Kolumni: Working on my finnish language skills

There have been stories on YLE recently about foreigners speaking Finnish at work. One story told that many Finnish firms expected foreign employees to have ‘native level Finnish-language’ skills. The other story was that companies are nervous about employing foreigners because their Finnish workers do not speak good English.

There are a couple of things to consider; firstly, not all immigrants speak English but not all jobs need a highly-educated worker who has learned English. Secondly, many immigrants have already learned enough to do their work in Finnish.

Compare this to my recent experience. Three months ago, I started working on a project at Sedu. I had been working to improve my Finnish skills, so when I was invited for an interview, I decided to just do it in Finnish. It lasted 45 minutes and was exhausting! The next day, however, I received a call telling me I had the job.

My induction training was also in Finnish and that is how our working relationship continued. I communicate with my colleagues in Finnish, occasionally using English to make sure we have understood important points. This means that every day at work, I am speaking, hearing, reading and writing Finnish. It is not perfect but it IS improving and my confidence is growing. I even made one colleague laugh by saying kaffe, nopiasti and komia with a Pohjanmaa accent.

I am working with two companies to help them prepare for a group of workers who will soon move to Finland. One idea we are considering is that learning workplace vocabulary could be part of their induction training. Helping them settle into a new job, in a new language, will also help them integrate into Finnish society a little more easily.

Looking at those two stories again. How much Finnish does someone need to speak on day one? Is it really important, or could someone learn the language they need on the job? Starting with basic workplace words and phrases and adding more week-by-week. I learned words on my first day that I now use all the time.

So, if you see me in town or at work, feel free to test my Finnish. It won’t be perfect, but it might be better than you’d expect.

Mark Wiltshear

yrittäjä, podcastaaja