Learning the Finnish language is one of the most important things to do for anyone wishing to work in Finland. Even if the job as such can be dealt with in English or other language, Finnish is the key to deeper social intergration. Tampere Region Economic Development Agency Tredea organizes Finnish studies at the workplace.
Stephanie Levy and King Chu Yiu-Vehniäinen are no longer newcomers to Finland: Yiu-Vehniäinen has lived here since 2007, Levy arrived in 2011. They have studied in Tampere, and now they are working in Tampere based company HappyOrNot. And how is their Finnish these days?
– Not very good. I know some basic Finnish, but usually I ask people to speak English, says Levy.
– I speak very simple Finnish. People seem to know what I'm talking about, but constructing sentences is slow and hard, explains Yiu-Vehniäinen.
Customer support specialist King Chu Yiu-Vehniäinen and marketing & PR manager Stephanie Levy are studying Finnish at their workplace in HappyOrNot. "It is always useful to learn more", they say, "and it is fun, too".
HappyOrNot is a rapidly growing and strong international company in the field of instant customer satisfaction feedback and reporting services, founded in Tampere in 2009. Its smiley face feedback device is now sold in some 40 countries around the globe and targeting an over 3.7 million euro ($5 million dollar) turnover for this year.
At the moment there are about 20 people working in HappyOrNot, and more will be recruited later this year. The company is looking for people suitable for both the international business and the HappyOrNot atmosphere – Finns and foreigners alike.
– We appreciate people who want to challenge themselves and push past their limits, and foreigners coming to Finland because of career opportunities or studies often do just that, says Mikko Pernu, the Director of Finance in HappyOrNot.
Why Finnish, then?
Levy and Yiu-Vehniäinen admit that there has not been too much pressure to really immerse deep into the Finnish language. Working in English is perfectly OK in HappyOrNot, and also friends and spouses speak fluent English. Still, it would be nice to know what is going on around you – and for that you need the local language.
– I want to learn Finnish because I live in Finland, says Levy.
– There are people who don't speak English, like my husband's parents, or some of our neighbours. It would be nice to be able to communicate with them, too, says Yiu-Vehniäinen.
Asking questions, learning something new
To make things easier, HappyOrNot is providing Yiu-Vehniäinen and Levy a language course at the workplace.
– HappyOrNot is an increasingly international company but it's also based in Tampere, Finland. This is why we want to support our foreign staff when they want to learn Finnish, says Pernu.
So Yiu-Vehniäinen and Levy have spent their Wednesday afternoons with a teacher, improving their Finnish grammar and conversational skills – and asking all those questions that arise from the peculiarities of Finnish language.
– Straight translation of many word or sentence structures doesn't work and the reason why they are formulated in that way can't be explained, Levy expresses.
– I think I'm really learning something new, and the course also strenghtens the Finnish skills I've already learnt, Yiu-Vehniäinen says.
Finnish at the workplace
Tredea (Services for international skills project) has been organizing Finnish language studies at the workplace for several years. The courses are tailored to fit the needs of various companies and industries and they are partially funded by European Social Fund. New courses will be available in the autumn. For further information see the Live in Tampere Website (in Finnish).