Swedish: The Gateway to Multicultural Finland
Finland is an officially bilingual country, with Swedish recognized by the state as equal to the Finnish language in education and public life. There are pockets of ethnic Swedes in Finland where Finnish is hardly spoken at all. In recent years Finland’s leaders have looked to their multicultural western neighbor for inspiration, and have pushed for more immigrants to enrich Finland with the same kind of cultural diversity that has enjoyed such notable success in Sweden (haha). Interestingly enough, the Swedish language is being proposed as a sort of multicultural gateway for new arrivals in Finland. The Swedes in Finland are hardly fundamentalist Muslims, and yet, they haven’t “integrated” with the Finns. If even the similar-looking, similar-believing Swedes are causing problems in Finland, there is no reason to believe that Albanians, Turks and Nigerians are somehow going to behave better. And who in their right mind would want to follow the detructive path Sweden is following with their rampant immigrations issues??
The fact remains that there exist two distinct identities in Finland, predictably, based upon the languages of both groups. Such “identity” tension will always remain between the two groups because each side will always act, in what’s deemed to be, in their own self interests. It’s a highly logical, and as I said earlier, a predictable outcome.
Now add to that mix the thought of increased mass numbers of immigrants with a plethora of languages who will be demanding their own rights to use their own languages in Finnish society. But the Finnish-Swedish speakers have a plan, a few of their number (in the live broadcast) announced their party’s intention to grab as many foreigners as possible and steer them into speaking Swedish. They made a case for the Finnish government to get involved and make it possible for immigrants to choose which language to study and to identify themselves with.
One of the Finnish-Swedish participants mentioned the fact that in the late 1800’s, Jews who were allowed to immigrate to Finland by the Russian Czar, learned Swedish, so there’s history on their side of immigrants learning Swedish and integrating into society. But what was left unmentioned, was these Jews spoke Yiddish, a dialect of German and they found it much easier to learn than the host language (at first), and that every Finnish Jew is now fluent in three languages, Finnish, Swedish and English.
It’s just in the coastal areas of Finland and in the island archipelago of Åland that Finnish-Swedes are not learning Finnish, and for the most part, have a completely different identity to that of the Finnish speakers that make up 95& of the country. So now the party of the Swedish speaking minority is actively trying to pull immigrants to its party which explains the Swedish speaking Minister of Immigration and of Europe, Astrid Thors, actions over the last few years.
This is bound to drive an even deeper wedge between the Swedish speakers and the majority of Finnish speaking Finns. It just highlights the fact that different language groups will do whatever possible in securing their future, which creates in the end, a divided society with competing goals. Hardly a recipe for a cohesive, functioning society.