Are you planning a move to Finland or have recently relocated? Relocating to a new country is an exciting adventure, but it also comes with a series of significant changes. Among them, one of the most crucial aspects is the Finnish language. In this blog post, we will delve into the important role that learning Finnish plays in your life in Finland, considering various factors that shape your language journey.
Defining your purpose
First and foremost, let's start with why you're moving to Finland. Your purpose significantly influences your language needs. If you're coming for an international degree programme taught in English, mastering Finnish might not be an immediate necessity. Many degree programmes incorporate basic Finnish courses as part of their curriculum. For example, during my master's studies in Finland, I had one mandatory 5-credit (ECTS) Finnish course within my degree programme. However, some students opt for additional Finnish classes during their studies to boost their language skills.
On the other hand, if your long-term goal is to settle in Finland or find employment here, starting to learn the language early on is useful. Think about whether you plan on staying in Finland for a short period, such as two years or less, or if you see yourself here for the long haul.
Navigating within Finland
In the capital region, as well as in cities like Tampere, Turku, or Oulu, English is commonly spoken, and you can usually manage without hassle. However, in smaller Finnish cities and rural areas, you'll find less use of English. Having a basic grasp of Finnish in these regions is recommendable for everyday tasks like grocery shopping, making doctor's appointments, or visiting the post office. Additionally, different regions and cities have their own dialects, making spoken Finnish challenging for foreigners when moving between different parts of Finland.
Language in your industry
Your industry also impacts your language journey. It's crucial to note that various industries require different levels of Finnish proficiency, and this also varies between academic and corporate careers.
In academia, like at the University of Turku or the University of Helsinki, English is often used among colleagues. However, in the corporate world, particularly in customer-facing roles, proficiency in Finnish can be mandatory. Researchers at universities may find most academic work conducted in English. But if you transition to a career in a medium-sized company, even a basic knowledge of Finnish can help you participate in Finnish-language team meetings and other company activities. Proficiency in Finnish is also crucial in the service industry, such as a beauty technician or waitress, as customers often expect service in the local language.
Language in everyday life
Now, let's explore how Finnish language impacts your day-to-day experiences. When talking to Finns in English, don't expect extensive small talk. English is often not their first language, and many are not comfortable with small talk.
You will likely encounter Finnish language often in everyday life - starting from bus and train announcements, grocery product labels, and most sports classes are typically in Finnish. So, understanding the language plays a significant role in your daily activities.
Personal language journeys
Every individual's language journey is unique. For example, Kristaps and I took different routes in learning Finnish. He began learning Finnish in his home country (Latvia), which made his integration much smoother after moving here. On the other hand, my learning curve was slower; I began studying Finnish in my third year in Finland. Committing to learning the language is a significant decision that requires hard work and dedication.
After 1.5 years of studying Finnish for around 3 hours per week, I have reached a beginner/intermediate level in reading and listening. Writing in Finnish is still challenging for me, and speaking is the toughest part.
For those interested in learning about expat challenges, communicating with service providers like handymen or electricians has been tricky for us. We've encountered individuals who hang up when they hear "hello." Customer service representatives, typically older, may not speak English or respond in Finnish. Experiences vary from person to person.
Finding Finnish courses in Finland
If you're ready to embark on your Finnish language journey in Finland, there are several resources and courses available to help you get started:
Finnishcourses.fi - This website offers a comprehensive list of Finnish language courses all over Finland.
University Language Centers - Many universities in Finland offer Finnish language courses for international students. Check with your university for more details.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela
In conclusion, learning Finnish can significantly improve your experience of living in Finland. But keep in mind that learning a language will require, and hard work so remember to be patient with yourself. Tailor your language journey based on your goals, area of residence, and industry you want to work in.