Finnish language is no magic bullet to integration

by , under All categories, Enrique

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.

  1. eyeopener

    Hi Enrique.

    Bullets are dangerous. Especially when you want to address a “slippery topic” as integration.

    Bullets kill. Integration aims at creating life.

    Bullets are the means to death. Language is the means of life, the exchange of thought and the source of renewal.

    But language can become bullets when it is used in the way some political parties are using it currently.

    Language becomes a bullet when it is used as the “door to perception” of a single cultural view.

    Language is a bullet when it is used to make a difference between “you and me” or “we and they”.

    Language used to connect people, understand people and understand values the people carry.

    Language is universal in botherhood but unfortunately also in enmity

    That’s why it’s such an easy tool to “make the difference”

    • Enrique

      Eyeopener, very well said! I have said this before but when I was a junior reporter a long time ago, an editor said basically the same thing: Don’t overkill when writing on a topic or person because words are like bullets. Like any weapon, you must learn how to use it even though I do not like to use guns or anything lethal.

      These anti-immigration extremists in Finland have found an easy target and use their racism to overkill immigrants and minorities. They use a bazooka to kill a fly. Their racism and hatred permits them to “kill” others.

  2. Martin-Éric

    Teaching people to speak Finnish will not magically make jobs appear out of thin air. Let’s face it: this country’s main problem is not how much or how little its immigrants speak Finnish. Rather, it’s that this country essentially has no entrepreneurial spirit and it leaves too many people jobless since nobody is hiring. Also, becoming self-employed solves nothing; demand for someone’s skills doesn’t magically increase as a result of launching your own company, much even less in a market without any purchasing power. As a result, those with the option to leave indeed go to countries with a thriving employment scene. Others who don’t have that option are stuck here and cannot find any meaningful employment. This affects Finns and foreigners alike; some Finns are not ina position where they would have the luxury to leave, too, due to family ties and whatnot.

  3. eyeopener

    @ Enrique.

    This I have seen so many times: Shooting with an ground-to-air missile at a mosquito!! A lot of people are impressed by such a demonstration of uselessness. It is because they themselves fail to have proper reasons and arguments and can’t make a discretion between cause and effect.


  4. eyeopener

    @ Martin-Eric.

    Teaching people to speak Finnish will not magically make jobs appear out of thin air. Let’s face it: this country’s main problem is not how much or how little its immigrants speak Finnish

    Fully agree with you Eric

    Rather, it’s that this country essentially has no entrepreneurial spirit and it leaves too many people jobless since nobody is hiring.

    Here I disagree. Entrepreneurial spirit in Finland is according to the field of research not more or less than other countries in the world. However, starting a business is something else. In this respect Finland scores pretty low. The latest Finnish survey in the field shows the Finns do rate Entrepreneurship high. This is in strong contrast with the willingness to start a business. An explanation could be the “uncertainty-avoidance” element in the Finnish identity.

    Language is never a problem for those who have to offer jobs. The employment-owners decide who they take in and who not. See the reasons for outsourcing or off-shoring.

    Therefore, in a globalized and “flat world” as today the existence of foreigners in a country is a miniscule minor factor. The right wing shoots with an air-to-air missile at the wrong bat. Double waste of time,money and useful animals. But it looks mighty impressive!!

    Maybe I agree with you on the last on. As long as people can decide what’s right or wrong they argue that “own people” in our case “Finns” have OF COURSE the right to improve themselves. For the country you might call it “BrainDrain” or “MainDrain”. The abandonded places are taken by foreigners. SHAME ON THEM!! THEY TAKE OUR PLACES. What!!!!!! Who decides on employment. Employers. Correct!!

    Right wing activists shoot with the wrong weapons at the wrong people with the wrong effect. We already knew that for a long long time. It’s good that we do not have weaponary workshops in this field.

    Entrepreneurial spirit??? Thanks God.

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