People speaking some other language than Finnish or Swedish as their native language account for 4.5% of the total population of Finland. The largest language groups after Finnish and Swedish are Russian, Estonian, Arabian, Somali and English.
Under section 17 of the Constitution, the Saami, as an indigenous people, as well as the Roma and other groups, have the right to maintain and develop their own language and culture.
The number of Roma people in Finland is estimated to be around 10,000–12,000, of whom one in three speak the Romani language. The Romani language is mainly a language used at homes among family members. Although the primary language of the Roma population today is Finnish or Swedish, the Romani language has an important role in the Roma culture. The Finnish Romani language is a seriously endangered language. The Roma in Finland speak a northern dialect of Romani, kàlo. The number of those speaking the Romani language is estimated to have fallen by almost 40% during the past fifty years.
Karelian is the most closely related language to Finnish, and it is spoken in Finland and Russia. All in all, less than 100,000 people speak the various forms of the Karelian language. Most of the speakers live in the Republic of Karelia and Inner Russia, mainly north of the city of Tver.
The number of Karelian speakers in Finland is estimated to be around 5,000, most of them former Border Karelians and their descendants. There are a little less than 3,000 persons born in Finland who speak Karelian and a little more than 2,000 persons who have moved to Finland from Russian Karelia.
Senior Specialist, Legal Affairs Eeva Tupi, tel. +358 29 5150 291