Finnish language skills are important for everyone who wants to work in Finland. Even if English or another language is used at work, Finnish helps the worker to better integrate in the working community and the entire Finnish society.
Stèphanie Levy and King Chu Yiu-Vehniäinen have already lived in Finland for some time: King Chu has been here since 2007, Stéphanie from 2011. Both studied in Tampere, and now they are working in Tampere-based company HappyOrNot. How is their Finnish nowadays?
– Not very good. I know some basic things in Finnish, but usually I ask people to speak English with me, since it is my mother tongue, Stéphanie says.
– My Finnish is really simple. People seem to understand what I’m trying to say, but it takes a lot of time for me to form the sentences, says King Chu, whose mother tongue is Cantonese.
Workers from abroad?
HappyOrNot is a quickly growing, strongly international company founded in 2009. The company is specialised in measuring and reporting customer satisfaction. At the moment, the measurement device equipment with HappyOrNot smiley faces is being used in approximately 40 countries around the world, and the company’s goal is to reach a turnover of €3.7 million this year.
At the moment, HappyOrNot employs approximately 20 persons, and they intend to hire more in the future. The company is looking for people who are suited both to international business operations and company’s own business culture. They do not particularly strive to recruit foreigners, but often immigrants can offer the qualities valued by the company.
– We want to employ people who wish to challenge themselves and move out of their comfort zone. People who have moved to Finland for studies and work often have these qualities, says the financial manager of HappyOrNot, Mikko Pernu.
Why learn Finnish?
Stéphanie and King Chu admit that they have not experienced a lot of pressure to learn Finnish. In Finland, it is easy to get by in English. It is used as a company language in HappyOrNot, and both have spouses and friends who speak it fluently. However, Stéphanie and King Chu consider it useful to learn Finnish, since they find is interesting to stay in touch with topics heard around them in the city or in unofficial Finnish-language conversations at the workplace.
– Living in Finland is sufficient reason for me to learn Finnish, Stéphanie says.
– Near me there are also those who don’t speak English, for example the parents of my husband and some of our neighbours. It would be nice to be able to talk to them as well, King Chu says.
Language questions and learning new things
HappyOrNot has decided to lower the threshold to language studies for their employees, offering them a course in workplace Finnish.
– HappyOrNot is an international company, but essentially it is also from Tampere and Finnish. That is why we want to support our staff when they want to study Finnish, Mikko Pernu says.
Therefore, Stéphanie and King Chu have spent their Wednesday afternoons learning Finnish. The teacher comes to their workplace and afterwards they concentrate on Finnish grammar and conversation skills. Studying is efficient in a small group, and the students can ask all their questions about aspects of the Finnish language. There are questions aplenty.
– Direct translations often do not work, and it is difficult to know why something is said in a certain way, says Stéphanie.
– I think I have really learned new things in the course. In addition, the studies have strengthened the language skills I already had, King Chu says.