English remains by far the most-studied foreign language in Finnish comprehensive schools.
Figures released by the central statistics office on Friday show that English is studied by many times as many children as all others combined – including the official languages, Finnish, Swedish and Sámi, when they are taught as foreign tongues.
This includes more than 14,000 kids in grades 1-6 who studied Finnish as a foreign language this past school year.
Some 217,000 youngsters in these grades take English as their so-called A1 compulsory language, while nearly 14,000 take it as their A2 optional language. Nearly two-thirds of all children in lower comprehensive school study English.
In grades 7-9, these numbers swell to around 164,000 and 12,500 respectively. Nearly 100 percent of children in these grades are learning English along with either Finnish or Swedish as a foreign language.
Swedish, German losing ground
In all grades, English beats out Swedish nearly 100-fold as an A1 language, and narrowly as an A2 language as well.
Swedish is the native tongue of some five percent of people in Finland, with most of them concentrated along the coast. There are fewer than 2,000 native speakers of Sámi, mostly in Finnish Lapland.
The most popular language besides English, Finnish and Swedish is German. However its status has slumped since the 1990s. Last year less than 13,000 lower comprehensive school pupils opted to study German, along with less than 19,000 in the upper grades. That was 3.7 percent of the younger set and 10.5 percent of the older ones, most of whom took it as a B2 elective language.
French was studied by two percent of first-to-sixth graders and six percent of seventh through ninth graders. For Russian, the comparable numbers were 0.6 and 1.9 percent, and for Spanish 0.3 and 1.7 percent. There were also tiny numbers studying Italian and Latin.
Altogether there were just over half a million youngsters in grades 1-9 this past school year.