Tim Sparv becomes the face of national ‘language tolerance’ campaign

The campaign, which runs through November and December, encourages people to have confidence to speak their own language, as ministry says there's work to be done on language services.

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Tim Sparv is fronting a new language tolerance campaign / Credit: Ministry of Justice

The captain of the Finnish men’s national football team, Tim Sparv, is taking on a new role as the face of a national ‘language tolerance’ campaign called “My Language.”

The project has been set up by the Ministry of Justice, and Sparv, who speaks Swedish as his mother tongue, will help get the message across during a campaign in November and December.

“Language is an attitude. And especially as a young person you should dare to speak, it does not have to be perfect” says Sparv.

“I have always seen language as a fun and interesting thing, but have become more interested in language when I have lived abroad” he adds.

A 2016 study found that daily challenges remained for Finland’s different language groups in regards to their attitudes towards speakers of other languages. Nearly half of Swedish-speaking Finns and 20% of Finnish-speaking Finns said they had been treated less well in their own home municipality due to the language they spoke.

The Ministry of Justice believes an updates study this year will show some improved results, but Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) says that work needs to be done to ensure that everyone can receive service in Finland’s two national languages: Finnish and Swedish.

“The campaign is important because it aims to increase the understanding and sense of belonging between people. It is important that everyone has the opportunity to express themselves in their own mother tongue. The mother tongue is part of our identity” says Henriksson, herself a Swedish-speaking Finn.

The “My Language” campaign will be seen and heard in schools and work communities. The first promotional videos feature Sparv watching a children’s football game where parents are encouraging the young players in two languages.

“Speak your own language” says Sparv in Swedish, before continuing in Finnish “and yes, a common understanding can be found.”

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