Language is not always your passport to inclusion and acceptance

by , under Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Some politicians and social workers in this country believe that integration is only possible after an immigrant learns  the Finnish or Swedish language. This may be true but there are other factors that  play equally important roles in the integration process of an immigrant.  

An immigrant will have to pass many checkpoints before he is accepted as a member of Finnish society. How many and what those checkpoints are is open to debate.

Promising an immigrant that he’ll be integrated as soon as he learns the language is a bit like telling a child: “When you grow up you’ll have a wife, children and be successful.”

If language were a panacea to an immigrant’s integration problems, why is social exclusion still a problem among the Romany minority, which have lived in this country for centuries?

Another interesting group we could cite are the Latin Americans of Spain. The majority of them speak Spanish as their mother tongue, they are familiar with Spanish culture, and are even Catholics. Despite their command of the most widely spoken language of Spain and knowledge of the local culture, why do some groups like the Bolivians, Ecuadorians and blacks suffer from high unemployment and social exclusion?

What would you say if a person has lived most of his life in Finland, speaks Finnish as a native but admits: “The worst thing in Finland is that if you have a different religion, culture and language, you are left on the fringes of society. No matter how much you try to integrate you are always left outside.”

Would enrolling in a Finnish-language course be the solution?

Probably not.

The three examples above suggest that integration is a more complex matter than just learning a new language. Attitudes and acceptance by the host society may play equally important roles in the integration process of an immigrant.

One of the reasons why too many politicians and social workers like to speak of integration in simple learn-language terms may be because they are unaware of a wider problem.

As long as we don’t address that side of the integration problem, which is acceptance by the host society, we will never challenge the wider problem of integration effectively.

  1. Akaaro

    MT,
    The problem that immigrants can not integrate into major society isnot the language as you already mentioned but many other factors that Finnish culture has causes the barrier such as prejudice and holding grudges against non-finns. How can we say, child born in Finland does not able to integrate because of the language. The case is that politicians and social workers are incompetents of creating workable society. I very surprised and feel sad when i hear that fallacy stories made by this government.

  2. Akaaro

    There are many wrong things in the system here or may be immigrants too. but what keeps me awake at night is how can a child born in Finland being said to be refugee? what is meant the granted citizenship if s/he is still a foreigner.

  3. Akaaro

    MT ”Promising an immigrant that he’ll be integrated as soon as he learns the language is a bit like telling a child: “When you grow up you’ll have a wife, children and be successful.”

    Yes, it is true what is going on here is like that.

  4. I am

    Some politicians and social workers in this country believe that integration is only possible after an immigrant learns the Finnish or Swedish language.

    Thats not true, oh nooooooo, u some politicians and social workers, how many times talked to a foreigner like me face to face? Please answer to me if u really think about problems in this society????
    Answer to me if u really want solution?????
    For me ur language is not difficult, not at all, but when u just have yourself for learn it, school cant help for enough, so u need contact with people and thats matter, because u cant, tahts difficult if u dont accept me here,
    YES YES YES
    A bitter fact, thats
    As Enrique said, and he well said, language is not panacea, ha ha ha ha true, i love what Enrique said, this brave and intellignet man, bravooooo Enrique.
    Enrique is active in his way, believes and ideas, being active is a best subject for a human, i wnat say we need active rolers too, here in Finland.
    Language is not a medicine, is not a wise and magic, its not a miracle, noooooooo
    U politicians should talk to me for know me more, if u be proud of yourself, of ur knowledge, of ur empty ways, of ur language, of ur system, of ur law, of ur face,color, race, situation in ur life, then forget it, forget it, u cant change anything here.
    Peace and joy to Finalnd, peace and love to the world

  5. Kanerva

    I think the title of your post today is misleading. It’s one of many steps towards integration. Finland needs a dedicated system of integration where EVERY immigrant’s needs are evaluated. Now I’ve lived here 10 years plus, and never been involved in any type of integration programme. Finnish for Foreigners is the closest I came to learning about Finnish culture from any official body. (That was adult education class in Rauma btw).

    Yet, I feel integrated into Finland! I know that I’m not Finnish, even if I now hold a Finnish passport. I do however feel that I am a part of Finnish society.

    I feel accepted.

    My attitude in this is the key. If my attitude is ‘sob sob, Finland sucks, Finland hates me’ then of course that will show in my dealings, words and actions. It’s exactly the same if I go to a shop to complain about shoddy product. If I go in all huffy puffy, your product sucks, then the storekeeper is naturally not going to be open in listening to my complaint. His response will be just as aggressive.

    On another not so unrelated note, I feel that people play the racism card far too quickly and easily. Xenophobia is the larger problem in Finland.

    True, our civil servants and social workers have no idea what individuals go through to integrate. Every immigrants journey is different. Some have it (relatively) easy. I say relatively because there is NOTHING easy about moving to a new country. We need more persons from immigrant background to work in these areas, to change the system from within and to educate the broader public.

    I think this is one of your better posts Enrique, it’s just a shame that you stopped just when you were getting started.

    BTW: I’ve never been told that speaking Finnish will mean you accepted. I’ve been told that speaking Finnish will help me understand Finns and Finland. True.

  6. Akaaro

    Kanerva ”Finnish for Foreigners is the closest I came to learning about Finnish culture from any official body. (That was adult education class in Rauma btw).”

    You were lucky to get a language school in that easy way, i have applied for finnish course at ITIS aikuislukio but it was like US lottery, i tried three lotteries but i won the last one. we were 120 applicants and the school needed 25 students only.

  7. justicedemon

    Kanerva

    Let me guess: you are white and you have either always had a job or you haven’t had to work outside the home. You are also not especially ambitious. You have a largely Finnish family and your Finnish acquaintances are largely from the university-educated middle and upper-middle professional classes. Those acquaintances are fluent in your native language and this is still your principal vehicle of communication with them. The foreign origin of your children is almost or entirely invisible.

    There is nothing wrong with such a profile, but it hardly represents the sharp end of immigrant integration.

    Finland needs a dedicated system of integration where EVERY immigrant’s needs are evaluated.

    Absolutely, but this point was only officially recognised about 8 months ago. This recognition was an important advance, but we are still a very long way from understanding various integration styles and identifying optimal integration practices. The mechanism of acculturation remains quite mysterious.

  8. Sasu

    On totta että kieli seinämä jonka yli on päästävä jos aikoo integroitua tai edes selvitä. Mutta kieli on enemmänkin työkalu kuin avain. Sillä sinä pääset sisään yhteiskunta dynamiikkaan mutta se ei taa yhtään mitään muuta.

    Integraatio sinäänsä ei merkitse nyt hirveesti mitään. Se tarkoitttaa vain, että sinä kykenet elämään suomessa itsenäisesti, ei muuta. Se ei tarkoita että sinua pidettäisiin suomalaisena. Värillisten este ei sinäänsä ikinä ole ollut kieli vaan, yleinen oletus että vain valkoinen voi olla suomalainen. Värillisenä sinä olet oleva muukalainen joko negatiivisella tavalla tai eksoottisella tavalla. Kumpikin lähestymis tapa on surkea

  9. I am

    Kanerva hi,

    My attitude in this is the key. If my attitude is ‘sob sob, Finland sucks, Finland hates me’ then of course that will show in my dealings, words and actions. It’s exactly the same if I go to a shop to complain about shoddy product. If I go in all huffy puffy, your product sucks, then the storekeeper is naturally not going to be open in listening to my complaint. His response will be just as aggressive.

    Dear kanerva,
    OOOOOPS please,
    U mean i should say oh Finland loves me and then all will be okay???
    So if in the middle of cold, dark winter u kanerva say, oh i love it, its a beautiful summer, everywhere is flower and grass, then will be summer and hot weathe ur cold winter???

    Its not complain when u talk about the fact, no please also rolers should, must listen to complaints otherwise how they can find solution????
    They cant keep close their ears if they want be useful for darling Finland.
    No/one say Finland is bad, Finland is a country, a land, and a land has not spirit for be bad or good, but system and rolers, racist, and many other things can makes problems, for me i love Finland with all details in this land, forests, lakes,…,.. even cold weather, now i used to live here, aaaaaaaaaand,
    Ha ha ha ha storekeeper should be very careful about me if i complain him because am a customer and all know that a customer is very important for ur store, ha ah ha
    WOW then a roler must be more careful because aggressive is not good for his health and society, LOL
    Politic does not work with aggressive but with wise.
    Okay Kanerva how r u now?
    R u a roler? R u angry at me now? or u have ur open hugs for me???? LOL
    Best to me, MT, U kanerva, Finland and the world

  10. D4R

    The most critical checkpoint that immigrant has to pass in Finland is skin color, most jobs will not even consider taking you if your skintone is black, beause there seem to be some circle wich doesnt like black to be around. Sometimes matters can be hopeles for a darkskin person like me here, and this is not a complaint, this is telling dissatisfaction.

  11. D4R

    Kanerva: Yet, I feel integrated into Finland! I know that I’m not Finnish, even if I now hold a Finnish passport. I do however feel that I am a part of Finnish society.

    I feel accepted.

    What is the color of your skintone?

  12. D4R

    Kanerva: My attitude in this is the key. If my attitude is ‘sob sob, Finland sucks, Finland hates me’ then of course that will show in my dealings, words and actions.

    What do you know about what other immigrants go through or what kind of welcoming they received? you had it the easy way, i get the picture that you never had to struggle in Finland, not racially or economically, so who’re you to speak for other immigrants, about their attitutde? i think you’re rude for saying stuff above.

  13. D4R

    Sasu: Integraatio sinäänsä ei merkitse nyt hirveesti mitään. Se tarkoitttaa vain, että sinä kykenet elämään suomessa itsenäisesti, ei muuta. Se ei tarkoita että sinua pidettäisiin suomalaisena. Värillisten este ei sinäänsä ikinä ole ollut kieli vaan, yleinen oletus että vain valkoinen voi olla suomalainen. Värillisenä sinä olet oleva muukalainen joko negatiivisella tavalla tai eksoottisella tavalla. Kumpikin lähestymis tapa on surkea

    Olen samaa mieltä sasun kanssa tästä, Sasu osui naulan kantaan. Miten muuten selitätte että olen asunut Suomessa 22vuotta ja en tunne olavani integroitunut Suomeen, onko syy minussa vai yhteiskunnassa, olen kyllä yrittänyt integroituta mutta tuloksetta, olen nyt siinä pisteessä että en jaksa, olen sulkeutunut kotiini, se on nyt minun maailmani, olen täysin erakko, ja ei siinä mitään, mä nautin siitä, mutta en usko että Suomeen tulen integroitumaan, olen siinä asiassa luovuttanut.

  14. Karsu

    ” If language were a panacea to an immigrant’s integration problems, why is social exclusion still a problem among the Romany minority, which have lived in this country for centuries?”

    Do not forget that the Roma do not want to integrate, sometimes they are not even allowed to do so. You better study the Roma culture a little. 🙂

    • Migrant Tales

      –Do not forget that the Roma do not want to integrate, sometimes they are not even allowed to do so. You better study the Roma culture a little.

      How do you define “integrated,” Karsu? In your book what must an immigrant do in order to be integrated into Finnish society?

  15. Yossie

    “olen sulkeutunut kotiini, se on nyt minun maailmani, olen täysin erakko, ja ei siinä mitään, mä nautin siitä”

    Hahaha! Hieno mies! Elätkö vaimon rahoilla vai oletteko molemmat sosiaalipummeja? Ja vielä pidät siitä? Oikea malli esimerkki penskoilles.

  16. D4R

    Yossie: “olen sulkeutunut kotiini, se on nyt minun maailmani, olen täysin erakko, ja ei siinä mitään, mä nautin siitä”

    Hahaha! Hieno mies! Elätkö vaimon rahoilla vai oletteko molemmat sosiaalipummeja? Ja vielä pidät siitä? Oikea malli esimerkki penskoilles.

    Hahahahaha. Ei, en elä vaimon rahalla, vaan päinvastoin, käyn duunissa ja sit tulen suoraan kotiin, koska ei ole muuta paikkaa misää tuntisin itseni tervetulleeksi paitsi kotona, sitä se on kun joudut yhteiskunnan ulkopuolelta, mutta mitä sinä siitä ymmärtäisit, ethän sinä ole se jota on laitettu yhteiskunnan ulkopuolelle.

  17. Yossie

    D4R

    Siis olet saannut työpaikan, sinulla on suomalainen vaimo, silti muka olet yhteiskunnan ulkopuolella? Mitäköhän meidän suomalaisten nyt sitte pitäisi käytännössä tehdä että herra tuntisi olonsa kotoisaksi?

  18. Akaaro

    Yossie
    I know that if your daugther marry a foreigner, actually you discriminate her because of her husband’s color or race.

  19. Foreigner

    Learning the language helps in the integration process here in Finland, but only a little.
    To be fully integrated as an immigrant here in Finland, you most definitely need to have the right skin tone as well as hair colour, and be from one of those countries Finns look up to, eg the USA and Germany etc. Might sound trivial, but all of these play a major role in how well you will be accepted by the Finns.

    Those who do not possess the physical attributes mentioned above, need to sell their very souls in order to be accepted. That means that they have to denounce everything from their own culture, and wholeheartedly embrace everything from the Finnish culture.That also includes having limited contact with others from your original culture. I have known immigrants in Finland who have become complete “uncle Toms” in order to gain the acceptance of the Finns. Sad, but true!