Myth 4: There’s no point learning Finnish unless you’re staying long-term

There are many reasons why you might leave Finland – and equally many reasons why you might stay. Learning Finnish is a journey that will enrich your life in Finland every step along the way, regardless of how long you end up staying.
Photo: Rainer Paananen. All rights reserved.

The big three have now been toppled, and the highway of Finnish learning that was hidden behind them is now well in view. You start to take your first step on this journey of discovery – but wait, there is something holding your foot back. As you look down, a little voice calls up: ‘Why bother? It is a long journey, a lot of work. You are only going to be here for a few years.’ 

Myth Number Four is a powerful one for many international employees and students in Finland. Careers develop, family situations change, new opportunities arise. It is easy to imagine that you are only here temporarily, so you wouldn’t want to spend all that time learning Finnish only to leave just as you’re reaching proficiency.

The main problem with this way of thinking, however, is that it sees language learning as a single, long-term goal: you slog away for a year or two and then one day BAM, you’re proficient. But proficiency is always proficiency FOR something in particular. And with Finnish you can become, for example, a proficient purchaser-of-clothes-in-Finnish with just a few weeks of language lessons. Any amount of Finnish learning will enrich your life in Finland – if you are willing to use what you already know.

And the problems with Myth Four don’t stop there. You may have in mind a whole list of reasons why you’ll probably move on from Finland. But what about all the things that might make you stay? An unexpected promotion? A long-term relationship, or starting a family? Other family members deciding to join you in Finland? The uncertainty of life cuts both ways. Instead of ‘I might leave, so why learn?’, it makes just as much sense to say ‘I might stay, so why not learn?’.

Indeed, the very process of learning Finnish might turn out to have a big influence on your decision to stay or leave. Learning Finnish is a social and cultural journey which, even in the early stages, will enable you to participate in society and explore the country’s history and cultural riches more deeply than you could with just English. In addition, learning Finnish can connect you with a community of fellow learners who are grappling with similar questions and challenges as they settle into life in Finland and work out their own long-term plans. A shared journey is a richer journey.

And so, with these first four myths out of the way, the wide-open road to Finnish proficiency now lies ahead of you. But to make the journey a much more enjoyable one, there is one more myth that needs dispatching.

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