Why choose to integrate in Swedish in Finland?

Having difficulties in choosing between Finnish and Swedish as you official language of integration? Here are some situations when Swedish would be a good choice.
Two persons talking and looking at the screen of a mobile phone.
Photo: Rainer Paananen. All rights reserved.

Related languages make it easier

If you want to apply for Finnish citizenship, you will need an official cerificate of you skills in Finnish or Swedish on the level of B1. If you have been struggling to reach the required level in Finnish it might be a good idea to try Swedish instead.

Swedish is an Indo-European language just like Hindi, Farsi, Spanish, Russian, English and Norwegian. We know that people who speak Norwegian, Danish, Faeroic and Icelandic learn Swedish fast and vice versa. 

In the same way skills in other related languages, even if they are not as close as Norwegian (which is basically the same as Swedish). If you have good skills in for example English, German or Dutch, the choice to learn Swedish is a fast route to your citizenship in a way that Finnish probably will not be. Finnish, which is a Uralic language like Estonian, Hungarian and the Sámi languages, has another structure and logic which might take a while to master if you are not familiar with it. 

This means that if you take advantage of your skills in a language related to Swedish, you can reach the required level for citizenship both easier and faster than if you try to learn a language with a structure you are not used to. 

However, in Finland it is useful to also learn Finnish. After you have successfully acquired your language skills for the citizenship, you can learn as much Finnish as you need and want to - at you own pace. Your daily life does not require grammatically perfect written Finnish in the same way as the official exams do. 

Knowing both makes you working life easier

There are several jobs that require a certain level of Finnish, Swedish or even both. If you know both, it will be a lot easier to get work, especially from fields like education, social services, health services and customer service. Even if you would work in English, knowing Finnish and/or Swedish opens the door to a social life during work and in your free time. 

In some fields and in officially bilingual municipalities and cities it might even be legally required to know both Finnish and Swedish. If not legally, then at least because of practical reasons. Bilingual cities are for example Helsinki, Vasa, Espoo and Hanko.

Swedish in Swedish areas 

If you live in a Swedish area where most people speak Swedish it makes of course more sense to choose Swedish as you integration language. When you learn Swedish in a Swedish area it is easier to get new friends, find hobbies and to get help from others. If you later move to a Finnish area, you can learn Finnish. In strongly bilingual areas (= where there are equally many Swedish and Finnish speakers) knowing both will make you life easier, as stated above. 

And finally, if your partner and/ord children speak Swedish it is a good idea to learn Swedish. 

In the video below Alejandro tells about his experiences of bilingual Finland. 

Read more about language proficiency requirements for different professions

A student and a teacher are talking to each other at the table. There's a laptop on the table.
Integration and language tests

©2023 Felix Mäkelä, Taija Votkin, Sofia Sevón, Heidi Laurikainen and Riina Uusikulku

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