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Does it piss off Swedish speakers that I only speak Finnish?

January 12, 2016

My new complex: The Little Miss is involved in a variety of sports and I thought I’d try and give her a leg up on Finland’s other official language (Swedish) but putting her in clubs where the predominant language is Swedish. I must compliment all the coaches I have spoken with – they have been very accommodating of me when I need to have things answered. They’re very accommodating of the Little Miss and they speak Finnish to her (and others) as needed.

Deep down inside I wonder if any Swedish speakers I have met here in Finland are ever resentful of the fact that I speak zero Swedish. I do look like a Finn after all and most people think I am a native Finnish speaker the moment they meet me. Swedish would probably be so easy to learn, I just need to get to a beginners course and do it… <TIME! Where is the time to do that?>

A tangent: A couple years ago I got told off by one dad at a kids’ track and field meet where I was (only) helping measure for long jump and it was pouring rain. For some reason his kid got left out and then he started yelling at me. I told him loudly in English that I was just a parent and I didn’t speak Swedish. If was so concerned about his child’s involvement, why didn’t he step in to help? His behaviour was rude to say the least.

Swedish speaking Finns are a lot like French speaking Canadians (in Quebec), they form a lively and vibrant subculture that (read: I assume) fears being drown out by the dominant language and culture. The Mr. was surprised and kind of annoyed when he found out one of the Little Miss’s teammates didn’t understand or speak Finnish. In fact I commend her parents for making sure that Swedish is her dominant language. We live in the capital area and it won’t be long until she (and other exclusively Swedish-speaking kids) will be exposed to Finnish on all sides.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Sonia permalink
    January 13, 2016 10:04 pm

    Normally, I have never given up when once starting to learn a language (and collected 7 of those). With Swedish, I did break up. Mostly, due to lack of time and motivation. I could not start it right away when moving here, because first, Finnish consumed all my energy, capacity, sanity and brain cells (even my other languages on subject matter translator level was pushed into the back room of my brain because of Finnish, which I deeply regret). I live in a town with quite a large Swedish-speaking minority, but it was never a must to speak it. I never applied for any jobs in public service (would not get those anyways). Often, at the cashier in Porvoo, they tell me the price in both languages, because it’s probably difficult to guess in my case.

    I hate when people assume that with German background and English skills it’s like a piece of cake. In those few lessons, I found lots of “false friends” (words similar to German meaning something ridiculously different, spoken out differently). Also very much to learn about the spelling and too close to my Dutch skills, which I treasure. I decided to invest my energy in brushing up my Spanish to the previous level of legal, economic and technical translations back in the 90s. 🙂

    As for that being pissed off by not knowing/wanting to speak the (other) country language, I witnessed it other way round (e.g. even in a town with a large minority, service personnel is not willing and able to switch to Swedish, if the customer wants it). There were some surveys in Helsinki on that and the level was very poor – even in public services. It may be meaningful in e.g. elderly care. Why should the customer change from his/her native language?

  2. January 13, 2016 10:18 pm

    Hi Matti, thx for nice blog! I have question: can I publish some of your post please?

    I have some “blog idea”, please check:

    or youtube:

    or just let me know so I can sent an e-mail with more info to you…



    • January 14, 2016 9:29 am

      Hello Linda, my name is Carmen actually. You have my permission to publish some of my posts, only if I am given fill credit for them. People have permission to use my pictures as well, with the same request – full credit.

  3. Tanja permalink
    March 30, 2016 12:22 pm

    Knowing swedish in finland is overrated. As a swedish person, I can tell you that most “real sweds” struggle so much with understanding the finish accent that they just switch to english. And, living in finland I have realised that even if swedish IS a national language, you can’t get around with only swedish. Official documents, websites, even if they sport a “swedish” translation, often only translate the head line, or the pages are missing (you have better luck with the english option!). Also worth to note is how old words swed-finns use, it’s barley understandable even when red. In addition, most finns don’t want to use their swedish, I speak to them in swedish and they answer in english for example. But I’ve of course heard the statement that some swed-finns are extremly proud of their swedish and refuse to have anything to do with finn-finns. xD

    • March 31, 2016 12:40 pm

      Hi Tanja, thanks for your two cents on this! In fact I have also heard the same – communities of language minorities in Finland (Sami and Swedish) that isolate themselves because they do not want to deal with Finnish-speaking Finns.

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