Monday, 23 November 2009

Land of one language? - 2

The renewed and often bitter debate about the position of the Swedish language in Finland continues to cause waves in Finnish cultural and political life. Last week Anna-Maja Henriksson, chair of the Swedish Assembly (Folketinget) which promotes the interests of Finland's Swedish-speaking minority warned that if the anti-Swedish trend continues (the future of the country's Swedish-language television service is currently in doubt) the Åland Islands may seek separation. At present Åland (in Finnish, Ahvenanmaa) enjoys a special autonomous status within Finland, enabling the province to conduct its affairs entirely in Swedish, without the need for the people who live there to learn and speak Finnish at all.

This statement, which Ms. Henriksson subsequently modified, saying she had been misunderstood, caused outrage in the comments section of the Helsingin Sanomat article in which it appeared, and she began to receive threats and accusations of treason.

Polarization around the issue does appear to be gathering momentum, though the discussions I've read generate more heat than light. Today's issue of Hufvudstadsbladet leads with a story about Finland-Swedish hospital patients and their experiences, suggesting that Finland-Swedes demand more of the public health services than Finns do. On the other hand, most of Finland's medical personnel don't speak much or any Swedish, especially those doctors and specialists who have migrated to Finland from abroad.

Finland's current prime minister, Matti Vanhanen, is the first politician to hold the post who in meetings with his Nordic colleagues uses English, not Swedish, as a means of communication.

Svenskfinland in English has much more on all the related issues - seen from a Finland-Swedish viewpoint, of course. 

See also: Land of one language?

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