Minority languages of Finland

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


Main article: Finnish language

Finnish is the main language of 91%[1] of the population. It is a Finnic language closely related to Estonian and less closely to the Sami languages. The Finnic languages belong to the Uralic language family, so Finnish is distantly related to languages as diverse as Hungarian (a Ugric language) and Nenets (a Samoyedic language) in Siberia.


Main articles: Finland Swedish and Åland Swedish

Swedish is the main language of 5.4% of the population[1] (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.[2] Swedish is a North Germanic language, closely related to Norwegian and Danish; as a subbranch of Indo-European, it is also related to other Germanic languages such as German and English and (more or less distantly) to languages as diverse as Hindi, and Russian.

Swedish was the language of the administration until the late 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 their native language) and a 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 (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.[3]

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

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 World War II Karelian was 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 is understood by 11,000–12,000 people in Finland, most of whom are elderly.

Karelian was recognized in a regulation by the President in November 2009, in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[4]

Territorial bilingualism

All municipalities outside Åland where both of the two official languages Finnish and Swedish 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, Finland Proper (especially in Åboland outside Turku) and Uusimaa.[5] 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 national languages regardless of location, and in Sami language in certain circumstances.


Residents of Finland by native language (2012)[6]
Language No. of speakers (>5,000) Percentage
Finnish 4,866,848 89.68%
Swedish 290,977 5.36%
Russian 62,554 1.15%
Estonian 38,364 0.71%
Somali 14,769 0.27%
English 14,666 0.27%
Arabic 12,042 0.22%
Kurdish 9,280 0.17%
Chinese 8,820 0.16%
Albanian 7,760 0.14%
Thai 6,926 0.13%
Vietnamese 6,549 0.12%
Persian 6,422 0.12%
Turkish 6,097 0.11%
German 5,792 0.11%
Spanish 5,470 0.10%
Sami 1,900 0.04%
Other 66,908 1.23%

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See also


External links


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