Did you know that Swedish is an
official language in Finland? This means that Finnish schools teach
Swedish, to many peoples annoyance.
Text and photo: Solveig Stand-Olsen
, is a Swedish-Finn and works
as an informer at the Swedish Folkting in Finland. Their job is to
preserve the Swedish-Finns rights.
- Swedish is an official
language in Finland. This means that in all administration, laws,
police-departments and bureaucracy, are supposed to be in Swedish too.
Government forgets SwedishA new law concerning the Finnish languages was legislated in 2004.
The main message in this law is that everyone has their right to their
own language. Unfortunately it doesn’t work as well in reality. The
government seems to forget the Swedish language. Many Finns are lacking
knowledge about the Swedish language, and also the motivation to learn,
majority of the Swedish-Finns reside in the coastal areas of southern
and western Finland. In many of these municipalities the major
inhabitants are Swedish-Finns, like in Vaasa. Around 12,000
Swedish-Finns live in unilingual Finnish municipalities in other parts
of the country. There are also Swedish and Finish schools.
- At Swedish Schools, they learn Finnish in the 3rd grade. At Finnish
schools they start to learn Swedish in the 7th grade. Before everyone
had to take the matriculation exam in both Finish and Swedish, now it
is optional, so I think that has made the knowledge of the Swedish
language even poorer, says Anna.
- But off course, there are some Swedish-Finns who don’t know Finnish too.
Unnecessary and weirdThat Finns are not motivated to learn
Swedish is not unknown to Markus Koivumaa and Pekka Leviäkangas, who
study media at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences.
- Why should we learn Swedish? Markus says.
Even though Markus has lived in Sweden for a couple of years and know
the language well, he thinks Swedish shouldn’t be compulsory in
- It is weird that we have to learn Swedish. It’s not a universal
language. Why don’t we have to learn Russian for instance? We have been
governed by them longer than Sweden.
- Why do you have to learn Swedish, you think?
- When Finland became independent from Sweden, the Swedish-Finns had
much power. They were educated, rich and elitists. So they forced it
through, so it’s an old habit, says Pekka.
Threw paper balls in classPekka had Swedish in school for three years, but does not speak a lot of Swedish.
- In the Swedish course, I was doing other things, like throwing paper
balls. The only thing I regret about not paying attention is that when
I and Markus go out to drink, he starts talking Swedish. He forgets how
to talk Finish when he’s drunk. Then I don’t understand him at all,
Pekka says with a smile on his face.