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 "Finland Swede 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 high school matriculation exam, Prime Minister Matti 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...


ulrik said...

Intressant! Här i Sverige (iaf i här Skåne) vet vi väldigt lite om Finska inrikesfrågor och vad som händer i finlandssvenska frågor. Man blir förvånad hur lite utbyte det är över huvud taget bland alla skandinaviska språk, som norska samt svenska i sverige och svenska i finland -- ett resultat av väldigt nationscentriska eller centralstyrda länder i Norden.

erik skön said...

Jag misstänker att Vanhanen, trots sitt vackra uttalande om nationalspråket svenska, lever kvar i den tid då det starkt ifrågasattes om svenskspråkiga orter alls skulle få ta emot flyktingar. Flyktingar till svenskaspråkiga orter innebär flera som talar svenska i Finland. När finskspråkiga flyttar in till svenskspråkiga orter vägrar dessa ofta att tala ortens språk. De kräver att ortsbefolningen ska börja tala inflyttarnas språk.
Tarja Halonen var den minister som gav svenskspråkiga orter rätt att ta emot flyktingar.

Unknown said...

I'm having my own set of occasional troubles in getting government agencies to realize that it is valid for foreigners to want to use Swedish in Finland. Please keep up your work.

Martin-Éric said...

Peter: if you have concrete examples of what sort of difficulties you encounter with the bureaucracy, I'd love to meet you to discuss them. Your experiences could be useful empirical evidence, at a committee where I've recently been nominated, to better map out the needs of Nordic workers relocating to Finland.

PS: this point is valid for other Nordic migrants as well. Please contact me if you have concrete situations to bring to our attention and, preferably if you can propose simple solutions to remedy them.

Unknown said...

Btw. It's spelled Vasabladet. :-)