The language and the literature in Finland

Another one of the fascinating contradictions you encounter in Finland concerns its language. As previously mentioned, Finland has two official languages: Swedish, which is spoken by about 6 per cent of the population and whose presence came about through Swedish supremacy over 700 years, and Finnish. Yet, Finnish is both old and new. As a spoken language, Finnish has existed for years and was thought of as the language of the common people. It was only in the Middle Ages that Finnish was written down when Mikael Agricola (1510–1557) created the first Finnish written alphabet. Hundreds of years passed before Finnish was elevated to the status of a true, written, cultural and official language. This was in 1863. Until then, Finnish folklore was an oral tradition and early literature was written in Swedish, with more scholarly work written in Latin. In modern times, the Finns have found knowing foreign languages essential to their economic well-being. Thus, the vast majority of Finns use and understand English in their business transactions (the author’s experience claims 98 percent of her contacts) and many speak German and Russian.