According to the interesting Expat Insider 2021 survey (3), Finland is in the top 5 for quality of life, but even 50 % of expats are pessimistic about the local career opportunities. Surprising? Despite possibilities to communicate in English (75% of respondents agree that you can get by without speaking the local language), it is considered hard to get used to the local culture and make local friends. Also, even 71% struggle with learning the local language (vs. 42% globally).
Good reasons to invest in language learning?
Finnish workplaces are getting more and more international, but knowledge of the local language is still required in most organisations, for both finding employment and advancing in a career (2). Even if the working language is English, Finnish is often used in various communication situations (4).
Requirements related to language skills naturally vary depending on the job description and the industry. According to a survey by the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce (2), already the beginners’ level A1 is of advantage to get at least an internship. The intermediate level B1 enhances remarkably the chances to get at least an internship (enough for 65% of the companies). Most of the companies (about 65%) require at least the independent level B2 in skilled worker positions and the advanced level C1-C2 in expert and management positions.
On the whole, knowledge of the local language provides many benefits. Already presenting yourself, having simple small talk and understanding main points in everyday conversations make you feel more connected to the language community. By using the local language you show your interest and commitment in an efficient and convincing way. Language skills widen your career opportunities to the public sector, smaller local companies and entrepreneurship. At the same time, language skills increase your sense of control and well-being by enabling you to follow the information flow in your everyday living environment (4,6).
Identify the motivating language learning strategies
Are you one of those struggling with learning Finnish? If yes, you are not the only one! The structure and vocabulary do differ a lot from at least the Indo-European languages. Nevertheless, to learn any new language, you have to be exposed to it (a lot), and work on it (a lot). What you really need is to find and keep up your motivation. According to theories of functional language learning (1,7) the best way to learn the language is to integrate it into your everyday life in the ways that you like. There are lots of good language courses, books and online materials available, but the key is to recognise the opportunities to use the language and apply your skills in your environment.
The super-talented language learner Brasilian Gustavo (Brassinyymi) has learned Finnish with the help of Finnish metal music, Fred Karlssons Grammar book and Uusi kielemme website. He listens to Yle news in Easy Finnish and chats in Omegle. Of course not everybody has to be able to do the same, but there are methods for everyone to make language learning easier, faster and funnier.
First, focus on what is relevant to you. Second, keep your eyes, ears and mouth open. You need to listen a lot, make observations – and imitate. Start using the language straight from the beginning. There is no need to be fluent before starting! Also, don’t give up if the answer is in English (Finns are still very stubborn to switch into English instead of supporting Finnish language learning)! If you feel shy, you can speak first to your flowers or cats. After that, there is no limit for imagination.
You can search for other language learners and set up a language club, find a language mate in Lango or join a language cafe. You can join a Facebook or a hobby group that are of your interest, watch films e.g. in Yle Kielikoulu or listen to music, sing along and write the missing words (lyrics training). In the learning process, instead of thinking about everything you cannot do, it is important to enjoy learning and feel good about all the situations you can already manage.
Language skills requirements seem to be sometimes even unnecessarily high, but there are also some positive signals in sight. Employers seem to be more and more willing to support the language learning process at work (8). This indeed is highly recommendable: professional language skills related to specific work can only be acquired in real-life work environments (5). Finland and Finnish organisations must open themselves more to Finnish speakers who are not fluent.
From another perspective, learning a new language is not connected only to concrete usefulness related to employment or career opportunities. Have you had the experience of really diving into the new language, starting to think directly through it? Have you felt the joy of becoming a member of a language speakers’ group? Learning a new language not only opens doors to work opportunities, society and culture. It is an inspiring possibility to find new ways to be you and what you could be.
We support you!
Metropolia supports your Finnish language learning in many ways.
- Degree students in Metropolia: Find a Finnish course for your needs offered by your degree programme or in Elective language studies. Ask also your degree programme and/or Finnish teacher about other possibilities to further your language learning during your studies: could you integrate Finnish into your studies or focus more on your language skills during the work placement? (Read about Ahmet’s experiences: Courage to use Finnish – growing into a professional). Find tips and materials to learn the language in the Job Teaser resources.
- Other language learners: Check the selection of Finnish courses available in Metropolia Open UAS in 2021 and find a course for your needs. If you are searching for a job and you already know the basics of the language, find my Youtube videos Kerro itsestäsi työnantajalle 1-3 minuutissa and Tervetuloa työhaastatteluun.
Eevamaija Iso-Heiniemi works as a S2-teacher (Finnish as a second language) in Metropolia and SIMHE Continuation project.
- Aalto, Eija, Mustonen, Sanna & Tukia, Kaisa 2009. Funktionaalisuus toisen kielen opetuksen lähtökohtana. Virittäjä 3. 402–423. Viewed on 31 May 2021.
- Helsingin seudun kauppakamari, 2018. Yritysten kokemukset ulkomaisesta työvoimasta työmarkkinoilla. Katsaus koulutettujen maahanmuuttajien sijoittumiseen Helsingin seudun työmarkkinoille (pdf). Viewed on 11 June 2021.
- Internations 2021. Expat Insider 2021 survey report. Viewed on 15 June 2021.
- Jäppinen, Tuula 2010. Suomi (S2) korkeakoulutettujen työssä – Millainen kielitaito riittää? Soveltavan kielitieteen tutkimuksia AfinLA-e. Published on 14 January 2011. Viewed on 15 June 2021.
- Komppa, Johanna 2015. Työnantajan odotukset, työntekijän vastuu ja työyhteisön tuki. Näkökulmia korkeakoulutettujen maahanmuuttajien ammatillisen suomen oppimiseen. Soveltavan kielitieteen tutkimuksia AFinLA-e. Published on 13 January 2016. Viewed on 27 May 2021.
- Lehtimaja, Inkeri 2017. Korkeakoulutetun maahanmuuttajan oikeus oppia Suomea (pdf). Kieliverkoston verkkolehti Kieli, koulutus ja yhteiskunta. Viewed on 31 May 2021.
- Mitchell, Rosamund & Myles, Florence 1998: Second language learning theories. London. Arnold.
- Taloustutkimus Oy. 2020. Kotona Suomessa – Selvitys maahanmuuttajien rekrytoimisesta: Tutkimusraportti (pdf). Kotona Suomessa -hanke, Elinkeino-, liikenne- ja ympäristökeskus. Published on 15 May 2020. Viewed on 2 June 2021.
- Yle News: Brasilialaismies tahtoo Suomeen niin kovasti, että alkoi tubettaa suomeksi. Published on 13 May 2021. Viewed on 15 June 2021.