Finland is officially bilingual in Finnish (suomi) and Swedish (svenska), with both languages being taught in almost all schools (with varying results). Also acknowledged in the constitution are Sami, Romani, and Finnish sign language, although they are not spoken outside of their own areas and the people are multilingual with Finnish.
The majority of individuals you will encounter will be fluent in English.
Businesses with a domestic client base often have their web sites and other marketing materials exclusively in Finnish. This is not to say that they cannot offer service in English and make visitors feel welcome (although they might have to improvise more than those used to foreigners). If the company seems to be intriguing, just contact them to get the necessary details.
The Scandinavian languages (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese), Russian, and English are not related to Finnish, which is the mother tongue of 92 percent of the people. It is not even an Indo-European language, but rather belongs to the Uralic group of languages, which also includes Hungarian and Estonian, making it difficult to learn for speakers of most other European languages. While Finnish and Estonian are quite similar, Hungarian and Finnish are approximately as similar as Spanish and Russian.
Because Finnish borrows so few terms from other European languages, reading signboards may be challenging. The relationship between spelling and formal pronunciation is simple (simply learn how to pronounce individual letters — the problem is adhering to it), while colloquial speech varies significantly from what is taught in most language classes.
The Finnish language contains a few exceptions but a lot of norms (where some rules might be considered cleverly disguised exceptions). There are about 17 distinct instances for “getting some coffee and receiving the coffee, going into a pub, being in a bar, getting out of a pub, being on the roof, getting onto the roof, getting off the roof, utilizing something as a roof,” and so on, which are encoded into the word ends (kahvia, kahvi, pubiin, pubissa, pubista, katolle, katolta, kattona). Unfortunately, verb conjugation is a little more difficult.
Using a dictionary is made more difficult by word inflection; furthermore, the stem of many words changes slightly (e.g. roof, “katto”, above). Many distinct words are created from the same root by various ends (kirjain, kirjuri, kirjasin, kirjoitin, kirje, kirjelmä, kirjasto, and kirjaamo are all substantives connected to “kirja,” book, and there are also related verbs and adjectives).
Swedish, which is linked to Norwegian and Danish, is spoken by 5.6 percent of Finns. There are no big cities with a Swedish majority, and the Swedish-speaking populations are mostly found in smaller towns and rural municipalities along the coast, as well as as minority in cities. Many villages and road signs along the coast utilize alternate Finnish and Swedish names, making road signs difficult to read. The tiny autonomous province of land, as well as municipalities like as Närpes, Korsnäs, and Larsmo, are almost all Swedish-speaking, and locals often know little or no Finnish, thus English is a better option. Since the 1970s, Swedish has been required in Finnish-speaking schools (as Finnish in Swedish-speaking schools). Outside of cities and towns with a large Swedish-speaking populace, it is uncommon to encounter proficient Swedish speakers on the street; nevertheless, about half of the population considers themselves conversant in it, including any national-level politician. In cities like Helsinki and Turku, most people know enough Swedish to deal with simple conversations you might have as a tourist, and often a little more, but living would be difficult without knowledge of Finnish, whereas in traditionally Swedish towns like Vaasa and Porvoo, nearly half the population is Swedish-speaking, and many Swedish-speaking locals expect service in Swedish. The majority of bigger hotels and restaurants in regions where Swedish is commonly spoken have Swedish-speaking employees.
With the exception of the elderly, almost all individuals you may encounter as a visitor in bigger towns speak English quite well, and even in the rural, younger people will almost always know enough to converse. Outside of Swedish-speaking areas, English is generally much more widely understood than Swedish. In certain Swedish-speaking areas, English may be more widely understood than Finnish. In Finland, English is spoken by 73% of the population. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance: Finns may be timid, but they are generally delighted to assist those in need.
Russian is spoken at shops and hotels catering to Russian visitors, especially close the Russian border, such as in Lappeenranta, Imatra, and Joensuu, but also in several large Helsinki businesses such as Stockmann. Tourist sites in Eastern and Northern Finland that are popular with Russians have some Russian-speaking personnel. Otherwise, few Finns are fluent in Russian.
Aside from the languages mentioned above, some Finns can speak German (18% conversational) or French (3% conversant), with other secondary languages (Spanish, Italian) being uncommon.
Subtitled TV shows and movies are almost always available. Only children’s shows and movies are dubbed into Finnish or Swedish.