[lg policy] Finland: Aftermath of the Magma/Helsinki Times survey on Swedish

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 30 19:43:07 UTC 2009

Aftermath of the Magma/Helsinki Times survey on Swedish

While searching the blogosphere for responses to the survey on Swedish
culture in Finland, I came across this interesting gem [translated and
commented in Finnish on Suomi 24] by Vasa Bladet columnist Kenneth
Myntti. After summarizing the findings of the survey that was
conducted by Magma and the Helsinki Times, he moved on to describing
my efforts for getting access to Swedish language classes and how it
lead me to directly contact the Ministry of Employment on this issue.

Myntti then concludes the article by making a rather astute
observation (my own translation; apologies for any inaccuracy):
Racine simply would not give up so easily. He took the initiative to
approach the Ministry of Labor with a proposal that any foreigner who
already passed level 4 of the National Certification in Finnish
Proficiency would be admissible to study Swedish via labor training.
It was he who approached the Ministry, not the Ministry who approached
him. Is this really how things are supposed to be? Are immigrants
really expected to battle the bureaucracy just to become a part of
this country's Swedish-speaking community?
Of course not. It should be up to us to have our own "Swedish Finn
operatives" inside the bureaucracy and parliament, knocking on doors
and driving changes in policy to ensure that immigrants can have the
option to integrate with the Swedish-speaking part of the population,
if they want to.

The Swedish language has a status that is equal to the Finnish
language in this country's constitution and a direct consequence of
that ought to be a possibility to take Swedish classes on equal
footing with Finnish classes for those who chose to immigrate to our
country. That Swedish is considered easier to learn than Finnish
should in fact increase foreigners' interest in choosing Swedish as
their primary integration language. From that perspective, we could
even complement Racine's proposal by saying that any foreigner who
already achieved a sufficient level of proficiency in Swedish could be
offered Finnish classes afterwards.

In my opinion, Myntti is absolutely right. If Swedish's status as an
official language of Finland is to have any meaning, then it must be
possible to study it via Integration Act measures. However, this
country's majority speaks and has always spoken Finnish. As such, I
think that it makes perfect sense to put the emphasis on Finnish as
the primary integration language. Still, I'll emphasize that this
doesn't dispense this Government from acquitting its constitutional
obligations to safeguard the status of both official languages and, as
a direct consequence, to ensure that immigrants get equal access to
immigrant labor training in both national languages.

Basically, for as long as Swedish retains its official language
status, there can be no excuse for preventing immigrants from getting
Swedish classes via the Integration Act measures!

On a related matter...

On the issue of whether or not Swedish should be reinstated as a
compulsory subject for the matriculation exam, Prime Minister Vanhanen
said in Iltasanomat that:
Youths who couldn't give a damn about studying Swedish significantly
reduce their opportunities on the job market and they concede a
tremendous advantage to others who do speak it.

What's interesting about Vanhanen's opinion is that, while he
correctly acknowledges how a Finnish professional who doesn't master
Swedish could be seriously disadvantaged on the job market, he clearly
doesn't realize how an immigrant who only knows one of the official
languages could similarly be affected. I wonder why...


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.
(H. Schiffman, Moderator)

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to
This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list