The term Finland Swedish is a generic way to describe the most standard and particular form of Swedish that is spoken in Finland. It exists because Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden for more than 600 years. In 1809, Sweden ceded Finland to Russia and the country lost its political connection to Sweden.
Since independence, however, the Finnish constitution has guaranteed language rights to Swedish speakers in Finland. This has helped ensure the survival of a Swedish speaking minority and led to bilingual public and private services in the country.
It has also fostered a unique sense of cultural identity among Finns whose ancestors have historically spoken Swedish and contributed to a great sense of affinity between the two nations.
What makes Finland Swedish different?
Finland Swedish is not a language in its own right but rather a dialect of standard Swedish – which is often referred to as rikssvenska. This means that it shares the same grammar, spelling and writing system as Swedish and is absolutely intelligible to Swedes.
As a result, many people believe that Finland Swedish is simply just Swedish spoken with a Finnish accent, however the truth is more complicated than that.
Although Finland Swedish has of course picked up traits of Finnish – including its abrupt vowels and unit-based cadence – it has its own quirks as well. For example, many elements of its pronunciation have been retained from Old Swedish, rather than acquired from Finnish.
Besides pronunciation, the other main difference is vocabulary. The language has incorporated many calques from Finnish. These are Finnish words that have been Swedified and incorporated into the language, and which are understood by speakers of Finland Swedish but not necessarily Swedish speakers in Stockholm, Malmö or elsewhere.
A few examples of these so-called Finlandismer (Finlandisms) include common words in Finnish like juttu (history, thing), kiva (fun) or roskis (bin) which are peppered into Swedish, as well as non-standard formulations translated directly into Swedish from the Finnish, such as franska potatiser (lit. French potatoes) instead of the standard Swedish pommes frites.
Finally, Finland Swedish also retains a number of old Swedish words that are considered old-fashioned or archaic in Sweden but still used commonly in Finland. Like aderton for eighteen, which sounds old-fashioned to a Swedish ear.
Where is Finland Swedish spoken?
Finland Swedish is mostly spoken in the parts of the country that were first colonised by the Swedes between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. These primarily include archipelago and coastal regions and the city of Turku which was the capital of Finland in the medieval period.
A particularly interesting place for the Swedish language in Finland is the Åland Islands. This autonomous archipelago sits between the Baltic and the Gulf of Bothnia. It is part of Finland, yet Sweden is the primary language spoken on the islands.
This is because the Åland islands were taken by the Russians at the same time as the rest of Finland, and so considered Finnish when these lands were later returned.
Because of this different history, the Swedish spoken here is different from elsewhere in Finland and closer to rikssvenska than the Swedish spoken around Turku.
What is Finland Swedish known for?
For many Swedes, Finland Swedish is strongly connected with one of the Nordic Region’s most beloved cultural exports – the Moomins. Conceived by Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson, the original Moomin comics were published in Swedish by a Finnish publishing company.
When the cartoon first appeared on television screens across Scandinavia in the early 1990s, the troll-like characters from Moomin Valley spoke with a distinct Finland Swedish accent. The result is that many Swedes today associate the accent with cherished childhood memories and hold great fondness for that characteristic falling pitch of Finland Swedish.
What about translation?
When it comes to translation and Finland Swedish, there are a few things to keep in mind. When translating out of Finland Swedish, it is crucial to consider that the dialect uses many non-standard words and expressions.
So a translator who learned Swedish in Stockholm might have trouble deciphering the text and all its nuances at first glance. However, this is the case for many dialects in translation and with the right tools and contacts, any such problems can be overcome.
But what about translations in the other direction? Is it better to translate into Finnish, Swedish or Finland Swedish?
The answer will depend entirely on the audience you are trying to reach.
For example, if you are launching a product to be sold all over Finland, then standard Finnish is absolutely the way to go. But if you are targeting an area where Finland Swedish is spoken, then choosing a localised translation solution may help give you an edge on this market. This is because you will be able to better connect with your readers in a way that feels trustworthy and familiar.
But remember – there are different varieties of Swedish spoken in Finland, so be sure to consult an expert on the local market before opting for a localised approach that might not be universal.
If you have any questions about translating for the Swedish or Finnish markets and how localisation might help you achieve your goals, we will always be more than happy to help – so get in touch today for a commitment-free chat and a quote!