The question of language


Rosala village

View of the mainly Swedish-speaking Rosala village.


Finland is an officially bilingual country, where the two national languages are Finnish and Swedish. The size of the Swedish speaking minority is about 6% of the total population. In addition there is a Sami population that has their own language, but that for some reason do not have the same language status.

When writing about sailing in Finland, the question of language is of some relevance. The Swedish-speaking minority has traditionally lived along the south/south-western shores of Finland and hence a lot of the popular sailing destinations in this area have traditionally been Swedish. The inland lake areas and the coastal areas towards the north of the Gulf of Bothnia and towards the eastern parts of the Gulf of Finland have been predominately Finnish. Then there are a lot of coastal areas where this kind of simple division is hard or impossible to make.

As a result islands, villages and other places of sailing relevance have either a Swedish name, and Finnish name or both. When talking about these places, I will try to mostly use the “traditional” name of most places. Thus for places that have been mostly Swedish I’ll tend to use the Swedish name while for places that have been mainly Finnish I’ll use the Finnish variant.

Sailing visitors from Sweden of course get around very well in Finland as they can use their native language in many areas, as can most Norwegians. And visitors from Estonia often know Finnish and can get along on that. For other visitors, English is your best bet. Young people in Finland often have a very good command of the English language and you will be able to get along on that in most places. There is some French, German and Russian taught in Finnish schools, but your chances of meeting someone that speaks those languages is rather slim. The one exception to this are the eastern parts of Finland, where the strong influx of Russian tourists has raised interest in the Russian language and you might well find someone to help you out in Russian.