Languages of Finland

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Languages of Finland
Official Finnish (1st: 87%, 2nd: 13%)
Swedish (1st: 5%, 2nd: 44%)
Minority officially recognized: Sami, Romani, Finnish Sign Language, Karelian
Immigrant Russian, Estonian
Foreign English (70%)
German (18%)
French (10%) [1]
Signed Finnish Sign Language, Finland-Swedish Sign Language
Keyboard layout
Basic Finnish/Swedish
KB Sweden.svg
Finnish Multilingual
KB Finnish Multilingual.svg
Source (

The two main official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. There are also several official minority languages: three variants of Sami, Romani, Finnish Sign Language and Karelian.



Municipalities of Finland:
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unilingually Finnish
bilingual with Finnish as majority language, Swedish as minority language
bilingual with Swedish as majority language, Finnish as minority language
unilingually Swedish
bilingual with Finnish as majority language, Sami as minority language Languages of Finnish municipalities (2016).svg
Municipalities of Finland:
  unilingually Finnish
  bilingual with Finnish as majority language, Swedish as minority language
  bilingual with Swedish as majority language, Finnish as minority language
  unilingually Swedish
  bilingual with Finnish as majority language, Sami as minority language

Finnish is the language of the majority, 87.3% of the population in 2019. [2] It is a Finnic language closely related to Estonian and less closely to the Sami languages. The Finnic languages belong to the Uralic language family, so Finnish is distantly related to languages as diverse as Hungarian (an Ugric language) and Nenets (a Samoyedic language) in Siberia.


Swedish is the main language of 5.2% of the population in 2019 [2] (92.4% in the Åland autonomous province), down from 14% at the beginning of the 20th century. In 2012, 44% of Finnish citizens with another registered primary language than Swedish could hold a conversation in this language. [3] Swedish is a North Germanic language, closely related to Norwegian and Danish. As a subbranch of Indo-European, it is also closely related to other Germanic languages such as German, Dutch, and English.

Swedish was the language of the administration until the late 19th century. Today it is one of the two main official languages, with a position equal to Finnish in most legislation, though the working language in most governmental bodies is Finnish. Both Finnish and Swedish are compulsory subjects in school with an exception for children with a third language as their native language. A successfully completed language test is a prerequisite for governmental offices where a university degree is required.

The four largest Swedish-speaking communities in Finland, in absolute numbers, are those of Helsinki, Espoo, Porvoo and Vaasa, where they constitute significant minorities. Helsinki, the capital, had a Swedish-speaking majority until late in the 19th century. Currently 5.9% [4] of the population of Helsinki are native Swedish speakers and 15% are native speakers of languages other than Finnish and Swedish. [5]

The Swedish dialects spoken in Finland mainland are known as Finland-Swedish. There is a rich Finland-Swedish literature, including authors such as Tove Jansson, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Edith Södergran and Zacharias Topelius. Runeberg is considered Finland's national poet and wrote the national anthem, "Vårt land", which was only later translated to Finnish.


The English language is spoken by most Finns. Official statistics in 2012 show that at least 70% of Finnish people can speak English. [6]

In 2021, Juhana Vartiainen, the mayor of Helsinki, proposed declaring Helsinki an English-speaking city. [7]

Sami languages

The Sami languages are a group of related languages spoken across Lapland. They are distantly related to Finnish. The three Sami languages spoken in Finland, Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami, have a combined native speaker population of 2,004 in 2019. [2] The number of Sjavü Sami speakers in Finland are unknown.


Up to World War II, Karelian was spoken in the historical Border-Karelian region on the northern shore of Lake Ladoga. After the war, immigrant Karelians were settled all over Finland. In 2001 the Karelian Language Society estimated that the language is understood by 11,000–12,000 people in Finland, most of whom are elderly. A more recent estimate is that there are 5000 first language speakers in Finland but the size of the language community is 30,000. [8]

Karelian was recognized in a regulation by the President in November 2009, in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. [9] This is the Karelian language which has several dialects, and not a Karelian dialect of the Finnish language.


The Russian language is the third most spoken native language in Finland (1.5%). [2] The Russian language has no official status in Finland, though historically it served as the third co-official language with Finnish and Swedish for a relatively brief period between 1900 and 1917.

Territorial bilingualism

All municipalities outside Åland where both official languages are spoken by either at least 8% of the population or at least 3,000 people are considered bilingual. Swedish reaches these criteria in 59 out of 336 municipalities located in Åland (where this does not matter) and the coastal areas of Ostrobothnia region, Southwest Finland (especially in Åboland outside Turku) and Uusimaa. Outside these areas there are some towns with significant Swedish-speaking minorities not reaching the criteria. Thus the inland is officially unilingually Finnish-speaking. Finnish reaches the criteria everywhere but in Åland and in three municipalities in the Ostrobothnia region, which is also the only region on the Finnish mainland with a Swedish-speaking majority (52% to 46%).

The Sami languages have an official status in the northernmost Finland, in Utsjoki, Inari, Enontekiö and part of Sodankylä, regardless of proportion of speakers.

In the bilingual municipalities signs are in both languages, important documents are translated and authorities have to be able to serve in both languages. Authorities of the central administration have to serve the public in both official languages, regardless of location, and in Sami in certain circumstances.

Places often have different names in Finnish and in Swedish, both names being equally official as name of the town. For a list, see Names of places in Finland in Finnish and in Swedish.


Knowledge of foreign languages and Swedish as second language in Finland, in percent of the adult population, 2005 Foreign languages Finland.jpg
Knowledge of foreign languages and Swedish as second language in Finland, in percent of the adult population, 2005
Knowledge of the English language in Finland, 2005. According to the Eurobarometer, 63% of the respondents indicated that they know English well enough to have a conversation. Of these 23% (percent, not percentage points) reported a very good knowledge of the language whereas 34% had a good knowledge and 43% basic English skills. Knowledge of English in Finland 2005.png
Knowledge of the English language in Finland, 2005. According to the Eurobarometer, 63% of the respondents indicated that they know English well enough to have a conversation. Of these 23% (percent, not percentage points) reported a very good knowledge of the language whereas 34% had a good knowledge and 43% basic English skills.
Proportions of main languages in Finland, 2007 Native languages Finland 2007.jpg
Proportions of main languages in Finland, 2007
Number of speakers of the largest unofficial languages in Finland, 2007 Unofficial languages Finland 2007.jpg
Number of speakers of the largest unofficial languages in Finland, 2007
Residents of Finland by native language (2020) [11]
LanguageNo. of speakers (>5,000)Percentage
Finnish 4,811,06786.94%
Swedish 287,8715.20%
Russian 84,1901.52%
Estonian 49,5510.90%
Arabic 34,2820.62%
English 23,4330.42%
Somali 22,7940.41%
Kurdish 15,3680.28%
Persian 15,1050.27%
Chinese 13,7780.25%
Albanian 12,6640.23%
Vietnamese 11,5620.21%
Thai 10,5530.19%
Turkish 9,4920.17%
Spanish 9,1510.17%
German 6,8410.12%
Ukrainian 5,9610.11%
Polish 5,6950.10%
Romanian 5,6800.10%
Tagalog 5,3150.10%
Sami 2,0080.04%
Residents of Finland by language family (2019) [12]
FamilyNo. of speakersPercentage
Finno-Ugric 4,877,16188.27%
Germanic 320,0165.79%
Slavic 102,1611.85%
Afroasiatic 57,8441.05%
Indo-Iranian 47,8040.87%
Romance 24,8020.45%
Sino-Tibetan 13,7600.25%
Turkic 11,6510.21%
Austroasiatic 11,4590.21%
Tai 10,2430.19%
Niger-Congo 8,8410.16%
Austronesian 5,6780.10%
Dravidian 4,0360.07%
Baltic 3,8840.07%
Greek, Latin 1,7160.03%
Japonic 1,6170.03%
Caucasian 9320.02%
Other Indo-European 12,1410.22%
Other Asian9580.02%
Residents of Finland by second language (mixed results)
Finnish 97.45% [13]
English 70% [6]
Swedish 34.11 [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Demographics of Finland Overview of the demographics of Finland

Finland has a population of over 5.53 million people and an average population density of 19 inhabitants per square kilometre (49/sq mi). This makes it the third most sparsely populated country in Europe, after Iceland and Norway. Population distribution is very uneven: the population is concentrated on the small southwestern coastal plain. About 85% live in towns and cities, with 1.5 million living in the Greater Helsinki area. In Arctic Lapland, on the other hand, there are only two inhabitants per square kilometre (5.2/sq mi).

Sápmi Cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people

Sápmi is the cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sámi people. Sápmi is in Northern Europe and includes the northern parts of Fennoscandia, also known as the "Cap of the North".

Finland Swedish Dialects of Standard Swedish spoken in parts of Finland

Finland Swedish or Fenno-Swedish is a general term for the variety of the Swedish language and a closely related group of Swedish dialects spoken in Finland by the Swedish-speaking population as their first language.

Swedish-speaking population of Finland Ethnic group of people born in Finland speaking Swedish as their first language

The Swedish-speaking population of Finland is a linguistic minority in Finland. They maintain a strong identity and are seen either as a separate ethnic group, while still being Finns, or as a distinct nationality. They speak Finland Swedish, which encompasses both a standard language and distinct dialects that are mutually intelligible with the dialects spoken in Sweden and, to a lesser extent, other Scandinavian languages. On 6 November, Finnish Swedish Heritage Day, a general flag flying day, is celebrated in Finland; that day celebrates the Swedish-speaking population of Finland, their culture, and the bilinguality of Finland.

Regions of Finland Regional subdivision of Finland

Finland is divided into 19 regions The regions are governed by regional councils, which serve as forums of cooperation for the municipalities of a region. The main tasks of the regions are regional planning and development of enterprise and education. In addition, the public health services are usually organized on the basis of regions. Between 2004 and 2012, the only region where a popular elections for the council were held was Kainuu as part of an experimental regional administration. Currently the regional councils are elected by municipal councils, each municipality sending representatives in proportion to its population. The Government of Finland is in the process of establishing elected regional councils by 2022 through a health and social services reform. In the process the official English name for the administrative unit will be changed from region to county, while the Finnish and Swedish names will be kept intact.

Karelian language Finnic language spoken in Karelia

Karelian is a Finnic language spoken mainly in the Russian Republic of Karelia. Linguistically, Karelian is closely related to the Finnish dialects spoken in eastern Finland, and some Finnish linguists have even classified Karelian as a dialect of Finnish, though in the modern day it is widely considered a separate language. Karelian is not to be confused with the Southeastern dialects of Finnish, sometimes referred to as karjalaismurteet in Finland.

Inari Sami

Inari Sami is a Sami language spoken by the Inari Sami of Finland. It has approximately 300 speakers, the majority of whom are middle-aged or older and live in the municipality of Inari. According to the Sami Parliament of Finland, 269 persons used Inari Sami as their first language. It is the only Sami language that is spoken exclusively in Finland. The language is classified as being seriously endangered, as few children learn it; however, more and more children are learning it in language nests. In 2018, Inari Sami had about 400 speakers; due to revival efforts, the language had gained speakers.

Pirkanmaa Region of Finland

Pirkanmaa, also known as Tampere Region in government documents, is a region of Finland. It borders the regions of Satakunta, South Ostrobothnia, Central Finland, Päijät-Häme, Kanta-Häme and Southwest Finland. Most of the water area in the Kokemäki River watershed is located in the Pirkanmaa region, although Lake Vanajavesi is partly in the Kanta-Häme region. The region got its name from Pirkkala, which in the Middle Ages comprised most of present-day Pirkanmaa. Tampere is the regional center and capital of Pirkanmaa, and at the same time the largest city in the region.


Meänkieli is a Finnic language or a group of distinct Finnish dialects spoken in the northernmost part of Sweden along the valley of the Torne River. Its status as an independent language is disputed, but in Sweden it is recognized as one of the country's five minority languages.

Finns Baltic Finnic ethnic group indigenous to Finland

Finns or Finnish people are a Baltic Finnic ethnic group native to Finland.

Ostrobothnia (region) Region of Finland

Ostrobothnia is a region in western Finland. It borders the regions of Central Ostrobothnia, South Ostrobothnia, and Satakunta and is one of the four modern regions making up the historical province of Ostrobothnia. It is also referred to as Coastal Ostrobothnia to avoid confusion.

Livvi-Karelian language

Livvi-Karelian is a dialect of the Karelian language, which is a Finnic language of the Uralic family, spoken by Olonets Karelians, traditionally inhabiting the area between Ladoga and Onega lakes, northward of Svir River. The name "Olonets Karelians" is derived from the territory inhabited, Olonets Krai, named after the town of Olonets, named after the Olonka River.

Finnic languages

The Finnic (Fennic) or Balto-Finnic languages, are a branch of the Uralic language family spoken around the Baltic Sea by Finnic peoples. There are around 7 million speakers who live mainly in Finland and Estonia.

Languages of Sweden Overview of the languages spoken in Sweden

Swedish is the official language of Sweden and is spoken by the vast majority of the 10.23 million inhabitants of the country. It is a North Germanic language and quite similar to its sister Scandinavian languages, Danish and Norwegian, with which it maintains partial mutual intelligibility and forms a dialect continuum. A number of regional Swedish dialects are spoken across the county. In total, more than 200 languages are estimated to be spoken across the county, including regional languages, indigenous Sámi languages, and immigrant languages.

The toponyms of Finland result mainly from the legacy left by three linguistic heritages: the Finnish language, the Swedish language and Sami languages. Finland’s place names range from those of unknown or unrecognizable origins to more clearly derivable onomastics. There are both national and international recommendations on how to use the bilingual country's place names in texts written in different languages. In Finland, the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland and the National Land Survey of Finland are jointly responsible for the standardization of place names.

Finnish language Uralic language mostly spoken in Finland

Finnish is a Uralic language of the Finnic branch spoken by the majority of the population in Finland and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. Finnish is one of the two official languages of Finland. In Sweden, both Finnish and Meänkieli are official minority languages. The Kven language, which like Meänkieli is mutually intelligible with Finnish, is spoken in the Norwegian county Troms og Finnmark by a minority group of Finnish descent.

Sámi languages Uralic languages spoken by the Sami people

Sámi languages, in English also rendered as Sami and Saami, are a group of Uralic languages spoken by the Sámi people in Northern Europe. There are, depending on the nature and terms of division, ten or more Sami languages. Several spellings have been used for the Sámi languages, including Sámi, Sami, Saami, Saame, Sámic, Samic and Saamic, as well as the exonyms Lappish and Lappic. The last two, along with the term Lapp, are now often considered pejorative.


  1. OIF 2014, pp. 13–19.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Väestö". Statistics – Population structure. Statistics Finland. 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  3. Europeans and their languages, situationen 2012 Archived 2016-01-06 at the Wayback Machine , p. 21
  4. "Helsinki Population 2021 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs)". Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  5. "Decrease in the number of persons speaking national languages as their native language accelerated" . Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  6. 1 2 "Europeans and their languages". Special Eurobarometer 386. June 2012. p. 21. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  8. "Etusivu Kielitieto Kielet Karjala".
  9. Change in the regulation by the president of Finland about European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, 68/2009 27.11.2009 (in Finnish)
  10. "Eurobarometer". Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  11. "Befolkning 31.12. efter Område, Språk, Kön, År och Uppgifter". Tilastokeskuksen PX-Web tietokannat (in Swedish). Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  12. "Väestö 31.12. muuttujina Maakunta, Kieli, Ikä, Sukupuoli, Vuosi ja Tiedot". Tilastokeskuksen PX-Web tietokannat (in Finnish). Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  13. "Most popular languages in Finland · Explore which languages are spoken in Finland". Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  14. "Most popular languages in Finland · Explore which languages are spoken in Finland". Retrieved 2021-06-20.

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