The Language of Finland
By: Shahzad Bashir
Finland is a beautiful country in Northern Europe. It is famous for its woodlands that make it the most densely forested area of entire Europe. As far as its geographic position is concerned, it shares a symbolic northern border between Eastern and Western Europe. On its Eastside, there is Russia, and the Gulf of Bothnia and Sweden is on the Westside. From the 12th century till 1809, Finland was considered a main region of Russia before the Russian revolution broke out. Moreover, Finland got independence on December 6, 1917. Did you know that Finland’s area was restricted to one-tenth when it discarded the Petsamo area? This area is the South-Eastern part of Karelia and it leads the way to the ice-free Arctic coast. Currently, this is a part of Soviet Union Russia.
The Languages Spoken in Finland
- Finnish Romani
- Finnish Sign Language
Do you want to know the language spoken by the people of Finland? Every country has its national language that shows its unity. Apart from the national language, there are different languages and dialects that people speak in a country. The name, a boundary, a flag, a currency make a country identifiable. The national language shows the values and traditions of the country. If you want to tap into any society then you must understand how to speak and write their language. In this way, you can get insights into different norms and cultures of the society. On the other hand, people from a foreign country will accept you.
To your surprise, there are more than 1 hundred and 50 languages spoken in the country of Finland. You will be amazed to know that there are two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Moreover, there are some other languages spoken in the country and their rights are preserved in the constitution. Do you know that the native people of Finland spoke Sami languages? The other native languages spoken in Finland are Finnish, Finland-Swedish sign language, Romani, and Karelian.
The Finnish language is from the group of Uralic languages. In Finland, approximately 4.9 million people speak Finnish as their first language and 0.5 million people speak it as a second language. Thus the Finnish language is spoken by a majority of Finland's population. Did you know that the history of the Finnish language dates back from 500 hundred years ago? It is mutually intelligible with Estonian and not mutually intelligible with Sami languages. Apart from Finland, Finnish is spoken in Norway, Eastern Karelia, Ingria in Russia, Sweden, Australia, and the USA. There are different dialects of the Finnish language spoken in Finland.
Did you wonder why Swedish is the official language of Finland? People of Finland understand Finnis more than Swedish. They must concentrate more on the Swedish language so here the question comes Why Swedish is the official language. This is because the history of the Swedish language is ingrained when Finland was a part of Sweden. The Swedish language was an important language of Sweden from the 16th century till the late 19th century. 9 million people around the world speak the Swedish language as their mother tongue. 5.31% of Finland's population that becomes 290,747 people speak the Swedish language. Out of this whopping number, 92.4% of Swedish people are from the independent province of Aland.
At the start of the 20th century, the number of Swedish people was 14% of the total population but then gradually their number started dropping. Did you know that Swedish is the sub-branch of a North Germanic and Indo-European language? Moreover Swedish is mutually intelligible with Danish, English, Norwegian and German languages. Until the nineteenth century, the Swedish language was used in the administration of Finland. In addition to Finnish, there are other compulsory languages spoken in Finland and they consider Swedish as a third native language. Espoo, Porvoo, Helsinki, and Vaasa are the famous Swedish-speaking communities in the country. One of the leading dialects spoken in Finland is Finland-Swedish.
Aren't you surprised to know that Russian is the third most spoken language of Finland? It is native to 69,614 speakers that constitute 1.27% of the total population. Although the Russian language did not enjoy the official status in Finland it was considered a co-official language with Finnish and Swedish from 1900 till 1917. Due to the influence of the former Soviet influence in Europe, the older generation of Finland spoke Russian as a third and fourth language. On the contrary, the Russian language is not popular in the younger generation so they prefer speaking English instead of Russian
No doubt, English is widely spoken in Finland however when we compare it with other Scandinavian countries, its usage is comparatively less. The three-quarters report of Finns shows that the majority of Finnish people can speak the English language fluently which is high when we compare it to countries outside the Scandinavian countries. If you are planning to go to Finland then you will not face any problem communicating with people in English under the age of 60. No matter whether you are in Helsinki or any other area in Finland, the people that visit Finland for tourism don’t have to learn Finnish as they can communicate with people in English well.
The Saami Language is also called Lapp. It is a member of a Finno-Ugric group of the Uralic language family. People from Sami Lapp in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the people living in the Kola Peninsula of Russia spoke this language. Most of the Sami languages are not intelligible and sometimes, they are considered a dialect of a single language. The largest language, North Sami, is spoken by two-thirds of the population that is living in Sweden, Northmost Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Whereas South Sami is spoken by few people living in North-central Sweden and central Norway.
Moreover, East Sami is spoken by the Kola Peninsula in Russia by two groups residing in Skolt, Inari, and East Finland. Did you know that Sami people are bilingual in their official language and the language of the country where they live? The literature of Sami language is used in newspapers and a little bit of it is used in government and education. Moreover, the Saami writing system is not written with the same pattern and it has a different literary history. The population of the Saami language is from 60,000 to 100,000 people. Out of it, 10,000 people live in Finland. This language gained official status in Finland in 1992. It enjoys official status from the region of Enontekio Inari and the second is Utsjoki which is from the north part of Sodankyla.
Karelian also called Kariela, Karjal and Karjala is a form of Finnic language. It is spoken in Karelia which is a part of the Russian republic. Did you know that Karelian which is spoken in Finland and Russia is mutually intelligible with Finnish? One important thing to note is that you must not relate to Karelian which is the South-eastern dialect of Finnish. Approximately, there are 100,000 Kareline speakers of Kareline that spoke it in different forms. 5,000 people in Finland speak this language. There is no standardization in the Karelian language. Therefore, writers write Karelian according to their different dialects. There are three main written standards of North Karelian, Tver Karelian, and Olonets Karelian. The Latin-based Karelian alphabet is used to write Cyrillic script which was used in the past.
Did you know that Finnish Romani is an Indo-European language and it is derived from the sub-group of the Indi-Iranian branch? One of its main dialects is Finnish Kalo. It is the North-western Romani dialect. You will be amazed to know that Finnish Romani which is also called Finnish Kalo has been used in Finland for 450 years. It was used as an internal family language and code language. All the efforts to preserve this language as a literary language started at the start of the 1970s.
Finnish Sign Language
Finnish sign language as the name denotes is used in Finland. Approximately, 3000 Finnish deaf people use this sign language. Although the Finnish system records users by their written and spoken language. All the deaf people that use sign language are also considered language figures. When we look at history, the objective of the Finnish sign language is oralism. Through this oralism, deaf people are made to learn oral Finnish, even if they can’t hear it. History shows that initially 500 deaf people were taught Finnish sign language as their first language. There are different types of signs. One type is for those people that can see. The second is for those that can follow grammatical rules and are blind and deaf. Did you know that 8,000 people can use Finnish Sign Language linguistically? Finnish sign language originated from Swedish sign language that is different from Finnish Swedish sign language. It originated from the Finnish sign language which is used by 90 speakers in Finland. Finnish sign language got its identity in the middle of the 19th century.
If you are planning to visit Finland for a leisure trip then knowing English is sufficient. However, if you want to migrate to Finland because of its high standard of life then it is recommended to know about other languages too. It will make your stay better.