International staff and the Finnish language

Juttu on julkaistu HYTin blogissa joulukuussa 2019.

Nafisa Yeasmin. Photo: Milla Talassalo

Dr. Nafisa Yeasmin from the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland received  FUURT’s Academic of the Year award this October. In Acatiimi magazine’s interview she expresses her pleasure with the fact that the number of international scholars in Finland continues to increase. That is something I am sure we can all take delight in.

The University of Helsinki´s academic community has about 1,100 international members, 24% of the whole academic staff. In this situation, it is natural to use English as a means of communication also in Helsinki. After all, English is the de facto lingua franca of science and research.

What the international staff, however, also needs is the opportunity to learn the language of the surrounding community, Finnish. The university as an employer should provide its international employees with better opportunities to learn Finnish than it currently does. Trying to find a job in Finland outside the academia is much easier if one knows a bit of Finnish. To quote Dr. Nafisa Yeasmin herself in Acatiimi:

”Integration is a two-way process. Immigrants need to feel that they belong to society, and local people need to meet and get to know immigrants. This is why I started to study Finnish as soon as I and my family arrived. I felt it was necessary to learn the language to work here. I was also considering the integration process of my children. I wanted to be able to communicate with the day care personnel and teachers, and help my children to do their homework in Finnish.”

I warmly encourage our international members of the academic community try to learn at least some Finnish. Do ask your head of department about courses on offer!

The last thing in Finnish:

Suomen kieli ei ole vaikeampaa kuin englannin kieli. Se on erilaista, mutta myös sen voi oppia.

[Finnish language is not more difficult than English. It is different but it can be learned.]

Mari Siiroinen

research coordinator

Faculty of Arts