Which Is Linus Torvalds’ Native Language: Finnish or Swedish?


Swapnil: What is your native language, Finnish or Swedish?
Linus: Swedish is my mother tongue, so I grew up speaking Swedish in Finland. It’s a small minority of language. It’s about 5 percent of Finland. It’s concentrated mostly along the coast.

So I went to Swedish speaking school. I went to Swedish speaking high-school and University. About half of my courses were Swedish speaking, of the rest I have a strong minor in Maths and Computer Science. My math was mostly in Finnish and my computer science was half Finnish and half English because all the literature is in English.

You have to speak Finnish in Finland. When you go to the shops and do things, 95% of everybody speaks Finnish so I learned Finnish as a second language and these days it’s my weakest language by far.

I speak, obviously, English and at home I speak Swedish with kids and my wife; they usually answer in English because they go to English speaking school. I can get by with Finnish. I am fluent in it, but fluent in a way that if talk to a Finnish person in Finnish they notice that I am not really a native speaker.

Swapnil: That’s the challenge we will have. My wife is American and I come from India. We speak English at home, she has yet to learn Hindi. So what language will our kids speak — Hindi or English? I think we will teach them both. How do you manage this at your home?
Linus: I want my kids to know Swedish but the fact that they go to an English speaking school and their English is stronger than Swedish, I am not so worried about it. It’s very hard to try, depending on where you live, to teach your kids the language that their friends don’t speak. They are only interacting with their parents in the other language and discussions with their parents are not as important as the discussions with their friends. Especially when they get older, than say 5 years old, some of their friends mean so much to them. I have a teenage daughter and she doesn’t care much about what her parents think 🙂

My kids are perfectly happy with Linux

Swapnil  : Do your kids use Windows at home?
Linus :  No, no.

Swapnil: But are they forced to use Windows at school? (question suggested by Jan Wilderboer)
Linus: Actually the school we have doesn’t much care. I think they [kids] have both PC and Mac laptops, even laptops for kids who don’t have their own.

Our youngest is only 10 years old; she doesn’t need a laptop at school yet. But the older ones have their own laptops and they are running Linux. The Schools care about certain things that have to be done on a computer. At a certain point they say your paper has to be written on a computer and print them out or give it on USB stick but they are perfectly happy with Linux and write them on OpenOffice. The school doesn’t care, my kids don’t seem to care much 🙂

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