What makes one language better than the other?

by , under Roble Bashir

Roble Bashir 

Two official languages are spoken in Finland: Finnish and Swedish. This means, at least theoretically, that immigrants can choose between two languages and which is best-suited for them.  

An ever-growing number of immigrants want to study the Swedish language. One important reason is that Swedish is easier for some to learn than Finnish.

What makes one language better than the other?

Government organisations that provide integration and language courses to immigrants, offer too few Swedish-language courses.

Since there are more Finnish-language courses offered to immigrants than Swedish, the situation leaves the newcomer in between a rock and a hard place. In the worst of cases, it may mean that the immigrant has to pay for private lessons if he wants to learn Swedish.

More Swedish-language courses should be offered in Finland today. The low number of such courses not only undermines the role of Swedish in Finland, but robs the immigrant of an opportunity to learn a language and integrate rapidly.

  1. khr

    Reality does not always match the official language status. In large parts of the country Swedish does not work at all as a common language with the natives. The areas the converse is true are much smaller. That said, Swedish can be a viable choise in some locations, and there the availability of Swedish courses should be ensured.

  2. Lyra

    It’s not about one language being “better” than the other, it’s about the reality of the situation — Swedish is not a one-to-one replacement for Finnish in Finland. Finnish is the more practical and sensible choice, and thus more people will opt for it over the language spoken by <6% of the population.

  3. CptPicard

    The way you spin this makes me think of Fenno-Swedish think tanks’ systematically ideological take on this matter. That is, unless we all behave as if Swedish is equally as much everyone’s language as is Finnish for the vast majority, we are saying one language is somehow chosen to be better. Of course the goal is to make for example me consider Swedish to be something like a second mother tongue – but it is not, no matter how much they wish it were. Then they blame me for it.

    Of course the Swedish-speakers want to assimilate you in particular as someone who does not want to learn Finnish and will require the official services in Swedish. I am sure you would feel very oppressed if we did not… after all, “it is your right” to choose that Swedish is better, right? Also understanding that you are just gifting us the chance to speak Swedish would be just demonstrating your deep sense of civilization and so on 😉

  4. Joonas

    I believe the question shouldn’t be “What makes one language “better” than the other?”, but which one is more useful in Finland. Swedish is much easier language to learn, but it is not as beneficial as Finnish in Finland. Most of the people are speaking Finnish, almost all websites directed to people living in Finland are in Finnish, majority of jobs requires Finnish skills etc. I can’t say the same things about Swedish.

  5. Mark

    CptPicard

    The way you spin this makes me think of Fenno-Swedish think tanks’ systematically ideological take on this matter.

    An ideological framework for the status of Swedish in Finland is inevitable. Any rights framework is by its nature ideological, because humans do not ‘naturally’ respect the rights of others, especially those of minorities, and legal systems are as much about recompense for violated rights as they are about an automatic prevention of violations.

    That is, unless we all behave as if Swedish is equally as much everyone’s language as is Finnish for the vast majority, we are saying one language is somehow chosen to be better.

    That’s a straw man. It’s not even the ideological position for Swedish, but it is clearly a distorted view of it that is common. The ideological stand is to give both languages equal treatment and status within Finland’s authorities and government and to preserve the cultural status of Swedish, though the latter can be rather more vague in its interpretation. But none of that implies that everyone must see and feel that Swedish is as much their language as Finnish. That clearly isn’t going to happen and is no-one’s intention.

    You are well aware I’m sure that the notion of ‘better’ is somewhat relative. ‘Better’ here refers to what can work for the immigrant, either in integrating faster in some parts of Finland or simply having an opportunity to access ALL of Finland’s cultural and language heritage. In the context of the equal status, it does not require that YOU or any individual citizen see them as equal, but rather that Swedish speakers have access to public services through their native language.

    Also, nationalists radicals tend to consider what or which is ‘better’ only from the point of view of assuming we must seek the greatest good for the greatest number, implying the least effort. This utilitarianism works to undermine minority language rights and must be opposed on principle as the wrong type of methodology for this kind of political and social question. A majority of people would like a million euro, I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean it must automatically be the goal of government to satisfy such obvious self-interest.

    It’s clear how much easier it would be if everyone spoke one language in Finland, but it is not about being merely ‘efficient’. There is nothing efficient about preserving the rights of a minority, that’s just the way it is. Building wheelchair ramps in every public building is not ‘efficient’ in terms of the number of people that will use them, but it’s still an essential part of bringing equality for the minority with disabilities.

    Of course the goal is to make for example me consider Swedish to be something like a second mother tongue – but it is not, no matter how much they wish it were. Then they blame me for it.

    Another straw man argument. It’s easy to present silly arguments like this, CaptainP, and then knock em down, but you are not using your obvious intelligence to any great effect when you do. The possibility is there for you to use or develop Swedish as a second language, but nowhere does it mention in any policy document or legislation that Swedish must be a second ‘mother tongue’ for all Finns.

    The other issue is about accepting that Finland has a varied history and four centuries of shared culture with Sweden, the legacy of which is a lot of citizens whose first language is Swedish. The issue is whether an advanced modern democracy like Finland is able to preserve the rights of a linguistic minority/ies. They have as much rights to be treated as equal ‘citizens of the state’. Hence their right to exist as Swedish speakers and to be able to function fully as Swedish speakers in relation to official authorities. That’s the Constitutional commitment and the bedrock for language policy in Finland.

    A key issue therefore is to protect against the decline of that basic status and the eventual loss of Swedish or the equal status that it currently enjoys, all of which tend to go hand in hand. The decline in the number of Swedish speakers has now stopped, but the rise of nationalism again in Finland is likely to put yet more pressure on young Finns who would otherwise be neutral or positive towards Swedish to instead adopt a populist/nationalist stance in order to fit in, or rather, not to stand out in the face of the growling prowling mob. It is not coincidence that the last great decline in Swedish speakers also coincided with a period of rampant nationalism (late 19th century).

    The worrying thing for me, as an outsider, is how this debate takes place in the nationalist/populist discourse. In fact, it’s clear that this discourse has its own ideological position in regard to identities, and it is monocultural and fully opposed to ‘multi-cultural’, even if that is and has been the historical reality in Finland for 500 years. This doesn’t ignore the issues of power and powerful Swedish families preserving their power, but rather accepts that the ‘whole’ situation involves a very broad demographic of Swedish speakers in Finland. In other words, discussion about Swedish elites is almost always a distraction from the key issue of Swedish as a minority language, and the rights of a minority. That is, with or without the Swedish elites, the same questions would be on the table in regard to Swedish speakers as a linguistic minority in Finland. If anything, the Swedish elites helped to make those questions visible and to ensure they were properly considered. Good job really, otherwise you could easily see how Swedish speakers would be completely steamrolled by the nationalist mob.

    Of course the Swedish-speakers want to assimilate you in particular as someone who does not want to learn Finnish and will require the official services in Swedish

    This is just slander used to support a weak moral position and a weak logical argument, and yet again it’s a straw man argument. You HAVE to paint the Swedish speakers in some kind of negative or elitist role so as to gloss over the real and more challenging issue of minority rights.

    Also understanding that you are just gifting us the chance to speak Swedish would be just demonstrating your deep sense of civilization and so on

    Not sure what to make of this CaptainP, but it looks like you are are feeding into the ‘superiority’ status of Swedish, and so it’s back to the ‘Swedish is bad because it’s the language of the elites’. See my point above. But also, it is not like it was centuries ago where Finnish is struggling to establish itself as a legitimate political and cultural language. This argument of yours strikes me as a throwback to another age and pretty irrelevant in modern day Finland, though I’m sure it will play well with the general insecurity of some Finns about their national identity, an insecurity that is typically made worse by rising nationalism/populism that seeks to place such strong monocultural conditions on one’s cultural and ethnic Finnish identity and to create such strong ‘ingroup/outgroup’ dynamics built on petty or even fake resentments.

    The problem that you should address yourself to CaptainP is how to preserve the minority rights of Swedish speakers in Finland. If your agenda is to pray and hope for a Finland that is only Finnish speaking, then clearly your entire starting point is to reject any notion of preserving the rights of a minority, and to that end, you show your obvious ignorance and antipathy.

    • CptPicard

      akaaro: Well, that’s how it is – the concept of “national language” is a very strategic turn of phrase that managed to get into the constitution that can be used to interpret an extremely wide obligation to first of all be bilingual in the abstract, and then in practice. “Official languages” would be much more easy to interpret in terms of the government’s obligations to provide certain services on a need basis. It is correct that the situation is very artificial and propped up by legislation and lots of ideological liturgy that you’re required to regurgitate. If you try to integrate by simply speaking Swedish, you’ll find that you exclude yourself of the language of some 93% of the population; and make no mistake, they really are Finnish-speaking people. You’d just probably end up demanding that everyone speak Swedish to you, which the SFP would of course love for obvious reasons.

      This is just a matter of reality, not of minority-hating. If it offends the sensibilities of some people who dislike said reality of us speaking Finnish just as much Swedes speak Swedish, then it is those people’s problem.

      And wow, Mark. An excellent demonstration of exactly the kind of modus operandi I’m used to seeing in these kinds of conversations. It shows you have been hanging out with people who push this issue hard. It goes something like this: establish the justification for an “ideological framework” that just needs to be obeyed no matter how questionable the goals, means and outcomes. It’s the Ideological Framework, after all! Obey the Framework!

      Next, present the Fenno-Swedes as innocent victims and the other people who are apparently of the wrong kind somehow, as violating their rights to a certain “status” of the Swedish language unless they be made more acceptable. Then, when someone disagrees with this, play dumb and say that nothing is going on, and after all, there is always The Framework! It’s the other national language anyway!

      And of course, there’s always as the last resort the attack on the people who ask annoying questions. Raise enough of a shitstorm of accusations of planning a Swedocaust and use whatever it takes to put the critic on the defensive, and the mostly consensus-driven, nonconfrontational Finns will just humbly shut up because not a lot of people enjoy having to constantly waste time answering to spurious allegations.

      The whole thing brings to mind a religious sect that tries to first play victim to gain something to use as leverage and then starts forcing itself on people more and more. Add into the mix constant hidden premises that are to be taken for granted, inversions of burden of proof, annoying reverse psychology, motivated reasoning, special pleading and manipulative guilt games…

      The systematically twisted nature of the language-political discourse in Finland is what drew me into these conversations as a teenager, as my critical thinking faculties just couldn’t be bent over backwards to accept the nonsense – and I’ve been into this issue for over half my life now, so please don’t bother calling me ignorant. I am well-versed in the attitudes and tactics, so my opinions are well formed based on my experiences, not some prejudices that need to be re-educated away. If that contact has generated an “antipathy” towards the ideology and its proponents, then so be it; according to my understanding of what is just and correct, it could not be any other way.

      Well, let’s parse some of this stuff here anyway…

      An ideological framework for the status of Swedish in Finland is inevitable. Any rights framework is by its nature ideological, because humans do not ‘naturally’ respect the rights of others, especially those of minorities, and legal systems are as much about recompense for violated rights as they are about an automatic prevention of violations.

      Said ideological frameworks hopefully reflect some sort of sense of justice though. Nazi Germany had an ideological framework that was law of the land and that a lot of people acted upon and we can pretty much see that it had quite a few issues we’d disagree with.

      That’s a straw man. It’s not even the ideological position for Swedish, but it is clearly >a distorted view of it that is common. The ideological stand is to give both languages equal treatment and status within Finland’s authorities and government and to preserve the cultural status of Swedish, though the latter can be rather more vague in its interpretation. But none of that implies that everyone must see and feel that Swedish is as much their language as Finnish. That clearly isn’t going to happen.

      I am glad you at least take the position that this shouldn’t be the idea and that it shouldn’t happen, but I certainly disagree with your statement that I would be intentionally employing a straw man. As I said, I have spent quite a bit of time with this issue, and my take on this is that the talk of Swedish-speaking services and equality in government and so on is just a political tool for deeper ends. This much has even been admitted by SFP-politicians in their more careless moments; also you should familiarize yourself with their own strategy papers and speeches. The whole point is language-identification or the lack of it in the Finnish-speaking population. They know it, they admit it, and they understand that a kind of “total control” of governmental institutions’ bilinguality lets them engage in their Orwellian “let’s HELP them speak Swedish so they are not discriminated in by our conveniently strict language requirements” later on down the road.

      Make no mistake about it, this is not about their ability to speak Swedish or retain the language as living in Finland. It is all about “owning” everyone else on their language-political terms.

      You are well aware I’m sure that the notion of ‘better’ is somewhat relative. And again, if it takes us in the direction of assuming we must seek the greatest good for the greatest number, then that utilitarianism works to undermine minority rights.

      The problem here is that the Fenno-Swedes have a right to a certain abstract idea in Finland that then applies to everyone, instead of their own ability to do certain things wrt the government, public services and so on. This is the national vs. official language distinction; your description of the situation above was much closer to the latter and then your understanding of what should be seems to tend towards the former.

      Another straw man argument. It’s easy to present silly arguments like this and then knock em down, but you are not using your obvious intelligence to any great effect when you do. The possibility is there for you to use or develop Swedish as a second language, but nowhere does it mention that Swedish must be a second ‘mother tongue’ for all Finns.

      You are misrepresenting the situation. It is typical of the policy defenders to paint the situation as giving “options” and “chances” and “opportunities” while the reality is that in a very systematic sense, Swedish is made mandatory all the way to university so that you’ll be filtered out of key positions in society unless you “take the opportunity” to go to a Swedish-speaking kindergarten so that you don’t feel like your life is being conditioned unfairly to someone else’s language (to give you an example of the reasoning here).

      A very good sanity test for these kinds of claims is to imagine taking these “possibilities” to Åland and see how those people would respond. It suddenly becomes glaringy easy to see, at least if you can imagine yourself in their shoes, where the problem lies.

      It’s clear how much easier it would be if everyone spoke one language in Finland, but it is not about being merely ‘efficient’. There is nothing efficient about preserving the rights of a minority, that’s just the way it is. Building wheelchair ramps in every public >building is not ‘efficient’ in terms of the number of people that will use them, but it’s still an essential part of bringing equality for a minority with disabilities.

      I’m glad you admit that the immigrants who would be taught Swedish would essentially be bearing the burden of this inefficiency, and that better yet, it would be the Finnish-speakers who would probably also be outright required to speak Swedish to them, as they would not, by design, know Finnish. This is why these people are so desireable for the Fenno-Swedish ideologues – they are supposed to be knee deep in it in trouble so that they are being horribly oppressed in order to prop up an ideological situation.

      Mind you, I happen to be one of those people who make use of those wheelchair ramps. This essentially a matter of money to build an accessible environment. I still wouldn’t be demanding that in order to provide more need for disabled toilets, a portion of immigrants should be granted the option of being bludgeoned into a wheelchair in order to give my issues more visibility.

      I would also liken the Swedish language more to matters of conscience such as religion or perhaps homosexuality. Religious people are very jealous about making other people believe the same way they do; yet we don’t allow that. Homosexuals are not oppressed if we don’t teach kids not to be prejudiced from preschool on by making them enjoy same-sex intimate contact so that it would become a “natural part” of their lives and thus they would not become gay-hating adults. After all, it’s just a question of attitude!

      The other issue is about accepting that Finland has a varied history and four centuries of shared culture with Sweden, the legacy of which is a lot of citizens whose first language is Swedish. The issue is whether an advanced modern democracy like Finland is able to preserve the rights of a linguistic minority/ies. They have as much rights to be treated as equal ‘citizens of the state’. Hence their right to exist as Swedish speakers and to be able to function fully as Swedish speakers in relation to official authorities. That’s the Constitutional commitment and the bedrock for language policy in Finland.

      Yes, this is the “ideological framework”. Now we’re getting to the meat of the issue here. You just need to go a bit further and read up on current minister of justice’s language-political henchman’s (whose job is to handle “constitutional and language matters”, no less) thinking about what this actually means. We do come to my initial claim regarding Swedish having to be, in a sense, the language of everyone regardless of historical or current reality or the fairness of imposing such a situation.

      Rights of this linguistic minority could be preserved, but the point is that these rights are very extensive – the most extensive in the world, I’d say. It does not help the conversation about this matter when people see the thing as binary – either you give in to everything they demand, the way they want it, or otherwise you’re seeking to outright destroy the entire group of people and their language. The whole point is that the mechanism required to make the Fenno-Swedes feel satisfied that they are equal citizens of the state seems to require an interpretation where the language-identification of the group of “Finns” is actually dictated by law, imposing this rather invented bilinguality on everyone so that the Fenno-Swedes can’t whine that they are not “accepted by Finns” if Finns, such as myself, pretty much anchor a big deal of their Finnish identity into their mother tongue, like people generally do.

      The common history argument is interesting, by the way. It works of course both ways, but because of the perceived lesser historical “worth” of Finnish we’re the ones who are eternally doomed to play a role where no matter what we do, it will always have to be preconditioned on Swedish – lest we threaten their precious status.

      A key issue therefore is to protect against the decline of that basic status and the eventual loss of Swedish or the equal status that it currently enjoys, all of which tend to go hand in hand.

      I’m more keen on reality really than making people fit the picture of preserving some sacred status. Actual need-based minority services and their ability to do their own stuff in their own language, even with some general government support and even a genuine “opportunity” to learn Swedish for the rest of us should suffice. I actually for example do not expect the studying of Swedish to completely disappear off even if it were made voluntary, the language does have some degree of actual real need and interest among the students. But to claim that it is crucially important and loved by everyone and then not daring to test the theory against reality is just intellectually dishonest.

      The decline in the number of Swedish speakers has now stopped, but the rise of nationalism again in Finland is likely to put yet more pressure on young Finns who would otherwise be neutral or positive towards Swedish to instead take a populist and nationalist stance in order to fit in or rather, not stand out, in the face of the growling prowling mob.

      “Mob…” right… with that kind of an attitude, I cannot ever expect a fair trial from you in this matter. Btw, you really engage this idea well that is so dear to many Fenno-Swedes that if we’re too Finnish-speaking and not necessarily all that interested in Swedish, then it’s just a matter of “attitude problems” (another beautifully Orwellian phrase), and that all the opinions that are contrary to what they’re pushing (that is, everyone’s interests must be actively reserved for Swedish primarily) comes from some kind of nasty group pressure not to be a good girl and do what is told.

      I always found this very funny, because it is mostly the Swedish-proponents who regurgitate a certain kind of religious liturgy almost word for word, so that their kindred spirits would not launch into the character-assassination mode that is reserved for the critical within their “church”.

      It is not coincidence that the last great decline in Swedish speakers also coincided with a period of rampant nationalism (late 19th century).

      Yeah, the Fenno-Swedes really do find the 19th century to have been a total disaster. The Finnish-speakers should have just stayed in their cottages in the woods 🙂

      Here we, btw, find another interesting feature to this discussion that is not present anywhere else in the world where your argumentation would be refuted as trivially nonsensical – the entire Finnish-speakers’ identification “rights” issue is seen as fundamentally somehow evil, as we are not seen as “legitimate” in the same sense as Swedes are. Essentially, our language-identification is false and hence offensive to the Nordist.

      If there is one thing I am jealous of in the Swedes (as you know, we always get psychologized in these discussions as all kinds of deficients), it is their natural justification of existence. It would never occur to them that they could be the targets of the kind of backwards logic and ethics that is par for the course in our case.

      The worrying thing for me, as an outsider, is how this debate takes place in the nationalist/populist discourse. In fact, it’s clear that this discourse has its own ideological position in regard to identities, and it is monocultural and fully opposed to ‘multi-cultural’, even if that is and has been the historical reality in Finland for 500 years.

      True, the True Finns-people are more willing to say how they feel about this situation, and that is good, but the bad part is that it gives way too much ammunition to people like you who then draw this strange conclusion that all legitimate identity-talk is reserved to Fenno-Swedes, who are incredibly language-nationalistic in the Nordist sense; it often borders on the racist in the conversations I have had. They really imagine that the entire Western civilization depends on their existence here. The second flaw in the argument is that rejecting the Fenno-Swedes’ requirements and demands upon everyone is a matter of seeking to impose a collective monoculture. This is obviously wrong, but is a disturbingly common claim. And no, I really can not accept that just our existence as a majority would be our “fault” in the sense that something needs to be done to rein us in so that we couldn’t express our existence as it is.

      I know it pisses the Fenno-Swedes off that there are too many of us and that we’re able to live in ways they couldn’t have imagined a few centuries ago, but this is their intolerance, not mine.

      I really need to point out, considering you’re bringing multiculturalism into this, that the most fanatical Fenno-Swedes would disagree with you about the past 500 years… according to them, we have been remarkably monocultural — Swedish-cultural. This is not about multiculturalism, this is about the culture in Finland.

      This doesn’t ignore the issues of power and powerful Swedish families preserving their >power, but rather accepts that the ‘whole’ situation involves a very broad demographic of Swedish speakers in Finland.

      Oh, I accept that situation. They do not accept my situation, or the situation they are in.

      In other words, discussion about Swedish elites is almost always a distraction from the key issue of Swedish as a minority language, and the rights of a minority. That is, with or without the Swedish elites, the same questions would be on the table in regard to Swedish speakers as a linguistic minority in Finland.

      Without a completely lopsided historical power balance background and political/economic influence, Swedish would have been a proper minority language a long time ago. The situation like we have here today could never have occurred as some kind of natural development from “usual” minority rights considerations. The entire picture really is quite exceptional, and has more to do with ideological maneuvering of the “equal citizens” kind combined with systematic long term legislation to create more and more convenient institutions to create formal requirements to be satisfied by everyone.

      job really, otherwise you could easily see how Swedish speakers would be completely steamrolled by the nationalist mob.

      Or, could we just say, the Finnish-speakers living as they are. As I exist, I do not form a part of a nationalist mob. We are not a nationalist mob per se, just a group of people who do not adhere to the idyllic idea the Fenno-Swedes have at the back of their heads. The Finnish language policy is not some given automatic state of nature; it is very much a creation used to impose a certain state of affairs.

      This is just slander used to support a weak moral position and argument, and yet again it’s a straw man argument. You HAVE to paint the Swedish speakers in some kind of negative or elitist role so as to gloss over the real and more challenging issue of minority rights.

      The moral position and argument are just fine; I completely fail to see how exposing an obvious political gain for the Fenno-Swedes that they’re actively going for in order to bolster their case for minority rights I do not fully agree with would be a straw man. You, yourself, admit that they want to recruit more numbers for themselves to bolster their status.

      I will paint them in a different light when I have reason to do so. So far there is no reason to be naive about where their interests lie.

      Not sure what to make of this CaptainP, but it looks like you are are feeding into the ‘superiority’ status of Swedish

      It was satire of the common kind of rhetoric about “giving gifts” and Swedish being particularly associated with civilization – enough to make sure that people who don’t agree are excluded from civilization (see the infamous “mathematics argument”).

      While the presence of Swedish in our society is not a particular problem for me, seeking to enshrine it like that as a precondition for everyone, is.

      This argument of yours strikes me as a throwback to another age and pretty irrelevant in modern day Finland, though I’m sure it will play well with the general insecurity of some Finns about their national identity, an insecurity that is typically made worse by rising

      Nonsense, and the classic “insecurity” insinuation. Just because someone likes to pretend that their language must represent a precondition of being civilized for someone else, does not make it so. I see nothing irrelevant in these discussions; it is, after all, a question of a person’s worth, in a sense. In particular, when this is a life and death prestige question for the Fenno-Swedes, it must NOT be considered irrelevant for me, who must actually bring this forth in my own life to their satisfaction. I am not that magnanimous.

      The problem that you should address yourself to CaptainP is how to preserve the minority rights of Swedish speakers in Finland.

      I’d rather not; they’re well taken care of already. The issue is that the whining never stops and nothing is ever enough.

      If your agenda is to pray and hope for a Finland that is only Finnish speaking, then >clearly your entire starting point is to reject any notion of preserving the rights of a minority, and to that end, you show your obvious ignorance and antipathy.

      … which clearly demonstrates your agenda and inability see any possible other solutions to the issue. I’d like to finish by noting that you didn’t actually know what my political “program” in this matter would be.

    • Mark

      Captain Haddock

      It’s interesting to see you twisting this way and that to present this subject as anything but what it is. First you say it’s purely an ideological issue [in the derogatory sense], then its the Framework that must be obeyed, then it’s a victimhood play, then a religious sect with all its brainwashing and guilt.

      It’s none of those Captain. It’s simply a question of minority language rights.

      Said ideological frameworks hopefully reflect some sort of sense of justice though. Nazi Germany had an ideological framework that was law of the land and that a lot of people acted upon and we can pretty much see that it had quite a few issues we’d disagree with.

      The justice is equal rights and status to both language groups, irrespective of size. One nation, two languages. Not rocket science, is it.

      but I certainly disagree with your statement that I would be intentionally employing a straw man.

      Many people do not ‘intentionally’ set up a straw man argument. Many do not see and sometimes don’t want to see that the idiotic opinion that they ascribe to their ‘opponent’ has little basis in reality.

      Do you honestly think that the intention with the two languages policy of Finland is to make everyone feel that both languages are their mother tongue? Really? Honestly?

      talk of Swedish-speaking services and equality in government and so on is just a political tool for deeper ends.

      And now it’s a conspiracy theory.

      The whole point is language-identification or the lack of it in the Finnish-speaking population. They know it, they admit it, and they understand that a kind of “total control” of governmental institutions’ bilinguality lets them engage in their Orwellian “let’s HELP them speak Swedish so they are not discriminated in by our conveniently strict language requirements” later on down the road.

      Are you taking your pills Captain? lolol

      Minority language rights. I’ll keep banging it home as long as you keep dodging the issue.

      Make no mistake about it, this is not about their ability to speak Swedish or retain the language as living in Finland. It is all about “owning” everyone else on their language-political terms.

      More conspiracy nonsense. How on earth can you expect people to take you seriously when you spout this rubbish about ‘owning everyone’. Hands up those Finns that feel ‘owned’ by Swedish speaking Finns? It’s nonsense, Captain. Spitefulness and almost a blind rage towards Swedish speakers. It’s not healthy, mate. Not healthy!

      This [wheelchair access to buildings] is essentially a matter of money to build an accessible environment.

      Actually no, it’s much more than that. It has required a hard-fought and persistent lobbying within the public administrations of Finland going back to the 1970s to bring about legislation that has forced society’s actors to provide accessibility and equality. It certainly is not just about the money. Indeed, it was under the ideological banner of a ‘society for all’ that Finland developed its legislation on disability rights. You would learn a lot if you opened your eyes to this issue.

      I would also liken the Swedish language more to matters of conscience such as religion or perhaps homosexuality.

      Again, anything but what it is. It’s about minority language rights, Captain, not conscience.

      The whole point is that the mechanism required to make the Fenno-Swedes feel satisfied that they are equal citizens of the state seems to require an interpretation where the language-identification of the group of “Finns” is actually dictated by law, imposing this rather invented bilinguality on everyone so that the Fenno-Swedes can’t whine that they are not “accepted by Finns” if Finns, such as myself, pretty much anchor a big deal of their Finnish identity into their mother tongue, like people generally do.

      Gosh, and you were doing so well. I’ll take the salient words from your sentence: dictated, imposing, invented, whine.

      These are the words you choose to represent the opinions of Swedish speakers. You come across as a spiteful and small-minded man: there you go, some more negative adjectives to chew on – though you obviously have enough bile running around in that brain of yours already.

      I have a question: I don’t know you from Adam, but clearly you have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to Swedish speakers in Finland and learning Swedish. The way you refer to them is condescending, arrogant and way wide of the mark.

      So, when it comes to developing a policy to protect the rights of these people as a minority in Finland, would I trust you to develop that policy? Not on your bloody life.

      You set yourself up as the expert in the field:, you’ve seen it all, heard it all, and it’s not changed your mind one bit. How unusual. Normally when people obtain more information about the world or an issue, it does modify their view – it does provide some insight into the needs or concerns of the different sides. It’s called ‘stepping out of your own shoes’. Not for you, though. It’s hardened your views. That is not learning, that is feeding your self-importance and ignoring other people.

      Actual need-based minority services and their ability to do their own stuff in their own language, even with some general government support and even a genuine “opportunity” to learn Swedish for the rest of us should suffice.

      Don’t kid yourself for one second that that is a coherent and well-thought out policy statement. It’s fag-packet politics, Captain.

      “Mob…” right… with that kind of an attitude, I cannot ever expect a fair trial from you in this matter.

      Clearly you know very little about nationalist and populist politics and how they work. 🙂

      Here we, btw, find another interesting feature to this discussion that is not present anywhere else in the world where your argumentation would be refuted as trivially nonsensical – the entire Finnish-speakers’ identification “rights” issue is seen as fundamentally somehow evil, as we are not seen as “legitimate” in the same sense as Swedes are. Essentially, our language-identification is false and hence offensive to the Nordist.

      More paranoid nonsense. You show signs of schizophrenia mate, with your tangents, elaborations, conspiracies and deeply unresolved emotional issues in regards to Swedish speakers.

      True, the True Finns-people are more willing to say how they feel about this situation, and that is good

      Oh, stop being a pawn in their political game. Populism is all about feeding off perceived social divisions, and turning on the minorities. That is why it is scum politics. Most people in Europe used to see through it, you know, once bitten and twice shy; but nowadays, it seems the younger generations are quite happy to be emotionally manipulated into indulging in petty and imagined grievances. Do you ever wonder how Finland split along the lines of whites and reds? How does any nation manage to divide itself internally? It starts with a dehumanisation and demonisation of the ‘other’ group.

      but the bad part is that it gives way too much ammunition to people like you who then draw this strange conclusion that all legitimate identity-talk is reserved to Fenno-Swedes, who are incredibly language-nationalistic in the Nordist sense;

      Well, keep ascribing opinions to me. You know, it would be polite to ask me what I think, but then you were not being polite, were you! Not at any point since you arrived to this blog.

      That is certainly not my conclusion.

      They really imagine that the entire Western civilization depends on their existence here.

      Seriously, this sounds like paranoia. I’ve never heard Swedish Finns talk or behave this way. Never. Not even close.

      I’ll leave you with this. And an excerpt in case you cannot be bothered to follow the link:

      Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities

      4. States should, where appropriate, take measures in the field of education, in order to encourage knowledge of the history, traditions, language and culture of the minorities existing within their territory.

  6. akaaro

    I think the matter is not based on which language is better, as every language is better but if we live in bilingual country that immigrants could choose the language they are interesting more and see it is easy and faster to learn, why are not allowed to learn? Once, i asked my teacher if i could get Swedish course but he replied to me, ´´may be you can go to Vaasa or Sweden´´, then i asked again, Isn’t Finland has two national languages?. He said, ´´I see but one looks an artificial´´. After that , i realised that i can not get it unless i pay tuition fee.

  7. khr

    aakaro: When it’s to help with integration, it only makes sense to learn a language that the locals can speak. In that sense the bilinguality is artificial – the nation is bilingual, but people in general are not. Learning Swedish can get you the official services, but it won’t help in connecting to the local population.

    It is understandable that many would find Swedish the easier language to learn, but just picking the one you find more convenient won’t make the people around you speak it. (Though telling someone to move is quite rude, despite Vaasa being one of the places where choosing by personal preference could make sense).

    Learning new languages certainly does not hurt, but when the purpose of the language courses for immigrants is to help them to integrate, teaching a language that can not be used for that purpose is doing a disservice. It instils the false sense of working towards integration, until the immigrant has mastered the language well enough to figure out that the locals, in fact, do not speak Swedish.

  8. Mark

    khr

    It instils the false sense of working towards integration, until the immigrant has mastered the language well enough to figure out that the locals, in fact, do not speak Swedish.

    That really depends on where you live. What is it, over 85% of Finns live in municipalities that are bilingual to some extent.

    The key issue is why not provide opportunities for immigrants to learn both languages?

  9. khr

    Mark

    khr

    It instils the false sense of working towards integration, until the immigrant has mastered the language well enough to figure out that the locals, in fact, do not speak Swedish.

    That really depends on where you live. What is it, over 85% of Finns live in municipalities that are bilingual to some extent.

    I live in such a place too. All the large cities count as bilingual, due to the law. This might be sensible way to ensure the services, as it is the people that need them, not percentages. That does not change that I barely hear Swedish here, because the proportion of Swedish speakers is small. Thus, despite being an official language of the city, Swedish does not have the same practical value as Finnish here. Trying to keep my Swedish from detoriating too much takes effort, and in many cities the situation is even more imbalanced. An immigrant who only learns Swedish at such a location is in severe disadvantage.

    The key issue is why not provide opportunities for immigrants to learn both languages?

    I don’t have anything against that. When someone has the will and time to learn two new languages, that’s fine.

    • CptPicard

      I live in such a place too. All the large cities count as bilingual, due to the law. This might be sensible way to ensure the services, as it is the people that need them, not percentages.

      It’s also a remarkably handy way to ensure that “85% of the population lives in bilingual towns” when it’s sufficient to get those 3000 people into a city the size of Vantaa to make it officially bilingual, and hence to cause all relevant requirements to come into force. And of course the promises made when the language law was last amended that the services would be provided according to need were swiftly forgotten once the law was in force — if your town of 200k with 3000 Swedish-speakers is bilingual, it is…

      They haven’t managed to get Tampere yet, but they’re working on it :p

    • Mark

      It’s a rhetorical question, virmamatt. However, it has been said again and again that Finnish is ‘better’ in Finland, because more people speak it. But it’s a totally relative question, as I pointed out to tp1 also.

  10. tp1

    I do not think one language is better than another.Why would it be that way?

    It’s not about one language being better than another. I think “better” is totally wrong word here.

    If we talk about “useful” instead of “better” we could get to somewhere. You can definitely compare languages as which one is more useful and where.

    For example in Finland, Finnish is much more useful than France. Also in Finland Finnish is more useful that Swedish. That’s one reasons why a person living in Finland should learn Finnish instead of Swedish (ofcourse both would be better than just one).

    • Mark

      tp1

      Also in Finland Finnish is more useful that Swedish.

      Not as useful as Swedish if you live in a largely Swedish speaking area and have Swedish speaking family. It’s totally relative…

  11. tp1

    tp1Not as useful as Swedish if you live in a largely Swedish speaking area and have Swedish speaking family. It’s totally relative…

    Yes, but those factors are something that you can choose. It’s ones own choise whether to stay in Swedish speaking area or have a Swedish family 🙂 So if we are talking about Finland, we can honestly say that Finnish is more useful language than Swedish.

  12. tp1

    Mark

    You choose your family? Interesting.

    We are talking about immigrants here, right? It’s quite safe to say that immigrant doesn’t have a swedish family at starting point.

    Then, if we talk about a family which an immigrant will start while living here, he is making the choice by himself.

  13. tp1

    Adding to previous, to clarify my first point: If an immigrant would already have a swedish family, he would already speak swedish, so the question would be irrelevant in those cases.

    • Mark

      tp1

      Adding to previous, to clarify my first point: If an immigrant would already have a swedish family, he would already speak swedish, so the question would be irrelevant in those cases.

      The question being whether he should learn Swedish? Clearly, if an immigrant is happy to move to the beautiful plains of Ostrobothnia, then speaking Swedish is much more useful and significant, even if it that limits his oppportunities in other parts of Finland. Simply saying that he/she can move, or implying they should move doesn’t get away from the fact that while they are there, Swedish is A1.

      So if we are talking about Finland, we can honestly say that Finnish is more useful language than Swedish.

      This is a nonsense conclusion. If you take Finland as a whole – then yes, Finnish is more useful if you want to communicate with as many of those Finns as possible in a language that is a mother-tongue to them. But language isn’t spoken by a country, it’s spoken by individuals. And so at that pragmatic level, the status of Finnish and Swedish are entirely equal, and the question becomes totally relative. In a Swedish area and/or with a Swedish spouse, then Swedish is clearly more ‘useful’. In fact, how about ‘essential’. 😀

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