The Nordic Language Convention

13.05.19 | Treaties and Agreements
Convention between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden on the right of Nordic nationals to use their mother tongue in other Nordic countries.


Signing of agreement
Effective date for the agreement
Signing countries


Please note that this text is not an official version and that the text should not be used for legal purposes. The Nordic Council of Ministers takes no responsibility for the contents of the text including eventual errors in the text.



The Governments of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden,


Considering that greater linguistic equality within the Nordic area is of considerable importance for the Nordic sense of community and for broader contacts among the Nordic peoples,


Deeming it important that Nordic nationals should be able to use their mother tongue to the greatest extent possible in dealings with the authorities and other public agencies of another Nordic country,


Recognizing that a good language service for Nordic immigrants is essential in order to facilitate their adjustment and ensure that they enjoy social security and equal treatment in the community,


Have, in keeping with the intention underlying recommendation No. 29/1966 of the Nordic Council, agreed as follows:

Article 1

The languages covered by this Convention are Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish.


The Convention shall apply to both oral and to written contacts with authorities or other public agencies, but not to telephone contacts.

Article 2

The Contracting States undertake to make efforts to enable a national of one Contracting State to use his mother tongue, where necessary, in contacts with the authorities and other public agencies of another Contracting State. This shall apply to contacts with the courts and also in particular, to contacts with public agencies such as public-health, hospital, social-service and child-welfare authorities, and also with labour-market, tax, police and school authorities.


In cases before the courts and other public agencies, the authorities shall, as far as possible, endeavour to ensure that nationals of another Contracting State receive the necessary assistance with interpretation and translation. In criminal cases, nationals shall always receive the necessary assistance with interpretation.

Article 3

The costs of interpretation or translation in the cases covered by article 2 shall be paid from public funds. The costs of interpretation in cases involving public prosecution shall always be paid from public funds.


The foregoing provision shall not prevent a Contracting State from claiming full or partial reimbursement of costs for the translation of a document from the person submitting the document if the latter is lengthy or of minor importance, or if there are other special reasons for making such a claim. Nor shall a Contracting State be prevented from applying rules concerning the right of the public authorities to claim reimbursement of interpretation or translation costs from a person who, as the losing party or for another reason, is liable for the legal costs of a case.

Article 4

A person staying in a home or other institution shall, as far as possible, be given the opportunity to associate with other persons having a command of the mother tongue of the person in question.

Article 5

The Contracting States shall promote the establishment of public language-service agencies or other types of interpretation and translation services in places where nationals from another Contracting State who do not understand the language of the host country are present in large numbers. Where such measures are justified by the number of such nationals residing in the host country or in particular areas thereof, the host country shall promote the translation and distribution of such instructions, brochures, forms, etc., as are designed to facilitate contacts between the individual and the public authorities.

Article 6

The Contracting States undertake to endeavour to make special efforts in the matter of language services, where the circumstances so require, and to promote direct co-operation among the authorities of the various States with a view to the achievement of the purposes of the Convention.

Article 7

Nothing in this Convention shall preclude the possibility of two or more Contracting States concluding, where appropriate, any special agreements providing for more extensive commitments than those specified in this Convention.

Article 8

Each of the Contracting States shall designate an authority or other agency to be responsible for monitoring the application of the Convention in that State and for promoting co-operation among the States in matters covered by the Convention.


The Nordic Council of Ministers shall also monitor the application of the Convention.

Article 9

The Contracting States may accede to this Convention by:

(a) Signing it without any reservation regarding ratification; or

(b) Signing it subject to a reservation regarding ratification in conjunction with subsequent ratification.


The instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month beginning two months after the date on which four of the Contracting States have acceded to the Convention. In the case of a Contracting State which accedes to the Convention at a later date, the Convention shall enter into force two months after that State has acceded to the Convention. Any State may, with respect to any of the other States, terminate the Convention upon six months' notice.


In Witness Whereof the undersigned plenipotentiaries have signed this Convention.


Done at Svaneke, Bornholm, on 17 June 1981, in a single copy in the Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish languages.