In English, please

The region of Ostrobotnia would have lots to gain giving English a strong official status. Today it is fair to say that basic knowledge in English is more to be regarded as general knowledge than as a linguistical skill.

The region of Ostrobotnia in Western Finland could easily adapt English as a more or less official language. Most of everything that is done on daily basis today could be handled just as well in English as in Finnish or Swedish.

A rapidly increasing part of the population has at least basic knowledge in English. That makes it in some senses strange that many paths to a job, a career and social mobility is closed, if you don´t handle Finnish and Swedish. Many employers expect effective bilinguality from workers.

Something that many customers expect but we should more and more think about the consequences from these demands. A wast minority in Ostrobotnia are effectively bilingual in Swedish and Finnish. Knowledge in the second language is often intermediate or poor. But even if you handle the other language fairly good, you are not considered bilingual!

That means that Finnish speaking young people often find career in other parts of Finland when their Swedish is not good enough and their Swedish speaking neighbours find good employment in Sweden or a country where they can manage in English.

But it does not stop there. There are lots of people that has studied abroad, gotten a job and never had a chance to practice Swedish or Finnish. They might have gotten families with partners that often don’t have any knowledge in any of the languages. But they might have a good education. These families will most likely never find their way to Ostrobotnia.

The quest for effective bilinguality can probably never be achieved. Every now and then you find people from other countries with good knowledge in Swedish or Finnish, but almost never in both.

So where are we then? We could also talk about immigrants that never get the chance to do what they are educated for, just because they will never reach bilinguality or good enough capacity in Swedish or Finnish. Effectively closing all doors to social mobility and careers.

Looking at our kids today, many of them, already at kindergarten, express themselves in English with full sentences, with a nice American accent.

Are we doing something wrong here?

In business today many companies are adapting English as common language making it possible for managers, specialists and employees from all over the world to make a good job and find a career in a Finnish company. In the agricultural sector English makes workers from all over the world get by and getting the job done. In the service sector you meet cleaners, waiters, shop owners and clerks giving you first class service, in English.

People are more and more accepting this, but not necessarily if it is a Finn behind the counter, not being able to handle a Finnish- or Swedishspeaking customer in their motherthounge. Is that reasonable or even fair?

It has happened when I´ve adressed a Finnishspeaking clerk or waiter in Swedish that they respond in English. I often felt quite strange about it before and often switched to Finnish to get rid of an uncomfortable situation.

Now I am more and more getting the feeling that perhaps we should just accept English, give it space and give everyone in Ostrobotnia that can make themselves understood in English a chance to get a job and a career. I feel in many ways it is the only fair and sustainable way forward if we want to succeed in a more and more global, homogeneous and English-driven world community.

For Ostrobotnia it means, in the end, that we will get the workers, the specialists, the investments and the interest from international companies that we so badly are looking for.


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