Study: Discussion on status of English in Finland needs new direction
A recent study coordinated by the University of Eastern Finland examines the status of English in three areas of Finnish society: public administration, higher education and the business sector. According to its findings, there are currently very few signs that Finland’s national languages – Finnish and Swedish – are becoming marginalised in Finland. While the public debate has focused on the idea that English threatens the position of the national languages in Finland, the study does not corroborate this observation.
The results of the study show that Finland is clearly the main language used in Finland. English is the second most commonly used language in the country and is widely used especially in higher education institutions and the business sector. Swedish is primarily needed in the business sector and public administration.
The study finds that there is no reason to restrict or narrow the position of English through legislative means, as doing so would have a negative impact on the activities of organisations and communities. Designating English as a third national language would not be a workable solution either.
The study shows that there is a need for clearer language policy in society, its institutions and work communities so that all Finns can feel welcome in Finnish society.
The five main results of the study can be summarised as follows:
- Finland is clearly the main language used in Finland, and it is important to ensure that this remains the state of affairs.
- English is one of the key languages used in multilingual Finland, but its role and significance vary considerably depending on the field, task and situation.
- English plays an important role in certain areas of society. According to the results of the survey, restricting the use of English could cause significant harm to international cooperation, and would make it more difficult for international experts, workers and students to come to Finland and integrate into society.
- The results of this study do not justify opposing or prohibiting the use of English in situations where people do not have another common language. The study supports flexible multilingualism in all areas under investigation.
- As Finland becomes more multilingual, it is important to ensure that discussions on the position of English are conducted objectively and that assessments of its functions and necessity in society are based on systematic research data.
The study is part of the implementation of the Government’s plan for analysis, assessment and research for 2023.
Inquiries: Mikko Laitinen, Professor, University of Eastern Finland, tel. +358 50 441 2389, mikko.laitinen(at)uef.fi
The Government’s joint analysis, assessment and research activities (VN TEAS) produce data used to support decision-making, everyday operations and knowledge-based management. They are guided by the Government’s annual plan for analysis, assessment and research. The content of the reports published in the publication series of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities is the responsibility of the producers of the data in question and does not necessarily represent the view of the Government. For more information, visit https://tietokayttoon.fi/en.