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Reuter - English

Mikael Reuter, Research Institute for the Languages of Finland

An Action programme for Swedish in Finland

Ladies and gentlemen

If representatives of world languages like French, German and Spanish experience

that there is a threat of loss of domain for those languages and a need for a new

language policy and language strategy, it is hardly surprising that the same is true for

Swedish in Finland. With less than 300 000 speakers and under six percent of the

country’s population, the group of Swedish speakers in Finland is in practise a

language minority. The fact that Swedish is, however, an official national language

used in politics, administration, education, research, business life, church, mass media

and cultural life is mainly due to three circumstances:

1) history, i.e. the former position of Swedish as a dominating language in

administration and culture

2) language legislation in Finland, which is probably the most progressive in the


3) the fact that Swedish is the language of Sweden, the neighbouring country

closest to Finland in many respects, and at the same time a key to the entire

Scandinavian language area.

Today, however, Swedish runs the risk of losing domains in two directions: both to

Finnish and to English. Moreover – and this may prove crucial for the future

development – it has become clear that many Swedish speakers in Finland,

particularly in the younger generation, do not master their own language to such an

extent that they can use it professionally.

This is the reason why the Swedish Language Board at the Research Institute for the

Languages of Finland has recently published its proposal for an Action programme

for Swedish in Finland.

The title of the proposal is “Tänk om …”, which has the double meaning of “Suppose

…” or “Reconsider …”.

The aim of the action programme is to maintain and strengthen Swedish in Finland as

a mother tongue, with focus on the quality of the language rather than on linguistic


The proposal is based on four leading principles, even though they are not all clearly

mentioned in the published text:

Swedish in Finland is and shall remain a complete language, serving all

Swedish in Finland is a variety of standard Swedish

The best way to take care of a language is to use it

Working for one language does not mean working against another language.

Parents need information about the linguistic development of children and the

Each geographical region needs a language consultant who can support

The proficiency in Swedish that is to be required of children beginning in the

The production of text books and other teaching aids for the Swedish-language

Every university needs a well-reasoned language strategy for recruitment and

Every municipality has to work out a language strategy. Models for such

Guidance on correct usage for the Swedish-language media in Finland shall be

We must invest in language technology both for creating proofing tools andSvefix must be further developed.

A Finland-Swedish electronic text corpus must be developed, comprising both

There is a great need for professional experts on Swedish. It is essential that a
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