Friday, December 16, 2011

Swedish, a sweet dish?

Finland is a bilingual country, the official languages being Finnish and Swedish. About 90% of the population speaks Finnish and about 5% Swedish as their mother tongue. In most of the schools Finnish speaking kids start studying Swedish on the seventh grade. And if you're living in 100% Finnish speaking area (such as my home town Lappeenranta), you're in the worst phase of your teenage life and you're having a Swedish teacher who has the least possible amount of charisma and teaching skills... well, that's why many people feel they are forced to study Swedish.

I never felt like I was forced to study Swedish. I've always thought it's pretty natural to study other languages, at least couple of them, if your mother tongue is used by only 5 million other people. On the other hand, I must admit that nowadays it would more useful to study Russian, Chinese or Spanish rather than Swedish. But the bottom line is that learning almost any language is good for you.

In general these articles written by Ilkka Malmberg are a cliche, but the graph is quite to the point. Yellow color represents the area where Swedish can be considered more useful than Russian language, whereas in the orange area it's quite the opposite. The striped area is somewhere in between.

And you never know when you really need your second language. You may end up being married to a person from another language background. Today I'm quite happy I was awake in the Swedish class, and because of that I'm able to understand what my in-laws are speaking. My own Swedish output may not be super fluent - but a schnapps (or four) of akvavit usually helps.


  1. Some languages may seem more "useful" but let's not make the world too homogeneous. Differences makes it richer and more interesting :)

    For instance my mother tongue is Catalan, which I'm really proud of and I'm learning Finnish, which I'm proud to be learning (not so proud about the progress though...).

  2. And you should be proud of those!

    I'm proud of being able to use my Swedish. However, I've noticed that my 5-year-old Swedish-speaking goddaughter sometimes thinks I'm a bit stupid because I can't say clearly what I'm supposed to say. Mutual learning for both her and me :)