Customers at the register of a supermarket in Sello Shopping Centre in Espoo on 8 February 2023. Finns predominantly believe that companies should provide their services to consumers primarily in Finnish or Swedish, reveals an online survey conducted for Oma Kieli. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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A HIGH NUMBER of Finns are uneasy with the idea of English gaining ground at the expense of Finnish and Swedish, indicates a survey commissioned by Oma Kieli.

Roughly 85 per cent of the survey respondents stated that they agree fully or partly with the statement that companies should serve consumers primarily in Finnish or Swedish. Only around 10 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement.

English being the only language of service was regarded as discriminatory by 82 per cent and not as discriminatory by 16 per cent of the respondents.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the respondents agreed with the statement that the widespread availability of services in English will discourage immigrants from developing their Finnish or Swedish skills. Nearly a quarter (23%) of the respondents disagreed, fully or partly, with the statement.

The respondents also estimated predominantly that learning one of the national languages as soon as possible will enable immigrants to integrate into society faster, with 91 per cent agreeing and 6 per cent disagreeing with the statement.

English has gained ground over the years in education and working life, but it appears that the development is perceived primarily negatively.

Well over half (61%) of the respondents agreed and 29 per cent disagreed with the statement that labour productivity will suffer from using English at a Finnish workplace. Using English is also estimated to have a negative impact on the quality of education, with 72 per cent agreeing and 21 per cent disagreeing with the statement that providing instruction in a language that is foreign for most students will undermine the quality of education in Finland.

The respondents also expressed their disapproval with the effort to portray Finland as a country where people can get by in English: 70 per cent of the respondents agreed and 24 per cent disagreed with the statement that you should not portray Finland as a country where you can live in English.

The results also suggest a broad-based appreciation for the two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. As many as 85 per cent of the respondents agreed and 14 per cent disagreed with the statement that it is important that all Finns and permanent residents of the country know either Finnish or Swedish.

The survey was conducted for Oma Kieli, an organisation promoting the role of Finnish and Swedish as the primary languages in Finland, in September by Verian. The 1,338 people who responded to the survey represent the over 18-year-old population of Mainland Finland.

The second and third part of the survey will be published later, shedding light on public views on the national languages, English in different sectors of society and language policy regulation.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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