How Common Is Spoken Spanish In Sweden? (Answered)


Although Sweden has historically been a homogenous country both in language and culture, today it is accepting, some would even say to the detriment of its own cultural identity, other languages, religions, and cultures in a most liberal and open manner. The means the English language and its culture are readily accepted.

Yet, what about Spanish? How common is Spanish in Sweden?

Spanish is very uncommon in Sweden with only 5% of the population speaking it on some level. This amounts to 509,540 people out of 10,190,802. The odds of finding someone who speaks Spanish in Sweden is 1 in 20. You would go through 20 random people to find one with some Spanish proficiency.

We will do a deep dive into the Spanish language as it is used by both native Swedes as well as immigrants to their country. We will look at how commonly it is spoken, where it may be found, and what other languages give it competition in the minds of the people of Sweden.

How Widely Spoken Is Spanish In Sweden?

Though Spanish may not be at the forefront of the mind of every Swede, what is its role in the everyday workings of their country? Here we will look at the raw data, numbers, and percentages to determine through the facts just how popular the Spanish language is in Sweden.

First, let me sum it up in a few sentences to let you know in a nutshell what the facts suggest.

Spanish is not widely spoken in Sweden both in numbers of native speakers and second language learners. The numbers of native speakers equal less than 1% of the total population and all Spanish speakers amount to around 509,540 people, which is at 5%.

Now we can look closer at several aspects of the raw numbers to get a clearer picture of what Spanish looks like in this Scandinavian country.

Is Spanish Spoken In Sweden At All?

Seeing now that Spanish may be a fairly rare language in Sweden, is it something that can be heard on a daily basis? Is Spanish spoken in Sweden at all or is it merely and academic exercise for language learners in school or as a hobby?

Spanish will not be heard or spoken in daily conversations in the vast majority of Sweden. Only in rare ethnic communities in large population centers or in language classrooms will the chances of finding Spanish increase. Spanish is simply rare to find in Sweden overall.

With that said, what to the raw numbers look like for Spanish speakers? Is it sizable enough in some areas to make a difference?

How Many Spanish Speakers Are In Sweden?

It is important to look at facts and the raw numbers to get an accurate picture of the state of any language in a particular country. Here let’s look at the number of people that can speak Spanish in Sweden on some level. How many Spanish speakers are there in Sweden?

With Sweden’s total population reaching 10,190,802 people, those that speak Spanish on some level number 509,540. Of these speaking Spanish, the vast majority are language learners and not fluent. Native speakers make up only a small percentage of those that have Spanish language abilities.

This is a relatively small number and can make it hard to find one of these people in practical daily routines. Not only that, even if you were to find someone with Spanish language abilities, their proficiency level could be so low that only basic conversations could be attempted.

What Percentage Of Sweden Speaks Spanish?

If those are the exact numbers of Spanish speakers, then what is the proportionality of those with this skill versus those without? It is helpful to have comparisons for the human mind to grasp certain concepts. Here we will use percentages and proportions to form a picture. So, what percentage of Sweden speaks Spanish?

Spanish speakers make up only 5% of the population of Sweden with most of them being language learners attempting to acquire Spanish as a second language. Though this seems low, it is average when compared the with percentages of Spanish speakers in other countries in Europe.

I will speak more on the comparison of Sweden’s Spanish speaking percentages to the rest of Europe later, but it suffices here to say that though this 5% figure is low compared to other languages spoken, it is on par with what other countries of Europe experience.

How Many Spaniards Live In Sweden?

No description of the state of Spanish in Sweden would be complete without comparing the level of native Spanish speaking immigrants to find out how many are fluent from birth versus in the middle of learning the language. This is especially instructive seeing as Spanish is not widely spoken. This affords learners little opportunity to become fluent.

One way to do this is to look at how many Spaniards reside in Sweden. These will most likely make up the majority of the native Spanish speaking population.

According to Statistics Sweden (SCB) 4,552 immigrant children from Spain attend school in Sweden with a total Spanish population reaching over 7,000 people. In a country of 10,190,802 people, this is well below 1% of the population. Those of Spanish decent are an extreme minority in Sweden.

This also speaks to the amount of native Spanish language that one will be able to find in the country. With such low populations of native Spanish speakers it is more likely that if you can find a person with Spanish speaking abilities, the proficiency level will be rather low.

What Are The Top 5 Languages Spoken In Sweden?

If Spanish is not the only language spoken by a portion of the Swedish population, then what are some of the other popular choices for second languages? Are there also languages that have a presence due to immigration? What are the top languages spoken in Sweden?

The top 5 main spoken languages in Sweden:

  1. Swedish (official) at 98% with 9,986,986 people
  2. English at 86% with 8,764,090 people
  3. German at 30% with 3,057,241 people
  4. French at 11% with 1,120,988 people
  5. Spanish at 5% with 509,540 people

For our purposes here, it is interesting to note that though Spanish makes the top five list of spoken languages in Sweden, it is far behind the levels of the other four. This is one of the main reasons Spanish is hard to find and use by tourists, employees, or students.

What Is Sweden’s Main Language?

There can sometimes be a difference between a ‘main’ language or most popularly spoken language and an official language. Some countries even have multiple official languages with several holding sway over large portions of the population. In Sweden’s case, what is the official language or main language?

The official language of Sweden is Swedish and is spoken by the vast majority of its citizens. At 98% of the population, Swedish is not only the official language, but the most popular. With its ethnic and national ties, it is little wonder that most of the country revolves around Swedish.

Sweden like the other Scandinavian countries has for centuries been enjoyed a homogenous culture, language, and even religious affiliation. Only recently has large scale immigration begun to change this dynamic.

What Is The Most Spoken Language In Sweden?

As stated above, it is not unheard of for a country to have an official language, but it not be the most widely used. Is this the case in Sweden? Is the official language the most spoken language? Also, how does Spanish compare with the popularity of this most widely used one?

Swedish is the most spoken language in Sweden, but surprisingly only slightly ahead of the non-native English language. Due to influences in media, education, and politics, English has begun to rival Swedish for the top spot. Swedish is spoken by 98% of the country with English used by 86%.

Though English has not taken the top position in Sweden, it is remarkably close to the nation’s official language. Swedish is the most spoken language today, but who knows what it will be in a generation or two.

Can I Get Around In Sweden Only Speaking Spanish?

For those not knowing Swedish, is it possible to get around in Sweden using another language? What about Spanish? Is it feasible to think someone can get by in Sweden only using Spanish?

It would definitely not be practical to try and get by in Sweden only using Spanish. This could also run the risk of alienating or irritating the local population. When visiting another country, it is important to adapt to their desired communication methods. In Sweden it is Swedish or English.

That is not to say that many Swedes would not try and be helpful if directions or other immediate needs could only be asked for in Spanish. You could very well find someone willing to try and decipher the important components of a situation. Yet, beyond this it could be difficult to communicate.

Is There Spanish on Swedish Street Signs?

The question of road, street, caution, and informational signs is another issue facing many traveling to this central Scandinavian country. Will Spanish be included on signs of any type?

Spanish will not appear on the vast majority of street signs, cautions signs, or road signs. The only slight exceptions could be at airports, but even then Spanish will be very rare. Most road and cautions signs use little text to begin with, and the text they use will be in Swedish, not Spanish.

This is not to say that you would not be able to get around and understand most signage. Much of what we use today on street and road signs consists of street or location names or pictographs in the cases where driving or caution information is needed.

Many of these will not require knowledge of Swedish, though a basic understanding would be a great help.

Will Spanish Be Spoken In The Swedish Workplace?

With the low acceptance of Spanish in everyday life in Sweden, it may not come as a surprise to find the state of Spanish in the workplace. There are specific circumstances where business or politics could require it, but in the majority of workplaces in Sweden, can Spanish be found?

Spanish is rare to find in any workplace in Sweden. The exceptions could be specific companies that deal directly with firms in Spain or other Spanish speaking countries or in designated political settings. But by in large, Spanish will not be required or preferred in any workplace in Sweden.

There could be a few positions available for Spanish teachers or translators, but those positions are rare and many of them can be filled by individuals or companies working remotely online. For workplaces in Sweden, it is highly unlikely.

Is there Spanish In Any Swedish Media?

As with many other countries, Swedish media leaders and governmental authorities have to deal with the existence of foreign media and the influence that these other languages and culture have. Some countries deal with it by dubbing all media into the official language of their people. How does Sweden handle it? Is there Spanish in Swedish media?

There is virtually no dubbing of foreign films or television into Swedish done in Sweden. Many Swedes ridicule the rare attempts done on media have tried to grab adult viewers. The exceptions are children’s films and shows that are dubbed for kids not expected to read subtitles.

Most swedes would rather have the original languages and sound left in place and read subtitles in Swedish. Though most Americans, Brits, Australians, etc. would balk at subtitled movies, they also have not had dubbing as a major part of their media experience since most of the popular films and television are produced in English.

For those living in Sweden, it is rare to find Swedish language films as popular as English ones. This creates the dubbed versus subtitle dilemma that English speakers don’t have to face.

With that being said, there are Swedish films in the Swedish language. They have a unique Scandinavian flare and of course are in… Swedish.

Can I Live In Sweden Speaking English?

In contrast, what would it be like to try to live in or get by in Sweden using one of its most popular second languages? English holds a very prominent place in Sweden. So, could someone live in Sweden only speaking English?

As opposed to languages like Spanish, it is highly likely that someone could live their daily lives quite comfortably in Sweden only speaking English. Though there would be some difficulties, especially dealing with official government forms and agencies, English works perfectly fine in Sweden.

Unlike the state of Spanish in Sweden, English is a second language that the vast majority of Swedes learn to the point of conversational fluency. This is due to many reasons noted elsewhere in this article. It has nothing to say about the value of one language over another, only the preference of one country and its people.

Where Can I Find Spanish In Sweden?

If Spanish is this as rare as stated above in Sweden, where would someone needing to find a Spanish speaker go? There should be places where Spanish speakers are more apt to congregate. Luckily there are such places in most countries for speakers of foreign languages.

Larger population centers like medium to large cities are the best bet to find Spanish speakers in Sweden. Other locations that could prove fruitful are university campuses and tourist destination spots. These can have international students or employees with some level of Spanish.

Let’s look at a couple of these larger cities to give you an idea where Spanish has a better chance of being found.

  1. Stockholm – 1.6 million people and around 2.4 million in the surrounding metro area
    • With Stockholm University the city has more than 18 universities and other higher learning institutions. This could provide an opportunity to find some Spanish speakers.
  2. Göteborg – 599,000 people and around 1 million in the surrounding metro area
  3. Malmö – 317,000 people and around 700,000 in the surrounding metro area
  4. Uppsala – 160,000 people and around 200,000 living in the surrounding metro area.
    • Their Uppsala University holds the distinction of being one of the oldest universities in the Scandinavian countries.

How Does Swedish Spanish Compare To The Rest Of Europe?

Even with the low representation that Spanish has in the Swedish language environment, Sweden is rather average in its Spanish acceptance when compared to other nations in Europe. Spanish really only enjoys widespread usage in its home country of Spain.

The percentage of usage in Europe paints a bleak picture for the Spanish language.

Countries at 50% or greater Spanish language use

  1. Spain at 94%

Countries at 6% to 10% Spanish language use

  1. Portugal
  2. France
  3. Italy

Countries at 1% to 5% Spanish language use

  1. England
  2. Germany
  3. Belgium
  4. The Netherlands
  5. Luxemburg
  6. Sweden
  7. Finland
  8. Romania
  9. Bulgaria
  10. Austria
  11. Croatia

Countries at less than 1% Spanish language use

  1. Estonia
  2. Latvia
  3. Lithuania
  4. Poland
  5. Slovakia
  6. Hungary
  7. Czechia

Though Sweden is not in the top Spanish users list, they are average in their acceptance. Most of these have chosen Spanish as a second language with immigrants from Spain and other Spanish speaking countries being very low.

The Final Word On Spanish In Sweden…

The Spanish language is a beautiful and rich language connected to vibrant cultures and history. Its use today outside of its native countries is not as prolific as others.

This is due to the realms of education, business, politics, etc. being dominated by other world languages.

The place of Swedish and even English in Sweden leave little room for the emergence of other languages. This has much to do with English holding highly regarded positions in the above named fields.

In Sweden you are 17 times more likely to find an English speaker than a speaker of Spanish.

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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