• Sweden edition
 
Sweden extends Finnish-language rights

Sweden extends Finnish-language rights

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

"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

US to get new ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced that it was nominating Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

BREAKING
Submarine search called off in Stockholm
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Submarine search called off in Stockholm

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. A press conference giving more details is expected at 10am. READ  

Politics
Sweden to get EU 'Christmas present'
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at an EU summit in Brussels this week. Photo: TT

Sweden to get EU 'Christmas present'

Sweden is set to get 1.2 billion kronor ($168 million) back from the EU on December 1st, according to leaked EU documents which suggest that other European countries will have to make large top-up payments this year. READ  

Science
Asteroids leave mark on Sweden
Astroids can leave marks like these. Photo: TT

Asteroids leave mark on Sweden

Some 458 million years ago, Earth was whacked in a double asteroid strike, leaving craters visible in Sweden today, space scientists have reported. READ  

New coalition
New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Green Party leader Åsa Romson. Photo: TT

New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget

UPDATED: Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-led coalition has revealed its first budget proposal, listing plans to spend more than 20 billion kronor. READ  

Royal family
Swedish royal couple set wedding date
The couple pictured in the summer. Photo: TT

Swedish royal couple set wedding date

Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, who got engaged earlier this year, have announced they will marry next June. READ  

Analysis
Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'

There is talk that the nationalist Sweden Democrats could trigger a fresh election, by rejecting the new coalition's budget. But leading Political Scientist Li Bennich Björkman tells The Local that the party is just game-playing and should be focusing on getting its fatigued leader back. READ  

Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Chocolate and liquorice are on the menu in Gothenburg this weekend. Photo: Shutterstock

What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st

A secret gig in Stockholm, a short film festival in Uppsala and a gastronomy event in Gothenburg have caught our eye this week. READ  

Science
Astronaut helps launch first student satellite
Christer Fuglesang on a previous space mission. Photo: TT

Astronaut helps launch first student satellite

Sweden's debut astronaut Christer Fuglesang is helping students at KTH Royal Institute of Technology to become the first in the country to make their own satellite and send it into space. READ  

Weather
Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow
Kiruna, in far northern Sweden, has already been hit by snow this season. Photo: TT

Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow

Sweden's weather agency has warned that up to ten centimetres of snow are on the way for Sweden. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

967
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN