Swedish Language Blog

Swedish in Swedish-America Posted by on Jun 17, 2011 in Culture, Swedish Language

The US saw a lot of immigration from the Scandinavian countries in the late 1800s. While there were Swedes in the US before this point, this was one of the first large immigrant waves. Many settled in Minnesota and the surrounding areas. This isn’t at all surprising to anyone who may have been to Mora, Minnesota. Or Lindstrom, Minnesota. Or Karlstad, Minnesota. Or… well you get the idea. The Swedish heritage of the area is a rich one.

Over the years, there were subsequent waves of immigration to the area, as well as to other states in the Midwest. There are Swedish settlements in Illinois, in Nebraska, in Kansas. For someone like me, having grown up straddling two cultures, born in Sweden but raised in the US, it is a fascinating look at culture, identity, and language.

That upbringing though has led me back to the US. I recently finished up my first year as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in the Scandinavian Studies department. I even spent the year teaching Swedish. It was a wonderful experience and amazing to see just how many people are interested and engaged with the Swedish language and culture. That experience teaching, along with my personal interests has led me to research into the Scandinavian languages and traditions that exist in the US today.

I was lucky enough to begin a research project that put me in contact with people from different areas in Minnesota, Colorado, and Nebraska. Getting the chance to sit down with various Swedish-Americans and discuss their family history, their culture, their identity, was a great opportunity. Most fascinating though may have been sitting down with some older Swedish-Americans who were actually born in the US, but spoke Swedish as their native language. Many were born to Swedish parents in Swedish settlements so only spoke Swedish until they went to a public school where they began to learn English.

It is an amazingly resilient cultural heritage that I am excited to have the opportunity to explore and continue to research. But this isn’t really about me, it’s about you. And your experiences. And why you study Swedish. And your ties to the country, the language, the culture. So, with that in mind, what are your experiences with Swedish in the US?

And of course, if you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the project or volunteering to be interviewed feel free to contact me at:
Marcus Cederström
C/O The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Scandinavian Studies
1220 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Or e-mail me at cederstrom at wisc dot edu.

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. sueca:

    Please don’t forget that there was a huge Swedish presence in Seattle, too. My parents and many others came to that area from Sweden in the l920’s and 1930’s

  2. Marcus Cederström:

    Great point, also in the Rocky Mountains actually