The Finglish Kultuuri at Aksu
The Finglish Kultuuri at Aksu
Language barriers are a huge source of difficulties for organizations and institutions anywhere you go. Proakatemia has been no exception and now that there will be a full degree program coming in autumn it seems important to think about how best to implement a working environment that brings the greater good to the community. Invariably, sacrifices will need to be made and there is likely no simple solution to this problem. In this paper I will discuss some thoughts I have had during my 5 months in proakatemia and how best to balance the needs and expectations of everyone to create the best possible solution.
As I have understood it the philosophy currently is about trying to satisfy both sides by giving both languages equal rights, or at least not pressuring individuals out of their comfort zones and allowing them to use either English or Finnish. This is a great way to respect individuals who have applied with the understanding that they would be able to use their own language. It could be said that the goal has been in some way to create a safe space for both English and Finnish speakers.
But as a thinking businessman I wonder what is the cost-benefit of this decision? What sacrifices are being made to fulfil this, what is the end goal and what should we try to avoid at any cost?
I couldn’t think of any institutions that have adopted a similar approach, it seems that for the most part organizations tend to pick one language as the official form of communication, sometimes there is room for the use of other languages as legal tender but these examples are quite rare. The United Nations comes to mind with I think 6 official languages. They have found a way to make it work with a very complicated, well-funded and well-organized system of translation. But even this is not perfect and there was an attempted to unite the world under one newly created language, Esperanto, easy to learn and not tied to any country or identity. This ultimately failed but the point is that the need for a singular language has almost always been understood and implemented anywhere it can.
That’s not to say that a bilingual organisation is not possible, and I’m sure that there are functional ones out there. The difference is likely in the end goals. The time and resource costs of using both languages could well be worth it if the end goal requires it.
I can’t assume to know what the end goal is apart from just respecting the language needs of both parties. I am personally biased towards English and feel that it is the superior language if one where to be chosen. Simply because of the simplicity of the language and how widely spoken it is.
If the end goal is to prepare students for a future in the business world then it could be argued that keeping them in the safe space is doing them a disservice in the long run. I know personally that I had problems with Finnish, but I still applied to a Finnish school and worked in Finnish environments. It sucked but now I’m in a position where I can speak Finnish, so it has paid off.
Also this idea of English vs Finnish is actually very flawed and over simplified. At least with our team, we only had 1 or 2 native English speakers. The rest of us spoke it as a second or third language just like everyone else in Proakatemia. This didn’t bother any of us, but it is a good reminder if your intention is to have everyone speaking the language that they are comfortable with, English is not the binary alternative, in fact there isn’t one.
There was one example where the finglish principle backfired on an undeniably bad level. We arranged a meeting with another team and a few of us who where interested in the topic at hand went to their meeting room to discuss the matter. I wasn’t personally there but I was told the following:
‘’So, we walked in and they greeted us in Finnish to which we greeted back in English and asked politely if it’s ok for us to have this brief discussion in English because we have some team members here who don’t understand any Finnish. Crickets, the room fell silent. No one said a word and ultimately there was no one in their team willing to speak English or translate anything that was being said’’
The meeting went on in Finnish.
I remember sitting in the meeting room from which this group left and upon their return seeing the frustration in my team members tone of speech. He muttered in French, ‘’it was all in Finnish’’ and followed it with some frustrations saying that traveling thousands of kilometres across Europe to come here and be spat in the face with a total disregard of his place here. These where not his exact words since my French isn’t perfect but the spirit of what he felt was made clear.
Whatever the intentions behind the idea is there needs to be a clear understanding of what can happen and what needs to be avoided. My greatest fear personally is one of mob and tribal mentality. There is a long history of psychological understanding for the need humans have to create their own groups and tribes. There is also a great understanding of how these tribes can cause conflict.
For me the most important thing to avoid is segregation and separation. When I was a child in the late 90’s we spent time in South Africa. This was not long after the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid. Africa has a huge problem with segregation and separation and one thing that a lot of people still to this day don’t know about the apartheid is that it separated and segregated within the racial groups as well. The blacks and the whites where separated on tribal distinctions and this didn’t solve any of the problems that they thought it would and only made things worse.
The problem is that the moment you even recognize the existence of two separate groups you create a structure or basis for segregation. The Finns vs the English. Us vs them will invariably always be the problem. I think that this is mainly the reason that a lot of international institutions work with a single language. It simplifies things and gives everyone the same standard and now everyone belongs to the same group. Also is it fair to invite people from all over the world and have presentations and meetings in a language that they cannot understand? I would be frustrated. Maybe the solution is not to have an official language and maybe everything can be done with translations but in this case, I think that there needs to be some structure in place to enforce or ensure that the translations will always be made.
How do we avoid the ‘’us vs them’’ with a bilingual system? I think that there needs to be a common struggle and common goal or even some sort of communal communication. What I mean by this is simply that during my 5 months in Proakatemia I still to this day have very little knowledge of what the other teams where doing or had done. I understand that Projektori is meant to update and inform everyone about the what the teams are doing but is it enough?
I proposed some sort of weekly newsletter. Doesn’t even have to be print it could just be a whiteboard or something with a few sentences from each to about what happened this week. It’s a very simple idea I know but the idea is to have something that brings the community together more. And to try and avoid tribal identity.
I know that most of this has come off as biased towards English and I will recognize this but ultimately all I’m doing is making my case and all of my opinions are subject to change. I hope only the best for the community.