What languages are spoken in Finland?

finnish people

Finland is officially a bilingual country, the official languages being Finnish and Swedish. Of these two, Finnish is the most widely spoken language in the country. 

Linguistically, Finland has long been considered a very homogeneous country, but Ethnologue: Languages of the World lists up to 15 different languages spoken in the country, the number growing every year. 

Unlike Sweden, Finland does not have official minority languages, although it provides financial support for the teaching of some languages. 

The language situation changes in Finland all the time. Informally the country has as many as hundreds of languages, especially as immigration increases. more and more different languages are spoken in our country, and in some regions, the number of foreign speakers has increased considerably. 

Welcome to dive with us in the languages of Finland!

The diversity of languages in Finland 

86.9 percent of the population spoke Finnish as their native language, while 5.2 percent reported Swedish as their mother tongue in 2020 according to Statistics Finland. 

Only Finnish and Swedish are regulated by the Language Act, which obliges officials to master both official languages. The position of Finnish and Swedish are supported by the Language Act, which has defined these two as national languages. Everyone has the right to use their own language, either Swedish or Finnish, in court and with other authorities. 

However, in addition to Finnish and Swedish, there are so-called minority languages that have been recognized and supported by the state.

  • Sign language 
  • Sámi languages 
  • Karelian language 
  • Finnish Romani language 

The linguistic and cultural rights of the Sámi, Finnish Romani and the Sign Language are also guaranteed in the Constitution.

Sign language 

There are an estimated 5,500 people speaking Sign language in Finland, of whom 3,000 are deaf. 

The state is obligated to promote the opportunities for sign language speakers to use their own language and is not linked to a person’s possible hearing impairment. 

Sámi languages 

The Sámi are the only indigenous people in Finland and in the whole of Europe. 

There are around 10,500 Sámi-speakers living in Finland. With Sámi, it is difficult to assess the real number because many of the speakers have not listed Sámi as their native in the Finnish population information system. 

Finland recognizes three Sámi languages: Northern Sámi, Inari Sámi, and Skolt Sámi. Of these, Inari Sámi is spoken only in Finland in the Sámi region, Northern Sámi is commonly spoken in Norway, Finland, and Sweden, while Skolt Sámi is also used to some extent in Russia. 

Karelian language 

Karelian is an autochthonous language, which means it’s a language that is considered to have been used in the country for a long time. 

It is estimated that there are about 11,000 Karelian speakers in Finland, most of whom are descendants of Karelian evacuees. 

There has been a lot of discussion around the Karelian language about the status of the language in Finland, and the consensus is that it is its own language.

Finnish Romani language 

The Finnish Romani language, or Kaale, is a dialect of the Romani language spoken by the Finnish Romani. It is estimated that there are about 10,000 speakers of this language. The Finnish state supports speaking Romani and can be studied at the University of Helsinki, and the language center in Rovaniemi.

Foreign languages ​​in Finland 

According to Statistics Finland, at the end of 2020, Finland had 432,847 foreign-language speakers, so their native language is not Finnish, Swedish, or Sámi. Nowadays foreign-language speakers make up 8% of the total population. 

The largest foreign-language groups are Russian speakers, Estonian speakers, and Arabic speakers. 

Examined by regions, the largest share of the number of foreign speakers was 15 percent in Uusimaa, while the lowest was 2 percent in Southern Ostrobothnia. 

By municipality, the biggest shares of foreign speakers are in:

  • Vantaa 22% 
  • Espoo 19% 
  • Närpiö 17% 
  • Helsinki 17% 

At the end of 2020, 84,190 people spoke Russian as their first language, 49,551 Estonian speakers, and 34,282 Arabic speakers. 

Russian was the most widely spoken language in all of the country’s regions, except for Kanta-Häme, Ostrobothnia, and Åland. 

In contrast, the largest linguistic minority in Kanta-Häme was Estonian-speaking, in Ostrobothnia Vietnamese as their native language, and in Åland Romanian-speaking. 

Russian as a language in Finland 

Russia is by far the third most spoken language in Finland after Finnish and Swedish. It is possible to study the language at different stages of education, right from early childhood education, and it can be learned both as a mother tongue and as a foreign language. There are a few bilingual schools in Finland: the Finnish-Russian school in Helsinki and the Finnish-Russian school in Eastern Finland. 

Estonian as a language in Finland 

Estonian is the second most spoken foreign language in Finland and our cognate language. 

However, as a language, Estonia does not have the same status as Russia in Finland, as it is not taught in schools. 

It is difficult to estimate the exact number of Estonian speakers in our country, as some Estonian speakers do not live permanently in Finland. 

Arabic language in Finland 

Arabic is the third most spoken foreign language in our country, and the number of speakers has been growing rapidly. 

In Finland, Arabic can only be studied at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki Workers’ College. Modern Standard Arabic, or Arabic Literature, is the official language of the 25 states of the world, or at least one of the official languages.

Languages of Finland – Which languages the Finns speak?

Finland is a bilingual country, but many languages are supported and secured by the State. Which are the most widely spoken languages of the country?

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