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Languages of Finland: Wikis


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Languages of Finland
Official language(s) Finnish (92%)
Swedish (1st: 6%, 2nd: 41%)
Minority language(s) official: Sami, Romani, Finnish Sign Language; immigrant languages: Russian, Estonian
Main foreign language(s) English (63%)
German (18%)
French (3%)
Sign language(s) Finnish Sign Language
Common keyboard layout(s)
Finnish/Swedish QWERTY
KB Sweden.svg
Source ebs_243_en.pdf (
Knowledge of foreign languages (including Swedish as a second language) in Finland, in per cent of the adult population (+15), 2005.
Proportions of Native languages in Finland 2007.
Number of speakers of the largest unofficial languages in Finland.

The two “national” languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. The official minority languages are three Sami languages, Romani and the Finnish Sign Language.



Map showing Finnish dialects and related languages in Finland with surroundings.
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

Finnish is the native tongue of 90.9%[1 ] of the population. It is a Baltic-Finnic language and as such related to e.g. Estonian. The Baltic-Finnic languages belong to the Uralic languages so Finnish is distantly related to languages as diverse as e.g. Hungarian (an Ugric language), the Sami languages, and Asiatic languages such as the Nenets language in Siberia.


Swedish is the native tongue of 5.4% of the population[1 ] (92.4% in the Åland autonomous province), down from 14% at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a North Germanic language, closely related to Norwegian and Danish; as such it is also an Indo-European language, related (more or less distantly) to languages as diverse as Hindi, German and Russian.

Swedish was the language of the administration until late in the 19th century. Now it is one of the two national languages, with a position equal to Finnish in most legislation (but the working language in most governmental bodies is Finnish). Both national languages are compulsory subjects in school (except for children with a third language as mother tongue) and a language test is a prerequisite for governmental offices where a university degree is required.

All municipalities where both Finnish and Swedish are spoken by either at least 8% of the population each or at least 3,000 people each are considered bilingual. Swedish only reaches these criteria in Åland and the coastal areas of Ostrobothnia region, Finland Proper (especially in Åboland outside Turku), Uusimaa and Eastern 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 four largest Swedish-speaking communities in Finland, in absolute numbers, are those of Helsinki (Helsingfors), Espoo (Esbo), Porvoo (Borgå) and Vaasa (Vasa), where they constitute significant minorities. Helsinki, the capital, had a Swedish-speaking majority until late in the 19th century. Currently 6.1% of the population of Helsinki are Swedish-speaking and 9.6% speaks other language than Finnish or Swedish.[2]

Language No. of speakers[3]
Finnish 4,836,138
Swedish 289,596
Russian 45,224
Estonian 19,812
English 10,589
Somali 9,810
Arabic 8,119
Romani c. 7,000
Kurdish 5,893
Albanian 5,791
Chinese 5,733
Finnish sign language (non-verbal) c. 5,000

The Swedish dialects spoken on the Finnish mainland are collectively known as Finland-Swedish, while the Åland dialect is closer to standard 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 into Finnish.

Sami languages

Map showing the traditional Sami language region

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 roughly 1,800.[1 ]

The Karelian language

Up to the second world war the Karelian language and its dialects were spoken in the historical Border-Karelian region on the northern shore of Lake Ladoga. After the war immigrant Karelians were settled all over Finland. In 2001 the Karelian Language Society estimated that the language can be understood by 11,000-12,000 people in Finland, most of whom are elderly.

See also


External links



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