«As chair of the Norwegian branch of Foreningen Norden – the Nordic Association – it was my great privilege to award this year’s Nordic Language Prize to Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate,» writes the President of the Norwegian Parliament, Olemic Thommessen in his blog this week.
President Ahtisaari has made a great effort to reinforce the position of Swedish as one of two official languages in Finland, an effort of great importance in the Nordic region. Being able to communicate in a Scandinavian language across the Nordic borders has enabled a unique multilateral collaboration in our part of the world.
«Anything that can help to keep up good cross-border Scandinavian language comprehension should be welcomed with open arms. In this respect, Martti Ahtisaari is a role model and a most deserving winner of the Nordic language prize for 2015,» writes Thommessen.
The English version of the Nordic Association’s prize text:
Finland is, according to it’s constitution a bilingual country. Yet, questions regarding the importance of teaching the minority language, Swedish, in Finnish schools, keep emerging in the public debate. Is teaching school children Swedish really all that important? Is it worth all those Euros to keep a bilingual system in place? And how much Swedish do we actually learn from a few lessons in school now and again, the critics ask.
And when they do, Martti Ahtisaari steps up to the plate and gives them a loud and clear YES to those questions. That a person of Ahtisaari’s stature and prominence – a former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate – argues the importance of learning Swedish for Finnish pupils so clearly and convincingly, is of great consequence. That he points to his own career as one made possible by the knowledge of Swedish is, and should be, a weighty argument for the advantage of language education.
For the Finnish people, the Swedish language is a key, says Martti Ahtisaari. Not only to Finland’s own cultural heritage, but also a key to the Nordic region. With a basic knowledge of one Scandinavian language, the threshold is lowered to the entire Nordic labour market, and numerous excellent educational facilities, to all the networks and opportunities a region of 20 million native Scandinavian speakers can offer.
For young Finns the Nordic opportunities can prove very valuable in times of rising unemployment in Finland. While for the other Nordic countries, Finns’ knowledge of Swedish means invaluable access to some of the best minds in research and technology.
The winner of this year’s Nordic Language Award seldom misses an opportunity to endorse the concept of Nordic cooperation. He regards the Swedish language as an important building block for the Finnish Nordic identity, and often advocates the merits of the Nordic societies in regards to peace, equality and welfare.
Language can, as we all know, be so much more than words and sentences. Language can divide. Language can encompass culture and values. Language can build bridges and open doors.
We, The Nordic Association, are honoured to present The Nordic Language Award for 2015 to Martti Ahtisaari, in recognition of his work to preserve and strengthen a bilingual society in Finland. We applaud his ability to manifest the value of the Swedish language both for individual Finns and for Finland in an international context.