• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Sweden extends Finnish-language rights

28 Dec 2012, 14:20

Published: 28 Dec 2012 14:20 GMT+01:00

Half a million of Sweden's 9 million inhabitants either speak Finnish or come from Finnish-speaking families, said Katarina Popovic, head of development at the Unit For Minority Affairs at Stockholm County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen).

Finnish was classified a minority language alongside Sami, Romani and Yiddish in 2010 after Sweden ratified two European Union conventions that sought to protect and to promote minorities and their languages.

It is of acute concern for many elderly Finnish-speakers, Popovic told The Local.

"Some lose their Swedish even though they've lived here for many many years, so in these cases we are talking about a very acute need as a person to be able to make yourself understood," she said.

The municipalities of Borlänge, Enköping, Finspång, Luleå, Motala, Sandviken, Uddevalla and Örebro have been added to the 40 places where authorities currently have to offer services in Finnish to residents.

"Previously speaking Finnish wasn't encouraged by the authorities," said Popovic. "These laws are rights-based, not needs-based, so even if you speak Swedish you can ask for contact with public servants to be in Finnish."

Finnish was at first offered only in seven municipalities in northern Sweden, with some also required to offer Meänkieli and Sami.

"Then after some criticism from the European Council, Sweden rewrote parts of the law and extended its reach in 2010," Popovic said.

The government decided just before Christmas that eight more municipalities had to give their residents the option of communicating in Finnish as well as offer their children the right to study in their mother tongue.

The state compensates the municipalities for the cost of offering minority language services.

"There have always been Finns in Sweden, since the Middle Ages, not to mention that Sweden and Finland were one country until 1809. We have a lot of shared history," Popovic noted.

When turning the EU directives on minorities and minority languages into law, Sweden set several qualifying criteria. The groups had to have been in Sweden for more than a century. And the group had to retain a sense of community cohesion.

Story continues below…

"Of course it was a process with a lot of discussion and debate. The Sami, who are considered a native people, and Jews aren't big groups, there are many more recent immigrants who make up bigger groups," Popovic noted.

"Then there have been big immigrant groups in the past, such as the Walloons, who no longer speak their language."

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

Your comments about this article

19:42 December 28, 2012 by johan rebel
Come on, if you move to Sweden of your own volition, then learn the language and get on with it. Taxpayer money should not be wasted on providing services in foreign languages.
23:40 December 28, 2012 by Dijondel
Ha ha Johan, try living here in Australien. You are allowed to sit your driving test in a variety of languages. So you can use the roads without being able to speak English.

This leads to, and I am not being at all racist or discriminatiory here, just factual, taxi drivers of Indian, Chinese or Islander persuasion who just can't communicate.

One Fijian went to court and needed the (state-provided) interpreter.

Bills and govt departments all have phone service interpreters.

Mind you, none of us complains when all the street and shop signs in (tourist) China all have English subtitles, do we?
10:20 December 29, 2012 by Decedo
I thought some of us English speakers were bad. My Finnish buddy's dad moved to sweden about 40 years ago. Only works within the Finnish community, all Finnish friends, a few polish workers and doesn't know very much Swedish. His wife does all his company taxes and banking (in Swedish).
11:57 December 29, 2012 by Abe L
It's 2012, soon 2013. Wouldn't it make much more sense to make English an official minority language? Half a million people that speak Finnish compared to at least 6 million (probably more) that speak English.

It would make everything a lot easier for everyone, natives and immigrants.
09:35 December 30, 2012 by pkpekka
To Abe L: English is already a de-facto official minority language. All the forms are available in English and everybody in Sweden speaks English (including government officials). But there is a dramatic contrast when one looks at the rights of the Swedish speakers in Finland and the (comparatively much less prominent) rights of Finnish speakers in Sweden. Not that I am arguing that they should be the same but Finland was part of Sweden at the same time as Sweden was the country that included (colonized) Finland as its territory for 600 years. And similar amounts of Finnish-speakers live in Sweden as Swedish-speakers in Finland. Swedish-Finnish culture has of course been preserved much better in Finland than Finnish culture in Sweden, that is why Swedish see Finns as immigrants and do not so much see the historical connections between the countries/cultures. To Decedo: Prejudices are of course fun. BTW I have never seen a site which crashes this often when you try to submit comments!
Today's headlines
Sweden could bring back conscription in 2019
Swedish soldiers during an exercise. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

Sweden could see a return to compulsory military service less than a decade after the policy was scrapped, Swedish media report.

Video
World's best-ever goal celebration or epic fail?
Screenshot from video by Ettan Play.

You're looking at what may very well be the best and worst moment of this Swedish footballer's life.

Mum's the word for missing Swede
She was in one of these places. Photo: Per Knutsson/TT

She kept mum about her whereabouts, but her secret soon got out.

Why Swedes smashed charity donation record in 2015
Newly arrived asylum seekers stand in line at Malmö's Hyllie staton in November 2015. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedes boosted the coffers of charities last year to the tune of 19.4 billion kronor, a massive increase on the previous year.

Karolinska bosses say sorry over Macchiarini transplants
Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. Photo: AP Photo/Journal Star, David Zalaznik

UPDATED: An investigation has looked into how Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini was able to carry out trachea operations at Karolinska University Hospital which sparked controversy after patients died.

'Overjoyed' Swedish snapper captures this shooting star
He caught a falling star. Photo: Johan Vilhelm Löfgren

Nice shot!

Video
What happens if you spend the night at Ikea?
Picture this but at night and without all the people. Photo: Heiko Junge/TT

Watch this video and find out. But don't even think about trying it in Sweden.

Cash alert! Last chance to deposit your old notes
Head to the bank if you've got any of these. Photo: Micke Larsson/TT

Bank it!

The Local List
Six tips for learning Swedish without even being in Sweden
A Swedish Midsummer party in New York. Photo: Johan Brunkvist/TT

The Local's intern, Jack Schofield, taught himself Swedish from his home in the UK. Here's how he did it.

Ikea threatens to shelve Russia growth plans
Everything Moscow. Photo: Maxim Murmur/AP

Will the Swedish furniture goliath retract its rubles?

Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
How good is Sweden for expat life?
Gallery
Property of the week: Landskrona, Skåne
Blog updates

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th-28th
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Travel
What are Sherpas doing on Sweden's highest mountain?
Gallery
People-watching: August 24th
The Local Voices
'I want to be a businesswoman but I don’t care about money'
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Experts: Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
National
Why Sweden could change its criticised detention laws
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
3,403
jobs available