Swedish In Finland
Do you think Finnish is the only official language in Finland? In that case, think again! The other official language is Swedish, which also is my mother tongue.
Approximately 5,5 percent of the population in Finland speak Swedish, or Finland-Swedish as it’s called. I’m proud to be one of those people. I would be even more proud if I could say that I can speak Finnish too, but unfortunately I can’t, not fluently anyway. And to live in Finland and not be able to speak Finnish is a bit like being disabled. You can manage well in a small society on the west or south coast, where the majority of the people speak Swedish, but it’s harder if you go somewhere else in Finland, where people hardly speak Swedish at all. I think though that most Finnish speaking people are able to speak a little Swedish, because they learn Swedish in school.
So, why haven’t I learned Finnish? I studied Finnish in school between the ages 9 and 19. The thing is that we learned words to get a better vocabulary and grammar for all those years. We never spoke Finnish with a finnish person. By learning a language this way, it's almost impossible to learn a language like Finnish. Finnish is very different from Swedish, regarding to both words and grammar. I learned English and German in school with the same method, but these two languages were easier to learn, because they are related to Swedish.
When I finished school as a 19 year old and got my exam, I moved to Switzerland, and spent almost a year in the beautiful country. There I could practice to speak both German and English. I lived in the German speaking oart of Witzerland, but got a new friend, who I spoke English with. I also heard people speaking Finnish almost every day, because I lived in a family, where one person spoke Finnish. I never spoke Finnish myself though. I didn’t have the confidence to do that. After my year as an au pair in Switzerland, I went back to Finland. I just stayed there for some weeks and then moved to Stockholm, Sweden. Finally I was free! I could speak Swedish all the time and I didn’t have to worry about not understanding what people said. No wonder I stayed there for seven years.
Now, after living in Finland for two years*, I’m realizing that eventually I have to start speaking Finnish. In certain situations you must be able to speak Finnish. And as a matter of fact, I’m beginning to accept that fact. I’ve also noticed that I understand pretty much Finnish and I shouldn’t be ashamed of using the wrong words or grammar when I speak with Finnish speaking people, as it used to be before. Now I’m older and wiser. There’s no other way to learn a language than practice, practice and practice. That’s what I have to do. And maybe I’ll take a course in Finnish to refresh my knowledge in the Finnish language. That may also help me get a job easier. In many occupations it’s required that you are able to speak Finland's both official languages in Finland.
One thing I don’t like though, is that you are entitled to receive service everywhere in Swedish here in Finland. The authorities and people working in stores should be able to give you service in both official languages. Sometimes that’s like a joke. Now and then I've noticed that when I speak Swedish to a Finnish speaking person, he or she has just been staring, seeming to not understand anything of what I'm saying. I want to make clear that I don’t want to judge all Finnish speaking people alike. Many try their best to speak Swedish, and I usually understand what they mean, even if they speak Swedish with a finnish accent. I think it’s great that people want to improve their knowledge of a foreign language by speaking it, even if they don't speak it fluently.
I’ll keep on living and learning, hoping that one day I'll be able to speak Finnish without problems. And hopefully my English will improve too, when I write my hubs.
*I've now lived four and a half year in Finland since the move from Stockholm, Sweden and I haven't been speaking any Finnish yet.
Facts about Fenno-Swedes
There are about 290 000 Swedish speaking people of 5 million people in Finland. Most of them live on the west coast and in southern Finland, but also in small islands in cities like Tampere, Oulu, Pori and Kotka.
Facts about languages in Finland:
There are over 400 municipalities in Finland and in 19 of them people are Swedish speaking. Swedish is the majority language in 15 municipalities, while the minority speak Finnish. There are 19 municipalities that have Finnish as a majority language and Swedish as a minority language. In the rest of the municipalities people only speak Finnish. There are several unofficial minority languages in Finland, too. Nearly 45,000 people speak Russian. Other minority languages are, among others, Estonian, English, Somali, Arabic and Romani. Sami is spoken by only a few thousand people, but in some parts of northern Finland, where the language mainly is spoken, Sami is seen as an official language.
Links for those who are interested in more facts
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