Heli Laaksonen is leading proponent of Finnish dialects, writing poems and performing in her native Southwest dialect.  The way people say something, often more than what they say, is a statement of identity and pride in their origins.

“Mää tykkän kulkke oman kiälen keskel, pikkasis piireis, misä mää tunne ihmise ja ihmiset tunteva munt,” writes Heli Laaksonen – perhaps the most celebrated contemporary dialect writer in Finland and a vehement advocate for the southwest dialects – in the local newspaper Laitilan Sanomat in August.

In standard Finnish it would read, “Minä tykkään kulkea oman kieleni keskellä, pienissä piireissä, missä minä tunnen ihmiset ja ihmiset tuntevat minut.” There is undoubtedly a difference! Deciphering her florid language, which exemplifies the dialectal variation in Finnish, is challenging enough, let alone translating it.

Yet, in late October a collection of Laaksonen’s poems, Ko lehm kikatta, was translated into Latvian – the dialects of Ainaži and Salacgrīva – by Guntars Godinsh, underlining a resilient interest in dialects. Indeed, twenty years after the dialect boom in Finland, amidst intensifying globalisation and multilingualism, dialects are embraced as markers of affinity and local identity – sentiments encapsulated by the passage above, crudely rendered into English below.

“I like to be surrounded by my own language, be in small circles, where I know the people and the people know me.”


Aleksi Teivainen
Helsinki Times






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