The Status of English in Finland: Everything about English in Finland

The Status of English in Finland (3)

The Status of English in Finland: Everything about English in Finland

In Finland, there are various languages, but Finnish and Swedish are the two official languages of the country. In addition to these two official languages, there are other languages spoken by people in different regions. The indigenous people of Finland speak Sami languages, making up about 5% of the country’s total population. English in Finland also holds a special place , with many people having basic familiarity with the language.

Three Common Languages in Finland

Before we delve into the status of English in Finland, let’s first introduce the three common languages spoken in the country, and then we will discuss the English language in detail.

Finnish Language

With nearly 4,868,751 speakers, constituting 88.88% of the Finnish population, the Finnish language is spoken by the majority of the country. Finnish is a language with a history dating back 500 years and is related to the Estonian language and, to a lesser extent, to the Sami languages. Furthermore, the Finnish language belongs to the Uralic language family. Thus, the Finnish language is distantly related to various languages, including Hungarian (an Ugric language) and the Samoyedic languages of Siberia, such as Nenets.

Swedish Language

More than 9 million people worldwide speak Swedish as their first language. In Finland, around 290,747 people speak Swedish, making up 5.31% of the country’s population. Over 92.4% of Swedish speakers are from the autonomous region of Åland. At the beginning of the 20th century, Swedish speakers constituted around 14% of the total population, but their numbers have since decreased. More than 44% of the country’s citizens who had registered another primary language were able to speak Swedish in 2012. The Swedish language, considered a North Germanic language, has close relations with German, Danish, English, and Norwegian. Historically, Swedish was an official language in Finland alongside Finnish. Along with Finnish, Swedish is a mandatory language in Finnish schools, except for children whose primary language is something other than Finnish or Swedish. Vaasa, Helsinki, Porvoo, and Espoo are four of the largest Swedish-speaking communities in the country.

Russian Language

Russian is the third most widely spoken language in Finland, with approximately 69,614 speakers, making up 1.27% of the total population. Due to the historical influence of the former Soviet Union in Europe, older generations in the country usually speak Russian as a third or fourth language. However, the language is not as popular among younger generations and is being quickly replaced by English. The reality is that Finland is among the top four countries in the world in terms of English proficiency, even though English does not have official status in Finland. Historically, Russian was recognized as the third official language in this country, alongside Swedish and Finnish. Besides these languages, several other languages are spoken in Finland either as mother tongues or secondary languages. Some of these languages include Estonian (0.84%), English (0.31%), Somali (0.31%), Arabic (0.27%), Kurdish (0.20%), Chinese (0.18%), Albanian (0.16%), Persian (0.15%), Thai (0.15%), Vietnamese (0.14%), Turkish (0.12%), Spanish (0.12%), and German (0.11%). Other languages and Sami languages together constitute 1.34% and 0.04% of the total population, respectively.

Languages Spoken in Finland

In Finland, various languages are spoken, each with its own number of speakers. The most widely used language among the people of Finland is the Finnish language, followed by Swedish. In the table below, you can see various languages and their respective numbers of speakers in Finland.

Rank     Language           Number of Speakers      Percentage of the Total Population

1            Finnish 4,868,751           88.98%

2            Swedish             290,747              5.31%

3            Russian 69,614  1.27%

4            Estonian             38,364  0.84%

5            English  16,732  0.31%

6            Somali  16,721  0.31%

7            Arabic   14,825  0.27%

8            Kurdish 10,731  0.20%

9            Chinese 10,110  0.18%

10          Albanian             8,754    0.16%

11          Persian 8,103    0.15%

12          Thai       8,038    0.15%

13          Vietnamese       7,532    0.14%

14          Turkish 6,766    0.12%

15          Spanish 6,583    0.12%

16          German              6,059    0.11%

17          Sami      1,949    0.04%

18          Other Languages             73,543  1.34%

The above data highlights the linguistic diversity of Finland, with Finnish being the most widely spoken language, followed by Swedish and Russian.

English in Finland
English in Finland

Do people in Finland speak English? English in Finland

Finland is a Northern European country with shared borders with Russia, Norway, and Sweden. Helsinki, its capital, is located by the Baltic Sea and boasts sea fortresses like Suomenlinna and various museums with origins dating back to the 18th century. The population of Finland is approximately 5.4 million, and a significant portion, around 70% or 3.8 million people, speaks English. This percentage is considerably high compared to other countries, reflecting a common trend of high English proficiency in Northern European countries. These individuals are typically wealthier and more educated, and Finnish youth, in particular, aspire to attain high proficiency in the English language.

Perhaps you may wonder how confident you can be in your English skills when traveling to Finland. For tourists eager to explore the natural beauty of Finland, travelers can easily enjoy the Northern Lights, national parks, and other natural wonders without any issues. However, for venturing into older, less tourist-populated areas, having basic familiarity with the Finnish language can be helpful.

In Finland, with people under 60 years of age, whether in the capital city Helsinki or anywhere else in the country, you won’t have difficulty speaking English. Global reports suggest that for traveling in Finland, knowledge of the Finnish language is not necessary since English is spoken well enough almost everywhere for your daily needs.

Official statistics from a 2012 survey indicate that 70% of the Finnish population speaks English. Neighbor countries like Sweden and Norway have even higher proficiency in English. However, even 70% proficiency in English is more than enough for English-speaking tourists to communicate effectively.

Proficiency in the English language in Finland

English has been taught in Finnish schools for a long time, so most people, except for very old generations, can speak English to some extent. Many of these individuals have a high level of proficiency and can converse without any issues. What sets Scandinavian countries apart from other parts of the world isn’t just their familiarity with English but their excellent mastery of the language. A 2015 survey ranked Finns fourth globally in English language skills. Even the weaker sections of the population in Finland still scored above the international average.

Scandinavians tend to carry out fluent and intelligent conversations in English without much trouble. It’s worth noting that despite all these discussions about English proficiency, Finns, in general, are not overly talkative. They are typically very helpful and friendly when you approach them, but they only talk when they have something to say, not just for the sake of talking.

Learning some basic Finnish phrases

Finland is one of those countries where you can truly live without any issues with just English. However, still, remembering a few basic Finnish phrases to show appreciation for the local people and gain a better understanding of the culture can be helpful. Finnish is often ranked as one of the most challenging languages to learn due to its complex verb and sentence structure, which can take years. Nevertheless, learning a few basic phrases is usually not very difficult.

English in Finland
English in Finland

Using English in major Finnish cities

Some cities attract many immigrants due to their location and greater economic importance. People in these cities usually have better English proficiency.

English in Finland : Helsinki

The capital of Finland, founded in 1550, has a long history that has turned it into a year-round tourist destination for many international visitors. Helsinki is located on the Gulf of Finland, and many people in this city can speak English, so if your travel destination is Helsinki, you can use English there without any stress.


Turku is the fourth-largest city in Finland and is situated on the southwest coast in the mouth of the Aura River. It is believed that this city is more about living close to nature and is a hub for business and technology. The advanced nature of the city has led its residents to have high proficiency in English.


Tampere is located in western Finland and is often ranked as one of the most popular cities. You’ll find plenty of English speakers here too.

English in Finland : Espoo

Espoo is the second-largest city after Helsinki and, together with Helsinki, Vantaa, and Kauniainen, is part of the Capital Region of Finland. As many other areas in Finland, Espoo has a thriving scientific and research community. The Aalto University in Espoo and other international companies like Nokia, HMD Global, Neste, Orion Corporation, and video game developers Rovio and Remedy Entertainment are based here. Espoo is officially bilingual. Given that Espoo is home to research institutions and multinational companies, you won’t have any problems finding English speakers there.

Is English essential in Finland?

As a tourist, when traveling to Helsinki or other cities in Finland, you won’t have any issues with using English. Travelers often report that there is no need to use Finnish since English is spoken almost everywhere you need to go. Neighbor countries like Sweden and Norway have even higher proficiency in English, with 80% of Swedes speaking English. However, the 70% English proficiency of Finns still makes it possible for visitors to have a great time in Finland. While you shouldn’t expect to have deep conversations while traveling in Finland, considering that Finns, despite their high level of English proficiency, generally prefer to speak Finnish amongst themselves, having a good grasp of English can still enhance your understanding of the world around you.

English teaching opportunities in Finland

In a United Nations report, Finland is ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. While working and living in Finland, there are plenty of sports and activities you can try, such as the Air Guitar World Championships, swamp soccer, or mobile phone throwing.

Finland has a continuously top-ranked education system. With Finland’s high standards, finding a teaching job may be competitive, so any teaching experience will be beneficial and help you secure a better school for teaching. In addition to public schools, there are numerous private language schools where you can teach. English is still in high demand in the business community, so you might find work teaching English for business purposes. For teaching English in Finland, you would need a Bachelor’s degree and preferably European Union citizenship.

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