Monday, February 29, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Lebanon

Over the past month, we've looked at the linguistic diversity of Finland, Singapore, Turkmenistan, and Norway. Today, our final language profile of February is going to look at the languages of Lebanon, a country located in the Middle East. While it may only be home to five native languages, it's still worth a brief look!

An international fairground in Tripoli, Lebanon.
The Official Language

As is true of many other countries in the Middle East, the sole official language of Lebanon is Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic, the standardized literary form of Arabic used all over the world, is used for writing and in media such as television, radio, and newspapers. When it comes to daily life, most Lebanese people speak Lebanese Arabic, a variety of Levantine Arabic.

Other Languages

One interesting thing about Lebanon's linguistic makeup is that a significant proportion of Lebanon's population is multilingual. Both French and English are widely used in business, government and education. Of the two languages, French is much more important due to its long history in the country, since Lebanon was once a French colony. Today, the country is home to about 16,000 native speakers of French, as well as over 650,000 people who speak it as a second language. 

The use of English, on the other hand, is more recent and is especially common when it comes to the realms of business and science. While there are only about 3,000 native English speakers in Lebanon, it is also used as a second language in about 30% of the country's secondary schools.

Finally, Lebanon is home to speakers of two other native languages: Armenian and Kurdish. According to the Ethnologue's most recent statistics, Lebanon was home to about 235,000 Armenian speakers back in 1986. Its data for Kurdish is more recent, stating that in 2002 there were approximately 75,000 native Kurdish speakers in the country. Both languages are still used by minority groups in the country today.

Friday, February 26, 2016

5 Ways Learning Languages Has Enriched Our Lives

It goes without saying that here at The Lingua File we love languages; we just can't talk enough about them! Why do we love them so much? There are plenty of reasons to learn languages: to improve your job prospects, your health (there are plenty of articles documenting the benefits), and even your love life, if you're into that sort of thing.

Today I thought I'd mention the ways I've enriched my life by learning languages. I imagine a lot of these reasons are the same as yours, but perhaps there are some you haven't thought of or haven't experienced yet.

1: Meeting New People

I can speak to plenty of other people in my own language. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of different types of people who speak English, but when you speak to people from other countries and cultures, you learn things that you couldn't from people from your own country. They offer unique perspectives and ways of thinking about things.

Just think of where language learning might take you.
2: Travelling

This is one of my favourite reasons for learning a language. Travelling is great! Seeing new places, trying new food, experiencing new cultures. However, it's much better when you speak the language. I've never really had any problems when I've travelled, but whenever I've spoken the language, I've had a richer experience and better conversations with the locals.

3: Work

In recent years, learning languages has become increasingly important in society. In the modern globalised world, having a second language is a huge plus, and companies, both small and large, appreciate staff who can speak more than just one language.

It goes without saying that if you work for a large multinational company, having foreign language skills is greatly appreciated. However, even if you don't, the skills you attain from learning a foreign language can be applied to a number of vocations. Learning languages can improve your lateral thinking and help you become a valued asset to any company.

4: Media

There's something incredibly enriching about watching a film, listening to music, or reading a book in the language it was originally created. Of course, when it comes to cinema or literature, there are incredible translators that can capture the original message of the work almost perfectly. However, there's something so much more rewarding about enjoying a work's nuances and cultural references in its original language, without any need for a middleman.

5: Romance

If men are from Mars and woman are from Venus, it's probably better that you learn Martian or Venusian, right? If you're looking for love, you'll have a much better chance if you can speak your partner's language. Nelson Mandela said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Of course, he wasn't really talking about romance, but the sentiment certainly applies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Languages in the News: February 2016

As we reach the end of the year's shortest month, we're going to look back at languages and language in the news across the world wide web.

End of the circumflex? Changes in French spelling cause uproar

At the start of the month, there was an interesting article on the BBC looking at spelling changes in the French language. The Académie française is no stranger to causing controversy with its often out of touch suggestions for protecting the French language. This time, however, it was a simple spelling reform that caused the trouble. While its spelling reforms were designed to make spelling easier, most of them, particularly those that removed the circumflex, were met with anger and outrage. You can read the story on the BBC, here.

Preserve rare languages to spread benefits of multilingualism, says expert

The Guardian had an intriguing article discussing rare languages that was certainly worth reading. Since multilingualism is scientifically proven to be beneficial, protecting the world's rare languages is key to ensuring that more multilingual people remain on the planet in order for everyone to benefit from multilingualism. You can read the article here.

You can see where people live, but not the languages they speak.
10 languages Google Translate lacks and where to find them

Google Translate is a controversial topic here at The Lingua File. While we hate it being used in place of real translation and as an excuse not to promote language learning or multilingualism, we do appreciate that it is incredibly impressive in terms of studying language and the immense amount of work that has gone into it.

Geektime had a fascinating article this month on the shortcomings of Google Translate's language choices, since it doesn't feature some of the world's most spoken languages. You can read the article here.

What Oregon city speaks the most languages?

There was a great article on that listed the US's most multilingual cities by state. This one is for the language lovers out there wholove statistics! You can read the article (and see the stats) here.

A Picture Of Language: The Fading Art Of Diagramming Sentences

Anyone who studied linguistics will be familiar with this practice. NPR covered the decline of sentence diagramming, where language is used to create a picture that almost looks like a subway map.

The article looks at the controversial linguistic method. Some educators swear by it, while others debunk it as complete nonsense that serves no purpose in terms of understanding language. Love it or hate it, you can read all about it here.

Were there any articles about language and languages during February that you think deserve a mention? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Norway

In last week's country profile, we looked at the languages of Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia. Today we'll be moving across the globe to look at the linguistic landscape of Norway in Scandinavia.

The Official Languages

Preikestolen, Norway
It should come as no surprise that one of Norway's official languages is Norwegian, a Germanic language. Approximately 95% of Norwegians speak Norwegian as a native language, which equals over 4.5 million people. Interestingly, Norwegian has two standard written forms that are both officially recognized and used in education, media, government, and other areas of daily life. The most popular of the two is Bokmål, which is based on Danish-influenced Norwegian. It is used by somewhere between 80 and 90% of Norwegians, while the rest use Nynorsk, which is based on rural spoken Norwegian.

The Sami languages, which are spoken by the indigenous group of the same name that primarily lives throughout the northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, also have official status in Norway. Three Sami languages, all of which belong to the Uralic language family, are spoken in Norway. The most spoken Sami language is North Sami, with about 20,000 native speakers. There are also around 500 native speakers of Lule Sami and about 300 speakers of South Sami, both of which are endangered. Pite Sami, a nearly extinct Sami language with less than 50 speakers remaining, used to be spoken in Norway, but is now only spoken along the Pite River in Sweden.

The Recognized Regional Languages

Norway's government also recognizes three regional languages: Kven, Romani, and Scandoromani. There are thought to be over 2,000 native speakers of Kven in Norway, though it is still considered to be endangered since it is primarily used by older generations. While it is sometimes classified as a language, most linguists seem to agree that Kven is technically a dialect of Finnish since the two are mutually intelligible.

Finally, there are the Romani and Scandoromani languages. Norway is home to about 500 native speakers of Vlax Romani, the most widely spoken Romani language in the world. Scandoromani, on the other hand, is spoken by an unknown number of Norwegians belonging to the ethnic minority group known as Norwegian Travellers.

While Norway may not be incredibly linguistically diverse due to this short list of languages, it is great to see that all of its native languages have some form of official recognition from the government!

Friday, February 19, 2016

¡Hola, Amig@s! - A Unique Solution to Gendered Nouns in Spanish

Back in September, I wrote a post about how sometimes the "easiest" terms seem to be the hardest ones to translate, at least when it comes to Spanish to English translations. One of my main examples focused on the ambiguity of certain nouns used in relation to family members, such as hijos, padres, and hermanos. Without additional information, a translator has no way of knowing whether these three words are being used to refer only to males (sons, fathers, brothers) or if they are referring to people of various genders (children, parents, siblings).

While it would be lovely if languages like Spanish simply stopped using grammatical gender designations for their nouns, it seems pretty unlikely that such a huge linguistic change will ever take place. That leaves us with two options: either come up with a solution for these ambiguous examples, or just live with it.

Puente Romano in Mérida, Spain
One solution that has become increasingly popular in informal Spanish communication, especially online, is to use the at sign (@) when referring to a group of people that includes both females and males. For example, if you want to use a gender-neutral term to refer to a group of friends, you can call them your amig@s. Not only does this avoid the ambiguity of using the masculine plural ending -os for mixed groups from the equation, but the symbol also somewhat resembles an o and an a, which are the masculine and feminine noun endings in Spanish.

That said, while the arroba, as the symbol is called in Spanish, is frequently seen online, it certainly hasn't become standard practice. First of all, there's just the fact that using @ as a letter seems very informal, and indeed even "wrong" to some people, likely because it is so unusual and new. It also doesn't necessarily solve this issue when it comes to spoken language, since there is no widely accepted pronunciation for the at symbol. However, there have been some proposals for phonemes that @ could represent.

In any case, if you want to stick with recommendations of the Real Academia Española, the regulatory body in charge of the Spanish language, then you won't want to start writing words like amig@s, herman@s, or even bienvenid@s. Its Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, which addresses questions related to the use of the Spanish language, points out in its entry on gender that the arroba is not a linguistic sign, and that its use in such situations could lead to further grammatical inconsistencies, as in the example "Día del nin@", in which the "el" in the contraction "del" would only apply to the masculine half of "nin@".

Clearly this linguistic issue hasn't been solved, but at least people are thinking about it! Languages are living things that are meant to evolve over time, so hopefully one day someone will come up with a lasting solution that everyone, including the Real Academia Española, can agree on.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Things and Feelings: Adjectives in the English Language

In the English language, there are two groups of adjectives that can cause problems for learners: those that end with either -ed or -ing. If you're familiar with English, you're undoubtedly aware that the -ed suffix is also often used with past participles, while the -ing suffix is used with gerunds.

However, these suffixes can alter the meaning of adjectives, so let's have a look at each of these two groups in isolation.

Something boring has made this emoji bored.

When you see adjectives like amazing, boring, interesting, and relaxing, they are generally used to explain a situation, a thing, and ultimately the cause of these emotions. For example:

  • The show was amazing.
  • Long car journeys are boring.
  • Documentaries are interesting.
  • I find classical music relaxing.

When those same roots are combined with -ed to get amazed, bored, excited, and relaxed, they describe how people feel and often describe the result of the -ing adjectives. For example:
  • I was amazed by the show.
  • I was bored during the long car journey.
  • I am interested in documentaries.
  • I feel relaxed when I listen to classical music.

Remember that these -ing and -ed adjectives have corresponding verbs, e.g. to amaze, to bore, to interest, and to relax, which you can also use to transform sentences. For example:
  • The show amazes me.
  • Long car journeys bore me.
  • Documentaries interest me.
  • Classical music relaxes me.

Of course, with English being English, there are always exceptions. For example, scared exists, but the corresponding -ing adjective is scary, NOT scaring! There is also crazed but never crazing, only crazy.

Hopefully this post has made things a little clearer when it comes to how we form some of our adjectives in English!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Turkmenistan

This week's country profile is going to be a bit shorter than usual since Turkmenistan, which we're focusing on today, isn't home to nearly as many languages as Singapore, which we covered last week. In fact, Ethnologue only lists five languages for Turkmenistan, one of which is extinct.

The Official Language

A theme park in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.
The sole official language of Turkmenistan is Turkmen. Given its name, you might be able to guess that it's a member of the Turkic language family. Turkmen is most closely related to other members of the language family's Oghuz branch, which include Turkish and Azerbaijani

Over 3.4 million people in Turkmenistan speak Turkmen as their native language, while about 2 million more native speakers reside in Iran, as well as around 1.5 million people in Afghanistan. In Turkmenistan, the language is officially written using a Latin-based alphabet, but in Iran and Afghanistan, it is often written using an Arabic-based alphabet instead.

While it doesn't receive any official recognition from Turkmenistan's government, Russian should also be mentioned due to its status as a lingua franca in Turkmenistan. Over 10% of people in Turkmenistan speak Russian, which was the official language through 1991, when Turkmenistan declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

Other Languages

The other three living languages listed by Ethnologue are Uzbek, Balochi, and Northern Kurdish. Uzbek, the official language of neighboring Uzbekistan, is the native language of over 300,000 people in Turkmenistan.

Unlike Uzbek, which is a Turkic language like Turkmen, Balochi and Northern Kurdish are Indo-Iranian languages. Balochi is the native language of about 28,000 people in Turkmenistan, but is primarily spoken in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Northern Kurdish, on the other hand, is most used in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. It is spoken by around 20,000 people in Turkmenistan.

Finally, there's Chagatai, an extinct Turkic language that was once the most important literary language in Turkmenistan and was widely used throughout Central Asia.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day and the Etymology of Love

With Sunday being Valentine's Day, we thought we'd look at our 5 favourite love words, their etymology, and the words and languages they evolved from. Without further ado, here they are.


If you're familiar with the French language, you can probably guess where this word comes from. In Old French, the word was aorer, which came from the Late Latin adorare, which meant to worship. Without being blasphemous, if you adore someone, you basically do worship them.


While the origins of hug are unknown, it is known that it didn't originally mean the same as it does now. At the beginning of the 17th century it referred to a wrestling move, but later referred to squeezing someone with affection. In many English-speaking countries, "hugs" are often represented by the letter "O" in greeting cards.


A kiss was called a coss in Old English, and evolved into cuss in Middle English. As a verb, it was cyssan in Old English. Just like "hugs", "kisses" are often represented by the letter "X" in greeting cards and messages.


The most important word for Valentine's Day is love. Even though love is written identically as both a noun and a verb in modern English, in Old English the verb was lufian and the noun was lufu.


The story of romance is a fascinating one. The word originally comes from the Vulgar Latin term romanice, which was used to describe writings in Romance languages. This word became the noun romanz in Old French, which meant a "verse narrative".

The term became romance in Middle English around the start of the 14th century, when it described a vernacular story telling the tale of knights and heroes. Even though most of these stories were in French, there were still some in English. It wasn't until the mid-17th century that the word's meaning changed to mean "a love story".

As a verb, romance originally was the corresponding Old French verb romancier, which meant to "narrate in French".

What are your favourite Valentine's Day words? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Wide World of English Demonyms

In most cases, when you start learning a language, you begin with basic vocabulary. Usually, this includes colors, numbers, foods, everyday items, and locations, which makes sense since they're some of the most useful words in every language. However, there's another category that I've noticed is almost always included in the initial stages of learning a language: nationalities, also known demonyms.

People love to use demonyms (and other labels) because they make it easier to identify and distinguish ourselves from others, so it's only natural that they're included in language courses. While you probably don't need to know all of these terms unless you have an incredibly diverse group of friends from around the world that you'll be talking about in your language classes, demonyms can still be handy to know for the future.

If you're learning English, then you'll need to remember that demonyms are usually created by combining the name of the location with a suffix, most of which are of Latin or Germanic origin. Below, we have a list of some of the most common suffixes, as well as examples.

Parque del Este, a beautiful Venezuelan park in Caracas.
-an: Bolivian, Zimbabwean
-ian: Brazilian, Ecuadorian
-ese: Chinese, Senegalese
-i: Iraqi, Somali
-ish: Danish, Polish
-ene: Slovene
-ine: Argentine
-anian: Guamanian
-nian: Panamanian
-ard: Spaniard
-vian: Peruvian
-er: Icelander, New Yorker
-ite: Seoulite, Wisconsinite (most often used with cities/states)
-ino: Filipino (Philippines)
-eno: Angeleno (Los Angeles)
-gian: Norwegian, Glaswegian (Glasgow)

There are also several other demonyms that are worth mentioning simply because they stand out from the rest:

Carioca: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Fluminense is used for those from the state of the same name)
Scouser: Liverpool, England (another option being Liverpudlian)
Geordie: Newcastle/Gateshead, England (or the much less popular Novocastrian, from Latin)
Brummie: Birmingham, England
Venetian: Venice, Italy (from Latin)
German: Germany (also from Latin, since the country's native name is Deutschland)

Finally, if you're interested in learning a bit about the issues involved in using the term "American" in reference to people from the United States, you can check out this post from last year.

Do you have any other favorite unusual demonyms that you'd like to share with us? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Singapore

In our last two country profiles, we focused on the languages of two northern European countries: Denmark and Finland. This week we're shifting to the other side of the world to Asia, specifically the 63 islands that make up Singapore, the world's only island city-state.

The Official Languages

Unlike most of the countries we've looked at lately, Singapore has four official languages! The most important of these languages is undoubtedly English, which is the primary language used for business, government, and education. It is also used as a lingua franca for communication between Singaporeans who speak other languages as their mother tongue. There are over 1 million native English speakers in Singapore, as well as another 2 million people who speak it as a second language. The most popular variety of English in the country is Singaporean English, which is derived from British English due to Singapore's former status as a British colony.

Marina Bay, Singapore
While English may be the country's most prestigious language, Mandarin Chinese takes the top spot in terms of number of native speakers. Over 1.2 million Singaporeans speak Mandarin Chinese natively, while another 800,000 or so speak it as a second language. Several other varieties of Chinese (which we'll discuss later) are also spoken in Singapore, so Mandarin Chinese is often used as a lingua franca among the country's Chinese speakers.

Singapore's third official language is Malay, which is also its sole national language. Over 400,000 Singaporeans speak Malay as a native language. Malay was chosen to the be the country's national language after it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, but this mainly gives it symbolic recognition. The most popular variety used in Singapore is standard Malay, but other varieties are also used by smaller numbers of Singaporeans.

Finally, there's Tamil, which is also widely spoken in India and Sri Lanka. There are over 100,000 native Tamil speakers in Singapore, while many other languages native to India are also spoken in the country.

Other Languages

There are over a dozen more languages and language varieties used in Singapore. Several of the most spoken languages are varieties of Chinese. For example, there are over 100,000 native speakers of Yue Chinese and nearly 70,000 Hakka Chinese speakers. There are also over 300,00 native speakers of four different varieties of Chinese that belong to the Min group of varieties: Min Nan Chinese, Min Dong Chinese, Pu-Xian Chinese, and Min Bei Chinese.

As we said earlier, many more languages spoken in Singapore originated in India and the surrounding areas. For example, there are over 25,000 native Malayalam speakers and around 13,000 Hindi speakers in Singapore. There are also under 5,000 speakers of Eastern Punjabi, Gujarati, Sindhi, Sinhala, Telugu, and Bengali.

Last but not least, Singapore is home to between 800 and 1,000 native speakers of two languages commonly used in nearby Indonesia: Madurese and Javanese. Both languages are members of the Austronesian language family.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Podcasts for Language Lovers: Lexicon Valley

Since podcasts seem to have taken over the world of modern media, it seemed fitting that we take some time to look at great podcasts for language lovers. Today we're going to focus on our favorite language-related podcast: Slate's "Lexicon Valley".

First, in case you've somehow managed to avoid learning what a podcast is over the past few years, here's how Oxford Dictionaries defines the term: "a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically." In terms of etymology, the word is a portmanteau of iPod and broadcast, further showcasing Apple's dominance (at least linguistically) when it comes to portable media players.

Death Valley National Park in California
Getting back to our original topic, if you love all things related to linguistics and language, then we highly recommend checking out an episode or two (or all 78 and counting!) of Slate's "Lexicon Valley", which is hosted by Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo. According to its iTunes description, "Lexicon Valley is a podcast about language, from pet peeves, syntax, and etymology to neurolinguistics and the death of languages."

There are several things we love about "Lexicon Valley". First of all, most episodes are 20 to 30 minutes in length, which makes them perfect to listen to on a daily commute or when your brain needs a quick break from work. We also love the fact that the hosts are able to keep the discussion lively and interesting, and that they focus on a wide variety of topics. You'd think that over 27 minutes of audio discussing the phrase "between you and I" would be incredibly boring, but they've somehow managed to make it fascinating and fun.

We haven't had the chance to listen to many of the most recent episodes, so it is possible that the quality has declined, but we definitely enjoyed listening to their earliest episodes, which covered such diverse topics as the history of "ain't", grammatical gender, and language extinction. In any case, we'd love to know what you think of the podcast, which you can listen to on their website or download from any number of other podcast sources.

Do you know of any other podcasts dedicated to language or linguistics that we should listen to? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Languages in the News: January 2016

Since we've already reached the end of January, today we're taking a look back at some of the best news stories and articles from the past month.

Can You Really Sum Up a Whole Year in One Word?

Unsurprisingly, our first bit of language news came in the form of a look back at 2015. This article from The Guardian looked at the terms from the English language that defined 2015. It's definitely recommended if you're interested in the ever-changing lexicon of the English language. You can read it here.

The 1967 Revolution That Allowed Swedes to Finally Call Each Other “You”

This article that was featured on Slate covered a fascinating language shift that made Swedish much more informal. If you're familiar with languages that have formal pronouns, you'll definitely want to read this article on the Swedish language. You can do so here.

Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'

American public radio website NPR told us how foodies and our fondness for food are helping create new English words that describe our culinary obsessions, particularly in the United States. If you're interested in the latest food lingo, you can read NPR's article here.

Sorry, grammar nerds. The singular ‘they’ has been declared Word of the Year.

This article from the Washington Post looks at how English grammar has changed, particularly in terms of personal pronouns. When there was increasing demand for a gender-neutral pronoun, the English language answered the call. If you'd like to learn more, you can read the article here.

How did the months get their names?

The Oxford Dictionary's blog started the year by looking at the months that define our years. As expected, they covered the etymology from January through December in a blog post that told us the roots of all the weird words we use to describe almost every lunar cycle of the year. If you're interested, you can read the post here.

Are there any other language articles you enjoyed in January? Please tell us and our readers about them in the comments below.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Finland

In last week's country profile, we looked at the languages of Denmark, the southernmost country in Scandinavia. Today we're going to check out the linguistic diversity of Finland, which may or may not be included in Scandinavia depending on who you ask. In any case, everyone does agree that both Denmark and Finland are Nordic countries, a group that also includes Norway, Sweden, and Iceland.

Suomenlinna, a sea fortress on six islands in Helsinki, Finland.
The Official Languages

Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish. Given the name of the country, it should come as no surprise that the most popular of these languages is Finnish, which is the native language of over 90% of the country's population. Swedish, on the other hand, is the native language of about 5% of Finns.

Finnish is a particularly interesting language because it is a member of the Uralic language family, which means that it is related to Hungarian and Estonian. Swedish, like the other Scandinavian languages, is a Germanic language that descended from Old Norse. While it was the primary language used by the government until the late 1800s, it has since been largely replaced by Finnish. However, both official languages are required subjects in Finnish schools.

Recognized Languages

The Finnish government has also officially recognized the rights of speakers of several other languages used in the country. Three of these are Sami languages which are spoken by the Sami people, Europe's northernmost indigenous group: North Sami, Inari Sami, and Skolt Sami. North Sami is the most widely spoken Sami language, and has about 1,700 native speakers in Finland. Inari Sami and Skolt Sami are both endangered languages, with only about 300 native speakers in Finland.

Karelian pasties, generally filled with
rice, can be found throughout Finland.
The final two recognized languages are Romani and Karelian. There are about 10,000 native speakers of Finnish Kalo Romani in Finland, primarily members of Romani groups that immigrated to Finland from Scotland and England in the 16th century. Finland is also home to approximately 10,000 native speakers of the Karelian language, a Uralic language that is primarily spoken in a region of Russia that borders Finland.

Other Languages

One final language used as a native language by a significant portion of Finland's population is Estonian. There are over 30,000 native speakers of Estonian in Finland, yet another Uralic language that is related to Finnish.

In terms of foreign languages, the most popular choices are English and German. Over 60% of Finns speak English, while over 15% speak German. Since a significant percentage of the Finnish population speaks Swedish, they are also able to understand Norwegian and Danish, since both languages are mutually intelligible with Swedish to varying degrees.