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  5. "Kuinka moni suomalainen osaa…

"Kuinka moni suomalainen osaa ruotsia?"

Translation:How many Finns know Swedish?

July 29, 2020



I'm a swedish speaking finn and I'm happy that someone finally mentions us. There are so many pepole that don't even know we even exist.

Jag är från svenskfinland och är glad att någon äntligen nämner oss. Det finns så mycket folk som inte ens vet att vi finns.


Äntligen är kanske för starkt uttryckt, men jag uppfattar pointen.

(a fluent L2-speaker)


Min svensklärare i högstadiet var från en svensktalande del av Finland. (Jag är från Sverige)


According to Wikipedia, as of 2019, there are 287,954 native speakers of Swedish in Finland. This total does not include second-language speakers of Swedish.


L1 speakers

All on Åland islands speak Swedish up to the point, that if they are not engaged in tourism, they can't Finnish. On the mainland, i.e. not on Åland, there are three regions with notable Swedish speaking minority.

  • Ostrobothnia (fi Pohjanmaan, sv Österbotten) has on its coast a strong Swedish speaking minority. Knowledge of Finnish varies.

      A side note, the world's most Swedish speaking (in percentage) municipality is located there, not in Sweden.

  • Southwest Finland (fi Varsinais-Suomi, sv Egentliga Finland) has in its archipelago Swedish speaking minority. They can speak Finnish, although some with a notable accent and word choices.

  • Along the Gulf of Finland from Hanko (sv Hangö) to Loviisa (sv Lovisa) situation varies. There are some rural areas and small towns where you hear Swedish in everyday life, but in bigger towns it had become less and less common. Knowledge of Finnish varies accordingly, but usually is higher than among Ostrobothnians.

L2 speakers

While all are taught Swedish in the elementary school, very few outside of those three mainland regions actually can it, when they have crown up. The reason is quite simple: there is neither need nor opportunity in everyday life to use it.

In those three regions the situation varies. If a person has a need and opportunity to use the language, some sort of passive and active capability will remain, otherwise not. While many understand when spoken to, fewer can speak themselves.

  • 222

I live in Swedish city. I am not good in Swedish, but I handle that.


Why is not correct: «How many Finns can speak Swedish?»


That would be: kuinka moni suomalainen osaa puhua ruotsia. There is no puhua in the original sentence so thats why it's considered wrong. The meaning is however very much the same


There are different fields of language skills: to understand spoken language, to speak, to read and to write. And those with varying registers: colloquial, standard, formal, scientific, literature-level…

To be precise the question does not specify which skill is meant. As Anne said, with a question like this it is usually understood spoken language for everyday life. But it is spelt out.


I would rsther say that the question is phrased incorrectly. You can speak, read, write or understand swedish but to "know" it wouöd mean 'speak' to me also. If that is wrong rhen the question is ambiguous.


Osaa taught as "can" throughout is suddebly used as "know" without warning. This is poor.


The English verb "can" is extremely fuzzy, it can have a lot of different meanings. How to translate it, depends on the context. To quote what I have written in another discussion here in Duolingo:

We have "cans", "mays", "be ables" etc. on one side and kyetä, osata, pystyä, voida etc. on the other side and there is no universal correspondence between those.

If you take a look at my other comment in that same discussion (the one with bold sentences), that should give you a grasp what the Finnish verbs kyetä, voida and osata mean, all of those translatable to "can" in some contexts but not in all.

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