Archive for April 9th, 2010


#99 the day of the finnish language

Today was a flag day for us – April 9 is the day that Mikael Agricola, the founder of written Finnish, died. It is also the day Elias Lönnrot, the compiler of our national epic, the Kalevala, was born. This coincidence has made this the Day of the Finnish Language.

So I went to see Mr Agricola in front of our Cathedral, where his statue now stands. A very appropriate place for this clergyman and bishop, who was one of the leaders of the Protestant reformation in our country back in the mid-16th century. At the time, Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden, and Swedish was the official language. Finnish only existed as an inferior spoken language of the subordinates. It was Agricola’s remarkable achievement to produce the first ABC book, where he set the rules for written Finnish. He also published the first Finnish-language translation fo the New Testament, striving for making it possible for each Finn to read it in their own language. Thus it’s also very appropriate that his statue carries a book in his hands. Written Finnish was only used for religious purposes until the 19th century when the Finnish nationalist sentiment, then under Russian rule, started with full force, culminating in Independence in 1917. Lönnrot published the Kalevala in 1849.

My language is an integral part of me, although by raising a bilingual daughter, the concept of mother tongue has got slightly blurred in my mind. I wonder what language she will speak to her children in the future. Today I’m also thinking of the immigrants in our country, and how they are coping with the several languages in their lives. It’s worrying to meet linguistically totally confused students in my English classes. Who will make sure that they will learn to read and write at least one language properly?


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