north saami inari saami skolt saami

What is this?

The Say it in Saami project explores the endangered, indigenous Saami languages spoken in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. The project features three of the Saami languages: North, Inari and Skolt Saami which are all spoken in Finland.

Niillas vs. Katri
Katri Koivula and Niillas Holmberg (photo: Annukka Pakarinen)

The Say it in Saami project began when Finnish documentary filmmaker Katri Koivula and Saami poet Niillas Holmberg were sitting at a bar in Helsinki. For Katri the Saami culture and languages were completely foreign. She asked Niillas to teach her some phrases in North Saami, Niillas' mother language. It was a fun and memorable night. Based on this meeting they had the idea to create a modern online Saami language phrasebook to which everybody could suggest phrases for translation.

“Finns borrow a lot from other languages, like English, Swedish and Russian. Isn’t it time we started borrowing phrases from Saami, a language related to ours?”

Pasi Heikura, a Finnish radio host.

Lillen varpuja

Say it in Saami features the first online Saami phrasebook on the Internet containing informal language, and its goal is to help the endangered languages. You can listen to the phrases in North, Inari and Skolt Saami. The website also features five short documentary films, a quick guide to Saami culture and a soundboard in North Saami.

Around one-third of the phrases in the phrasebook have been suggested via social media. See what the project website looked like when it was first launched in February 2016 (FI). The suggestions for translation were gathered via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail and some of them can be found in the "suggested" category in the phrasebook. The Finnish and Swedish versions of the website also include a section for teachers, providing tips on how the site can be used in classrooms. The project has already been used in Finnish schools to teach students about the Saami culture and languages.

In 2017 the Say it in Saami -project was awarded with a State Award for Public Information. We hope this phrasebook and website will be fun and useful for everybody wanting to learn about the Saami culture and languages! You can discuss and comment on the topic using the hashtag:

Lillen suikerot
Lillen suikerot

You can read memories and stories from along the journey at our Facebook-page:

Wishing you all the best,

Katri, Niillas, Samuli, Mikko

Buorre mátkki!