Multilingual Finland: Exploring the Official Languages and Beyond

Multilingual Finland: Exploring the Official Languages and Beyond

Otilia Munteanu


Language and Culture

Finland, a country situated in Northern Europe, is famous for its vast number of lakes, which have led to it being known as "the land of a thousand lakes." Beyond its landscapes, Finland is distinct because of its linguistic environment. This blog aims to provide an insightful exploration of Finland's official bilingual status, where Finnish and Swedish are recognized as national languages. 

We'll explore how these languages coexist, along with other minority languages, their historical backgrounds, and their roles within Finnish society.

Official Languages in Finland: Overview

In Finland, both Finnish and Swedish are official languages. Finnish is spoken by the majority of the population. Swedish, however, has roots in Finland's medieval period when the region was a part of the Swedish Kingdom, leading to Swedish-speaking communities. Let's delve into how the national languages in Finland came to be and the lasting impact they've had on the country's culture.

Finnish - Finland's Main language 

Initially just a local dialect, Finnish grew to be a key part of the nation's identity. In the 19th century, as Europe saw many countries trying to form their own identities and borders, Finland also sought to establish itself as a unique nation. During this period, substantial efforts were directed towards promoting Finnish culture and language, with the publication of the first novel in Finnish representing a notable milestone. Later, in 1892, Finnish was established as the official language of the country.

Swedish as National Language - A Historical Perspective

The presence of Swedish has significantly shaped Finland's linguistic and cultural landscape, largely due to Finland's historical union with Sweden until 1809. During this time, Swedish became the dominant language in governance, education, and among the elite in Finnish society. Even after Finland gained autonomy as a Grand Duchy under the Russian Empire, Swedish retained its prominence as Finland's main language alongside Finnish. Today, while the number of Swedish speakers may be limited, Finland's constitution ensures equal language rights for both Finnish and Swedish speakers.

Other Spoken Languages in Finland

Finland has many different languages spoken, showing its history, geography, and multicultural identity. These languages of Finland include both minority ones from the past and those brought by recent immigration waves.

  • Sámi Languages - The indigenous Sámi people inhabit the northern reaches of Finland, and their languages - Northern Sámi, Inari Sámi, and Skolt Sámi - resonate with the rhythm of their land.
  • Romani - Despite being a smaller linguistic group, the Romani language carries the legacy of the Romani community's history and traditions.
  • Karelian - The Karelian language, akin to Finnish, resonates in the Karelia region, reflecting historical ties between Finland and Karelia. 
  • English - Though not a traditional minority language, English has garnered widespread popularity in Finland, especially among the younger generation. 
  • Russian - Reflecting historical ties and immigration, the Russian language is spoken by a substantial minority in Finland. The Russian-speaking community serves as a bridge between Finland and its neighboring countries, adding a dynamic layer to the nation's linguistic mosaic.
  • Estonian - The proximity of Estonia has fostered a significant Estonian-speaking community in Finland. This linguistic connection not only facilitates cross-border interactions but also enriches Finland's cultural milieu.

  • Arabic- Arabic has gained importance in Finland due to immigration. Originating from the Middle East and North Africa, the Arabic-speaking community enriches Finland with its diverse way of life, enhancing cultural exchange. 

Benefits and Challenges of Finland's Two National Languages

Finland's bilingual language policy, recognizing Finnish and Swedish as official national languages, presents a set of benefits and challenges. The first advantage is enhanced educational opportunities and the freedom for parents to choose the language of instruction for their children, ensuring the educational journey from preschool to higher education. For immigrants, the ability to acquire Finnish citizenship is facilitated by demonstrating proficiency in either Finnish or Swedish, further underlining the inclusive nature of Finland's language policy. A considerable benefit of Finland's bilingual language policy lies in the improvement of international communication. Proficiency in both Finnish and Swedish allows smoother communication beyond Finland's borders, thereby strengthening diplomatic relations, fostering tourism, and enhancing business opportunities.

However, this bilingual policy also brings challenges. The administrative and financial burdens of providing parallel services in education, judiciary, and public services can be significant. There's also the risk of linguistic fragmentation, where communities may become isolated based on language preferences, potentially leading to social divisions. Additionally, the declining number of Swedish speakers in Finland raises concerns about the sustainability of a truly bilingual society. Balancing the benefits of linguistic diversity with these challenges requires careful policy planning and ongoing dialogue among all stakeholders.

The Essential Role of Translation in a Multilingual Country

In the context of Finland's multilingualism, translation plays an important role. Translation Services facilitate access to public services, education, and healthcare for non-Finnish speakers, aiding immigrants' integration into Finnish society. Additionally, translation contributes to preserving and promoting minority languages of Finland by making literature, legal documents, and educational materials accessible.

PoliLingua Translation Agency is here to help preserve minority languages and improve communication. With our experienced native speakers, we provide accurate translations to accommodate diverse requirements.


Finland's linguistic environment, marked by its official Finnish and Swedish languages, alongside a variety of minority and immigrant languages, showcases the country's diversity. This not only reflects Finland's past but also highlights its commitment to inclusivity and equal opportunities for all language speakers. Translation services play a considerable role in facilitating integration and preserving the linguistic heritage of all communities within Finland.


Our translations are performed by translators carefully selected to align with the subject matter and content of your project. They meet and exceed international quality standards. Upon request, we will provide you with a certificate attesting to the precision of our translations