I’m preparing to log off for the month of July and enjoy the summer. But before I do… I feel the need to speak to current events and their ties to language learning.
It’s no secret that in recent months, people all over the world are waking up to local injustices, prejudice, issues of discrimination and racism. Finland is no exception. My area of expertise is related to language, so I’ll focus on this.
It’s exciting to see much more attention given towards diversity, inclusion and equality in the Finnish media lately. I’ve been sharing and commenting on some of these over on my FB profile.
The conversation recently turned to the huge discrepancy in the PISA results (the ones Finland is world-famous for), and how the discrepancy between Finnish kids and immigrant kids is the biggest one there is. Now politicians are finally saying things like “Language is necessary to participating in society.” 🤦
Honestly, I’ve been saying this for years and it is such a huge relief to see these issues advancing. We can no longer hide behind the obviously inaccurate story of Finnish being objectively difficult, when there are bigger issues at play here.
This isn’t one of those “sit back and watch things change” scenarios though. We have an opportunity – yes, and we have a role to play. So if you want to advance the current discussion in small but tangible ways, I invite you to participate in the 3 following ways…
1) Use your voice/break the silence
I recently started sharing with friends (here and abroad), Finnish and otherwise, about my experiences in Finland. During a recent conversation between Finns about “how everyone does this and that,” I felt it was time to announce: “You know what? I live in a totally different version of Finland than you do.” I realized I’d never said this out loud before.
I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to relax into how happy a country this is… but then again maybe I was never meant to. Now I realize that by speaking up and sharing what I see more and more, I’m able to provide a diverse – and necessary – viewpoint.
And if you’re scared to share, that’s ok too. Watch for opportunities. Talk to a close friend. Start small. It took me awhile too (and I’m still learning)
2) Bring language to the forefront
In the 10+ years I’ve been here, I’ve observed Finland’s main issue with immigration (meaning all migrants, whether expats, refugees, immigrants, internationals, etc.) is an inability to integrate people here linguistically (aka. Learning Finnish isn’t happening for many people).
I can’t tell you exactly why this is happening, but as a symptom, it’s alarming.
Not speaking Finnish may not bother everyone, but it can affect some more than others. Whether based on the colour and complexion of our skin, the passports we carry, the languages we do (and don’t speak)… we have to realize that our attitudes, opinions and beliefs are interrelated to the opportunities others are offered as well.
Let’s move past the faulty assumption that ‘Finnish is so hard’ and look towards opportunities and solutions! When we talk about diversity and inclusion and equality, it’s time to talk about language and its role in this society too.
We need to look at issues of access and integration side-by-side, in the short-term and the long-term. In the context of English, Finnish and also Swedish and Sámi. Speak from the angle you feel called to speak about.
3) Realize your choices = voting
I am one of those offering alternative solutions, yes, and there are also others innovating in the Finnish field. It doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as you acknowledge: you have a choice in how you approach learning!
Realize that you can absolutely support alternatives by choosing the course yourself, or by asking your company to do so, and by spreading the word to friends. Be mindful that by signing up and paying for a course (or having your employer pay) , you’re voting!
If you keep attending boring and/or ineffective courses, HR depts/teachers/schools/
And with that, I take my leave for July!
Sending you much love and a relaxing summer holiday,
Thanks for being here!