Estimated native speakers: 10 million
Estimated total speakers: 12 million
Official/de facto official language in: Sweden, Finland
Language family: Indo-European – North Germanic
A brief history:
Swedish is seen as one of the easier languages for English native speakers to learn as the languages share elements of vocabulary and structure. This dates back to the languages’ shared Germanic roots and the Vikings’ travels from the 8th century AD, which included settling in eastern England. The modern language is mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to a lesser extent with Danish, reflecting their roots in Old Norse. The modern language evolved from the Central Swedish dialects in the 19th century and was well established by the beginning of the 20th century.
The language began to develop independently of its neighbours in the 9th century, when Old Norse began to diverge into Old East Norse (Sweden and Denmark) and Old West Norse (Norway and Iceland). Under the influence of Hanseatic Middle Low German , Old Danish and Old Swedish diverged in the 13th century. At this point, Swedish had a complex case and gender system similar to modern German, but this had largely disappeared by the 16th century, leaving the language with today’s two cases and two genders.
As with its European neighbours, Swedish was largely standardised with the introduction of the printing press in the 16th century and continued to become more regular and accessible in the following centuries. Unlike many neighbours, there have been various official alterations since, most notably the “du-reformen” in the 1960s which saw formal pronouns all but removed from the language.