Speaking of language

Overheard in an R-Kioski. Young woman behind the counter angrily to older woman customer: “I am sorry but I really can’t speak Swedish. At school I learned English and French.” Eventually the woman realising she couldn’t make herself understood, walked out of the shop. I couldn’t tell whether she was in fact Swedish or a Swedish-speaking Finn.

About six per cent of the population of Finland have Swedish as their mother-tongue. They certainly consider themselves Finns and also feel they have the right to communicate in what is, after all, one of the two official languages of the country as guaranteed by the constitution.  Thankfully, most people I speak to here are supportive of the Swedish speakers’ linguistic rights. However there is a fair bit of low-level and not so low-level resentment too.

I don’t think I can do justice to this  complex and controversial issue but there’s a good blog by a Swedish-speaking Finn and there’s also a Wikipedia article on the subject.


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