What Are the Languages Spoken in Sweden?

Languages Spoken in Sweden

Written by Bernadine Racoma

February 19, 2021

While many people call the country Sweden, its official name is the Kingdom of Sweden, which covers the 4th largest land area in Europe. Sweden is home to more than 10 million people. The country is attractive to many people from Europe and other countries because it has one of the world’s highest standards of living.

The country was once one of the greatest military powers in the world, feared by neighboring countries. Despite that, Sweden remained a neutral country during WWI and WWII. Although most of the world is at peace, Swedish law requires its citizens from age 19 to complete military service for 15 months. A prosperous country, Sweden has several prominent technology and manufacturing companies, such as Electrolux, IKEA, Saab, Volvo, Ericsson, and Scania trucks.

What are the languages spoken in Sweden?

Sweden has an official language, several minor languages, and a variety of immigrant languages.

The official language is Swedish, which most inhabitants of the country speak. However, English is also widely spoken.

Swedish is a North Germanic language, which is similar to Norwegian and Danish. Many Swedes are multilingual. Considering the other regional, immigrant and indigenous languages such as the Sámi languages, about 200 languages are spoken in Sweden.

The Minority Language Committee of Sweden formally declared five minority languages in 1999.

  1. Sámi languages
  2. Romani
  3. Yiddish
  4. Meänkieli
  5. Finnish

The Swedish parliament (Riksdag) recognized Swedish as the country’s main and common language only in 2009, as well as confirming the official status of the five minority languages declared in 1999, with Swedish Sign Language included in the confirmation.

Many Swedes are fluent in English, especially those who were born at the end of the First World War.

Some people want to include Mandarin Chinese. And there were continuing and contradicting proposals to make English a transcultural language or the country’s second language.

Whether English becomes a second language in Sweden officially, the Swedes are undeniably the best English speakers in the world, which was recognized by EF English First, a language proficiency company in 2012 and 2013.

Can you live in Sweden by only speaking English?

The answer to the question is yes and no.

If you are an expat, it is all right because there are several places where people speak and understand English. In fact, some places use English as a second language. And mind you, the English they speak is of a high standard.

However, it is likewise more convenient to learn some important Swedish words and phrases. For example, learn to say kan vi gör det här på engelska, which is Swedish for “can we do this in English” and kan vi gör det här på engelska or can you speak English.

Many shows on TV are popular shows from England and the United States. The same is true for radio stations and popular music. Further, many of the shops have staff that speak English, so, you can still get by.

When it comes to public transport, the situation is different because it is dependent on where you choose to go. On the SL transport network, most of the workers speak English, and transport information is available in English and Swedish.

However, if you are planning to stay in Sweden for six months or longer, the Swedes expect you to know and understand the language. The Swedes will forgive you if you are not that fluent, but you should make the effort to learn the official language.

You can learn Swedish easily. The government supports two programs meant to help non-Swedes learn their language. You can access free basic and intermediate courses from Swedish as a Second Language (SaaS) and Swedish for Immigrants (SFI).

Learning the Swedish language

While you can get by without speaking Swedish if you’re staying in Sweden, it is necessary to learn the language so that you can know the Swedish people deeper. At the same time, you will understand their culture and the things that are happening each day.

Here are more reasons:

  • It will benefit your career if you are planning to live and work in the country for a long time. It will open more employment opportunities, too.
  • It shows that you respect the Swedish culture, helping you to integrate in Swedish society faster. You will fit in culturally, and understand what is happening in the right context.
  • Your communication skills will be excellent. You can learn other related languages such as Norwegian and Danish.
  • Learning Swedish will make you more independent.

Are Swedish and German languages the same?

German and Swedish belong to the Indo-European language family. However, German is from the West-Germanic branch while Swedish is from the North Germanic branch. Since they are from the same language family, the two languages are related, but they are not mutually intelligible, like most of the languages from the same language family where English belongs.

In fact, Swedish is more similar to English. However, German and Swedish share some common vocabulary terms because they come from similar roots. Swedish has two genders while German has three. There are no cases in Swedish. German has four. Typically, German is spoken monotonously while Swedish pronunciation is akin to ”singing.”

The two languages differ in the pronunciation of the alphabet. Many letter combinations in German are pronounced separately. Likewise, some Swedish letter combinations produce unique sounds.

Regarding vocabulary, the two languages have similarities. For example, apple in English is äpple in Swedish and Appfel in German. Ship in English becomes Shiff in German and skepp in Swedish. Do you see the pattern? Some letters, like F, D, T, Z, and K replace the specific letters in the other language. Both languages differ in gender, the use of articles, cases, verb inflections, and predicate adjectives.

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