With the help of migrants, YLE Uutiset Suoralinja television program Monday at 7.20 pm wants to find out how much do Finnish and Swedish language skills help you integrate and find employment. When teaching migrants one of Finland’s two official languages, what works and what doesn’t?
One interesting question that we could ask is why are we asking this important question today? When speaking of migrant adaption, is the emphasis only language without looking at other important issues as acceptance, respect and equal opportunities?
The answer to that question could reveal a lot about how we integrate and accept newcomers to our society.
Even if we speak of two-way adaption, or integration in the integration act, the expectation and aim appears to be assimilation, or one-way adaption. This means that the migrant does all the adapting while we are not required to change at all.
This, I believe, integration in theory but assimilation is usually the rule, is the crux of the issue. Migrants, and especially Finns who control political and economic power in this country, must do much more to fuel two-way integration.
There’s nothing wrong with this, but why does the Finnish media many times picture immigrants as blacks or if they are women with head covering?
Here’s what I wrote to YLE Uutiset Suora linja:
Learning Finnish or Swedish is crucial and helps in the integration process of the newcomer. However, language is used in Finland to discriminate people and seen as a panacea on how to integrate successfully into Finnish society. Language is part of your “ethnicity” in Finnish society. Russians are white but still they suffer from discrimination.
The question we should ask as well is why aren’t there enough Finnish-language classes offered to migrants? Is this a way to “control” migrants and keep some groups on short leashes?
There are many countries like Spain that show us that language is only one important factor in the migrant’s adaption process. Why aren’t Latin Americans from Peru, Ecuador and other countries, who speak Spanish as their native language, are Catholics and live in former Spanish colonies, accepted and suffer from discrimination in Spain?
Let’s bring the issue closer to home and look at the history of the Romany minority and Saami in this country. They’ve lived here for centuries and still suffer from discrimination and social exclusion.
So, when you speak of just language as the key to Finnish integration to society and believe that this will help a migrant or a visible minority get employed, you should give that thought a major rethink.