Living in Finland

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Tietoa suomen ja ruotsin kielestä
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Information about Finnish and Swedish

Finland is a bilingual country

Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Both these languages have a long history in Finland. Approximately 90 per cent of Finns speak Finnish as their first language and roughly 5 per cent speak Swedish. You can use either language when dealing with government officials, for example, at the Employment and Economic Development Office (työ- ja elinkeinotoimisto).

Swedish is spoken mostly on the western and southern coast of Finland. In a few localities, Swedish is spoken more commonly than Finnish. Find out which is the most common language in your locality.

Municipalities can be monolingual or bilingual. If the municipality is bilingual, you can use either Finnish or Swedish when dealing with municipal employees, for example, at the Social Welfare Office (sosiaalitoimisto).

Some jobs require both Finnish and Swedish skills.

Finnish and Swedish are compulsory subjects at Finnish schools. Pupils whose first language is Finnish study Swedish at school, and pupils whose first language is Swedish study Finnish.

If an immigrant child goes to a school where the teaching language is Finnish, they will also study Swedish as a foreign language together with the Finnish children.

What kind of a language is Finnish?

Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language. Its kindred languages include, for example, Estonian and Hungarian. Finnish has a high number of inflected forms, for example, the cases of nouns, adjectives, numerals and pronouns, as well as the persons and tenses of verbs. There are fewer prepositions than in Indo-European languages, for example. Finnish also has some postpositions. Word order is freer than in many other languages.

Finnish pronunciation is very regular. Words are always stressed on the first syllable.

Many international words have their own counterparts in Finnish; for example, the word ‘centre’ is ‘keskusta’ in Finnish. Finnish also has many loanwords, for example, from Swedish, German, Russian and English.

In Finland, it is common to be on first-name terms with other people. Sometimes it may be polite to address someone more formally. For example, customers or elderly persons are often addressed with the Finnish plural form of you, ‘te’.

What kind of a language is Swedish?

Swedish is an Indo-European language and belongs in the group of North Germanic languages. Its kindred languages include, for example, Norwegian, Danish and German. Swedish also has a great number of loanwords, for example, from French.

In Swedish, verbs inflect for different tenses. Nouns are divided into two genders. Adjectives inflect by these genders.

Swedish uses a large number of prepositions and its word order is very regular.

The Swedish spoken in Finland differs from that spoken in Sweden in its pronunciation. Swedish pronunciation in both countries is fairly regular.

Domestic minority languages

In addition to Finnish and Swedish, Finland has also some other domestic languages.

Sami languages are the indigenous languages of Finland. Three Sami languages are spoken here. They belong in the group of Finno-Ugric languages.

The Romani language spoken in Finland is an Indo-European language.

Finland also has its own sign language.

You can find out more about these languages on the website of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland.

linkkiMinistry of Justice:
Information about the Language ActFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiLocalfinland.fi:
Swedish speaking and bilingual municipalitiesFinnish | Swedish

linkkiInstitute for the Languages of Finland:
Information about FinnishFinnish | Swedish

linkkiInstitute for the Languages of Finland:
Information about SwedishFinnish | Swedish

linkkiInstitute for the Languages of Finland:
Information about Sami languagesFinnish | Swedish

linkkiInstitute for the Languages of Finland:
Information about the Romani language spoken in FinlandFinnish

linkkiInstitute for the Languages of Finland:
Information about Finnish sign languageFinnish | Swedish

linkkiSuvi.viittomat.net:
Online dictionary for Finnish sign languageFinnish