Level 3 – Finnish your meetings
If you've managed to get the conversation started, then hopefully you’ve already had some good conversations with workmates about speaking more Finnish at work, and you’re starting to see some results: using and learning Finnish is becoming more a part of your daily life, and you’re feeling that healthy brain-strain from seeking to express yourself and communicate in a wider range of situations.
Now, it’s time to boost your catalytic powers by starting to influence the ways that language choices are handled in group situations, such as work meetings. By helping to shape your workplace culture in this area, you can be strengthening both your own and other’s learning of Finnish as well as improving overall communication in your workplace.
Even if you’re not leading the meeting, you can still take the initiative to suggest practices and questions that could help towards finding the best language mix for the people in the room. Here are a few options to consider:
If it seems sensible to simply choose one language or the other, it’s important to ask the question in both languages. It’s harder for someone to say ‘I’d prefer Finnish’ if the question has only been asked in English, and vice versa. If the group is divided on which language they would prefer, it’s worth exploring the options below for mixing the two – or even suggesting such options to begin with.
In situations where all participants understand both English and Finnish relatively well, it is well worth exploring the option of evenly mixing the two, sometimes referred to as parallel language use. A native Finnish employee, for example, may find it much easier to present smoothly and clearly in Finnish, while at the same time providing slides in English. This can also be great practice for Finnish learners because the slides give great context for understanding the speech. Or switching it round the other way, you yourself could take the initiative to prepare a presentation with Finnish slides (with the help of a Finnish workmate, for example) which you then present in English.
With this strategy, it can be important to check that the language mix stays sufficiently even, particularly if some have significant difficulty understanding English or Finnish and so may feel excluded if there is extensive discussion in one language or the other. Giving brief summaries, as in the option below, and paying attention to speaking clearly are two important tools for such situations.
This option puts Finnish in the driving seat, while still seeking to ensure that all key information is translated along the way. This can be a sensible option for discussions which don’t primarily concern those with weaker Finnish skills – though it is important then to explain beforehand why the discussion is in Finnish. From your own perspective as a Finnish learner, such discussions can be a more relaxed opportunity for listening practice, since your participation is not expected – so don’t just tune out and start scrolling that phone!
If it seems that everyone is able to follow and participate in Finnish, it is still important to invite and facilitate questions if something isn’t clear. As a Finnish learner, you can help both by making sure this invitation is given and also by being ready yourself to ask questions, even if your question simply amounts to ‘Sorry, could you repeat that last sentence?’. By setting an example that it’s ok to completely miss a whole sentence, you will encourage other Finnish learners in the room to also bring their questions instead of nodding and hoping things will become clearer later on.
As the goal in all this is to find that language mix that will best serve those present, it’s also important to stay flexible and ready to shift the arrangements part way through if needed. And even if things seem to have gone well, it’s good to quickly review at the end of the meeting people’s thoughts about the language arrangements used.