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been watching the Swedish police drama, Wallander. Based on the books by Henning Mankell, the TV series stars Krister Henriksson and Johanna Sällström.

The storylines are quite dark, being based on murder mysteries; for example Saturday night’s programme, entitled “Mastermind”, was based on a local murder and the disappearance of a policeman’s daughter. Kurt and his team realize that the two are connected, and as the investigation moves on it becomes apparent that the criminal knows every move they’re making and is practically controlling them! So perhaps its not the best programme to watch if you get nightmares easily…

Wallander is set (and filmed on location) in the city of Ystad, in Southern Sweden. The city is considered one of the best preserved cities in the Scania Province, and it is said that few cities in Sweden can match its picturesque old houses and streets.

According to Wikipedia, the “Y” is believed to be a link to an old name for the Yew tree, while “Stad” is the Swedish for town or place. I find this interesting, considering that Stadt is also a German word!  Perhaps more interesting, is that “Ja” is also a Swedish word – can you guess what it means!??

Now, I don’t learn the Swedish language, but its interesting to listen to what’s being said, because you soon realize that there are some similarities it shares with German; one is a North Germanic language, while the other is a West Germanic language. So they’re distantly related.

In fact, I found a map on Wikipedia which shows where in Europe different Germanic languages are spoken; the dividing line between North and West Germanic is just North of Germany, which borders Denmark (by land) and Sweden (by sea)!

Its only because there are subtitles in English that I can understand it – which Dad doesn’t like because it gives him a headache. I don’t mind them, in fact subtitles for me a perfectly normal.

That’s because I watch a lot of Greek TV where dubbing a film isn’t standard practice. Therefore, a large majority of films, some children’s TV shows and even clips on the News featuring non-Greek speakers broadcast in Greece are in English with Greek subtitles. Even one of my Yes, Minister DVDs has an option for Greek subtitles!

So Wallander returns to BBC 4 on Saturday night, for episode 7 of 13, which is entitled “Den Svaga Punkten“. Tune in at 9, if you have time. Alternatively, watch last week’s episode on the BBC iPlayer.

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer


  1. My wife and I love Krister Henriksson’s Kurt Wallander. The english BBC version is lame in comparison.
    Please bring more to the U.S.
    There are only 3 episodes that I know of that are available for viewing here.
    I am completely hooked on the swedish version.
    FIrst rate T.V. programing !!!!!!!
    PLEASE – MORE KRISTER HENRIKSSON as Kurt Wallander for viewing in the U.S.!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hi
    Does anyone know the version of Faure’s requiem played in one of Wallander’s episodes please. I would like the details.

  3. Will there be a second series of the Swedish version – they leave Branaghs version so far behind it is untrue. Swedish version = Morse + and Branagh version = Insp Clouseau –

  4. @George Foster – A second series of 17 was filmed 2008/09 I believe. Tragically Johanna Salstrom committed suicide in 2007. The second series aired in Sweden in 09/10 so hopefully this series will show on BBC4 – it really is an excellent series with superb acting.

  5. I found that I was totally engrossed in watching the Swedish Wallander. Totally believable people in their situations.
    When I watched the British version I was constantly reminded of actors acting.
    Not sure if that makes sense because some might suggest that is what actors are supposed to do.

  6. I must agree with Fred Hart, both the Swedish versions that have/are being shown on the BBC are in a different league to the Brannagh version. The Swedes pronounce the name “Vallander”, the first word I heard Brannagh utter in a distinctly Shakepearian tone was a blunt “Wallender”. Ouch – a right tuen off. Is that perhaps one of the reasons that the Swedish productions are regularly repeated abd the English counterparts rarely come out to play. And it’s also a crying shame about Johann Sallstrom.

  7. And now we have more genuine Swedish Wallander, with different actors in the lead roles, but occasionally actors from the first series playing different parts. I’ve seen two so far. All a little confusing but still superior to the Kenneth Branagh British version where everything follows him, leaving the remainder of the cast on a lower level. Following the money, I guess.
    Great shame BBC didn’t concentrate on negotiating fuller usage rights of the original – so that we could watch them again on iPlayer, for example – instead of going to the massive cost of remaking the programmes in an inferior way.

  8. I don’t like the new cast – much prefer the original Wallender – Krister Henriksson. Why was there a change?
    The new Wallender is much more violent and doesn’t play the part as well as Henriksson did.

  9. AND another thing – Swedish, as spoken by the orginal cast, was much more easily understood.

  10. thanks, Fred! As I don’t have a TV I watch it on the iplayer so have no idea which series is which. I think I’m going to have to buy the whole lot on DVD.

  11. Does anyone know where I can get the actual telephone ringtone featured in the series as a downloadable ringtone?

  12. I can totally see what you mean when you understand a bit of Swedish, you should be able to, since you’re English. I’m Dutch and somehow, Swedish is easy for me to follow. Danish on the other hand, is almost complete gibberish to me (despite watching numerous Danish films and tv series over the years, as I love “Nordic noir”). Never understood why, they are both North Germanic languages, but Swedish somehow seems closer to Dutch then Danish.

    Anyway, I’m used to watching this show with Dutch subs (in The netherlands everything non-Dutch is subtitled rather then dubbed, like they do in Germany for instance), and then I can follow a lot of the spoken Swedish. But when I watch them with English subs, my brain goes into overdrive and gets confused. I guess 3 Germanic languages with their similarities processing in my brain at the same time is just a bit too much 🙂

  13. btw I used to love the older eps with Rolf Lassgard too. He was slightly younger and a lot more rugged then Henriksson and Branagh, who both play the older Wallander. I like the other 2 actors as well though. I’m used to seeing Krister Henriksson the most, but Branagh’s Wallander has grown on me over the 3 series so far. Haven’t seen the Lassgard episodes for ages so he’s probably my least favorite at this moment.

    (If only Branagh would get his Swedish pronunciation right… His pronunciation of “Wallander” and “Ystad” sound ridiculous. I really had to get over that to be able to get into into the UK version)

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