How Many People Speak Swedish?

Whether interested in learning the language or visiting Sweden, many questions about the Swedish language exist. Some wonder about its origins, while others may even question how popular the language is across the world. 

Though exact numbers vary between sources, close to 10 million people speak Swedish globally.

It is the most commonly spoken language in the Nordic countries, where about 90% of its speakers reside. This may have something to do with Sweden being the most populated Nordic country. 

This article will dive deeper into the popularity of the Swedish language. It will also cover the areas where most Swedish speakers live and whether or not it’s difficult to learn the Swedish language.

Finally, it will give readers a few tips for learning the language more quickly. 

Also, see What is the Difference between Sweden and Denmark? to learn more.

Where Do Most Swedish Speakers Live?

It should come as no surprise that most Swedish speakers live in Sweden. About 90% (or approximately 8,730,000) of the total number of Swedish speakers live in Sweden. [1]

While this is a good chunk of the people who speak the language, there are still about a million or more speakers left unaccounted for. 

Beyond Sweden, there are people in Finland who speak Swedish. In fact, Swedish is one of the two national languages of Finland, along with Finnish. [2]

This came about when Finland was part of Sweden, which you can learn more about in the article “This Is Why Swedish Is the Official Language of Finland.” 

Even though Swedish is the official national language in Finland, not much of the population speaks it.

Less than 10% of Finnish people speak Swedish. So, it can be confusing to figure out why it remains a national language and who that really benefits. 

The Importance of Swedish Being a National Language in Finland

While there are valid reasons for Swedish to be included as an official language, there are also many benefits to everyday citizens.

It’s true that less than 10% of the Finnish population speaks the language. However, the importance of the national language title helps those who do

Because Swedish is a national language in Finland, those who speak it can get the help they need. Rather than forcing them to learn Finnish, Finland officials make their lives a little easier by doing this.

For those who speak only Swedish, it allows them to receive care and aid in Swedish. 

The national language title allows people to live in a country that supports their language.

This is also why parts of the US incorporate Spanish into airports and other services for those non-English speakers who may need the most assistance.

However, Finland takes this gesture a step further than the US. 

They don’t simply include Swedish in the parts of the country most commonly frequented by those who speak the language.

Instead, they ensure that Swedish and Finnish are accessible all over the country. There are schools and daycare programs that teach both of these languages rather than focusing on just Finnish. 

Less Popular Swedish-Speaking Countries

While Sweden remains the most popular place for those who speak Swedish, with Finland in a distant second place, other countries have some native Swedish speakers as well.

Notably, there is a small group of Swedish speakers in Ukraine. In fact, most other countries with groups of Swedish speakers were there due to significant migrations. 

For example, the Swedish speakers in Ukraine may be descendants of those who relocated there from Estonia. At the time, the Swedes were on the run after the invasion of Russia.

When they completed their journey, they found themselves in Ukraine, where many remained. [3]

A small group in the US also speaks Swedish for a similar reason. During the early 1900s, about 1.3 million Swedes came to the United States.

With overpopulation and political and agricultural issues growing in Sweden at the time, many people came to the US for a chance at a better life. [4]

Because of this emigration, many Swedish-speaking people came to the US, most of whom stayed. This left many people to start a new life in the US, working and raising families that speak Swedish.

So, it is no surprise that many descendants of those people are still here and speak Swedish here too. 

Other countries with small groups of Swedish speakers include: 

  • Spain
  • Germany
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • Australia
  • The United Kingdom

Also, see Swedish Massage vs. Deep Tissue Massage to learn more.

Is It Hard to Learn the Swedish Language?

For those who want to learn Swedish, it is no more difficult than any other language. In fact, it is one of the easiest languages to learn, according to the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI). [5]

The FSI has a grading system for learning other languages that can help one understand just how difficult it may be to learn that language.

The scale goes from one to five, with one being easy languages to learn and five being the most difficult.

The FSI rated Swedish as a one, making it one of the easiest languages for English speakers to grasp. 

The FSI uses this category for any language outside of English. Those interested in learning a language can check out the FSI rating to get an idea of how complicated the process may be.

However, the FSI is just a guide. Every new language will take time and work to truly master and understand. 

One reason that the FSI recognizes Swedish as a more accessible language to learn for English speakers compared to some other languages is that it has similar Latin roots.

This will make defining and understanding new Swedish words much easier for English speakers. 

Helpful Tips for Learning Swedish

For those who want to learn Swedish, there are some ways to make the experience less challenging overall.

While everyone learns differently, these suggestions can facilitate a faster and more efficient learning experience. 

  • Practicing reading and writing
  • Focusing on the words similar to English first
  • Using any and all available resources.
  • Visiting Sweden or meeting native speakers
  • Watching or listening to Swedish media

Also, see Why Does Sweden Have So Many Lakes? to learn more.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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