Swedish is the national language of Sweden (population 9 million) and one of the two national languages of Finland (population 5 million). It is a Scandinavian language and is closely related to Danish and Norwegian, so closely related that speakers of one Scandinavian language can usually read texts in the others with little or no difficulty. Swedish is also a Germanic language, sharing many elements with English, German, Dutch, and Icelandic. A knowledge of Swedish provides access to Swedish and Scandinavian history and culture, allowing one to read about or study Swedes, many distinguished contributions in international mediation, politics and public policy, architecture and design, medicine and the natural sciences, and theater and film.
Sweden has a rich literature dating back to the middle ages. Some notable Swedish writers include the poet and songwriter Carl Michael Bellman, the many-faceted Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (who once spent several months in New Braunfels), the novelists Fredrika Bremer, Sophie von Knorring, and Emilie Flygare-Carlén, writer and playwright August Strindberg, Nobel prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, writer and playwright Hjalmar Söderberg, poet and writer Karin Boye, poets Gunnar Ekelöf and Thomas Tranströmer, novelist Kerstin Ekman, and of course, Lars Gustafsson, who spent many years as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas. Swedish filmmakers include Ingmar Bergman, Victor Sjöström, Mauritz Stiller, Alf Sjöberg, and Lukas Moodysson.