• Sweden's news in English

Swedish feels the squeeze in Finland

The Local · 19 Aug 2010, 17:09

Published: 19 Aug 2010 17:09 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

They have been called the world's most pampered minority and it is easy to see why. Despite comprising just 5.5 percent of the population, Swedish-speaking Finns have their own newspapers, broadcasts and road signs, and all government documents and websites are translated into Swedish. However, there are those who fear that the special status of the language could soon be threatened.

The language is a reminder of the close historical ties between Sweden and Finland. They were one country for four centuries, but parted ways 201 years ago. The language was a legacy that survived over a century of Russian rule.

The language is now spoken by about 275,000 people in mainland Finland, plus some 25,000 in Åland, an autonomous archipelago in the Gulf of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden.

The past century has seen Swedish-speaking Finns in almost constant decline. In 1900, Swedish speakers made up about 13 percent of the population. Finnish nationalism in the late 19th century, plus emigration to Sweden during the Second World War, have led to their numbers dwindling.

Despite this numerical decline, Swedish speakers maintain a firm grip on the country's constitution. They have their own political party in government, the Swedish People's Party of Finland (Svenska Folkpartiet i Finland) and a vast number of cultural institutions. The Swedish Assembly of Finland, Folktinget, is their own cross-political body that protects the interest of the Swedish speaking Finns and acts as a forum for political discussion and cooperation.

The Assembly participates in Finland's law-drafting process and all political parties with activities in Swedish are members. Swedish speakers have their own schools, health and day care centres, theatres, newspapers and broadcasts in Swedish. Swedish speakers have a legal right to be served in Swedish when dealing with state authorities.

Swedish-speaker Erika Helling, 43, teaches at the secondary school Högstadium in Sibbo, a bilingual municipality east of Helsinki. She says that she always speaks Swedish in Sibbo whether she goes to the bank, supermarket or health care centre.

"Everybody that works in Sibbo is or bilingual or at least functional in both languages," she said. "It is practically impossible to get a job in Sibbo if you don't speak both languages."

The Swedish-speaking minority comprises about 40 percent of Sibbo's population. In almost all cities and towns in Finland, public signs such as street names or traffic signs are in both Finnish and Swedish, with the majority language always first. However, in some unilingual municipalities, it is common to see just one of the languages.

Unlike in English, where both language groups are referred to as Finns, Swedish speakers use the Swedish word finländare ("Finlander") when referring to both Finnish- and Swedish-speaking nationals. The word "finne" ("Finn") is reserved for a Finnish-speaking Finn.

Both Swedish and Finnish are compulsory subjects at school for both Swedish and Finnish speakers, with pupils almost always receiving instruction in their native language. Tuition in the other language forms part of the curriculum in secondary school and upper secondary school. Students at universities and polytechnics are required to take an examination in the other domestic language. At the university level, there is a system of quotas and affirmative action for Swedish speakers. A certain percentage of students applying for the universities must be Swedophones.

Yet there are signs that the demographic reality could now be catching up with Finland's Swedish speakers. There is growing resistance to learning Swedish among Finnish-speaking students. They claim that Swedish is of limited use to them in the jobs market and that other languages are more important in a globalised economy.

Others say that allowing Finns to drop Swedish will eventually lead to the death of the language in Finland and threaten the liability of the Swedish-speaking minority linguistic minority. If Swedish dies out, the argument goes, Finland will have lost an important part of its heritage.

There are also those that argue that making Swedish compulsory just puts pupils off, but this is not an argument that finds much favour with Erika Helling, who teaches literature and Swedish as a mother tongue to youngsters between the ages of 13 and 16.

"Of course everyone is more more positive if they aren't forced to learn a subject," she argued. "But I don't think that this should be a guideline for anything. Knowing Swedish eventually results in more Finns knowing a Germanic language. This makes it easier to learn other languages of this linguistic group, such as English and German."

The debate about Swedish is not just about language. The class and power of Swedish speakers have arguably strengthened the language's status in the past, but also adds to the ammunition of those now calling for its role to be reduced.

Story continues below…

Swedish speakers are often criticised for isolating themselves as an elite group. Many of the wealthy and powerful families of Finland are Swedish speakers. They are often accused of being the world's most pampered minority, given their relatively tiny numbers and the huge concessions made to their language. But for Helling, the protection of the language is not pampering, but a sign that "Finland is giving a good example of how minorities should be treated and protected all over the world."

"Minorities should have rights like everybody else," she said. "Otherwise all ethnicities will die of extinction. I think Finland should be an example for other countries. Though a lot still has to be done."

Finland has already started chipping away at Swedish's special status. In 2005, despite fierce lobbying from powerful Swedish speakers, the government eliminated Swedish from the tough final matriculation exam, which enables students to apply for universities.

Yet amid the setbacks, there are signs that Swedish might be making a comeback. In these last years the decline in the proportion of Swedish speakers has stopped. There are also signs of renewed interest from parents in Swedish-language schooling, something Helling welcomes.

"The trend in the past few years is that children coming from bilingual families very often attend Swedish schools," she said. "I believe there is a change in attitude indicating a more positive approach. Yes, there definitely is hope."

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

18:34 August 20, 2010 by CptPicard
The Swedish-speakers in Finland are the most well-off, taken care of language minority in the *entire world*, there is no competition. They do like to complain a lot about being "marginalized", but it has to be taken in context; it essentially means that that they feel threatened when other people may also have some kind of rights regarding how much they need to be pushed in order to be "appropriate" in the eyes of the Fenno-Swedes.

It is kind of funny that it is always *them* who have a language identity that is special and worth protection, and that *they* belong to some sort of great Nordic family into which the rest of us also have to be integrated through systematic language policy.

Really, make no mistake: this is not about their right to identify with and advance *their* own language. This is about the rest of us being obligated into becoming more like them, because they do not approve of our existence as we are.
18:41 August 20, 2010 by Bysheon
I think Finland Swedish is the most beautiful Swedish dialect.

Of course speaking Swedish makes it much easier to learn other germanic languages. As always with minority language groups though, it's ultimately up to the minority to use their language, but official support definitely helps.
21:19 August 20, 2010 by fiable
"They claim that Swedish is of limited use to them in the jobs market and that other languages are more important in a globalised economy."

That's a fact by many studies! The reason why there is compulsory Swedishin Finland, is the pampered Swedish speaking finns, like Erika Helling, who thinks that she has right to speak Swedish in the bank and supermarkets. That's not what the law says. The law concerns only public officers in Sibbo and anywhere else in Finland. Now she is explaining it's easier to learn the other germanic languages like German. Bullshit! It's harder to learn even the germanic languages because the Swedish courses takes they time.

We have compulsory Swedish because Finland is not a democarcy and because Finnish speaking Finns are not equal to Swedish speakin Finns. The principal in Finland is that we are forced to think there are 50% Swedish speakin Finns in here. That is unjustice! That is wrong!

Someday there will be a civil war in Finland if the situation will not change and Erika Helling among others should move to Sweden.
01:00 August 21, 2010 by brissiedan
Looks like the man on the postage stamp is waving a Skåne flag! Whats up with that???

Check out http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sk%C3%A5nes_flagga
09:09 August 21, 2010 by CptPicard
Bysheon, that's such bullshit. I took four foreign languages in school, and my German would certainly be speakable if I had had more time to spend on it, but no... and my Swedish grades were always perfect, I do not speak it (and I frankly refuse to because of the attitude of that particular language's speakers towards me and my language) -- and it never helped with the German. This is the really weird "gateway theory" that suggests that particularly for the inherently stupid Finns, Swedish must be learned first; it would be impossible for us to learn foreign languages directly.

But yes, ultimately it is up to the minority's members to speak their language. However, there remains the problem that then you must insist that others must speak it too, so that you can have the "right" to use it with them -- that is, the others have an obligation to speak it to you.

I really wish that some day we could have the same kind of situation in Sweden -- I could go there and be "allowed to use my language" and all Swedish children would be gifted the wonders of Finnish from an early age; allowing them to expand their mind, become truly civilized, and open the doors to Finland so they could experience the culture and communicate with Finns in a common language!

(Does that sound preposterous? Why is it legitimate to use similar argumentation in Finland? Think.)
13:14 August 21, 2010 by Bysheon
Cpt, I understand your feelings about a tampered minoriy group with historically high status. I said that knowing Swedish makes it easier to learn other Germanic languages more in passing, as it is ovbious and besides my point - which was that it's ultimately up to them to use their language (their responsibility) but that it helps to have official support.

But no, it's not bullshit. And it has nothing to do with Finns being stupid. Finnish (and Hungarian and Estonian among others) is part of a totally different language group, not even remotely related to the Germanic languages. It would be much easier for Finnish speakers to learn Hungarian for example than it would be for Norwegian or Dutch speakers to learn Hungarian. I tried to learn a little Korean (very cool and beautiful language) a while back and THAT is an extremely different language - not even Indo-European (Finnish isn't Indo-European either) - and consequently insanely difficult for me as a Germanic language speaker to learn.

And by the way, I never said it is legitimate to use "similar argumentation" in Finland. I never even commented on that.
13:15 August 21, 2010 by aletheia93
Hi Guys I'm from Poland. I'm really sympathetic with Finland. I know what Swedes think about Finns. I know about Sweden genocidal tendencies toward Finland. I know about Finnish Winter War and I know about putative neutrality of Sweden ( Just to remind Swedes, needs of Nazi military industry brought wealth to Sweden).

I think that demands of Swedish minority of Finland are outrageous and arguments and insane. They are just symptoms of inherit Swedish racism toward Finland. I'm academician I travel a lot, I can really tell you from the perspective of the outside observer ... Swedes are lazy, has bad univeristies with poor quality of research. Finland has one of the best department in logic, mathematics, logical philosophy, engineering. Nothing like that can be find in Sweden. Finnish students are gifted and very well trained. It seems that Swedes do not realize that Finland is actually the independent country and in many ways better than Sweden.
13:45 August 21, 2010 by Twiceshy
Now if we can all just get the Norwegians to give up theri funny sounding "yo-yo in the throat" sounding "Swedish" and just speak Swedish instead I would be so happy.

Norwegian just sounds silly anyway (come on - even Norwegians are with me on this one!)
16:19 August 21, 2010 by 762rk95
Swedish is completely useless language to most Finns. Teaching it as mandatory subject is pointless, as most Finns will never need to use it outside of school ever even if they learned it and their skill in language will degrade to useless level in few short years. Most people cannot master many foreign languages, usually just one or two languages. Forced and useless Swedish makes learning other languages harder, besides taking lot of time that could be used to learn something useful.

Personally I find it offensive that it much easier to get into Swedish language universities in Finland, grade requirements for entry are much lower on almost all cases.
16:55 August 21, 2010 by bira
Who cares? Let the Finns speak Finnish, why wouldn't they? History is just that, history. If, in today's society, there is no compelling reason for Finns to learn Swedish why the heck should they be forced to do so? As far as being pampered, that may be, but when I lived in Sweden, Finns were pretty pampered there as well in terms of having their own Finnish newspapers, radio and TV stations, etc. Certainly as pampered as there was no requirement for Swedish government, banks, etc to also speak Finnish, but never-the-less. Bottom line, it's Finland...let them speak their own language and then, rather than forcing them to learn Swedish, let them learn a second language of their own choice.
17:36 August 21, 2010 by Bysheon
762rk95 and bira, The Swedish Finnish speaking Finns have Swedish as their mothertounge, but of course the Finnish speaking Finns should not be forced to speak Swedish. The article wasn't really about that though.
18:16 August 21, 2010 by kaze
Swedish is part of Finland's history.

Just as the Irish must learn the internationally useless Gaelic and Welsh the internationally useless Welsh so too should the Finns learn the slightly less useless but still somewhat useless Swedish.
18:59 August 21, 2010 by Skaperen
brissiedan: it is similar to the Scanian flag, but the proportions are different. Have a look at this link. Also see the Finnish language version (Suomi link on left side) and see the same postage stamp.


Twiceshy: good luck with that
19:14 August 21, 2010 by Bysheon
(Off topic: I think there is a will in parts of Finland to be a part of a larger Scandinavian community and culture and the language barrier is probably seen as the biggest barrier (probably true). Two reasons for pushing Swedish as a second language I think is because Swedish is the biggest Scandiavian language and because Finland and Sweden have much shared history - times of rivalry and war, but the relationship has often been very friendly. Maybe the Finns would want to learn Swedish if they were free to choose from themselves, but if they are forced, not so much.. Of course the Finns should be free to choose which language they want to learn, and what community they want to be a part of for that matter.)
21:51 August 21, 2010 by berserker
If we can get past all the racism and plainly retarded comments here , and start talking sensible. It is more about available "Swedish material" in public services being cut. Finnish Swedes or "Finland-Svenska" have been dealing with this for awhile now. While I agree, maybe it is wrong to force Finns to learn the language in school , why take away / or cut the Swedish services. Public Forms, Information, etc. Although some statements are completely absurd, Swedish in the workplace etc. Then go work for a Swedish company. Although most companies here in Finland have English as the company language anyways (except speaking with colleagues on a normal level etc, which would be Finnish) As far as everyday life goes it is Finland so you know, depending on what part you live in then hey most likely Finnish will be spoken . But to completely eradicate the Swedish language for a minority group is insane. Look at Switzerland for e.g 3 Official languages and no one is complaining. Wake up !
04:21 August 22, 2010 by fiable
1August 21, 2010 by kaze: "Just as the Irish must learn the internationally useless Gaelic and Welsh the internationally useless Welsh so too should the Finns learn the slightly less useless but still somewhat useless Swedish."

Now you all can see yourself how arrogant Swedish speaking Finns are!

They say the most stupiest things just to retain their undemocratic position in FInland!
22:56 August 22, 2010 by Snoozer
Why do some keep blaming Sweden for what they think is wrong with the laws in Finland? Do you realize that Finland is independent and not ruled from Stockholm?

If you think the Finns are good and the Swedes are nazis, then be happy in that belief. But those Swedes still have nothing to do with Finnish legislation.

In fact, this article has nothing do to with Sweden at all.
16:08 August 23, 2010 by Åskar
As long as each and every Swedish speaking Finn I know calls hirself "finne" I will use that term instead of the politically correct "finländare" that has evolved during the last 30-40 years or so in Sweden.
01:41 August 24, 2010 by USAtorsk
Do the Finns in Russian Karelia still speak Finnish? Same difference. I think the people in Skåne, Halland & Blekinge should still speak Danish, as well as the peope in Bohuslän & Härjedalen should still speak Norwegian. Danes in German occupied Slesvig/Holsten still speak Danish & have Danish newspapers & such. Who really cares. Survival of the fittest Language unfortunately.
05:19 August 24, 2010 by Frank Lee
How odd that "finlaendare" is the politically correct term in Swedish. The word Finlander, which obviously derives from it, is an ethnic slur in English.
12:33 August 26, 2010 by cmw

Don't spread your hateful propaganda.

I'd say Swedes think good about Finns in general. We have a understanding of the Finnish people as being brave and independent.

As always with bordering countries there is a little fuss too, but the good prevail.

And about the nazis, Finland was cooperating with them too. But how can one blame them (or Sweden)? It's easy to tell what should have been done in retrospect.

Maybe there is some truth about the laziness, it's very hard to really measure. According to wikipedia though, Sweden has four universities among the top 100 in the world whereas Finland got one.



20:09 August 26, 2010 by libre12051

Les suédois finlandais sont 6% et concentré à Aland. la minorité canadian québéboise est de 5.4% (dont la langue parlée et encore comprise est l'anglais et très viellissante.

La minorité franco-ontarienne a le même nombre que la minorité canadienne québécoise et soyons aussi généreuxe que les canadiens le sont pour les franco. Si choyé.
22:42 August 26, 2010 by Finnish guy
Even though most Finns hate being forced to study Swedish language at school and being oppressed by Swedish speaking Finns, I think most Finns respect Sweden and Swedish people. I think Sweden and Estonia are the countries we feel as our "brothers".

BTW, many Swedish speakin Finns hate the word finländare -- some consider it even insulting -- and prefer to call themself just finns, because they want to emphasize that they are also Finns just like Finnish speaking Finns.
02:03 August 29, 2010 by Celc
@aletheia93 - Sure you an "Academic". I'm guessing you are doing a degree gender studies which is largely an exercise in cherry picking statistics to push your agenda.

First of all Sweden was neutral during WWII, we also broke German encryption codes and sent them to the allies. Being neutral means maintaining your sovereignty and doing normal business dealings like selling Iron to other sovereign states like the nazis (and the allies). It does not mean you break all diplomatic ties with every nation involved in a conflicting as you seem to suggest.

However our "neutrality" also meant we sent volunteer Swedish military hardware and personnel to fight on the side of the Finns during the Finnish winter war. It also meant we sent soldiers to Denmark when Germans invaded before WWII (that never ended up fighting).

Swedes think Finns are brutish and angry, Finns think Swedes are gay, but it's all in good humor. It's not like any of us are actually offended or don't like each other, all of Scandinavia smack talk each other. It's not the Nordic equivalent of Pakistan and Indian relations, we actually like each other.

If you are implying Swedes are genocidal against Finlands, then I'm going to imply Poland is still occupied by the Nazis. Nobody is happier than me when a Finn gets laid, more power to them.

How in the world does Finnish law say anything about Swedish racism towards Finland. Sweden has nothing to do with Finnish law and Swedish speaking Finns are not Swedes, they just speak Swedish. I also need to point out that when we made Swedish the official language of Sweden in 2008(2009?) Finnish got minority language status.

Of course Finland is in many ways better than Sweden. When you take something as complex as a nationstate and compare it to another nationstate there will always be some things that you can claim is "better" or "worse", but again it's cherry picking. Who cares if Finland is "better" (whatever that even means) than Sweden, even if it was in every single thing you could find. It's not like it would have an impact on us here, it's not like we wouldn't want them to be better than us, we want to be better than ourselves, but more importantly it's not like the article is even about Sweden.

As for racism, I think you should do some introspection into your own bigoted views about Swedes. We don't actually dislike the Finns, they are our Nordic brothers and sisters.
14:17 August 29, 2010 by Argentina84
"Knowing Swedish eventually results in more Finns knowing a Germanic language. This makes it easier to learn other languages of this linguistic group, such as English and German."

This argument is not convincing, being a language teacher myself and having studied L2 acquisition.

Isn't it better to directly study any other (more important) Germanic language instead of having to learn Swedish first?

My regards to Finland!
22:17 August 29, 2010 by wxman
The proof is all over this thread. There will be a united Europe when hell freezes over.
13:49 August 31, 2010 by Australiensare
With the invasion of American culture, perhaps one day we will see this on The Local:

"Despite comprising just 5.5 percent of the population, Swedish-speaking Swedes have their own newspapers, broadcasts and road signs, and all government documents and websites are translated into Swedish from English."
23:58 September 1, 2010 by prometo
I am an immigrant to Finland who moved here 8 years ago from crapistan (USA). Less than 5 percent of the inhabitants of -mainland- Finland speak dialects of Finland-swedish.

The oddest thing for me as an immigrant from a 'Western' country to Finland is how Finland-Swedish speakers keep insisting on the fact that THEIR peculiar and odd dialect of Swedish somehow binds Finland not only to Scandinavia, but ALL of western civilization, as if Finnish by itself in Finland would automatically place Finland within the same group as Azerbaijian, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan. I challenge this ethno-centrist and -extremely- outdated view. The Finnish language is a bridge to other western countries like Estonia and Hungary, and Finnish is a Nordic, Scandinavian language. Finland-Swedes are only a bridge to a bygone era when the coast of modern Finland was colonized by Sweden.

Finland-Swedes and their policies of division and conflict are the largest barrier to many native Finnish speaking Finns having a more global and international mindset and profile of their own language and culture. Money thrown at propping up a peculiar and archaic form of Swedish could be better spent offering free Finnish language courses to the 10′s of thousands that move to Finland every year. This is a "bilingual country" by -a law- in a constitution from -1919-, when Finland-swedish was spoken by an overwhelming 11 percent of the population. Now that figure lies at 5 percent and is dropping.

Finland-swedes are continuing to prop up an idea of Finland as a people of 3 islands, the "ethnic barbaric Finns", "Finland-Swedes, gods of western civilization and truth", and then the "idiot foreigners, who will never understand Finland or how this country really works"

Finland-swedes are the most pampered minority on Earth. (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/25/international/europe/25finland.html) Millions of Euros a year in tax revenues go to propping up the archaic Finland-swedish language and culture. People that speak Finnish, whether they were born in Joensuu, Mogadishu, Phuket or Dallas such as myself are denied career advancement in the upper echelons of Finnish industry and government due to the fact that knowledge of Finnish is considered a "disadvantage" due to the fact that we would not be serving THE minority and their language.

Swedish should be removed as an official language in Finland and made a minority one (which in reality it is) like Saami. It should have the same status in Finland as Finnish does in Sweden. A municipality should be bilingual only when the minority language is spoken by 20 percent of the population (EU recommendations), not the ludicrous 6 percent or minimum 3000 speakers! This leads to ridiculous situations, such as in Vantaa, with nearly 200000 inhabitants, translating all government documentation into Finland-Swedish because of the 3000 (or 1,5 % of the population!) speak Finland-swedish.
11:08 December 22, 2010 by dorf10
The Swedish language has been in Finland since around year 600 and been national language for 800 years (Finnish, national language for around 140 years). Needless to say a great part of Finnish culture and history is connected to the Swedish language.

The Finnish national anthem was written in Swedish by a Swedish-speaking Finn, Jean Sibelius (widely respected and celebrated figure both in and outside Finland). Finland's national poet Runeberg, has his own national day, own tart and he was a Swedish-speaking Finn (he only wrote in Swedish). Snellman, leader of the Finnification movement (promoting Finnish culture and language) was a Swedish-speaking Finn (he actually did not speak Finnish himself). The list is long but the most famous and celebrated Finn in history: Mannerheim, President, war hero and Swedish-speaking Finn.

I believe Swedish has a place in Finland based on history and culture. If we only look at it from a cost-efficient point of view Finland might as well speak Russian or English.

Furthermore, the Nordic/Scandinavian co-operation takes place on many levels and here Swedish is often used as the common language. Both my wife and I have experienced (in our respective and very different fields) that Nordic meeting uses Swedish.

Also I have a number of German, Dutch and Nordic colleagues who, despite never studied Swedish, can read some and thereby understand things they otherwise would not, had the info only been in Finnish. My wife learned Danish by spending a summer (3 months) in Denmark, without ever studying the language but because she already spoke some Swedish. Now she also understands some Norwegian and it has opened her job marked from Finland to Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Learning a language will (in my book) always be a plus no matter if only 5mil people speak it.

Finally, of cause kids but want to learn Swedish in School. At age 13, they don't even want to go to school! Swedish (and Finnish) should be learnt from a much younger age and then rather wait with English as English is easy to learn due to the constant exposure to the language in Movies, music, computers, etc.
22:31 January 2, 2011 by Matteus
>The Swedish language has been in Finland since around year 600 and been >national language for 800 years (Finnish, national language for around 140 >years).

It is true that Swedish speakers have been in Finland for a few hundred years. It has been an administrative language at one part and a language of small minority of swedish speakers in archipelago and costal areas.

Swedish became the language for foreigners setling in Finland as well because it was the only official language until Finlands first constitution in 1922, when Finnish won for the first time legal and equal status with Swedish.

1800 under Russian rule was chracterized by Swedish speaking administrators (who were left in their positions by Russians) trying to press Finnish in many ways. Their banned Finnish litterature, did not finance Finnish speaking schools, held onto Swedish speaking legal system and so on.

Therefore if one was Finnish speaker, he had to change his language to Swedish to get into an office and not even that was enough. He had to change his name, too.

Swedish speaking minority defended their high paying administrative positions

In 1906 the minority Swedish speaking administrators invented Swedish speaking people due to coming elections. They needed votes. This lead to separation of institution, racism against Finnish speakers (better people/bättrefolk type of attitudes), new terms like finländare to separate Finns from Swedish speakers.

After civil war Finland got its constitution, where Finnish was the national language for the first time in history despite Finnish has been majority language always.

>I believe Swedish has a place in Finland based on history and culture. If we >only look at it from a cost-efficient point of view Finland might as well speak >Russian or English.

Swedish has a place in Finland as a minority language which it is by fact. Its status should be equal to Finnish status in Sweden.

That is most cost-effective.
00:30 March 7, 2011 by Ken Westmoreland
Amusing to read the article and comments, having been in countries with similar problems over language, like Belgium (French vs Dutch) and East Timor (Portuguese vs Tetum). For much of Belgium's history, Dutch (or Flemish) was looked down upon, with French having disproportionate status, though French speakers aren't such a small minority in Belgium as Swedish speakers are in Finland.

What should have happened with Swedish in Finland is that it should only have been made an official language in the regions where people actually speak it.

When I first crossed into Belgium from France, all the signs changed to monolingual Dutch - only in Brussels did I see bilingual signs. I visited Antwerp and I wouldn't have dreamt of speaking French there. Ironically, Flemish separatists say that French speakers in Brussels would have the same rights in an independent Flanders as Swedish speakers do in Helsinki - if only they knew!

The advantage that Swedish in Finland has over other minority languages in Europe is that it's a majority language in a country just next door, so I don't see how it could 'die out', compared to Irish (not 'Gaelic') in Ireland or Romansch in Switzerland. I think it's admirable that the Swedish language TV channel in Finland (FST) subtitles its programmes in Finnish so that the majority of Finns can follow them - I can't imagine French-language TV channels in Belgium subtitling programmes in Dutch, or ones in Canada subtitling in English.

I don't speak Swedish, but can pick up quite a bit from Dutch, German and even English, and the same applies to Danish and Norwegian, so I wouldn't dismiss it as a useless language for people in Finland.

Children in Luxembourg learn Luxembourgish, German, and French, plus English, with many learning another language on top of that. It shouldn't be a case of 'either or', it should be a case of 'and and'.
Today's headlines
Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Look familiar? Meet your jawbone's ancestor
Thank God for evolution, eh?

There's something fishy about the human jawbone – it has its origins in the placodermi, a jowly species of fish that lived 400 million years ago, Swedish and Chinese researchers say.

Isis claims unremarked arson attack in Malmö
The arson attack took place on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. File photo: Emil Langvad/TT

An arson attack in Malmö that caused only minor damage and was barely reported in the media has been claimed by terror group Isis.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available