Embracing Saami Culture with the Help of Literature

In November 2009, on Universal Children’s Day, a group of Inari Saami teachers, parents and children travelled to the capital to meet Finnish politicians including President Halonen. The purpose was to campaign for more school books in Inari Saami language. An official complaint about the situation was presented to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. The situation has gradually improved since but there is still a severe lack of culturally appropriate learning materials for Inari Saami speaking children.

Anarâškielâ Servi ry (Inari Saami Language Association) was established in 1986 by Veikko Aikio, Ilmari Mattus and Matti Morottaja. The Inari Saami language nest was later established because there was a genuine concern the Inari Saami language might disappear and be lost forever. At first learning materials for Inari Saami speaking children were so scarce, the language nest staff had to translate books from different cultures by glueing the new text on books to cover the original story. One might wonder why Northern Saami books were not used as there was already a decent selection of children’s literature available. For an outsider it may be hard to understand that these are two different although closely related languages. The idea would be similar to suggesting to Estonians to start learning Finnish, a bigger language, instead of their own language.

There are more books and materials to choose from in Northern Saami because there are approximately 30,000 Northern Saami speakers. It is the majority Saami language spoken in Finland but also a language spoken in Norway and Sweden, so resources are not limited to Finland alone. There are still only approximately 450 Inari Saami speakers, along with Skolt Saami, it’s still a minority’s minority language amongst Saami speaking people. All three languages are represented in the local school in Inari. I wanted to help with making learning materials for Inari Saami children because my children attended the language nest. The language nest is a total immersion language nursery, where the core work for language revitalisation is done. Below is a link to a documentary telling about the language nest and the language revitalisation work of Anarâškielâ Servi ry. After leaving the language nest the children usually progress to the Piäju, similar to the language nest but for older preschool children. From there the children can progress to school, where they can continue their education in Inari Saami language. As more children progress from the language nest, the number of Inari Saami speaking people has increased since the making of this video: Reborn (YouTube).

I have been cooperating with Anarâškielâ Servi ry to publish bilingual Inari Saami/English children’s books to help the learning materials situation. I write the stories in English, illustrate the books and then they are translated into Inari Saami by Petter Morottaja, the son of one of the main people in the revitalisation work here in Inari. My wife is also Inari Saami and a folklorist, so she is able to help me with the stories. First of all I wrote and illustrated a book for older children called “The Forgetful Squirrel” and was then asked to make books for younger children. The main character of the original book, an Inari Saami boy called Sammeli, was the inspiration for the series of books which tell of him and his adventures in the “Eight Seasons of Lapland”. The books are in Inari Saami to provide much needed materials for the children learning Inari Saami in the language nests and local school. This way there are culturally appropriate learning materials for Inari Saami speaking children, that also offer them the opportunity to learn English. Tourists who speak English can purchase the books from Sámi Duodji, Siida museum, Hotel Kultahovi in Inari and other places including Arktikum in Rovaniemi and online from Anarâškielâ servi ry.

This way they can learn about the local language and culture, and the revenue can help to fund further books and learning materials for the future.

When I was asked to write this blog, I read about the philosophy behind
Culture for All and was proud to contribute to something so worthwhile. I thought about a seminar for the project “Toward a More Inclusive and Comprehensive Finnish Literature” I was invited to attend, hosted by the Finnish Literature Society (SKS). The seminar led to an anthology “Opening Boundaries: Toward Finnish Heterolinational Literatures”, in which I was very happy to be included. It’s wonderful that there is a concerted effort being made to foster and promote the inclusion of immigrants in Finland and to celebrate their contribution to Finnish society. People have different talents, whether they are writers or artists or make a positive contribution to the wealth of the country in some other way. Similarly Finnish people living in other countries can take their ideology and talents with them to a new country, where they have the chance to make a positive contribution to their new environment, whilst sharing and promoting knowledge of their home country. In the acknowledgements, editor Mehdi Ghasemi wrote “Without their invaluable support, the implementation of the project and the publication of this book would not have been possible.”

There is an African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” Without the persistence and endeavour of countless people working for Anarâškielâ Servi ry in the language nest or Piäju, school teachers or kind people providing grants for Inari Saami literature, there would be even less learning opportunities than presently. Chances are the Inari Saami language would have disappeared like other forgotten Saami languages. Even if you just took the time to read this blog, you made a contribution. One more person understands the need for Inari Saami speaking children to have learning materials in their own language.

Lonottâllâm – Sharing, Autumn story (PDF)

The children, who have attended the language nest, Piäju and school in their own language, have now started to make their own contribution to Inari Saami culture. Some have written articles for the digital magazine Loostâš, Wikipedia articles and translated books from other languages into Inari Saami to increase the volume of literature available. Reading about different cultures is a very good way to learn and increase understanding and appreciation of those cultures. If Finnish people had an opportunity to read Inari Saami literature in Finnish, they would have a chance to learn about a language and culture indigenous to Finland, adding to the collective wealth of the country. In the same way that Finnish literature and books from writers of other countries have added to the wealth of Inari Saami literature, Inari Saami children should have the chance to see themselves represented in Finnish culture and shown in a positive light. Usually Saami children only see themselves in adverts encouraging tourism to Lapland. They grow up seeing Saami people shown often unfairly and inaccurately, sometimes even disparagingly, on postcards or comedy programmes from which negative stereotypes can endure for decades.

There is still a chronic shortage of culturally appropriate learning materials for Inari Saami speaking children, and funding for Anaraskiela Servi ry is a constant struggle. If bilingual Finnish/Inari Saami literature was included in the school curriculum, there would be sufficient funding for books, and both Finnish and Inari Saami children would benefit.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child covers essential rights regarding social welfare including political, social, economic and cultural rights. It states that children should have the right to develop to the fullest. Inari Saami speaking children should have the right to learning materials in their own language in their indigenous country, and Finland should give them this opportunity.

A quote from American philosopher William James says: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” It’s very easy though to lose motivation when you don’t feel valued or appreciated. We are all to some extent products of our environment, and when Inari Saami speaking children aren’t represented and made to feel they matter, they are at an immediate disadvantage and consequently may not accomplish their potential.

Finland is often applauded for having one of the most progressive education systems in the world. Supporting Inari Saami language revitalisation and the indigenous children of its country, would give Inari Saami children a voice and a chance to add to the narrative of Finland.


Lee D Rodgers

Lee Rodgers is originally from Manchester, where he worked as an artist before attending university in Manchester and Helsinki. He lives in Inari with his Inari Saami wife and family. He has been cooperating with Anarâškielâ Servi ry, The Inari Saami Language Association to help with Inari Saami language revitalisation. Lee Rodgers has written a series of bilingual Inari Saami/English books based on the adventures of a young Inari Saami boy called Sammeli in the “8 Seasons of Lapland”. For more information please contact rodgerslee9@gmail.com or www.anaraskielaservi.fi.

Kirjastoissa tarvitaan kielten ja kulttuurien osaajia

(in English below)

Suomessa on yhä enemmän perheitä, jotka ovat monikielisiä. Suomessa on yhä enemmän lapsia, jotka kasvavat monikielisessä ympäristössä.

Yli 400 000 Suomessa asuvaa ihmistä puhuu äidinkielenään jotain muuta kuin suomea, ruotsia tai saamea. Suurimmat kieliryhmät ovat venäjä, viro, arabia, englanti ja somali.

Tilastokeskuksen tilastoissa puhutaan vieraskielisen väestön määrästä, joka on kasvanut voimakkaasti. Vielä 2000-luvun alussa vieraskielisiä asui Suomessa reilut satatuhatta, nyt määrä on yli kolminkertainen.

Olen miettinyt kirjastojen mahdollisuuksia palvella monikielisiä ja vieraskielisiä yhteisöjä. Asia nousi ajankohtaiseksi viime marraskuussa, kun valmistelin keskustelua teemasta suomalais-ruotsalaisen kulttuurikeskus Hanasaaren kulttuuripolitiikan päivään.

Kirjastojen työntekijöistä vain noin prosentti puhuu äidinkielenään jotain muuta kuin suomea tai ruotsia. Tämä hätkähdyttävän pieni luku tuli esiin kirjastoalan järjestöjen tekemässä kyselytutkimuksessa.

Miksi kirjastoissa on töissä niin vähän vieraskielisiä? Pitääkö olla huolissaan kirjastojen kyvystä palvella monikielisiä yhteisöjä?

Oma mututuntumani on, että kovin on vaikeaa työllistyä kirjastoon, jos ei hallitse täydellisesti suomen kieltä.

Eräs kirjastoalan oppilaitos järjesti joitakin vuosia sitten muuntokoulutuksen korkeakoulutetuille maahanmuuttajille. Muuntokoulutuksen piti pätevöittää kirjastoalan työtehtäviin. Heistä hyvin harva loppujen lopuksi työllistyi kirjastoon.

Kulttuuriala ja myös kirjastoala näkee itsensä mielellään moninaisena ja kaikille avoimena. Alan työntekijöitä yhdistävät tasa-arvon ja yhdenvertaisuuden ihanteet.

Niin kauan kuin työntekijöiden edustama maailma on hyvin kaukana yhteiskunnassa vallitsevasta väestörakenteesta, emme voi puhua moninaisuuden toteutumisesta.

On tärkeää, että eri ammateissa toimii erilaisia ihmisiä. Lukuisat tutkimukset kertovat, että eri-ikäisistä, eri sukupuolta olevista, erilaisista taustoista koostuvien ihmisten tiimit pääsevät usein parhaaseen lopputulokseen ja niiden kyky ongelmanratkaisuun on huomattavasti parempi kuin keskenään samanlaisten ryhmien.

Asiaan on herätty. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriö julkaisi juuri Kulttuuripolitiikka, maahanmuuttajat ja kulttuurisen moninaisuuden edistäminen -työryhmän loppuraportin. Sen mukaan ”väestön moninaistuminen on otettava — huomioon kaikessa taide- ja kulttuuripoliittisessa suunnittelussa ja päätöksenteossa.”

Raportti esittää myös haasteen: ”taide- ja kulttuuriorganisaatioiden pitää tunnistaa syrjivät rakenteet ja rekrytointikäytännöt ja tunnustaa niiden eriasteinen olemassaolo omassa toiminnassaan.”

Käytännössä tämä tarkoittaa, että taide- ja kulttuurilaitoksiin, myös kirjastoihin, pitää palkata kaiken tasoisiin tehtäviin lisää monikielisiä ihmisiä ja lisää maahanmuuttajia.

Mitkä ovat kirjastoalan ”syrjivät rakenteet ja rekrytointikäytännöt”? En tiedä, mutta veikkaan, että yksi liittyy koviin kielivaatimuksiin.

Kirjasto on paljon muutakin kuin kirjat. Se on palvelu, joka tarjoaa sivistystä ja osaamista kaikille yhteisössä. Hyvän kirjastotyöntekijän edellytys ei voi olla täydellinen kielitaito.

Libraries are in need of language and culture experts

Finland is home to an increasing number of multilingual families. Finland also has an increasing number of children who are growing up in a multilingual environment.

More than 400,000 people living in Finland speak a language other than Finnish, Swedish or Sami as their native language. The largest language groups are Russian, Estonian, Arabic, English and Somali.

The statistics of Statistics Finland show the number of foreign-language speakers, which has grown strongly. At the beginning of the 2000s, a little more than one hundred thousand foreign-language speakers lived in Finland; the number has now more than tripled.

Lately, I have been thinking about our libraries’ ability to serve multilingual and foreign-language communities. The issue became topical last November when I was preparing a discussion on the topic for Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre Hanaholmen’s Cultural Politics Dialogue Day.

Only about one per cent of all library staff speak a language other than Finnish or Swedish as their native language. This strikingly low figure came up in a survey carried out by library organisations.

Why are there so few foreign-language speakers working in libraries? Should we be concerned about our libraries’ ability to serve multilingual communities?

My personal feeling is that it is very difficult to get a job in a library if your command of Finnish is anything short of perfect.

Some years ago, a library institute organised conversion training for highly-educated immigrants. The conversion training was supposed to qualify the immigrants for work in libraries. In the end, very few of them were employed in a library.

The culture sector, much like the included library sector, likes to view itself as a diverse sector that is open to all. Employees in the sector share ideals of equality and non-discrimination.

However, as long as the world represented by these employees is a far cry from the demographic structure of our society, we cannot say that we have achieved diversity.

It is important that there are different kinds of people operating in different professions. Numerous studies show that teams of people of varying ages, genders and backgrounds often achieve the best results and have a much better problem-solving ability than uniform groups.

Decision-makers have become aware of this issue. The Ministry of Education and Culture recently published the final report of the working group on Cultural Policy, Immigrants and Promotion of Cultural Diversity. It states that “the diverse demographic structures must be reflected in all artistic and cultural-politic planning and decision-making”.

The report also poses a challenge: ”Artistic and cultural organisations must identify discriminatory structures and recruitment practices and recognise their varying degrees of existence in their own activities.”

In practice, this means that artistic and cultural institutions, including libraries, must employ more multilingual people and more immigrants for jobs at all levels.

What are the “discriminatory structures and recruitment practices” in the library sector? I do not know, but I am guessing one of them has to do with stringent language requirements.

The library is much more than just books. It is a service that provides education and knowledge for everyone in the community. Flawless language skills must not be a prerequisite for working in a library.

Kirjoittaja / Author

Rauha Maarno
Kirjoittaja on Suomen Kirjastoseuran toiminnanjohtaja.

The author is the Executive Director at Finnish Library Association.

Kirjasto kutsuu yhteisiin lukuhetkiin – monella kielellä | Libraries invite you to share reading moments – in many languages

[In English below] 

Lasten ja nuorten lukemiseen kannustamiseksi tehdään työtä usealla taholla. Jo varhain aloitettu yhdessä lukeminen on tärkeää. Lukeminen on mukavaa aikuisen ja lapsen välistä yhdessäoloa mutta se myös kehittää lapsen kieltä ja puhetta, kuuntelun ja keskittymisen taitoa sekä sanavarastoa.

Riitta Salin peräänkuuluttaa omassa blogitekstissään vanhempiin kohdistuvaa työtä kun puhutaan oman äidinkielen säilyttämisen ja ylläpidon merkityksestä. Oman äidinkielen opettajat ovat tässä keskeisessä asemassa. Kirjastoilla taas on tarjota aineistoja, joilla voidaan tukea perheen yhteistä lukuharrastusta monilla kielillä.
Suomessa on meneillään useita valtakunnallisia lukemista edistäviä kampanjoita ja hankkeita. Lukuliike on hallitusohjelmaan kirjattu jatkuva ohjelma, jonka tavoitteena on edistää Suomessa asuvien lukutaitoa, lapset ja nuoret edellä. Lukuliike pyrkii laajentamaan lukutaidon käsitettä ja tuomaan esiin monilukutaitoa sekä monikielisyyttä. Tämän vuoden alusta opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriö on antanut lasten ja nuorten lukemista ja lukutaitoa edistävien kirjastopalvelujen valtakunnallisen erityistehtävän Seinäjoen kaupunginkirjastolle.

Hyviä esimerkkejä käytännön lukutaitotyöstä on monia mutta tässä voidaan poimia esiin vaikka Niilo Mäki-instituutin Lukumummit –ja vaarit (Reading grandmas and grandpas: seniors reading with children at school). Lukumummi ja -vaari -kerhossa eri kulttuureista tulevat mummit ja vaarit lukevat lapsille kirjoja omalla äidinkielellä. Tapahtuma järjestetään iltapäivällä monikulttuurikeskusten kerhoissa. Lapset pääsevät tutustumaan oman kielen kirjoihin ja oppivat uusia sanoja mummien ja vaarien kanssa. Kerhoja on jo useilla paikkakunnilla eri puolilla Suomea.
Lapsille ja perheille tulee olla lukemista tarjolla eri muodoissa. Perinteinen paperinen lastenkirja on monille se rakkain mutta monikielisten digitaalisten aineistojen, e-kirjojen ja äänikirjojen, tarjonta ja käyttö lisääntyy ja kirjastojen tulee voida tarjota niitä asiakkailleen nykyistä helpommin. Tällä hetkellä kirjastojen e-aineistojen käyttäminen on asiakkaalle haastavaa, sillä ne ovat useilla eri palvelualustoilla. Tämä heikentää monikielisten aineistojen yhdenvertaista saavutettavuutta.

Monessa kunnassa varhaiskasvatus, koulut ja kirjastot ovat jo ottaneetkin käyttöön maksullisen Lukulumo – monikielisen kuvakirjapalvelun (Ruotsissa nimellä Polyglutt). Lukulumosta löytyy yli 300 suomenkielistä kuvakirjaa, joista monia voi kuunnella ja katsella yli 45 kielellä. Kirjat palveluun ovat valinneet lastenkirjallisuuden asiantuntijat. Lapset voivat kehittää niin suomen ja ruotsin kielen kuin myös oman äidinkielen taitojaan. Lapset voivat tutustua samaan kuvakirjaan omilla kielillään.
Pohjoismaat, Norja, Tanska ja Ruotsi, tarjoavat jo yhteistyössä monikielisiä e-kirjoja ja äänikirjoja asiakkailleen World Library –palvelussa. Monikielinen kirjaston on seurannut projektin etenemistä useita vuosia. Toivottavasti Suomen kirjastot voivat liittyä mukaan palveluun lähitulevaisuudessa ja näin saada valikoiman digitaalista aineistoa asiakkaidensa käyttöön.

Tammikuussa 2020 Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriö myönsi 250 000 euron avustuksen kansallisen e-kirjaston selvityshankkeen käynnistämiseksi. Helsingin kaupunginkirjaston vetämän hankkeen tavoitteena on parantaa e-kirjojen alueellista saatavuutta ja kansalaisten yhdenvertaisuutta ja tasa-arvoa koko Suomessa. Kun lähitulevaisuudessa yleisten kirjastojen tarjoama laaja digitaalinen kokoelma on kaikkien yleisten kirjastojen asiakkaiden käytettävissä yhdeltä palvelualustalta, myös monikielinen aineisto on helpommin kaikkien saavutettavissa. Selvitystyön raportti julkaistaan helmi-maalikuussa 2021.

Monikielisen aineiston saavutettavuuden lisäksi on vielä kysyttävä miten yhteiskuntamme monimuotoisuus näkyy Suomessa julkaistavissa lastenkirjoissa. Lastenkirjat kuvaavat suureksi osaksi enemmistökulttuuria. Tätä näkökulmaa selvittää Goethe-instituutin lastenkirjallisuuden monimuotoisuushanke. Useassa Ruotsissa julkaistussa lastenkirjassa seikkailee jo monikulttuurisen ja monimuotoisen taustan omaavia lapsia. Lapsen ja nuoren olisi tärkeää löytää kirjoista samaistumisen kohteita, hänen elämästään tuttuja hahmoja ja tarinoita.

Libraries invite you to share reading moments – in many languages

Efforts are being made in many areas to encourage reading among children and young people. It is important to start reading together with the child at an early age. Reading is a pleasant shared activity for an adult and child, and it also develops the child’s language and speech, listening and focusing skills and vocabulary.

In her blog post, Riitta Salin calls for measures aimed at parents in the context of retaining and maintaining one’s own native language. In this regard, native language teachers play an important role. Libraries, on the other hand, can offer materials that can support a family’s shared reading hobby in a variety of languages.
There are currently nationwide campaigns and projects under way in Finland to support reading. The Literacy Movement is a continuous effort laid down in the Government Programme, which aims to promote the literacy of Finnish residents, with a focus on children and young people. The movement aims to expand the concept of literacy and highlight multiliteracy and multilingualism. From the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Education and Culture has assigned the special national responsibility related to library services that promote reading and literacy among children to the Seinäjoki Public Library.

There are plenty of great examples, one of which is Niilo Mäki Institute’s Lukumummit ja -vaarit project (Reading grandmas and grandpas), which involves grandmothers and grandfathers from various cultures visiting schools to read books to children in their own native languages. The events are held in the afternoon in the context of club activities offered by multicultural centres. This introduces children to books in their own language and learn new words together with experienced readers. Many of these clubs have already been established throughout Finland.
Reading must be available to children and families in a variety of forms. Many love traditional printed children’s books best, but the offering and use of multilingual digital materials, e-books and audio books is increasing, which is why libraries must be able to make them more easily accessible to their customers. At present, accessing the e-materials of libraries can be a challenge to customers since they are scattered across multiple service platforms. This hinders the equal availability of such materials.

In many municipalities, early education, schools and libraries have introduced the multilingual picture book service Lukulumo (named Polyglutt in Sweden), which is subject to a fee. The service features more than 300 picture books in Finnish, many of which can be read and listened to in more than 45 languages. The books for the service have been selected by experts in children’s literature. Lukulumo enables children to develop their proficiency in Finnish, Swedish and their own native languages, for example by reading the same picture book in many languages.

The Nordic countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden have already joined forces to offer multilingual e-books and audio books to their customers through the World Library service. The Multilingual Library has been following the project’s progress for several years. Hopefully, Finnish libraries will be able join the service in the near future and make its selection of digital materials available to their customers.

In January 2020, the Ministry of Education and Culture awarded a grant of €250,000 to initiate a project to investigate the possibility of establishing a national e-library. The aim of the project run by the Helsinki City Library is to improve the regional availability of e-books as well as equality and equal opportunity among citizens throughout Finland. Making the vast digital collections offered by public libraries available to all library customers through a single service platform in the near future will ensure that everyone can access multilingual materials much easier than before. The investigation report will be published between February and March 2021.

In addition to securing the accessibility of multilingual material, we must also ask ourselves how the diversity of our society is reflected in the children’s books published in Finland. Children’s books largely depict the majority culture. This perspective is being explored by the Goethe Institute’s project focusing on diversity in children’s literature. Many children’s books published in Sweden already feature children with a diverse and multicultural background as their protagonists. It would be important for children and young people to discover identifiable things in the books they read, along with familiar characters and stories.


In this photo you see writer Eeva PilviöIn this photo you see writer Riitta HämäläinenKirjoittajat Eeva Pilviö ja Riitta Hämäläinen työskentelevät Monikielisen kirjaston informaatikkoina Helsingin kaupunginkirjastossa. Monikielinen kirjasto on opetus-ja kulttuuriministeriön rahoittama palvelu.

The writers Eeva Pilviö and Riitta Hämäläinen work as information specialists at the Multilingual Library of the Helsinki City Library. The Multilingual Library is a service funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.


Yhteisöjen ja yksilöiden monet kielet

Koneen Säätiö tuki kieliohjelmassaan 2012–16 monikielisyyttä eri tavoilla, ja monikielisyyden tukeminen on sille edelleen tärkeää. Monikielisyyttä ajatellaan helposti vain yhteiskunnan tasolta, eli että yhteiskunnassa puhutaan useampia kieliä. On se näinkin, mutta ankeimmillaan ajatus voi johtaa siihen, että yhden valtakielen ja englannin kuvitellaan riittävän.

Monikielisyydestä puhuttaessa on kuitenkin koko ajan otettava huomioon yksilöllinen ulottuvuus. Kuvitelma siitä, että yhdellä ihmisellä voi olla vain yksi äidinkieli, oli jonkin aikaa vallitsevana kansallisvaltioiden nousun myötä 1800-1900-luvuilla, ja aiheutti paljon pahaa vähemmistökielille suomalaisessakin yhteiskunnassa. Ajateltiin jopa, että useamman kielen oppiminen jo lapsena on haitallista ihmisille. Vaikka tutkimus sittemmin on osoittanut täysin vastakkaista, yksikielisyyttä ihannoivat käsitykset elävät edelleen. Käsitys elää voimakkaana Venäjän nykyisen hallinnon kielipolitiikassa, joka jatkuessaan voi johtaa suhteellisen nopeasti vähemmistökielten kuolemiseen.

Ruotsissa Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, maan suurin humanististen ja yhteiskuntatieteiden rahoittaja, julkaisi äskettäin vuosikirjan RJ:s årsbox 2019: Det nya Sverige, joka koostui muutaman kymmenen sivun katsauksista eri asioihin. Yksi katsaus käsitteli kieliä, ja sen on kirjoittanut Mikael Parkvall Tukholman yliopistosta. Katsaus on kiinnostava ja sisältää hyödyllistä tietoa. Toisin kuin valtio Suomessa, Ruotsin valtio ei rekisteröi kansalaisten kieliä. Niinpä Parkvall on tehnyt paljon työtä selvittääkseen Ruotsissa puhuttuja kieliä 2010-luvulla; hän julkaisi tuloksiaan kirjassa Sveriges språk i siffror (2015). Selvityksen mukaan suurimpia äidinkieliä ruotsissa v. 2012-13 olivat suomi, arabia, serbokroaatti-ryhmä (Jugoslavian hajoamisen jälkeen poliittisista syistä erillisiksi ajautuneet kielet), kurdi, puola ja espanja.

Kielten luokittelun hankaluus käy Parkvallin katsauksesta ilmi: Ruotsin virallisessa tilastossa tunnistetaan vain yksi saamen kieli, vaikka kielitieteilijät nykyisin erottavat yhdeksän saamen kieltä, joista useita puhutaan Ruotsin alueella. Ruotsin eri murteita ei eroteta toisistaan eri kieliksi, mutta suomi ja meänkieli erotetaan, vaikka moni kielitieteilijä pitää niitä saman kielen murteina. Kuten tästäkin näkyy, kielten luokitteluun julkisessa hallinnossa vaikuttavat aina myös politiikka ja kulttuuriperintö.

Se mikä Parkvallin katsauksesta melko yllättävästi puuttuu, on yksilöllinen monikielisyys. Hän on selvittänyt perusteellisesti ruotsalaisten äidinkieliä, mutta ei puhu lainkaan siitä, millaista yksilöllistä monikielisyyttä Ruotsissa on (paitsi se, että jotain muuta kieltä äidinkielenään puhuvat osaavat tavallisesti myös ruotsia). Hän suhtautuu pessimistisesti monikielisyyden mahdollisuuksiin säilyä. Tässä minua kiinnostaa vertailu antiikin ja keskiajan Sisiliaan, jota olen itse tutkinut. Siellä kaksi kieltä, kreikka ja latina, säilyivät ainakin tuhat vuotta rinnakkain, paikoittain todennäköisesti 1500 vuotta. Kyse oli toki kahdesta korkean prestiisin kielestä, joita molempia käytettiin (eri aikoina) kirkon ja hallinnon piirissä.

On kiinnostava nähdä, miten tilanne kehittyy nykymaailmassa. Joko ymmärretään, että valtiot eivät ole yksikielisiä, vaikka niin usein ajateltiin kansallisvaltioiden muodostumisen aikana? Syntyykö jännitteitä monikielisten suurkaupunkien ja maaseudun välille? Toivon ainakin, että kestävän monikielisyyden arvo yksilöille ja yhteisöille ymmärretään myös 2020-luvulla.


Kuvassa näkyy Kalle Korhonen Koneen Säätiön tiedejohtajaKalle Korhonen on Koneen Säätiön tiedejohtaja, joka oli vastuussa myös säätiön kieliohjelmasta (2012–2016). Hänen taustansa on antiikintutkimuksessa, ja hän on klassisen filologian dosentti Helsingin yliopistossa. 

MONIKIELISYYS – uhkana mahdollisuus?? | MULTILINGUALISM – opportunity from a threat?

[In English below] 

Suomalainen yhteiskunta monimuotoistuu ja samalla monikielistyy koko ajan, varsin nopealla tahdilla.

Varsinkin pääkaupunkisedulla muualta tulleita, muita kuin suomea tai ruotsia äidinkielenään puhuvia on jo liki 20% väestöstä, joissakin Itä-Helsingin kouluissa jo reippaasti yli puolet kaikista oppilaista. Eilen, istuessani bussissa matkalla harrastukseeni, edessäni istuva mies puhui kaverilleen somalia, takana istuvat naiset keskenään venäjää ja vieressä istuva nuori nainen puhelimeen englantia. Tämä on arkipäivää ja tulevaisuuden kuva.

Monikielisyys tarkoittaa myös paljon muuta kuin ympäriltä kuuluvaa puhetta. Suomen peruskouluissa muualta tulleille, muun kuin suomen-, ruotsin- tai saamenkielisille oppilaille, tarjotaan mahdollisuutta oman äidinkielen opiskeluun kahtena tuntina viikossa. Tätä opetusta tarjotaan valtakunnallisesti ainakin 60 eri kielessä. Kyseessä on loistava mahdollisuus, jos sen merkitys vain ymmärretään ja mahdollisuutta käytetään hyväksi.

Oma kieli, äidinkieli, on sydämen, tunteiden, identiteetin ja ajattelun kieli. Kieli vahvistaa kulttuurista identiteettiä, oman kulttuurin tuntemusta ja siteitä omaan kieliyhteisöön ja entiseen kotimaahan. Äidinkieli on myös jokaisen perusoikeus: kaikilla Suomessa asuvilla ihmisillä on oikeus kehittää ja ylläpitää omaa äidinkieltään.

Äidinkieli on se kieli, joka opitaan ensin ja johon samaistutaan. Kaksi- tai monikielisellä on itsellään oikeus määritellä äidinkielensä, ja niitä voi olla yksi tai useampia. Suomen väestörekisteri ei kuitenkaan tue tätä. Syntyvän tai Suomeen muuttavan lapsen äidinkieliä voi rekisteriin merkitä vain yhden ja tämä määrittää kielivalintoja myös koulussa. Toki nykyään äidinkielen voi helposti muuttaa tai lisätä äidinkielen lisäksi toisen kielen asiointikieleksi.

Kieli on tärkeä sekä oman minuuden tiedostamisen että kieltä puhuvaan yhteisöön liittymisen kannalta. On tärkeää, että lapsi oppii äidinkielensä riittävän hyvin, sillä äidinkieli on perusta lapsen ajattelulle ja tunne-elämän tasapainoiselle kehitykselle. Äidinkieli on myös tärkeä väline sekä uusien kielten että kaiken muunkin tiedon oppimiseen ja omaksumiseen. Oman äidinkielen vahva hallinta tukee näin myös muiden aineiden opiskelua.

Olen toiminut viimeisten vuosien aikana uudessa yhdistyksessä, nimeltä Oman äidinkielen opettajat ry. Yhdistys ajaa nimenomaisesti oman äidinkielen opettajien ja opetuksen asemaa, missä onkin vielä todella paljon kehittämistä. Haluaisin kuitenkin peräänkuuluttaa myös vanhempiin kohdistuvaa työtä. Vieraskielisten vanhempien informoiminen oman äidinkielen opiskelun mahdollisuuksista on liian usein edelleen varsin sattumanvaraista: opiskelumahdollisuuksien lisäksi vanhemmat tarvitsevat informaatiota siitä, mikä merkitys oman äidinkielen, joka usein on myös kotona puhuttu kieli, kunnollisella osaamisella on kaiken oppimisen taustalla.

In this image you see teachers of various languages in the same classroom
Eri kielten opettajat samassa luokassa

Opetushallitus toteaa sivuillaan: Vastuu lasten oman äidinkielen tai omien äidinkielien ja kulttuurin säilyttämisestä ja kehittämisestä on ensisijaisesti perheellä. Vastuuta ei kuitenkaan voida asettaa, jos ei varmisteta sitä, että vastuun kantamiseen on riittävä tieto.

Oli äidinkieli tai sen määrittely mikä hyvänsä, olennaista on se, että useampien kielten osaamisen merkitys kasvaa koko ajan. Tulevaisuuden työnteko, varsinkin asiantuntijatyössä, perustuu siihen oletukseen, että tekijä hallitsee useamman kielen, vähintäänkin ymmärrystasolla. Tällöin on hyvä ymmärtää, että kieli on voimavara niin kielen käyttäjälle kuin ympäröivälle yhteiskunnalle.

Suomen kielivaranto ei ole koskaan ollut niin laaja kuin nyt. Tätä olemassa olevaa kielten monipuolista kirjoa ei pidä hukata vaan eri kielten osaajien merkitys on tunnustettava. Yhteiskunnallisesta näkökulmasta katsoen monipuolinen kielten osaaminen ja olemassaolo on rikkaus, joka pitää osata hyödyntää koko kansakunnan parhaaksi. Tällöin monikielisyydestä todellakin kasvaa mahdollisuus.

MULTILINGUALISM – opportunity from a threat?

Finnish society is becoming more diverse and, at the same time, multilingual at a very rapid pace.

In the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, in particular, nearly 20% of the population speak a language other than Finnish or Swedish as their native language and, in some schools in Eastern Helsinki, so do well over half of the pupils. Yesterday, as I was sitting on the bus on my way to my hobby, the man sitting in front of me was speaking to his friend in Somali, the women sitting behind me were speaking to each other in Russian, and the young woman sitting next to me was talking on the phone in English. This is commonplace, and a vision for the future.

Multilingualism also means much more than the speech you hear around you. Finnish comprehensive school offers pupils from other countries, whose native language is not Finnish, Swedish or Sami, the opportunity to study their own native language for two hours a week. These lessons are offered nationwide in at least 60 different languages. It is a great opportunity, if only people understand its importance and exploit it.

One’s own language, mother tongue, is the language of the heart, emotions, identity and thought. Language strengthens cultural identity, knowledge of one’s own culture and bonds with one’s own language community and former home country. Native language is also a fundamental right of everyone: all people living in Finland have the right to improve and maintain their native language.

Native language is the language that is learned first and identified with. A bilingual or multilingual person has the right to define his or her native language and may have one or more of them. However, the Population Register Centre of Finland does not support this. Only one native language can be entered in the register for a child born or moving to Finland, and this also determines language options in school. Of course, nowadays, one can easily change or add a second language as an alternative service language alongside the native language.

Language is important both in terms of awareness of self and in terms of joining a community that speaks the language. It is important that a child learns his or her native language well enough, as the native language forms the foundation for the child’s thinking and for balanced emotional development. The native language is also an important tool for learning and acquiring new languages and all other information. A good mastery of one’s native language also supports the learning of other subjects.

In recent years, I have worked for a new association called Oman äidinkielen opettajat ry (Association for teachers of native languages). The association advocates the status of teachers and teaching of native languages, which still has a lot of room for improvement. However, I would also like to call for work on parents. All too often, informing parents of the possibilities of studying their native language is still rather inconsistent: in addition to learning opportunities, parents need information about the importance of proper knowledge of their native language, which is often also the language spoken at home, as a basis for all learning.

In this image you see teachers of various languages in the same classroom
Teachers of various languages in the same classroom

The Finnish National Agency for Education states on its website: Responsibility for preserving and developing children’s native language(s) and culture rests primarily with the family. However, responsibility cannot be imposed if it is not ensured that sufficient information is available to bear the responsibility.

Whatever the native language or its definition, the essential thing is that the knowledge of the importance of knowing more languages is increasing all the time. Future work, especially in the field of expert work, is based on the assumption that employees know or at least understand several languages. A such, it is good to understand that language is a resource both for its user and for the surrounding society.

Finland’s language reserves have never been as extensive as they are now. This existing diverse spectrum of languages must not be lost; instead, the importance of people who know different languages must be recognised. From a social perspective, the diverse knowledge and existence of languages is a wealth that must be exploited for the good of the whole nation. This will really help multilingualism become an opportunity.



In this photo you see Riitta Salin.Riitta Salin on toiminut pitkään monikulttuurisuussektorilla, niin monikulttuurijärjestöjen kuin oman äidinkielen opetuksen parissa.

Riitta Salin has long been involved in the multicultural sector, both in multicultural organisations and in the teaching of her own native language.


Ós Pressan

Once upon a time, in the winter of 2014, there was a woman living in Reykjavík, Iceland who saw an add on Facebook about a creative writing workshop at one of the city libraries. She thought to herself “ætti ég?” And signed up. At the workshop, she met women she had never met before. The facilitator, poet and artist a rawlings, led the workshop, inviting each woman to write in (m)any language(s), within any genre, and to try out translating, editing, and working together with texts of their own creation. At first, the woman felt nervous about all the things she was invited to try and to work with all these new women. Nonetheless, she found the atmosphere empowering, challenging her to continue. As the workshop came to an end, friendships had already been made within the group, and  several of them decided to continue meeting to write and work together.

In this picture you see Anna Valdís Kro from Ós Pressan
Anna Valdís Kro

A few weeks later, the woman received an email about another workshop, facilitated by a rawlings. She did not think twice about signing up. She even sent out emails to her new friends to encourage them to join her. And there they met again, at the City Library, with more new women. This workshop was five months long. The woman thought to herself “en spennandi!” Participants were given different tasks and tools to try out, and the woman soon realized that these fourteen female bodies shared experience and strength that might not have been revealed had the workshop not been for women only. Many of them also shared the joy / relief / therapeutic method of getting thoughts and feelings out on paper. Each expressed herself with words / sounds / body language, on her own terms. 

At the end of the workshop, the women realized that there was a gap in the Icelandic publication industry for marginalized writers and poets, whether it be because of language, background, gender, social status, genre, or simply their last name. Nine of the women started working on a writers’ collective, and in August 2015, Ós Pressan was born. The woman thought “hvers vegna ekki við!”

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, in summer 2016, there was a woman drinking beer with friends in Reykjavík, Iceland. They started talking art and books and the woman said that she had been studying publishing and been involved in publishing projects and working on a Master’s thesis on multilingual art. One of these friends told her about a writing collective which evolved from a writing workshop for women hosted by angela rawlings. “Klingt super spannend!” The woman did not think twice about joining the next meeting.

At the meeting, she found herself surrounded by a type of humans that was previously unknown to her: Óssers. They discussed the publication of a journal called Ós – The Journal, and the woman immediately knew that she wanted to be involved in the creation of this journal and that the ideas behind this initiative were close to her heart. When the woman left Iceland to finish her studies in Amsterdam, she kept close contact to Ós Pressan and contributed to the the journal. After her return, the connection to Ós Pressan became even stronger.

Radical Openness

Óssers sind fantastisch! When joining Ós Pressan, the woman had expected an interesting publishing initiative and reading events. Ós Pressan and the changes in the current Icelandic linguistic landscape also inspired the PhD project that she is now working on. To her, what is most important about Ós Pressan is the aspect of community and connections. What the woman did not dare to expect was the characteristics and dynamics of Ós Pressan as a group. Óssers are radical. Radically open to all backgrounds, languages, genres, identities, sexual orientations etc. Óssers redefine Icelandic literature and who counts as an Icelandic writer. Óssers provide spaces and Óssers trust people to learn and grow. Above all, to be a part of Ós Pressan, one only has to want to be a part of Ós Pressan. That’s it. Welcome.

In this picture you see Lara Wilhelmine Hoffmann from Ós Pressan, a multilingual writers collective based in Iceland
Lara Wilhelmine Hoffmann

Now in its third year, Ós Pressan is putting its fingerprints on the sheets of Icelandic literature. Each of the board members has contributed in their own, special way. With the trust and support from other members each continues to explore her own talents and interests and discover new ones. It has been a privilege to meet writers and poets who, had it not been for this initiative, may not have had the opportunity to be noticed and welcomed into the Icelandic literary scene. Reading their submissions, discussing them within the Ós board, seeing them in print and giving the opportunity to listen to works being read by the authors, at times in an unfamiliar language, has been one of the greatest experiences.

Now, the women smile and wonder “hvað gerist næst?”, “Was geschieht als Nächstes?”

In Other Wor(l)ds – Nordic Dimensions of Multilingualism

Three years later, the two members of Ós Pressan mentioned above, are invited to Helsinki, Finland, to participate in a seminar called In Other Wor(l)ds – Nordic Dimensions of Multilingualism. On arriving to the country they immediately notice the beauty in this bilingual world they find themselves in. Fallegt! Schön! At Hanaholmen they get settled in, have an early dinner and consume the amazing nature, the ocean, the big trees, the fire outside in the lanterns and the overwhelming sky above us all. They go over their notes for tomorrow’s presentation and then turn to bed early. Tomorrow will be a busy day with a lot of new friends in the fields of multilingual literature.

After Frühstück the seminar starts with some more coffee and chats among the group of participants which, when looking through the list of participants and their organizations or fields, varies with people from libraries, universities and institutes, museums and culture centers, a researcher, a writer, publishers and a teacher. The program varies from a presentation on promoting multilingualism and language diversity in Iceland, to a presentation of a report on the Sámi literary field in the Nordic countries, to a presentation of the forthcoming report on Nordic – Kurdish literature. It is interesting to hear how people in the other Nordic countries are trying to figure out ways to promote and support the non-dominant languages in their countries through literature. They are passionate about their work because it is important for them personally to keep those languages from fading out or disappearing from their community.

Here you see a picture of a text by Marta Tomé, published in Ós- The Journal, handwritten additions by Andrea Botero
Text by Marta Tomé, published in Ós- The Journal, handwritten additions by Andrea Botero

The Writing Workshop

After a productive morning it’s time for their presentation on Ós Pressan and their mini writing workshop. While talking about the collective and publishing house and what changes have taken place since its founding in 2015, a slide show of photos from various events, workshops and exhibitions was screened. Then participants are invited to take part in a mini writing workshop. Sheets are spread out from the first two issues of the multilingual literary journal Ós – The Journal, which they can choose from a poem or a short story, in full length or in a form of an excerpt. Everyone present is invited to use the text as an inspiration for another text or visual, or to create and respond to the text. Most of the texts which were chosen are written in English, which was the main language of the seminar. But within the ten participants at this mini workshop are several languages: Icelandic, Spanish, Finish, Sami, Swedish, German and probably many more.

Playful Multilingualism

At the beginning some were hesitant about in what language they should write and asked us what to do. Since Ós is all about welcoming new voices to the platform of literature, we turned the question back to the participants, saying there was no rule. That we are open to all languages. For about 20 minutes we all sat in this creative and energetic silence working on our own creation. It could be felt on ones skin how ready everyone was to use the opportunity to process everything from this seminar and use it to create something of their own making. When the time had passed we went around in a circle and each person read aloud or talked about their new text, translation of the original text or showed the visual poem they had created. It was a wonderful experience to sit and listen to something so fresh as a recently created literature, even if it was in a language someone in the room didn’t understand at all. This mini workshop was proof of how simple it can be to facilitate a workshop where (m)any language(s) can be written or heard or spoken.

Here you see a picture of a text by Edy Poppy, published in Ós- The Journal, handwritten additions by Helga West from workshop by Ós Pressan, a multilingual writers collective based in Iceland
Text by Edy Poppy, published in Ós- The Journal, handwritten additions by Helga West

When reading through the new pieces, it is interesting to see the playfulness in many of the texts—mixing languages, focusing on the sounds and translating them to another language and following what the original text lights up in the writer. How a simple title about memories being like salt can turn into a new text about the salty water of the ocean, being on holiday and reading the book Taran. How a story about Frankenstein and breast cancer can inspire a new piece about who´s playing God in this human life and what we fear. How a page from a story can be turned into a poem. How an English translation of a political poem about Polish people can be a memory trigger to anarchy in a 7 year old mind about the monkey who ate red chillies. How an excerpt from a story can simply be turned into a visual poem. Just to give a few examples.

Hvað gerist næst?”, “Was geschieht als Nächstes?”, “What happens next?”


In this picture you see Anna Valdís Kro from Ós PressanAnna Valdís Kro is a kindergarten teacher from Iceland, has been writing since she was young. She writes short stories, lyrics, and poems. Anna writes for children and adults in different types of languages.


In this picture you see Lara Wilhelmine Hoffmann from Ós Pressan, a multilingual writers collective based in IcelandLara Wilhelmine Hoffmann is a PhD student working in the research project “Inclusive Societies: The Integration of Immigrants in Iceland“ at the University of Akureyri in North Iceland. She is also active in the artistic and cultural field.


Ós Pressan is a non-profit initiative designed to bring out and promote new authors, to create an inclusive writing community and to challenge the reality of the publishing industry in Iceland.

More information: https://www.ospressan.com/, https://www.facebook.com/ospressan/

Our library – my language 

Reading and library services should be accessible to all – regardless of their language. Multilingual Library brings services to the customer’s local library.  

Free access to education and libraries is a strength which may have made the greatest contribution to equality.  The library services are based on the Public Libraries Act, which was reformed just a while ago. 

The library is open to all, and it must be available and accessible to everyone. 

The needs of Finnish- and Swedish-speaking customers must be given equal weight. 

The needs of the Sámi-speaking customers must be taken into account in the Sámi native region. 

To safeguard linguistic and cultural rights, the needs of other local language groups must be given due attention as well.  At the end of 2017, 373,500 persons with a mother tongue other than Finnish, Swedish or Sámi lived in Finland. According to population statistics, approximately 160 different languages are spoken in Finland. The number may be even higher. How can we acknowledge the needs of all these language groups in our libraries? 

Library workers and decision-makers showed great foresight when the Ministry of Education and Culture assigned Helsinki City Library with the task of providing library services for persons with other native languages and acquiring materials for joint, nation-wide use. 

Global cooperation enhanced internationalisation, which affected the composition of the library customer base as far back as the early 1990s. The Nordic countries had considered solutions for arranging library services for different language groups. Library workers and decision-makers showed great foresight when the Ministry of Education and Culture assigned Helsinki City Library with the task of providing library services for persons with other native languages and acquiring materials for joint, nation-wide use.  This was how Multilingual Library got started. Multilingual Library is given an annual operating grant by the ministry. 

Reading in one’s own language is a right that belongs to everyone.

Today, Multilingual Library is the local library for all library customers, regardless of their place of residence in Finland. Reading in one’s own language is a right that belongs to everyone. Even if you move from one country to another, your mother tongue will always accompany you. Being well versed in your own mother tongue improves your chances of learning the language of your new home country, too. This is indicated by international studies. Furthermore, it emerged that there are, in fact, more people in the world who are bi- or multilingual than monolingual, and they use several languages fluently. 

Multilingual Library reaches users in their own neighbourhoods, because they can order material to their local libraries free of charge.

Multilingual Library has a selection of more than 20,000 works in different fields, intended for readers of all ages and listeners of audio books and music. Non-fiction books, poetry, thrillers, biographies, history, popular fiction, fairy tales, picture books, world music—the number keeps growing by approximately 2,000 new titles annually. Multilingual Library reaches users in their own neighbourhoods, because they can order material to their local libraries free of charge.  So, we encourage you to inform your local library about your wish to read material in your own language. Russian Library, serving the Russian-speaking population, operates on the same principle. 

The story diploma, intended to nurture storytelling, contains a book list specifying the languages that a certain book is available in.

Various actors have made efforts to promote reading among children and young people. It is important to start reading together with the child at an early age. The story diploma, intended to nurture storytelling, contains a book list specifying the languages that a certain book is available in. Thus, families and children in day care centres and playparks can pick a book that can be read simultaneously in each child’s mother tongue. The Story train (Satukaravaani) brings storytelling sessions in various languages to children’s local libraries. The storytellers can be found, for example, through Helmet libraries’ joint language database for storytellers. If you are organising an event, you can use the database to borrow a storyteller or someone who can give you book tips in your own language. 

Besides promoting reading among children and young people, we must pay attention to persons with reading disabilities and ensure that they have access to printed publications – in various languages, too. The Marrakesh Treaty makes it easier to publish works and exchange them between countries. Worldwide, less than seven percent of all published books are available in an accessible format, such as audiobooks. Celia library works to remove these barriers and serves the whole nation. 

We hope that as many libraries as possible will participate in the annual Multilingual Month (Satakielikuukausi), which is a great opportunity to highlight multilingual materials and services. 

In the picture you see Riitta Hämäläinen

Riitta Hämäläinen works as a Multilingual Library information specialist at Helsinki City Library.  

Call to action – the Indigenous language challenge!

This year we celebrate the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages. The purpose of the year is to make the situation of the Indigenous languages of the world more visible. In order for the linguistic rights of the Indigenous people to be guaranteed and the languages ​​preserved and transferred to future generations, strong investments, knowledge and will to preserve the languages are needed.

The different Sámi languages spoken in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia, as well as the Inuit languages spoken in Greenland belong to Indigenous languages. Like many of the Indigenous languages ​​around the world, the Sámi languages and Greenland Inuit languages ​​are on UNESCO’s list of endangered languages. Some of the languages like the South, Lule, Inari, Skolt, and Kildin Sámi are defined as severely endangered, others like the Ume and Pite Sámi are seen as critically endangered and others like North Sámi, East Greenlandic/Tunumiit oraasiat and North Greenlandic/Qaanaaq Inuktitut are seen as definitely endangered. West Greenlandic or Kalaallisut is the official language of Greenland and it is defined by UNESCO as vulnerable.

Multilingual Month calls out to the Nordic organisations, institutions and individual agents on the fields of arts and culture as well as the educational field to participate in the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages by highlighting the situation of the Indigenous languages in the Nordic countries, by arranging events in relation to the theme, by spreading information in the Sámi languages and Inuit languages and by increasing contents and programs in Sámi languages and/or Greenlandic languages in their activities!

The Sámi and Greenlandic languages, literatures ​​and cultures should be made visible in the schools and universities in the Nordic countries, as well as in Nordic media and culture! We can all contribute in various ways to strengthen the visibility and awareness of the Indigenous of the Nordic countries.

Some ideas on how to promote indigenous languages in the Nordic countries


In this picture you see Rita PaqvalenRita Paqvalén is the Executive Director of Culture for All Service. She has a background as a researcher and lecturer in Nordic literature and is one of the initiators of the Nordic research network DINO – Diversity in Nordic Literature.  Since 2013 Paqvalén and her team at Culture for All has been working with several projects related to multilingualism in the field of literature and culture in the Nordic countries, and has produced publications, as well as arranged several seminars and events in relation to the subject. Culture for All is the initiator of the Nordic Multilingual Month and one of the main organizers of the Finnish version of the month Satakielikuukausi.

When Kullervo met Araweelo

we could learn more about Nordic-Somali poetry, literature and storytelling

It was more than ten years ago when I had my first, unexpected contact with Somalian storytelling. I was working as a museum guide at Ateneum, Finnish National Art Gallery, and my task was to focus on the art related to Kalevala, which has the position as the Finnish national epos. Young pupils that had arrived to Finland from Somalia less than three years ago listened to the story of Kullervo, an unfortunate character, who cannot avoid causing destruction and pain whatever he tries to do, and finally ends up killing himself after accidentally sleeping with his sister. We looked at Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s painting Kullervon kirous (Kullervo’s curse) which depicts a furious teenage boy lifting his fist towards the sky, while a dog sniffs a half loaf of bread in his feet. According to the story, inside the bread there is a stone, and if you know this, you can distinguish it in the painting.
“These stories used to be sung,” I explained in a school visit related to the same program. “That was the way to remember them before they were written down. You can sing all the lines of this book,” I continued and sang some verses from a randomly opened Kalevala-book with a monotonous melody.
“Really?” asked one of the pupils looking at me incredulous. He wanted to open the book himself.
“Can you sing this one as well?” he continued.
“Yes. Anyone can, it´s very simple, just a few notes. You can try.” I answered and followed the lines with my finger while I sang.
“We have these stories too!” he said then.

After that he told me about a female queen who castrated all the men in her reign and about a girl who succeeded to escape her monstrous mother. The cannibal mother’s name was Dhegdheer and the queen was Araweelo. His Somalian-born classmates contributed to the story with details and started to argue about the correct version of the plot. I was fascinated by the enthusiasm and ability of these children to communicate their stories to me with their still very fresh Finnish language.

…through the stories and paintings related to this epos, we could form a bridge that connected two very distant worlds of stories.

To be honest, I had never been really a fan of Kalevala, even though in my job as a guide I told the stories with an enthusiasm that I wanted to offer for the museum visitors. The process of constructing the Finnish national identity has elements that make me feel uncomfortable. But now I truly found it interesting; through the stories and paintings related to this epos, we could form a bridge that connected two very distant worlds of stories. For this group, what impacted them most was the story of Kullervo, and the fact that all the stories could be sung.

The Nordic countries, especially Sweden, have become important areas of publishing literature in Somali language.

I guess that a similar feeling of touching a rich but invisible world, has happened to many people who have worked with initiatives related to Somalian storytelling and poetry in the Nordic countries and elsewhere in the Somali diaspora. Several literary scholars (eg. Ahmed Artan Hanghe, Bogumił W. Andrzejewski, Giorgi L. Kapchits) have written about the varied genres, their specific metrics, contents, performative contexts and other elements of Somalian poetry, storytelling and literature. Many collections of Somalian folktales have been done and are also available in English and/or in Nordic languages. Projects related to literary and/or Somali mother language education have created formats to continue, adapt and renew the Somalian storytelling traditions. Some of them have collected texts that have been published as books or online. Somali book fairs have been yearly traditions at least in Finland, Sweden, Canada and Britain apart of Hargeisa, and their close connection to worldwide distribution channels of Somali language literature shows interesting features of a unique, transnational literary field. The Nordic countries, especially Sweden, have become important areas of publishing literature in Somali language. The Swedish support system of literature has also permitted a rather wide publication activity of children’s books. Even easy-reading books and a children’s journal in Somali language are published in Sweden.

In the picture you see artwork as part of Storytelling courses in Somali language by Outi Korhonen
Storytelling courses in Somali language at Espoo libraries in 2011, part of the project Queen Araweelo’s bathing pond (Kuningatar Araweelon kylpylammikko). Teacher: Amiira Ismail. Photo: Outi Korhonen

It is not a field of roses. Many of the initiatives related to Somali language receive aggressive reactions from racist and xenophobic groups.

In many cases there has been a fertile dialogue between the expertise of Nordic Somali inhabitants and the literary, cultural or educational elements of the receiving country. These are echoes of the work that the diasporic Somali communities have done to develop and cultivate their literary tradition, both inside the Somali-speaking language community and in dialogue with the other inhabitants of the new home countries.

It is not a field of roses. Many of the initiatives related to Somali language receive aggressive reactions from racist and xenophobic groups.[1]

As the written Somali language is so young, established as late as in 1972, the oral forms of poetry have had an important role in preserving and forming the stories and their aesthetics. Maybe this was the reason why singing some verses of Kalevala attracted the pupils who first told me Somalian stories. Before having the written versions of poetry and literature, the relation between the author and the reader has been different, and I wonder whether something of that is still left in Somalian literary context. I refer to the collective nature of creation.

Professionalism is often understood as a synonym of good quality.

I may be wrong, but during the years I worked with art, culture politics and diversity, I had the feeling that from the lenses of the Finnish art field, there are difficulties in recognizing and appreciating collective forms of art creation. It is considered something less worthy. Our culture demands first of all professionalism—professional artists who do art as their profession and can prove that. Professionalism is often understood as a synonym of good quality. But when art is strongly rooted in the life of a community, the question of professionalism becomes complicated. Then, the question of quality is not a question of professionalism—these two words are not synonyms anymore. The question that should be asked is different, but I do not know what it should be. How does art contribute to the meaning of people’s lives? What do people do with art, what kind of importance does it have? What is quality?

What if the roles of the creator, performer, commentator, curator and audience would be different? Maybe the development towards more and more specific roles and expertise has also elements of loss and alienation. Maybe it would be possible to imagine an ambiguity, instability of roles, different from the ones that we are used to. Isn’t our art field often looking for changes like that anyway? But when there is art that does not respond to the fixed roles and structures of our own art fields, it often becomes invisible for us. Our measuring functions with the criteria of professionalism, as if professionalism would always be a synonym of quality.

There is internationally awarded contemporary literature created by Somali authors and there are individual creators that our art field needs as a proof for professionalism.

With these reflections I do not mean to insinuate that there would not be professionalism in the literary field of the Somali diaspora. Of course there is, there are professional writers, poets, editors, book fair organizers, etc. There is internationally awarded contemporary literature created by Somali authors and there are individual creators that our art field needs as a proof for professionalism. The most well-known among them is probably Nuruddin Farah, who switched his writing language from Somali to English to reach a wider audience and received the appreciated Neustadt prize for his production. Some of his books have been translated to Finnish and are at least occasionally read by literature students also in our universities[2].

But apart from that, there may also be a field of literary and poetic creation in Somali language that has collective elements. If I am not wrong and if these collective elements exist, in my opinion they should be considered very valuable.

Our time needs other protagonists.

I have followed a bit freely the flow of my thoughts. Though my title may have promised an encounter between Kullervo and Araweelo, it does not happen in this blog text. I could have imagined how the queen Araweelo castrates Kullervo, so that he´ll never sleep with his sister, and he does not have to kill himself for feeling too guilty. But no, I did not do it. They are characters of the past who do not respond to our needs to construct the story of our time. Our time needs other protagonists. We are more interested in seeing who they are and what will happen between them. Knowing that in the past of our worlds of stories, an imaginary encounter could have changed the course of history, may still create connections that find their personifications in the stories of future and our time.    


In the picture you see Outi Korhonen
Outi Korhonen
Photo: Sergio Prudant

Outi Korhonen is an art educator who worked for years with projects related to multilingualism and cultural diversity in the arts field, e.g. coordinating Multilingual Month. In her projects as regional artist for cultural diversity (2011-2014), she facilitated also projects related to storytelling in Somali language. Now she has returned to teach visual arts for children and youth, assuming the need to restart learning things from the beginning every day.

Projects related to Somali language in this page: https://multilingualmonth.org/tag/somali/
A blog text related to Nordic-Somali book fair in Pasila: Encounters of language and poetry at Nordic Somali Festival (https://multilingualit.org/2016/12/12/nordic-somali-festival/)

[1] A Swedish writer Oscar Trimbel cancelled the distribution of his bilingual Swedish-Somali children’s book Farfar har fyra fruar at Göteborg book fair after being threatened by racist groups. I myself received insults with sexual contents in an online magazine’s discussion in 2011 after I had written a reader’s opinion in Helsingin Sanomat (the biggest Finnish newspaper) about the need to have Somali language teaching in any Finnish university when there was none. The text was written with the director of Finland-Somalia association, who was so used to being insulted that he only laughed at the comments he received, though they were much worse than the ones I got. This made me understand how different positions we have in my country.

[2] Nuruddin Farah’s book Maps (Karttoja) became familiar to me when I studied literature at Helsinki University. It was included in the reading programme of a course of literary analyses.



By 2019, in all countries in Europe where Roma live, a number of publications for children varying from materials to support the education of the Roma to original books by Roma authors with tales, short stories, poetry and educational materials have appeared. These are primarily bi-lingual books written in Romani and/or in the language of the majority in the country of publication, published under various circumstances, but most of them reflecting the Romani culture and identity. Romani children literature, original and in translation, is among the first genres to be developed dating back as soon as the immergence of Romani literature as part of fully (though for only a decade) developed Romani literary landscape in the 1920-30s in the Soviet Union to serve the needs of the Romani population and its enlightening the spirit of the new regime.

The landscape of the Romani kids´ publication in the Nordic countries is not a homogeneous one.

Nowadays, books for children have been among the most numerous publications written and published by and for Roma, because of the importance of the Romani children education and strengthening Romani culture and identity through it. The landscape of the Romani kids´ publication in the Nordic countries is not a homogeneous one. Romani children´s and young adult literature production depends on the local circumstances among which national policies in the field of education, minorities, language policies, activism, as well as on individual factors. Instead of providing an exhaustive list of the productions and authors, which is anyway impossible, I would suggest a typology of the common development, genres and topics that we observe in Romani publications for children in the Nordic countries.

…in Denmark and Norway no special policies to support Romani language education are taking place.

In Sweden and Finland, there are state-supported initiatives for the production of educational materials for Romani children, as in the two countries Romani is recognized as a minority language, while in Denmark and Norway no special policies to support Romani language education are taking place. In the 1970s, the Swedish government started implementing measures for educating Roma, both children and adults. At that period a couple of Romani language works appeared in Sweden. In 1979 Amari šib (Our language), a language learning brochure appeared to be republished in 1982. Various educational materials are produced today in all Romani dialects spoken in Sweden with the support of Skolverket, the National Board of Education. In Finland, the Romani activists Viljo Koivisto (in the 1980s), Miranda Voulasranta and Henry Hedman have authored several educational publications that are applied in education today. In Denmark a couple of primary education books were published by Selahetin Kruezi.

There are also lots of tales, fairy tales and story books based on narrations from the Romani community. Examples of Romani language publications are the Kalradash folklore tale books by Monica and Dragan Caldaras (1983), Living Water collection of tales by Mikael Demetri and Angelina Dimiter-Taikon (2002) in Sweden, Fairy-Tale Bag of Romaniuk by Inga Angersaari’s (2001) in Finland, as well as Real Stories and Tales by Maria Barinka Lakatosova and Robert Lorentsen in Norway (2016).

The Swedish literature scene appears to be most developed to a great extent due to the involvement of Gunilla Lundgren who inspired/co-authored/edited a great part of the Romani books.

Fiction books on contemporary topics inspired by autobiographic experience or life-narrative with rich illustrative materials (graphics, pictures or phonographs) are also popular. The most famous one is the Katitzi book series by Katarina Taikon published in Swedish that has become part of the Swedish mainstream literature canon. The Swedish literature scene appears to be most developed to a great extent due to the involvement of Gunilla Lundgren who inspired/co-authored/edited a great part of the Romani books. Sofia Taikon, Ramona Taikon-Melker, Erland Kaldaras, Domino Kai and Fred Taikon have published such books in Sweden. In Finland, a couple of publication have been co-authored by Helena Blomerus, Satu Blomerus and Helena Korpela.

The commonalities that we see in Nordic Romani literature for children is not only in terms of the genre’s diversity, but also in terms of the narrations and Romani collective representation.

The commonalities that we see in Nordic Romani literature for children is not only in terms of the genre’s diversity, but also in terms of the narrations and Romani collective representation. The common topics are: Romani authors´ interpretations of oral narratives existing in the Romani communities; Narratives about a collective self (of a Romani girl or boy, and her/his experience within the community and majority society) often based on autobiographical experience; Narratives in text and visuals related to Romani history and way of life in the past and present. In this respect we can say that Nordic Romani children and youth literature is comparable with the developments of other minorities´ literatures in the Nordic context and globally. 


In the picture you see Sofia ZahovaSofiya Zahova is a postdoc researcher at the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Language, School of Humanities, University of Iceland where she works on the project Romane Lila. The entangled history of Romani identity politics and Romani publications (funded by the Icelandic Research Fund – RANNIS). Her main interests are in the field of Romani Studies, History and Ethnography of the Balkans and Eastern Europe. She is author of the books Montenegro after Yugoslavia: Dynamics of Identities (2013, in Bulgarian), History of Romani Literature with Multimedia on Romani Kids´ Publications” (2014) and of the UNICEF-commissioned report Research on the Social Norms which Prevent Roma Girls from Access to Education (2016, in Bulgarian and English).

Multilingualism and Polyphony in Immigrants’ Literature in Finland

Immigration and globalization have broadened the definition of Finnish literature that was traditionally defined as a piece of literature written by a Finn in Finnish in Finland for Finns. As a result of immigration to Finland, some immigrants have produced and continue to produce literary works that deal with Finnish culture, society and history in Finnish or several other languages. In addition to their mother tongues, a great number of immigrant authors master different languages and employ them simultaneously in their works. The existence of such works in Finland and their coexistence with Finnish literature have both challenged the traditional definition of Finnish literature and have generated multilingual and polyphonic literature.

The project [on multilingual Finnish literature]…aims to increase the visibility, readability and research on literary works written by immigrant authors in Finland, writing in the dominant or non-dominant languages but know themselves affiliated with Finnish culture, history and society.

At the Finnish Literature Society (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, SKS, https://www.finlit.fi/en), wherein work is based on an up-to-date knowledge and understanding of the roots of the culture, as well as the contemporary profile of a multicultural and multilingual Finnish literature, we are conducting a project, entitled “Toward a More Inclusive Finnish Literature,” on multilingual Finnish literature. The project, which has started in January 2018, aims to increase the visibility, readability and research on literary works written by immigrant authors in Finland, writing in the dominant or non-dominant languages but know themselves affiliated with Finnish culture, history and society.

The database [on immigrant authors residing in Finland]…will include the information of seventy immigrant authors, such as their updated biographies, list of publications and photos of many of these authors, as well as the views and interviews of some of them.

Since there did not exist any database on immigrant authors residing in Finland, we have spent some time to build the database, which will include the information of seventy immigrant authors, such as their updated biographies, list of publications and photos of many of these authors, as well as the views and interviews of some of them. The database is updated on regular basis as the project proceeds. Right after that, we selected a number of immigrant authors based on their professionality (quality of their published works), activity (quantity of their works) and diversity of nationality for the first round of interviews. We contacted them one at a time, asked those who were interested to send some of their published works to us, and after reading them, we had an in-depth and technical interview rather than a general one. Up to this date, fifteen authors have been interviewed, and the other selected ones will be contacted and interviewed hereafter.

The seminar also familiarized immigrant authors with the activities of the SKS and our co-organizers with a focus on their supportive missions for immigrant authors.

At the SKS, we also organized a one-day literary seminar – entitled “Today’s Literature, Tomorrow’s Literary History: Do Immigrant Authors Transform Finnish Literature?” – in October 2018 in the main building of the SKS. The seminar, which was co-organized by some organizations, including Culture for All and Globe Art Point, gathered a number immigrant authors as well as scholars, researchers and anyone interested in the literature produced by immigrants in Finland. The seminar also familiarized immigrant authors with the activities of the SKS and our co-organizers with a focus on their supportive missions for immigrant authors. In addition, it provided the grounds for us to be acquainted with the potentials of authors and see how we can work together to find a way toward increasing their  visibility and readability.

The anthology [entitled ‘Toward a More Inclusive Finnish Literature’] will include some of the unpublished literary works in different genres by about thirty immigrant authors in about twelve different languages, and this would make the anthology the most inclusive, collective and comprehensive one ever published on immigrant authors in Finland.

We have also planned to publish a multilingual anthology, entitled Toward a More Inclusive Finnish Literature, in 2019. The anthology will include some of the unpublished literary works in different genres by about thirty immigrant authors in about twelve different languages, and this would make the anthology the most inclusive, collective and comprehensive one ever published on immigrant authors in Finland. The publication of this multilingual anthology manifests some aspects of multilingualism and polyphony that exist in Finland, introduces some of the immigrant authors residing and writing here, as well as provides an opportunity for their works to be seen, read and heard.


In the picture you see Mehdi GhasemiMehdi Ghasemi received his PhD in English Literature from the University of Turku, and now he is a postdoctoral researcher at the Finnish Literature Society, the University of Tampere and the University of Turku. He has already published five scholarly books and thirteen papers in peer-reviewed scholarly journals with three more papers in the pipeline. He is also a fiction writer, writing his works in the hybrid genre of noveramatry (a combination of novel, drama and poetry all in one line). He has already published three fiction books, including Flight to Finland: A Noveramatry, How I Became a W Finn: A Noveramatry and Finnish Russian Border Blurred: A Noveramatry, with the fourth forthcoming one, A Farewell to the Earth and Kepler-438b.

Digital learning and playing space in Somali for children

Finnish National Agency for education (Opetushallitus) has published a new, playful learning platform to support Somali mother language teaching at schools. The platform is open for all and it includes alphabet exercises, short stories, songs and interactive vocabulary exercises for children between ages of 5 and 13.

Multilingual Month congratulates the creators of this excellent learning platform!

We tested the platform as non-Somali speakers and noticed that the platform offers a possibility also for non-Somali speakers to learn basic things about Somali language in a fun way.


Somali language learning material from Finnish National Agency for Education


Previous Somali language material (2014) from the Finnish National Agency for Education

(Tip: if you have problems with entering the 2014 platform, you can pass the username and password request with any word)



Pictures in this post: screenshots from the learning platform; Copyright: Finnish National Agency for Education

Sano se saameksi – Say it in Sámi

Say it in Saami features the first online Saami phrasebook on the Internet containing informal language, and its goal is to help the endangered languages. You can listen to the phrases in North, Inari and Skolt Saami. The website also features five short documentary films, a quick guide to Saami culture and a soundboard in North Saami.

The website and online dictionary have versions in Finnish, English and Swedish.

The Say it in Saami project began is a collaboration of Finnish documentary filmmaker Katri Koivula and Saami poet Niillas Holmberg.

Picture: from Say it in Sámi -website
illustration: Lille Santanen

Kolibrí Festivaali

Kolibrí – the Ibero-American children’s cultural festival  is a way to experience multiculturalism and multilingualism in Finland through children’s eyes. Kolibrí offers an artistic, recreational and educational program in a multicultural setting for all families, irrespective of nationality or language. The events and workshops organized  are open to all, free of charge and carried out in several languages.  From the website you find information also in Spanish and in Portuguese.

The festival is produced by Ninho Monikulttuurikeskus ry, (www.ninho.ry) a grassroots association working for a more multicultural and plural Finland. Besides the festival the association also organises a biannual seminar on children and bilingualism, promotes Ibero-American children’s literature and illustration projects in Finland and supports several exchange programs between Finnish and Ibero-American artists working around children’s arts and culture, with a special emphasis in literature and illustration.

Most of the events of Kolibrí take place in Libraries in Espoo and Cultural Centers in Helsinki.

Photos from events organized by Kolibrí festivaali

Storytelling by Verónica Miranda
architecture by Carolina Isasi & Laura Zuvillaga
music by Aurinko ry with Clara Petrozzi, Grisell MacDonell and Jordy Valderrama
illustration by Kolibrí honored guest 2017: Isidro Ferrer.

Photos credits: Kolibrí Festivaali.

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Follow Kolibrí in social media! / Sígue Kolibrí en media social!


Kolibrí Festivaali en Facebook


Kolibrí Festivaali en Instagram

Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding

The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding (or Vigdís World Language Centre, for short) has been established in April 2017, based on an agreement between UNESCO and the government of Iceland. The primary purpose of the Centre is to raise awareness of the importance of languages as one of mankind’s most precious cultural assets.

The World Language Centre will be an information centre for languages and culture with facilities for research and dissemination. It has an exhibition space and an auditorium. In the first years, it will focus on the language situation of the West Nordic region. In cooperation with other institutes, international scholars and those interested in languages, such a centre will be a significant contribution towards preserving and strengthening linguistic diversity.

The World Language Centre regards it an honour to develop and continue the pioneering work that Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has carried out as the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Languages.

The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding is a UNESCO Category 2 Centre. It counts with an international advisory board that provides advice for preparing and developing the activities of the Vigdís International Centre of Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding.

The Centre, in cooperation with other institutions in Iceland, now hosts one of world’s largest collections of bi­ and multilingual dictionaries; a donation from Infoterm, based on the legacy of Eugen Wüster (one of the fathers of terminology as a field).

The Vigdís World Language Centre is a part of The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages at the University of Iceland.

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages is a research institute working within the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Iceland. The Institute is a research centre for scholars who teach modern languages and cultures, the classical languages and translation studies.

Since 1st October 2001 the Institute has had the honour of bearing the name of Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland, 1980-1996. Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has been a powerful spokesperson for the importance of language proficiency, both in one’s own native tongue as well as in other languages, and she has made a vital contribution to this field in her career as a teacher, as President of Iceland, and as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.

The institute organizes yearly a seminar to celebrate the international mother language day; this year (2018) the Vigdís World Language Centre took the lead in organizing the:

International Mother language day symposium 21. 2. 2018:

Dictionaries: Multilingualism, Translations and Terminology 2018


A new dictionary series promotes integration and cultural exchange

Husein Muhammed

The Finnish Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus) is preparing a new dictionary series for speakers of mainly migrant languages.

The dictionary includes some 30 000 Finnish entries with their equivalents in other languages. In addition to the basic Finnish vocabulary, the dictionary includes words, phrases and institutions relevant to immigration and integration issues, for instance “Maahanmuuttovirasto” (Finnish Immigration Authority), “oleskelulupa” (residence permit) and “kotoutumiskoulutus” (integration training).

The dictionary goes well beyond only providing Finnish entries with their equivalents in each of the target languages. The dictionary provides information on which parts of speech the entry belongs to as well as on how the word is inflected. Vast majority of entries include also examples, often more than one.

The main targeted group of users of the dictionary series are migrants who have settled in Finland and want to learn the Finnish language and culture. Special attention has been paid to words and phrases essential in dealing with different authorities, be they from the Finnish Immigration Authority, social office, municipal health center or NewCo Helsinki advising new start-ups.

Aamu substantiivi KS
subax, aroor

aamu sarastaa
waagu wuu soo beryayaa
tänä aamuna paistoi aurinko
saaka qorrax baa jirtey
lähden aamulla
aroortii baan baxayaa
eilen aamulla satoi
shalay subax roob baa da’ay
hän ajaa parran joka aamu
subax walba garka wuu iska xiiraa
tavataanko heti aamusta?
isla subaxa horeba ma kulannaa?

But traditional Finnish culture has not been neglected either. The dictionary includes also entries like “sauna” (traditional Finnish bath) and other words related to sauna, for instance “kiuas” (sauna stove) and “löyly” (sauna steam or pressure).

The dictionary’s aimed groups include not only beginners of the Finnish language, but also, among others, interpreters and translators as well as second generation migrants who want to maintain their native language. The dictionary can also be helpful in culture exchange via, for example, helping to translate literature between Finnish and the other languages of the dictionary series.

The project began with translating the dictionary into the Somali language. The second language in the row is Kurdish, more specifically Kurmanji or Northern Kurdish. But translating the dictionary into other languages has also been planned. The main criteria for choosing target languages is that the language has a substantial amount of speakers, mainly migrants, in Finland but no good dictionaries are available in Finnish and the language in question.

The Finnish entries are usually simply provided with their equivalents in the target language, but not all entries have exact equivalents. Then the entries are given various definitions in the target language.

The dictionary series is theoretically one-sided, i.e. only Finnish words are provided as entries in an alphabetical order, but not the words of the other language of the dictionary. However, thanks to the new technology, one can also search words of the other language and find them if the word is given as an equivalent of one or more Finnish words in the dictionary. Thus, the dictionary is quite useful for searching both Finnish words and words of the other language of the dictionary.

Currently, Finnish-Somali dictionary is partly available with Finnish entries alphabetically from the beginning of the letter A until “röykkiö” (heap, huddle). The Kurdish dictionary, too, will soon be partly available on the Internet, in the first phase likely from the beginning of the A to “möyhentää” (to fluff).

Users can search for words not only beginning but also including or ending in a certain letter or syllable.

The dictionary can be used free of charge on: http://kaino.kotus.fi/somali/?p=main

Husein Muhammed is a lawyer, translator and journalist, who has worked in many institutions related to migration, refugees and human rights. Currently he also works as an editor of the Kurdish dictionary at The Finnish Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus) and with a report about Nordic-Kurdish literature for Culture for All / Norden2020. He has written a book Yhtä erilaiset – islam ja suomalainen kulttuuri (Teos 2011) about islam and Finnish culture and many articles and columns to different newspapers and magazines.


Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa / The hundred languages of playing

Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa / The hundred languages of playing is a fare about children’s education in multilingual and intercultural contexts. In 2018 the event is organized for the third year as part of the programme of Satakielikuukausi / Multilingual Month. In the event, focused for professional educators and parents, various actors in the Helsinki metropolitan area present the latest materials, methods and projects.They will introduce activities promoting and supporting children’s play, play between children and adults, using stories as material for play, overcoming language barriers through play, and the accessibility of children’s literature in various languages.
In 2018 the event took place in:
Thu 1.3.2018 at 12.30 – 16.00
Stoa, Lobby
Turunlinnantie 1

Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa

Kasvatusalan ammattilaisille ja lasten vanhemmille suunnatussa tapahtumassa pääkaupunkiseudun eri toimijat esittelevät tuoreimpia materiaaleja, metodeja ja projekteja. 

Esillä on ajankohtaisia toimintoja, joilla edistetään ja tuetaan lasten omaa leikkiä, lasten ja aikuisten välistä leikkiä, tarinan käyttämistä leikin aineksena, kielirajojen ylittämistä leikissä sekä erikielisen lastenkirjallisuuden saavutettavuutta.

Tapahtuma on hyvä tilaisuus kuulla tämän hetken projekteista sekä verkostoitua alan ihmisiin ja toimijoihin. Tapahtuma on suunnattu pääkaupunkiseudun varhaiskasvatusalan, kulttuuritoimen ja kirjastojen ammattilaisille, alan järjestöille ja opiskelijoille sekä lasten vanhemmille.

Yhteistyössä mm. kulttuuri-, kirjasto- ja liikuntapalvelut sekä varhaiskasvatus ja esiopetus.

Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa on osa kielellistä moninaisuutta juhlivaa Satakielikuukautta, joka järjestetään 21.2.–21.3.2018.

Paikka: Stoan aula

Tema morsmål – support for multilingual education

Tema Morsmål is a website that offers resources to support different mother tongues and multilingual work in child care, mother tongue education and bilingual education in schools.

It offers learning resources in a wide variety of mother tongues for all employees in kindergartens and schools, focusing especially on multilingual staff in kindergartens, mother tongue teachers, bilingual teachers and teachers in special Norwegian schools and for minority language children and parents.

Tema Morsmål communicates current information about native language and multilingualism, both nationally and internationally, from research environments to educational practice and builds networks for the site’s current audiences.

The website’s main language is Norwegian but it has also versions in Arabic , in Dari, in Sorani Kurdish, in Lithuanian, in Pashto, in Persian, in Polish, in Russian, in Somali, in Spanish, in Tamil, in Thai, in Tigrinya, in Turkish and in Urdu.

Somali Nordic Culture promotes reading and writing in Somali

Somali Nordic Culture is an association located in Sweden. It works to increase interest towards Somali Culture organizing events and festivals, activities for children, film and theater presentations and promotes reading and writing in Somali language. Nordic Somali Culture publishes a children’s magazine Carruurterna (Our children) in Somali language that is distributed to more than 100 libraries in Sweden.

The members are reading promoters, students, writers, storytellers, librarians, journalists and artists.


In Swedish

Somali Nordic Culture är en kulturell  och ideell förening som är partipolitiskt och religiöst obunden. Föreningen består av läsfrämjare, studenter, författare, sagoberättare, bibliotekarier, journalister och konstnärer. Somali Nordic Culture grundades 2011 och föreningens verksamhet riktar sig till barn, ungdomar och vuxna och till både kvinnor och män.

Somali Nordic Culture har som syfte:

  • Att öka intresset för den Somaliska kulturen genom att hålla kulturföreställningar, barn aktiviteter, kulturfestivaler och film och teateruppvisningar.
  • Att väcka intresse för det skrivna ordet. Att hålla seminarier om ny utgivna litteratur där man träffar och diskuterar med författarna. Målet är att öka intresset för läsning av böcker på olika språk samt re-censera och diskutera kring dem.
  •  Att utveckla elevers kunskap och förståelse av utbildningen. Vi ordnar läxhjälp för grundskola och gymnasieskola elever. Målet är Att den svensk-somaliska gruppens utbildningsnivå höjs avsevärt för att förbättra förutsättningarna för dem att lyckas i  samhället.
  • Att integrera nyanlända somalier genom samhällsinformation och stöd i tidigt skede för att motverka utanförskap.

Nypon förlag – lättläst också på andra språk

Nypon förlag is a publishing house located in Helsingborg, Sweden, specialized in books that are easy to read (lättläst/ selkokieli). It publishes books mainly in Swedish but also in other languages, either as bilingual or monolingual publications. The languages of the collection  include Arabic, Dari, English, French, German,  Meänkieli, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Somali, Spanish, Swedish and Tigrinya.   

The mission of Nypon förlaget is that all the children have an opportunity to become great readers, develope their language(s), imagination, the pleasure of reading and thus their learning skills.

Café Lingua – Living Languages – Lifandi tungumál

A worldful of languages!

Café Lingua is a platform for those who want to enhance their language skills, Icelandic or other languages, a place to communicate in and about various languages as well as a gateway into different cultures. The goal is to “unveil” the linguistic treasures that have found their way to Iceland, enriching life and culture, as well as giving world citizens the option to express themselves in Icelandic and to introduce their mother tongues to others. The Café Lingua events are held in the culture houses of Reykjavik City Library, “Veröld” – the Vigdís World Language Centre and in “Stúdentakjallarinn” at the University of Iceland.

Everybody interested in languages and in contributing to the linguistic landscape of Reykjavik is welcome. Free admission.

The project is run by the to Reykjavik City Library and the Vigdís World Language Centre.

Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson

Follow Café Lingua on Facebook.

Reykjavik City Library runs several  intercultural projects where the goal is to promote awareness of the positive values of cultural diversity in our society. The library puts an emphasis on co-operating with social service centres, schools, organizations and individuals from all over the world living in Reykjavík. The IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto is used as a guideline in this work.

Kristín R. Vilhjálmsdóttir is the manager of multicultural projects at Reykjavík City Library. She is a language teacher and intercultural project manager, who has coordinated several award-winning projects related to interculturalism and multilingualism.




Photo: Pálína Magnúsdóttir

The Flying Carpet – Fljúgandi teppi

The Flying Carpet – intercultural encounters 

The Flying Carpet is a method of facilitated intercultural encounters created by Kristin R. Vilhjálmsdóttir. By implementing the The Flying Carpet in the teaching, students, parents and staff members get an opportunity to introduce their culture, languages and interests in a fun and lively way within an encouraging environment.

The emphasis is to not only work with aspects of national culture or backgrounds, but also individual interests and those things that matter the most in each and every person’s life.

The project should promote mutual respect and understanding between people in a concrete way and through different means of expressions. Everyone involved is received with acknowledgement. Through the cultural interaction that takes place the goal is to help developing life-skills that foster the view that diversity makes us richer, rather than seeing it as a cause for conflict.

Each individual is a participant and a spectator at the same time.


2010 and 2015: Nominated to the society price of “Fréttablaðið”, an Icelandic news paper, in the category “actions against prejudice”.

2017: The Icelandic contribution to The Nordic Language Festival in Aarhus.

2017: The Flying Carpet received The European Language Label.

Information about the Flying carpet in English

Video about the Flying Carpet in English


Reykjavik City Library runs several  intercultural projects where the goal is to promote awareness of the positive values of cultural diversity in our society. The library puts an emphasis on co-operating with social service centres, schools, organizations and individuals from all over the world living in Reykjavík. The IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto is used as a guideline in this work.

Kristín R. Vilhjálmsdóttir is the manager of multicultural projects at Reykjavík City Library. She is a language teacher and intercultural project manager, who has coordinated several award-winning projects related to interculturalism and multilingualism.



The Women’s Story Circle (Söguhringur kvenna) in Reykjavik City Library

Image: a visual art piece, a new map of Reykjavík, created by The Women´s Story Circle under the guidance of Lilianne Vorstenbosch

A worldful of stories

The Women’s Story Circle is a co-operation between Reykjavik City Library and W.O.M.E.N. in Iceland. A forum where women exchange stories, experiences and cultural backgrounds and take part in creative activities. It is open to women who are interested in meeting other women, sharing stories and ideas and having a nice time in good and relaxed company. The Women’s Story Circle also gives women who want to practice the Icelandic language the perfect opportunity to express themselves in Icelandic and enhance their language skills.

All women are welcome! Here is a short video about the project.

You can follow the activities on Facebook, we have a group and a page.

Reykjavik City Library runs several  intercultural projects where the goal is to promote awareness of the positive values of cultural diversity in our society. The library puts an emphasis on co-operating with social service centres, schools, organizations and individuals from all over the world living in Reykjavík. The IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto is used as a guideline in this work.

Kristín R. Vilhjálmsdóttir is the manager of multicultural projects at Reykjavík City Library. She is a language teacher and intercultural project manager, who has coordinated several award-winning projects related to interculturalism and multilingualism.




Learning for Integration: multilingual language cafés, language-specific playgroups for kids, language expert services etc.

Learning for Integration ry promotes the learning of languages and cultural sensitivity of migrant, immigrant and refugee children and youth in Finland and other Nordic countries. It aims to facilitate the new members’ integration into the new culture and the development of a multicultural society. It also supports Swedish learning in Finland.

Learning for integration organizes activities such as the popular language cafés in more than 10 languages, Story time circles, playgroups for kids in different languages and craft and theatre groups. It also offers expert services including workshops for teachers, specific learning materials and affordable but high quality editing, proofreading and translations to NGOs and other organizations working mainly for public good in Finnish, English, French, Russian, Swedish and other languages according to demand.

The multilingual work team of Learning for integration is presented at their website.

Litteraturcentrum Uppsala

Litteraturcentrum Uppsala  is a collaboration of Studiefrämjandet, Kultur i länet, Kulturrådet, Uppsala city, Uppsala regional library and Svenska Pen. Its aim is to support local reading and writing and the regional literary field including a multilingual context. The centre is based in Uppsala, and it is a part of the culture plan of the Uppsala region.

The people involved in the activities of Litteraturcentrum Uppsala use at least the following languages: Swedish, Sami, Arabic, Bengali, Dari, French, German, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Wolof, Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian, Spanish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Estonian, Kokborok, Beluch, English, Tamil, Georgian, Turkish etc.


Anisur Rahman, the project leader for LItteraturcentrum Uppsala describes the work:

“We are interested in both the artistic and social effects of literature. We work locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, and have established productive partnerships with several organizations, including literary organizations, local theatres and schools. Our centre is now a platform for both professional and amateur writers in diverse mother languages. It is a meeting point for native, foreign, immigrant and exiled writers. We publish more than a hundred writers a year in our literary anthology from our creative writing workshops every year. We host more than a hundred literary events a year.

Our centre in Uppsala together with Litteraturcentrum in Tranås, Litteratur resurscentrum in Norbotten and similar project in Jämtland-Harjedalen is now Sweden’s international literary checkpoint where we have growing network and exchange with different continents. All are welcome on board to read and write in diverse languages in defense of free word and free thought.”

Anisur RahmanAnisur Rahman is Uppsala’s guest writer 2009–2011 in the ICORN system and currently project leader for Litteraturcentrum Uppsala, Studiefräjandet Uppsalaregion, http://www.litteraturcentrum.se/