By Enrique Tessieri
We read almost constantly stories in the Finnish media about how learning the Finnish language is supposed to be a magic bullet to full integration. By effectively accepting the idea that learning Finnish will solve all your integration problems are we sidestepping more serious issues that are hindering adaption?
The claim that language will solve all your problems may be true to some extent but by no means is it the pill that will turn you into a full member of society.
In Spain, where there are millions of Latin Americans who not only speak Spanish as their mother tongue and even have the same religion as the Spaniards, suffer from discrimination. In the United States there are black people who speak English as their native tongue but who still suffer from prejudice.
Even our Romany minority in Finland, which number around 10,000 people, have lived marginalized from us for centuries.
As long as we place all of our efforts on language as the magic integration cure, we will continue to brush the real issues under the rug. The more emphasis we place on language the more some people will use it to discriminate against others.
Some people learn Finnish faster than others. What are you going to do about those people who don’t learn to speak it well? Are you going to punish and marginalize them from our society for the rest of their lives?
If language isn’t the magic bullet policy-makers are seeking to convert us to insiders from outsiders, what, then, is hindering integration? Attitudes and institutional racism are good culprits.
The issue is not language per se but acceptance. How many Finnish politicians use the term acceptance in their speeches when they speak about immigrants and other minorities?
Without challenging the institutions and the culture of discrimination in Finland, we will conveniently sidestep the real issues that hinder integration of our new members of society.
There is more to integration than just learning grammar.