Language & Cultural Unity
The four major Scandinavian languages - Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic - are closely related. The languages have played an important role in creating and preserving national identity. Finnish, on the other hand, is not a Germanic language, and is completely different from the others. While a Swede and a Dane often understand each other fairly well in a conversation, neither of them would understand a Finn (unless, of course, they have studied Finnish). In cases like that, English is likely to be used. (It should be kept in mind, though, that a fairly large minority of people in Finland have Swedish as their native tongue and many people in the country understand both Finnish and Swedish).
When it comes to language, Sweden has been a homogenous country for a long time. With the exception of Sami and Finnish speaking minorities in the north, Swedish was used everywhere. It is still the predominant language by far but the situation today is somewhat more complex. Because of immigration in the second half of the 20th century, many foreign languages are now represented and they are frequently used within the immigrant groups respectively. This is particularly true, of course, for those immigrants who have arrived in recent years. In addition, immigrant children also have the opportunity to learn their native language at their Swedish school. Despite this manifoldness of languages, Swedish keeps its position as unchallenged official and common language.
One of the minority languages, Sami, is spoken by Sweden's oldest ethnic minority, the Sami. The area, historically related to this group of people, can be found in northern Sweden, as well as in northern Finland and Norway. Today, however, many of them have moved to southern Sweden and Stockholm is sometimes said to be "the largest Sami settlement in Sweden". The native tongue of the Sami is not related to Swedish. However, most of the Sami peolple have become bilingual in the process of adaption.
English is taught as a compulsory secondary language in Swedish schools. Since Sweden has become a stronghold of American popular culture, English is also learned to a large extent through TV, music, and films. When it comes to expressing certain attitudes, English is even considered superior to Swedish. Tourists from Britain or the US may be surprised at the number of Anglicisms in use today. Sometimes this urge to 'sound English' even becomes a bit ridiculous. A foreigner who wants to buy a Sony Walkman, for instance, should ask for a freestyle.
Useful information Quiz game Contents About... E-mail