There are currently 10 million Swedish speakers to help you on your journey to learn Swedish. Most of these people live in Sweden and in the coastal areas of Finland and the Åland islands. Descendant from old Norse, the Swedish language is closely related to Norwegian and, despite efforts to differentiate themselves, Danish as well. Swedish is currently the largest of the North Germanic languages and is an official language in Sweden, Åland and Finland as each have it as the official language.
The history of Swedish as a distinct language begins with the language of Scandinavia in the 8th century, Old Norse. This language divided and Old East Norse became the language which Swedish and Danish developed from. These dialects both used a runic alphabet called Younger Futhark which only had 16 letters. It was often necessary for one rune to represent multiple different sounds. In the 12th century the distinct dialects of Denmark and Sweden began to develop into their own specific languages.
By 1225 Swedish was being written in Latin script and entered the period known as Old Swedish. The oldest surviving code of laws, the Västgötalagen, are dated from 1250. The rise of the Catholic Church lead to the influence of Greek and Latin and the development of the Hanseatic league for commerce and administration lead to the incorporation of Low Saxon.
All these influences found cohesion in the printing of the Gustav Vasa Bible, a translation which was commissioned by the King in the early 1500s. It was a greatly influential text and laid the groundwork for the growing demand and debate for a common language. By 1906 the debate finally settled with a reform that standardized Swedish as it is today.