This week we celebrate our bilingual city. Turku is officially bilingual like all Finland. In practice, our city is multilingual because, in addition to Finnish and Swedish, at least 13 languages are spoken in Turku.

About 10 175 citizens speak Swedish as their native language according to the statistics of the year 2017. Apart from Finnish and Swedish, Russian, Estonian, Somali, English, Arabic, Kurdish and Chinese are spoken in Turku. Other big language groups were Albanian, Persia, Thai, Turkish, Spanish and German in the statistics in 2015.

Some of us grow in bilingual or multilingual environments and others learn new languages later at school, in student exchange or at work. Today there are also many applications by the use of which it is easy to start learning a language at one’s own pace.

When a Finnish child starts school, she first studies only Finnish but from the third grade children learn English and they can choose Swedish in the fourth grade. Swedish is compulsory to all Finnish schoolchildren from the sixth grade on. Partly because of this, term obligatory Swedish is used in speech, and in Swedish Ostrobothnia they may speak of obligatory Finnish. Part of the language discussion culminates and the advantages of bilingualism are not always utilized.

If all the family and all friends speak only Swedish and watch only Swedish television channels, it is easy to understand why especially small schoolchildren do not find the Finnish language useful. Respectively, the environment of Finnish-speaking citizens can be so monolingual that they do not see any advantage in learning other languages.

– The Swedish language brings cultural richness and capital so that, for example, those knowing Swedish have significantly more study and employment opportunities in Finland and in all the Nordic countries than those who do not know any foreign languages. Knowledge of Swedish is also required for many offices and it is, at the very least, an advantage when you are looking for a job, says the Communication Manager of Turku, Saara Malila.

In the European Union there are 24 official languages. Additionally, hundreds of regional languages or minority languages are spoken in Europe. Multilingual Europe is the consequence of migration and it has been counted that merely in London more than 300 languages are spoken.

Finland-Swedes are Finns whose native language is Swedish

If you travel to Sweden, the neighbouring country of Finland, you may notice that Swedish is pronounced differently from the pronunciation in Finland. Swedish-speaking Finns speak Finland Swedish. Being Finland-Swedish does not only mean a language but also culture.

Finland-Swedes are associated with such attributes as cheerfulness and optimism. They are known for their schnapps songs and late-summer crab parties which are often connected. Finland-Swedes have some celebrations of their own like Svenska dagen (Swedish Day) on the 6th of November and Santa Lucia Day on the 13th of December.

The bilingualism dates back to a period more than thousand years ago because Swedish have since been living in Finland. Most of Finland-Swedes live on the west and south coasts of Finland. The only completely Swedish area is Ahvenanmaa (Åland) which has autonomy.

The position of the Swedish language comes from the history of Finland. Finland was earlier part of Sweden for a long time. In addition to the Finnish-speaking majority there are several minorities in Finland. The traditional minorities are Samis, Finland-Swedes, Jews, Tatars, Romanies and a Russian minority. All the minorities have cultures of their own.



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