Languages of Finland
OfficialFinnish (1st: 86%, 2nd: 13%)
Swedish (1st: 5%, 2nd: 44%)
Minorityofficially recognized: Sami, Romani, Finnish Sign Language, Finland-Swedish Sign Language, Karelian
ImmigrantEstonian, Russian, Arabic, Somali, English, Kurdish, Albanian, Persian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Tagalog, Turkish, Spanish
ForeignEnglish (70%)
German (30%)
French (10%)[1]
SignedFinnish Sign Language, Finland-Swedish Sign Language
Keyboard layout
QWERTY
Basic Finnish/Swedish

Finnish Multilingual
Source[1] (europa.eu)

The two main official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. There are also several official minority languages: three variants of Sami, as well as Romani, Finnish Sign Language, Finland-Swedish Sign Language and Karelian.[2]

Finnish

Municipalities of Finland:
  unilingually Finnish
  bilingual with Finnish as majority language, Swedish as minority language
  bilingual with Swedish as majority language, Finnish as minority language
  unilingually Swedish
  bilingual with Finnish as majority language, Sami as minority language

Main article: Finnish language

Finnish is the language of the majority, 85.7% of the population in 2022.[3] It is a Finnic language closely related to Estonian and less closely to the Sami languages.

Swedish

Main articles: Finland Swedish and Åland Swedish

Swedish is the main language of 5.2% of the population in 2022[3] (92.4% in the Åland autonomous province), down from 14% at the beginning of the 20th century. In 2012, 44% of Finnish citizens with another registered primary language than Swedish could hold a conversation in this language.[4] Swedish was the language of the administration until the late 19th century. Today it is one of the two main official languages, with a position equal to Finnish in most legislation, though the working language in most governmental bodies is Finnish. Both Finnish and Swedish are compulsory subjects in school with an exception for children with a third language as their native language. A successfully completed language test is a prerequisite for governmental offices where a university degree is required.

The four largest Swedish-speaking communities in Finland, in absolute numbers, are those of Helsinki, Espoo, Porvoo and Vaasa, where they constitute significant minorities. In Helsinki, currently 5.5% of the population are native Swedish speakers and 18.3% are native speakers of languages other than Finnish and Swedish.[3]

The Swedish dialects spoken in Finland mainland are known as Finland-Swedish. There is a rich Finland-Swedish literature, including authors such as Tove Jansson, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Edith Södergran and Zacharias Topelius. Runeberg is considered Finland's national poet and wrote the national anthem, "Vårt land", which was only later translated to Finnish.

Within language policy making in Finland, Taxell's paradox refers to the notion that monolingual solutions are essential to the realization of functional bilingualism, with multilingual solutions ultimately leading to monolingualism. The thinking is based on the observation of the Swedish language in environments such as schools is subordinated to the majority language Finnish for practical and social reasons, despite the positive characteristics associated with mutual language learning.[5][6]

English

English is spoken as a foreign language by most Finns. Official statistics from 2012 show that at least 70% of Finns can speak English.[7] English is the native language of 0.5% of the Finnish population.[3]

Sami languages

Traffic signs in Utsjoki, written in Finnish and in Northern Sámi, marking the municipal border.

The Sami languages are a group of related languages spoken across Lapland. They are distantly related to Finnish. The three Sami languages spoken in Finland, Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami, have a combined native speaker population of only 2,035 in 2022 albeit there are more than 10,000 Sami people in Finland.[8]

Romani

The Romani language in Finland is called Finnish Kalo. It has been spoken in Finland for roughly 450 years. It has been significantly influenced by other languages in Finland, such as Finnish. Of the around 13,000 Finnish Romani, only 30% speak and understand the language well. The number of speakers diminished drastically after WW2. Most Finnish Romani speak Finnish or Swedish in their day-to-day life.[9]

Finnish municipalities have the possibility to organize education in Finnish Kalo, if there are a sufficient amount of Romani children to form a group. A significant challenge to this is the lack of Finnish Kalo teachers. According to the Finnish constitution, Finnish Romani have the right to practise their language and culture. The number of Romani language speakers is estimated to have decreased by 40% over the past 50 years.[10]

Karelian

Until World War II, Karelian was spoken in the historical Border-Karelia region (Raja-Karjala) on the northeastern shore of Lake Ladoga. After the war, evacuated Karelian speakers were settled all over Finland. In 2001, the Karelian Language Society estimated that the language was understood by 11,000–12,000 people in Finland, most of whom were elderly. A more recent estimate is that there are around 5,000 first language speakers in Finland, but the size of the language community is 30,000.[11]

Karelian was recognized in a regulation by the then president Tarja Halonen in November 2009, in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[12]

Russian

A trilingual museum street sign in Helsinki with Russian, Finnish and Swedish represented.

The Russian language is the most spoken immigrant language in Finland (1.7%).[3] The Russian language has no official minority status in Finland, although historically it served as a third co-official language with Finnish and Swedish for a very brief period between 1900 and 1917.

Sign languages

In Finland, two sign languages have official status, the Finnish Sign Language and the Finland-Swedish Sign language, both of which belong to the Swedish Sign Language family.[13]

Finnish Sign Language is the sign language most commonly used in Finland. There are 5,000 Finnish deaf who have Finnish Sign Language as a first language. As the Finnish system records users by their written language, not their spoken alone, nearly all deaf people who sign are assigned this way and may be subsumed into the overall Finnish language figures. However, Finland-Swedish sign is today only spoken by around 300 people, and is severely endangered.[13][14]

Territorial bilingualism

For example, in some regions road signs are written first in Finnish and then in Swedish or even in some areas vice versa.

All municipalities outside Åland where both official languages are spoken by either at least 8% of the population or at least 3,000 people are considered bilingual. Swedish reaches these criteria in 59 out of 336 municipalities located in Åland (where this does not matter) and the coastal areas of Ostrobothnia region, Southwest Finland (especially in Åboland outside Turku) and Uusimaa. Outside these areas there are some towns with significant Swedish-speaking minorities not reaching the criteria. Thus the inland is officially unilingually Finnish-speaking. Finnish reaches the criteria everywhere but in Åland and in three municipalities in the Ostrobothnia region, which is also the only region on the Finnish mainland with a Swedish-speaking majority (52% to 46%).

The Sami languages have an official status in the northernmost Finland, in Utsjoki, Inari, Enontekiö and part of Sodankylä, regardless of proportion of speakers.

In the bilingual municipalities signs are in both languages, important documents are translated and authorities have to be able to serve in both languages. Authorities of the central administration have to serve the public in both official languages, regardless of location, and in Sami in certain circumstances.

Places often have different names in Finnish and in Swedish, both names being equally official as name of the town. For a list, see Names of places in Finland in Finnish and in Swedish.

Statistics

Population by mother tongue (2023)[15]

  Finnish (84.89%)
  Swedish (5.10%)
  Russian (1.78%)
  Estonian (0.90%)
  Arabic (0.74%)
  English (0.60%)
  Somali (0.46%)
  Other (5.53%)
Knowledge of foreign languages and Swedish as second language in Finland, in percent of the adult population, 2005
Knowledge of the English language in Finland, 2005. According to the Eurobarometer,[16] 63% of the respondents indicated that they know English well enough to have a conversation. Of these 23% (percent, not percentage points) reported a very good knowledge of the language whereas 34% had a good knowledge and 43% basic English skills.

93% of Finns aged 18–64 can speak a foreign language, and 78% can speak two or more. 2,184,000 or 66% can speak both Swedish and English, while 1,003,000 (30%) can speak German and English and 882,000 (27%) Swedish and German.[17]

Residents of Finland by native language
(2011 and 2021)[18]
Language Speakers Percentage
of total
population
(2021)
(2011) (2021)
Finnish 4,863,351 4,800,243 86.52%
Swedish 291,219 287,933 5.19%
Russian 58,331 87,552 1.58%
Estonian 33,076 50,232 0.91%
Arabic 11,252 36,466 0.66%
English 13,804 25,638 0.46%
Somali 14,045 23,656 0.43%
Persian 5,623 16,499 0.30%
Kurdish 8,623 15,850 0.29%
Chinese 8,257 14,780 0.27%
Albanian 7,408 13,830 0.25%
Vietnamese 6,060 12,310 0.22%
Thai 6,342 10,831 0.20%
Turkish 5,720 10,039 0.18%
Spanish 4,988 9,891 0.18%
Ukrainian 1,500 7,278 0.13%
German 5,592 7,258 0.13%
Romanian 2,018 6,326 0.11%
Polish 3,139 5,982 0.11%
Tagalog 1,638 5,934 0.11%
French 3,152 5,352 0.10%
Bengali 2,007 5,131 0.09%
Nepali 1,475 5,048 0.09%
Serbo-Croatian 3,676 4,958 0.09%
Urdu 1,432 4,163 0.08%
Portuguese 1,785 3,837 0.07%
Italian 1,806 3,356 0.06%
Bulgarian 1,377 3,264 0.06%
Hindi 1,360 3,245 0.06%
Hungarian 2,181 3,243 0.06%
Latvian 966 3,023 0.05%
Swahili 998 2,675 0.05%
Tamil 1,080 2,409 0.04%
Dutch 1,281 2,029 0.04%
Sami 1,870 2,023 0.04%
Greek 792 1,866 0.03%
Tigrinya 239 1,842 0.03%
Lithuanian 796 1,796 0.03%
Japanese 1,152 1,738 0.03%
Amharic 1,046 1,718 0.03%
Pashto 613 1,527 0.03%
Kinyarwanda 456 1,308 0.02%
Uzbek 120 1,269 0.02%
Telugu 703 1,242 0.02%
Punjabi 770 1,240 0.02%
Yoruba 499 1,145 0.02%
Igbo 437 1,046 0.02%
Residents of Finland by language family (2019)[19]
Family No. of speakers Percentage
Finno-Ugric 4,877,161 88.27%
Germanic 320,016 5.79%
Slavic 102,161 1.85%
Afroasiatic 57,844 1.05%
Indo-Iranian 47,804 0.87%
Romance 24,802 0.45%
Sino-Tibetan 13,760 0.25%
Turkic 11,651 0.21%
Austroasiatic 11,459 0.21%
Tai 10,243 0.19%
Niger-Congo 8,841 0.16%
Austronesian 5,678 0.10%
Dravidian 4,036 0.07%
Baltic 3,884 0.07%
Greek, Latin 1,716 0.03%
Japonic 1,617 0.03%
Caucasian 932 0.02%
Other Indo-European 12,141 0.22%
Other Asian 958 0.02%
Other 8,588 0.16%
Residents of Finland aged 18–64 that have some knowledge of foreign languages in 2017.[20]
Language Percentage
English 90%
Swedish 67%[21]
German 31%
French 11%
Finnish 10%[21]
Spanish 10%
Russian 8%

See also

References

  1. ^ La langue française dans le monde 2014 (PDF) (in French). Nathan. 2014. pp. 13–19. ISBN 978-2-09-882654-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  2. ^ "De finlandssvenska teckenspråkiga – en osynlig minoritet". svenska.yle.fi (in Swedish). Retrieved 2024-05-06.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Number of foreign-language speakers grew by nearly 38,000 persons". Statistics Finland. 2022. Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  4. ^ Europeans and their languages, situationen 2012 Archived 2016-01-06 at the Wayback Machine, p. 21
  5. ^ Valkonen, Eero (2020). "En- eller tvåspråkiga lösningar? : diskursanalys om användning av begreppet "den taxellska paradoxen" i Vasabladets debattinlägg 2013–2018". University of Jyväskylä (in Swedish).
  6. ^ "Taxell om sin paradox". svenska.yle.fi (in Swedish). Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  7. ^ "Europeans and their languages". Special Eurobarometer 386. June 2012. p. 21. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  8. ^ "Tietoa meistä". Saamelaiskäräjät (in Finnish). Retrieved 2024-02-13.
  9. ^ "Romanikieli on vaarassa kadota" (in Finnish). YLE. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  10. ^ "Muut kielet" (in Finnish). Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  11. ^ "Etusivu Kielitieto Kielet Karjala".
  12. ^ Change in the regulation by the president of Finland about European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, 68/2009 27.11.2009 (in Finnish)
  13. ^ a b "Suomen viittomakielet". Kotimaisten kielten keskus (in Finnish). Retrieved 2024-05-12.
  14. ^ "De finlandssvenska teckenspråkiga – en osynlig minoritet". svenska.yle.fi (in Swedish). Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  15. ^ "Language according to age and sex by region, 1990-2023". stat.fi. Retrieved 25 May 2024.
  16. ^ "Eurobarometer". europa.eu. Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  17. ^ "Tilastokeskus - 3. Useampaa kuin yhtä vierasta kieltä osaa 78 prosenttia suomalaisista".
  18. ^ "Befolkning 31.12. efter Område, Språk, Kön, År och Uppgifter". Tilastokeskuksen PX-Web tietokannat (in Swedish). Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  19. ^ "Väestö 31.12. muuttujina Maakunta, Kieli, Ikä, Sukupuoli, Vuosi ja Tiedot". Tilastokeskuksen PX-Web tietokannat (in Finnish). Retrieved 2021-06-20.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Englantia, ruotsia ja saksaa osataan eniten" (in Finnish). Statistics Finland. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  21. ^ a b As a second language.

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