English should be designated as an official language of contact in Greater Helsinki, according to an assessment of the metropolitan area conducted by MDI, a consultancy for regional development.
“English should be designated as the third language of contact in the metropolitan area. If Helsinki intends to become the most functional city in the world, it should be that first and foremost for the people who need the city’s services and support the most,” the assessment reads.
MDI argues that this would promote the efforts of local businesses to attract foreign workers and improve the employment prospects of immigrants.
“A relatively low level of tolerance is perceived as a threat to attracting skilled foreign workers. This is why it is necessary to promote internationalisation and tolerance among young people. At the same time it is also necessary to foster mutual trust between the region’s residents and prevent social inequalities.”
The assessment was commissioned by the Mortgage Society of Finland (Hypo), Service Union United (PAM), the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries (RT), the Building Information Group, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), and the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra).
English is already essentially the main working language in a number of pubs and restaurants in Helsinki, writes Kauppalehti.
Ville Relander, a restaurateur and shareholder in a group of Hawaiian restaurants owned by Royal Ravintolat, tells the commerce-oriented newspaper that the restaurants have staff from 30 different countries around the world, including Australia, Bangladesh and Brazil.
“English is the working language because it’s a way to make sure that all information is understood,” he explains.
“We make sure that there’s a Finnish speaker on every shift in case there’s a customer who only speaks Finnish,” he states, assuring that the policy does not oblige two Finnish speakers to communicate with each other in English.
“Helsinki gets a lot of visitors and ten per cent of its residents don’t speak Finnish,” adds Relander.
Jouko Heinonen, the head of the restaurant business at HOK Elanto, reveals that the co-operative society has relaxed its language requirements and witnessed an increase in the number of customers demanding service in English.
“We have chefs whose working language is English, but they have to know the basic terminology in Finnish,” he says, adding that the lack of language skills must neither jeopardise occupational safety nor become an obstacle during the orientation period.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi