Helsinki has one of the world’s highest business start-up rates and is home to many exciting firms that form part of the digital technology industry. Yet, a lack of skilled international workers has led the mayor of Finland’s capital city to suggest that English could become an official language. What is the background to this and what difference could it make to companies and workers in the future?
Helsinki’s mayor, JuhanaVartiainen, suggested that a lot of skilled foreign workers could be avoiding Helsinki because of language issues. Finnish and Swedish are both official languages in the country, and many companies look for all employees to speak Finnish.
The severe shortage of professionals in the technology sector has led to Finland encouraging overseas workers to relocate here, with a 90-day trial program allowing them to carry out a trial run in the Nordic country before deciding whether to make the move permanent.
The Finnish Language
The Finnish language is extremely difficult for foreigners to learn, as it has 15 grammatical cases and no words in common with Latin or Germanic languages. The United States’ Foreign Service Institute rates Finnish alongside the likes of Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, as the most challenging languages for English speakers to get to grips with.
This is stated as part of the reason why more than a third of overseas students who graduate in Finland leave less than a year after finishing their studies, with high taxes and the bureaucracy surrounding immigration other potential sticking points.
A look online shows that many of the top-ranking websites in Finland are worldwide favourites like YouTube and Facebook, although the Finnish language newspaper Ilta-Sanomat has a site that is also ranked highly in terms of monthly visitors. Iltalehti is a Helsinki-based newspaper that also has a highly popular website in the local language.
Online entertainment in Finnish can be found on sites such as casinos and it is a simple task to find a site that compares different online casinos that operate in Finnish. These include Otto Kasino and Super Nopea, which both offer fast payment options and new player bonuses to welcome newcomers.
According to the Mondly site, an English speaker could learn the easiest languages, such as Spanish, Dutch or French in about 600 hours. However, Finnish is in the top tier of the most difficult languages, with an estimated 1,100 hours of study needed to become proficient in it.
What is the Possible Solution?
Mayor Vartiainen has been quoted by the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper as stating that Helsinki could “call itself an English-speaking city”. This would mean that anyone who speaks English wouldn’t be required to learn Finnish or Swedish to work there.
Vartiainen admitted that the country had failed in its attempts to bring in more foreign professionals and that there is a growing realisation of the need to turn to an employment-based immigration policy. He also pointed out that English education could be improved in primary schools and kindergartens.
It is clear to see the desire to keep Helsinki as one of the planet’s top locations for cutting-edge new businesses. Putting a greater emphasis on English could prove to be a key decision that helps the Finnish capital to carry on growing.