The Institute’s webpages in Finnish contain a lot of information about the languages spoken in Finland, other languages related to Finnish, the language policy in Finland etc.

Languages of Finland


More than 150 different first languages are spoken in Finland. The official languages (national languages) of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. In addition to Finnish and Swedish, there are other languages in Finland whose users’ rights are laid down in law. The Saami languages are the languages of the indigenous population of Finland. Finnish Romani, Finnish sign language, Finland-Swedish sign language and Karelian are autochthonous languages that have a long history in Finland.

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Finnish

Finnish belongs to the Uralic language group. In Finland, approximately 4.9 million people speak Finnish as their first language, and more than 0.5 million people speak it as a second language. Finnish is also spoken in Sweden, Norway, Eastern Karelia and Ingria (in Russia), and even in the USA and Australia. The Finnish spoken in Finland comprises several dialects. Written Finnish dates back approximately 500 years.

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Swedish

Swedish is an Indo-European language and a member of the North Germanic branch of the language family. Globally, approximately 9 million people speak Swedish as their first language; Finland has approximately 296,000 Swedish-speakers. Finland Swedish is a regional variant of Swedish. One purpose of the guidance on Finland Swedish is to prevent it from becoming too different from the Swedish used in Sweden.

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Saami

The Saami languages are autochthonous languages to Europe and the closest relatives to the Finnic languages. The total Saami population is 60,000–100,000 people; approximately 10,000 of them live in Finland. There are three different Saami languages spoken in Finland: Inari Saami, Skolt Saami and Northern Saami. Each of them has its own form of written language and orthography. Since 1992, the Saami languages have had official status in Finland in the Saami native region comprising Enontekiö, Inari and Utsjoki, as well as the northern part of Sodankylä.

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Karelian

The Karelian language, spoken in Finland and Russia, is the closest linguistic relative to Finnish and must not be mixed up with the Karelian (south-eastern) dialects of Finnish. There are less than 100,000 speakers of the various forms of Karelian. In Finland, their estimated number is about 5,000.

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Finnish Romani

Romani is an Indo-European language and a member of the Indo-Aryan subgroup of the Indi-Iranian branch. Finnish Romani (Finnish Kalo) belongs to the north-western group of the northern Romani dialects. The Romani language has been present in Finland for approximately 450 years, mainly as a spoken, family-internal and code language. Efforts to maintain Romani and develop it as a literary language started around the beginning of the 1970s.

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Sign languages in Finland

Finnish sign language is the first language for 4,000–5,000 non-hearing Finns. Another 6,000–9,000 hearing Finns use it as their first or second language. Today, there are only 90 users of Finland-Swedish sign language, which is listed as critically endangered.

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