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Swedish language facts for kids

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Native to Sweden, Finland
Native speakers 11.1 million  (2017)
Language family
Early forms:
Old Swedish
  • Modern Swedish
    • Swedish
Writing system Latin (Swedish alphabet)
Swedish Braille
Official status
Official language in  Sweden
 Åland Islands
 European Union
Nordic Council
Regulated by Swedish Language Council (in Sweden)
Swedish Academy (in Sweden)
Research Institute for the Languages of Finland (in Finland)
Linguasphere 52-AAA-ck to -cw
Major Swedish-speaking areas

Swedish is a language mostly spoken in Sweden and in parts of Finland, typically along the southern and western coasts and on the Åland islands. More than nine million people speak Swedish. It is similar to two of the other Scandinavian languages, Norwegian and Danish, and a person who understands one of these languages can understand the others. Other Scandinavian languages, such as Icelandic and Faroese, are less closely related and cannot be understood by Swedish speakers. Standard Swedish is spoken and written throughout Sweden, but there are some local dialects with differences in grammar and vocabulary in small towns and rural areas.

Swedish began as a dialect of Old Norse, which was a language that everyone in Scandinavia understood during the Viking Age. Around the 12th century Swedish began to slowly become different from the other dialects. These dialects later became what we today call Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese and Danish. Swedish is a Germanic language with some similarities to English because of the Vikings that invaded England in the 10th Century. It is even more similar to German and Dutch, partly because of the Hanseatic League of the Middle Ages, when Sweden traded very openly with Germany.

There are three characters in the Swedish language that are not used in English. These are å, ä and ö. The letter å is a vowel sound between [a] and [o], similar to the English word awe. The letter ä is a vowel sound similar to [ɛ], like in the English word bed. The letter ö is a vowel sound between [o] and [ɛ], pronounced [øː] like the u in the English word burn. These characters are also used in the Finnish language, while Norwegian and Danish languages replace ä and ö with similar characters æ and ø.

Swedish also has some important differences in grammar. Definite articles are suffixed onto the end of their nouns, so ett hus (a house) becomes huset (the house). Also unlike English, Swedish uses two grammatical genders called Common and Neuter. Nouns of the Common gender are sometimes called "en words", and many words for living (or once-living) things are "en words". Nouns of the Neuter gender are sometimes called "ett words".

Example of some words in Swedish

Swedish English
Ett/En One
Två Two
Tre Three
Fyra Four
Fem Five
Sex Six
Sju Seven
Åtta Eight
Nio Nine
Tio Ten
Ja Yes
Nej No
Jag I
Du You
Mig Me
Han He
Hon She
Vi We
De/dem They/them
Jag är I am
Sverige Sweden
Hus House
Hem Home
Väg Way
Björnar Bears
Hjälp Help

Basic Swedish Expressions

God dag/Hej Good day/Hello
Hur mår du? How are you?
Jag mår bra, tack Very good, thank you
Tack Thank you
Tack så mycket Thank you very much
God morgon Good morning
God eftermiddag Good evening
Hej då Goodbye

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