How Many People in Finland Speak English?

Finland English Proficiency Index

Northern Europe has some of the best non-native English speakers. The Scandinavian countries, in particular, have very high proficiency. But what about Finland, the lesser-discussed Nordic country? Finland has a highly lauded and successful education system – top in Europe and globally. How does this translate in terms of English skills?

70% of Finnish people speak English
70% of Finnish people speak English

According to the 2012 Eurobarometer report, 70% of Finns know English at a conversational level or higher. The 2023 English Proficiency Index (EPI) also ranks Finland #12 in Europe, and the country has high to very high proficiency on average. Going by the numbers, Finland is not far behind neighboring countries.

Sweden and other Scandinavian countries had proficiency scores above 600 points, while Finland scored 597 points in 2023. Historically, all Nordic countries have had similar scores and proficiency levels since the EPI was first launched in 2011. Overall, English is widely spoken in Finland, and many people have a level of B1 or higher.

Keep reading to learn more about English in Finland! This article will cover the use of English and proficiency trends by region, city, demographics, and more.

Number of English Speakers in Finland (General Stats)

Most Finnish people speak English, but how many speak English fluently, and where is English most common? Here’s what we know about English use in Finland, according to various sources:

  • According to a 2012 Eurobarometer report, 75% of Finns speak at least one foreign language.
  • The English language leads the way as the most popular foreign language. 70% of Finnish people (nearly 3.9 million) claim to speak the language at a conversational level or higher.
  • According to the same report, roughly 1 in 2 Finns understand the spoken language well enough to follow the news on T.V. or radio. The same share of the population understands written English well enough to read a newspaper or magazine.
  • 31% of English speakers in Finland said they used English either daily or almost every day. Most Finns commonly use English either online or at work.
  • The 2023 English Proficiency Index ranks Finland #12 in Europe. Finland had high proficiency and a score of 597 points, the equivalent of a B2 level in English.
  • Historically, Finns have had very high proficiency on average (scores of 600 points or higher). 2023 is the first year when Finland’s score dropped below 600 points.
  • Finns aged 21-40 have the best English, with an average level of C1.
  • English is on the rise in Finland. Between 2005 and 2012, the number of people who spoke conversational English increased by 7 percentage points. Many Finnish people, especially the younger generations, view English as a global language.
  • Proficiency is also on the rise in some demographics. Scores have been steadily increasing in those aged 41+.
  • All Finnish children learn Finnish, Swedish, and a foreign language in school. More than 90% of Finnish children study English as the foreign language of choice, usually starting at 7-8 years old.
  • Less than 0.5% of Finland’s population speaks English as a native language. According to 2022 population statistics, there were 11,900 people who spoke English as a first language in Finland at the time.
  • All the largest cities in Finland have very high English proficiency. Helsinki was 1st in the country in 2023, with a score of 617 points.

All numbers point in the same direction. The majority of Finnish people know English. Roughly 50% of people understand English well enough to follow the news and read newspapers, but up to 70% of Finns claim conversational ability in English. These numbers might seem contradictory at first, but both facts can be true simultaneously.

CEFR Levels and their EPI score equivalents
CEFR Levels and their EPI score equivalents

Speaking English at a conservational level requires a minimum level of B1, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Language Skills (CEFR).  Following extended speech and understanding more complex texts like newspapers, on the other hand, requires slightly better knowledge of English, typically a B2 level or higher.

So, even though “only” 1 in 2 Finns know English well enough to follow complex topics in written or spoken English, considerably more people can communicate in everyday situations.Sources: Publication Office of the European Union, Education First, CORE, British Council, Statistics Finland, Europass

English Speakers in Finland by Region

There are 19 regions in Finland, and the majority of them are located in the Southern half of the country. By total numbers, the regions with the most English speakers include:

  • Uusimaa
  • Pirkanmaa
  • Varsinais-Suomi (Southwest Finland)
  • Pohjois-Pohjanmaa (North Ostrobothnia)

As for English proficiency, all of the above regions have high or very high scores. Unfortunately, we only have proficiency data for 6 out of Finland’s 19 regions. But these are also the regions with the largest populations.

Here’s where people speak the best English in Finland:

RegionRanked by PopulationProficiency ScoreProficiency LevelCEFR Level
Keski-Suomi (Central Finland)#5606Very highC1
Pirkanmaa#2604Very highC1
Varsinais-Suomi (Southwest Finland)#3600Very highC1
Pohjois-Savo (North Savo)#6596HighB2
Pohjois-Pohjanmaa (North Ostrobothnia)#4591HighB2

Central Finland, Pirkanmaa, and Southwest Finland have the highest proficiency in the country, and scores above the national average. These regions have the highest percentage of fluent English speakers with a level of C1 or higher.

Uusimaa is the largest region in Finland, accounting for one-third of the country’s population. In 2023, Uusimaa had a proficiency score slightly below the national average. But it’s very likely that the sample population of test takers was significantly larger. Southern Finland likely has a large number of English speakers of all proficiency levels, including C1.

Sources: Statista, Education First

English Speakers in Finland by City

Helsinki has a C1 English level on average
Helsinki has a C1 English level on average

Finland is a big country with many cities. The 2023 EPI ranking only includes four of them, the biggest ones in the country by population. The average proficiency level in these cities is very high and above the national average.

Here’s the English level for some of Finland’s largest cities in 2023:

CityRanked by PopulationProficiency ScoreProficiency LevelCEFR Level
Helsinki#1617Very highC1
Tampere#3614Very highC1
Espoo#2607Very highC1
Oulu#5602Very highC1

There’s not much of a comparison here, as the score difference between the cities is not very large. All four had an average level of C1 in English. The capital of Helsinki, along with Espoo, are both located in the region of Uusimaa. This goes to show that the lowest-ranking region still has some of the most English-savvy cities.

You might have noticed that the fourth largest city in the country is missing. The city of Vantaa was not included in the latest edition of the proficiency index. Education First only calculates average scores for regions and cities with a minimum of 400 test participants. It seems that Finland’s other major cities didn’t make the cut this year.

Sources: Education First 1 & 2, Statista

English Speakers in Finland by Demographic Group

Roughly 90% of Finnish children study English in school
Roughly 90% of Finnish children study English in school

As statistics from the European Union show, most Finns speak English. These polls are organized to guarantee representative results. So, the selection of participants is typically random and it includes a sample size of at least 1000 people aged 15+.

But what about English skills among different demographic groups? Let’s take a look at these trends now:

  • According to English proficiency data, there was a significant gender gap in English skills in 2023. Male scores have been consistent over the past 7 years. For the first time since 2016, female scores dropped under 600 points.
  • Until 2022, both men and women had similar scores and very high proficiency. In 2023, men had an average score of 621 points (very high proficiency), while women dropped down to 574 points (high proficiency).
  • Proficiency scores have also dropped in certain age groups. Those aged 18-20 years old had very high English proficiency until 2021. For the past two years, this age group has registered scores below 600 points.
  • Finns aged 21-40 years old have very high English proficiency, the equivalent of a C1 (advanced) level.
  • In those aged 41+, proficiency scores increased from below 550 (moderate proficiency) to over 600 (very high proficiency) between 2016 and 2020.
  • Adults in their late 50s or older are the least likely to speak English. Learning English as a foreign language in Finland is a recent phenomenon. It wasn’t until after WW2 that German began losing ground to English in schools.
  • Today, over 90% of children aged 7+ study English in school. A majority of Finnish students reach a B1 (intermediate) level in English in secondary school (ages 15-18).

Although proficiency is declining in young adults, this trend wasn’t only present in Finland, but across multiple countries in the world. According to EF’s 2023 executive summary, this is likely caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past years’ events affected the education of many soon-to-be high school and university graduates.

Overall, the number and proficiency of English speakers in Finland have been slowly increasing over the past decades. Finnish people are also among the EU’s most likely citizens to pick up learning a new foreign language, according to statistics from the European Commission.

Sources: EC Eurobarometer, Publication Office of the European Union, Education First 1 & 2, CORE


Northern European countries are known for their impressive English skills, and Finland is no exception. English is widely spoken in Finland, with 70% of people having a conversational level. Moreover, roughly 50% of Finns have an upper intermediate or advanced level in English.

Pirkanmaa, Central Finland, and Southwest Finland have the best English speakers in the country, although other regions are also close behind. Large Finnish cities are also home to a sizable population of fluent speakers, especially Helsinki, Tampere, and Espoo.


How many languages do Finnish people speak?

Finland is a multilingual country with two official languages– Finnish and Swedish. Finnish is the main language and the most widely spoken mother tongue among the Finnish population. The Swedish language also enjoys the status of an official language, although most Finns speak Swedish as a second language.

All Finns also learn one mandatory foreign language in school, typically English, German, or French. There are also several immigrant and officially recognized minority languages spoken throughout Finland. Examples include the Russian language, Estonian, and Sami languages.

Why is English widely spoken in Finland?

The high number of fluent English speakers in Finland is likely the result of multiple factors. Many attribute this success to Finland’s excellent education system. Finnish schools put heavy emphasis on foreign languages from an early age.

Finnish students also have a proactive attitude when learning English. Many younger people use English outside of the classroom, getting a wider exposure to various text and audio materials in the language.

Can I get by in Finland without speaking fluent Finnish?

Yes, you certainly don’t need to speak Finnish to visit the country. Finland gets plenty of English speaking tourists, and nobody’s expecting visitors to learn the Finnish language for a one-week vacation. Staff working in restaurants, hotels, or other tourist hotspots almost always speaks English.

Most Finns other fins also speak English, especially the younger generation living in large cities. Also, contrary to the stereotype of the cold and introverted Finnish people, many tourists claim the locals are very friendly and helpful. It’s true that small talk isn’t popular in Finnish culture. But politely asking for help as a tourist isn’t frowned upon.