Since 2006, the Finnish Cultural Foundation has spent over €3 million on rescuing minority languages related to Finnish. The funding project has two strategic aims: to keep Inari Sámi a living, spoken language in Finland for at least the next hundred years, and to help revitalise small Finno-Ugric languages in the Russian Federation.
Inari Sámi is spoken by about 300 people in northern Lapland. In 1997, only five of the speakers were under the age of 40. Funds from the Foundation helped to open a language nest, i.e. a day nursery where only the minority language is spoken. The method had earlier been successfully used to revitalise the Maori language in New Zealand and native languages in North America.
Several new nests have now been opened in the region for both Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi, another endangered variety of the Sámi language family. Since 2011, they have been funded by the Finnish government. As a result of all these efforts, a new generation of little children has learnt the Inari Sámi language.
The Foundation has also, with the help of partners, been revitalising small Finno-Ugric languages in the Russian Federation. During 2008–2013 information is being distributed to Finno-Ugric language communities, which are being helped to set up language nests. Most of the work is channelled via the Finland-Russia Society. Valuable assistance has also been given by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The future of the language nests will depend to a great extent on the support of the Russian regional and federal authorities.
Handing down the vernacular (pdf)
(Annual report 2011)
Where there's a will, there's hope (pdf)
(Annual report 2010)