Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish. Finnish is spoken by 92 percent and Swedish by just over 5 percent of the population. The variety of Swedish language used in Finland is called Finnish Swedish. For a long time, until the second half of the 19th century, Sweden was the country’s only official language (see phenomena ).
Finnish and Swedish
Most of Finland is Finnish-speaking (see Finnish ), but Swedish settlement in Finland may, according to archaeological evidence, possibly go back to prehistoric times, at least in Åland and in certain western Finnish coastal settlements. In our time, the Swedish-speaking population is in the whole of Åland, in the coastal villages of Uusimaa, in the archipelago in the southwest corner of the country, and in Vaasan lääni, from the southern border to Kokkola.
The percentage ratio between Swedish and Finnish speakers has changed quite a bit over the years. In 1880 it was just over 85 percent Finnish-speaking and slightly over 14 percent Swedish-speaking, in 1910 the corresponding numbers were 88 and 11.8, in 1930 89.4 and 10.1, in 1950 91.1 and 8.6, in 1960 92 and 7.9. The Finnish language has thus been steadily progressing, also in the countryside, but mostly in the cities. In the cities, there is a constant influx of people from surrounding Finnish-speaking villages. In 1880 only 57 per cent of the urban population was Finnish speaking, in 1950 the figure had risen to 86 per cent.
The Language Laws of 1923 sought to regulate the relationship between the two languages and, on the basis of direct investigations of the language conditions in the individual municipalities and in larger districts, decided on a grouping into three classes: Swedish-speaking, Finnish-speaking and bilingual municipalities and districts. Under the Revised Language Act of 1963, a municipality shall be bilingual if the linguistic minority constitutes less than ten percent of the population, but bilingual if it is ten percent or more.
Every ten years, the authorities decide which municipalities are to be considered Finnish, Swedish or bilingual. A bilingual municipality will not become bilingual unless the number of minority speakers has dropped to eight per cent or less, and a monolingual municipality will not become bilingual unless the number of minority speakers has risen to twelve per cent or more. Helsinki, Turku and Vaasa shall be bilingual with a minority of at least 5000 persons, although the minority constitutes less than eight per cent.
The third old language in Finland is Sami, which is spoken in some parts of Northern Finland by about 4000-5000 people. Finland also has a large Romany-speaking gypsy minority of around 5,000 people, and a tatariskspråklig minority of around 1000. While Sami has some statutory language rights, including use of the Sami language in court proceedings, the users of Romany and Tatar no statutory language rights in Finland.
From the 1980s Finland has had an increase in immigration. An estimated 27,000 Russian speakers, 12,500 Estonian speakers, 7200 Somali speakers are mentioned, to name some of the approximately 90 new language minorities in Finland. In 2018, minority languages constitute a larger group than Swedish-speakers.