National Sign Languages
- Suomalainen viittomakieli, SVK
- Finlandssvenskt Teckenspråk, SRVK, Suomenruotsalainen Viittomakieli
- SVK: 5 (Developing). Recognized language (2011, No. 61, Institute for sign language status)
- SRVK: 8a (Moribund)
"On 12 March 2015, the Finnish Parliament have voted the "Sign Language Act". Even though Finnish Sign Language did take its first step by having their Sign Language recognised in their constitution back in 1995. (..) This new Act also intends to increase authorities' awareness of signers as a linguistic and cultural group. The Act further re-establishes signers' right (enshrined in special legislation) to receive teaching in their own language and in sign language as a subject, and their right to use sign language or interpretation and translation arranged by an authority. The Act does not create any new rights, but rather aims to promote the linguistic rights signers already have, in practice, and clarifies their status as a language and cultural group."
Finnish Sign Language was recognised in the constitution in August 1995.
"Section 17 - Right to one's language and culture [...] The rights of persons using sign language and of persons in need of interpretation or translation aid owing to disability shall be guaranteed by an Act."
"Sign Language Legislation in the European Union", Wheatley, M., A. Pabsch., Edition II. Brussels, EUD, 2012:
"Finland is a country with two national languages: Finnish and Swedish. Along with Sámi and Romani, sign language is recognised as a language in the constitution in 1995 (Suomen perustuslaki). It was the first European country to mention sign language in its constitution (Section 3 par 17): 'The rights of persons using sign language and of persons in need of interpretation or translation aid owing to disability shall be guaranteed by an Act.'
The constitution (or most other acts) does not specifically mention Finnish Sign Language or Finland-Swedish Sign Language. It also requirs other acts to follow to ensure the rights of sign langauge users. Finland does not have a separate sign language act at the moment but a number of other acts that mention sign language.
Sign language is for example mentioned in the Language Act (Kielilaki 423/2003).Chapter 8 requires the government to provide a report to monitor and promote linguistic rights.This report should include sign language."
"Sign language is also metnioned in the Decree of the Ministry of Education on Vocational Basic Examination, which explains the requirements and context for the examination to become a sign language instructor.""
"The status of sign languages in Europe", Nina Timmermans, ISBN 92-871-5720-0 © Council of Europe, April 2005
"The Finnish Sign Language is the mother tongue of about 5,000 deaf people. In addition to this, about 10,000 hearing people use it as their second mother tongue, second language or foreign language. The Research Centre on National Languages has studied Finnish Sign Language since 1984.
The Act on The Research Centre on National Languages (591/1996) states that the research centre has to take care of Finnish Sign Language research and maintenance. The Finnish Sign Language Board on language was established in 1997. It is submitted to the Research Centre on National Languages and the work conducted has a basis in the Decree on The Research Centre on National Languages (758/1996).
The Sign Language of the Finland-Swedish deaf can be considered a separate language from the main variant of the
Finnish Sign Language. The Finland-Swedish Sign Language is the mother tongue of about 200 deaf people. Deaf Finns using Finland-Swedish Sign Language form a small minority that is in danger of extinction. The school for deaf Finns using Swedish Sign Language was closed down in 1993. Most deaf children, young people and adults of working age who use the Finland-Swedish Sign Language have emigrated to Sweden.
Finland is one of the first countries in the world to have adopted sign language in its constitution (1995). The Constitution Act of Finland (731/1999) was renewed in 1999 and contains the general anti-discrimination clause in section 6. The anti-discrimination clause rules that without acceptable grounds, no one shall be placed in a different position because of, e.g., language and disability. According to the fundamental statement, the anti-discrimination clause covers both direct and indirect discrimination. Besides this, according to section 17, the rights of those who use sign language and of those who require interpretation or translation services because of disability shall be guaranteed by the Act of Parliament.
Training of professionals
A training programme for class teachers of Finnish Sign Language users started in the autumn of 1998, and 10 students began their studies. In autumn 2001 another group commenced studies. University level studies in sign language are popular subjects both at Turku and Jyväskylä Universities.
In autumn 1998 a study programme regarding sign languages was started at the University of Jyväskylä.
Sign Language Instructor
The basic diploma in Finnish Sign language instruction started in autumn 2001. The professional title is “Sign Language Instructor” and it consists of 120 credit weeks. It is a completely new profession in Finland.
Sign Language Teaching
The Finnish Association of the Deaf, obtained financing from the Finnish Slot Machine Association for the HELY Project aimed at relatives of and people working with the deaf. This project runs from 2001-2006. The project studies how languages in general are taught and what methods can be applied to teaching sign languages to hearing people.
A teaching unit is being created, based on the level of skills, the examination system is being renewed and new teaching material is being produced.
The National Board of Education ratified the bases for a new curriculum that was implemented at pre-school level for a pilot project from 2000-2001. Account was taken of sign language users as an individual group. The Finnish Association of the Deaf participated in the preparatory process, and they were also asked to make a statement regarding the educational curriculum."
Number of Deaf Sign Language Users
- FinSL: 5,000
- FinSSL: 300 (EUD website, December 2016)