Swedish as the language of integration

What should you take into consideration when selecting the language of integration and guiding an immigrant in making this choice? The following information may be helpful in selecting the first language of integration:

  • Geographic area: When selecting the language, the area in which the immigrant wishes to live should be considered. There are 33 bilingual municipalities in Finland, most of them in Ostrobothnia and Southern Finland. While Swedish is the most visible in Ostrobothnia, the highest number of those speaking Swedish as their mother tongue is found in Helsinki (35,000 people). In bilingual municipalities, Swedish can be used when dealing with central and local government authorities. In strongly bilingual municipalities, it is possible to manage in Swedish alone.
  • Family: If the immigrant’s spouse/children/extended family speak Swedish, it may make sense to learn Swedish first. This will support social inclusion and integration in the local community.
  • Labour market and occupations: There are few fully Swedish-speaking jobs in Uusimaa and Southwest Finland, but in certain sectors it is also possible to work in Swedish in less prominently Swedish areas. These sectors include day-care and schools, work with older people or research. However, the basics of Finnish are needed in most jobs.
  • Prior language proficiency: Mobility in the Nordic countries is at a high level. If a person has prior knowledge of Swedish, it may be best to continue in the same language to speed up the integration process and the person’s inclusion in society.
  • Indo-European language: It is often felt that Swedish is easier to learn than Finnish. The rates of language learning are highly individual, however. As an Indo-European language, Swedish is close to English and German and may thus be easier to learn for a person who already has knowledge of other Indo-European languages.