Activists say use of Finnish in Sweden is being restricted

Students in a classroom in Halmstad, Sweden, in 2016. (David Ramos/Getty Images)
Finnish speakers in Sweden are protesting about what they say is language-based discrimination. The group of activists wrote an op-ed in Dagens Nyheter claiming that use of Finnish in everyday life in Sweden is being hampered by petty rules and official obstruction.

Finnish-language researchers and activists in Sweden say that it’s getting more difficult to use Finnish in everyday life. They claim that use of Finnish in schools is restricted, and that Finnish-language media offerings have been cut back in recent years.

They say that some teachers have banned students from speaking Finnish during breaks, even though Finnish is an official minority language in Sweden. Some Finnish-speaking teachers have also been banned from speaking Finnish to each other in their cafeteria, some asked to switch to Swedish in the staff room.

“This is happening now,” reads the op-ed. “All Finnish teachers are not treated in this way, but it is happening across the country, from the north to the south.”

The authors of the letter include Satu Gröndahl of Uppsala University and Sirpa Humalisto, of the union of Finnish teachers in Sweden. They cite a survey conducted by union.

Libraries “neglecting Finnish”

“In these situations it is not a matter of a lack of information, but discrimination,” reads the op-ed.

The authors outline a long list of grievances, including cutbacks in Finnish-language media, reductions in Finnish books in libraries and a refusal to invite Finnish-speaking people to libraries to read poetry in their own language—a courtesy apparently offered to other language groups.

Finnish has been an official minority language in Sweden since the year 2000, a decision that was accompanied by the creation of a so-called Finnish language administrative area incorporating more than 50 municipalities that guarantee early years education and old age care for residents in Finnish if they require it.

There are around 700,000 people in Sweden with Finnish roots, according to the Swedish statistics agency.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian government invests over $35M to preserve Indigenous languages in the North, Radio Canada International

Finland: Finnish National Museum returns thousands of artefacts to indigenous Sámi people, YLE News

Norway: Repressive policy deprived Sámi people of language, culture : Norway’s prime minister, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden faces criticism over border controls, Radio Sweden

Russia: New rise in cross-border travel between Russia and Nordic countries, after significant drop, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Presbyterian Church formally apologizes to Alaska native people for denouncing culture, Alaska Public Media

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