Vapaa Kielivalinta  
  Palaute | Jäseneksi | Vetoomus |  

Activity Plan 2008

General: what is our activity about?

We hear promises, that bilingualism is richness. The system has to respond to this call: people should have the right - not the obligation - to the Swedish language.
Language choice society's rules state that its aim is to promote the free choice of languages studied in Finnish schools, the free choice of studying Swedish, as well as operating to remove the inappropriate requirements of language skills in public posts and promote the public's joint action in these questions.
In practice, the Society proposes increasingly urgent questions concerning studying languages and language requirements for public discussion, such as:

Can't individuals evaluate their own need for language skills?

Is the need for the Swedish language the same in the whole country?

Besides English, shouldn't more people have skills in other world languages?

Do the requirements of the Swedish language restrict the interest in other languages and cultures?

Why can't individuals define their own Finnishness in relation to the Finnish and Swedish languages?

Wouldn't it be better to support Swedish language skills on a voluntary basis?

The Society supports those public forums and people that discuss and forward these language matters and promote public discussion. At the same time, the Society understands that questions like this, legitimate from the perspective of the majority of the citizens, are not easy, but have deeper, principle meaning for the Society. This is a principal point of the Society's activity.

Why and what does this mean?

In Finland, this is an institutional question concerning the expectations about Swedish language skills. Finnish speaking and Swedish speaking people's relations are based on historical and social arrangements, which have formed into an institution with great weight and are regarded as self-evident.

This pre-war based political system concerns the relations between people and state through language. The system maintains the expectation that Finnish speaking people born in Finland are automatically compelled to have Swedish language skills.  
Prior to the comprehensive school system in Finland, the school system maintained such expectations only in the middle and upper classes, but even then it was a question of expectation of being a first class citizen.

As an institution, the political and social agreement maintains these expectations. The new optional Swedish language exam in the matriculation examination does not change this because the obligation to study the language remains.  An academic degree requires Swedish language skills and it is a required subject in comprehensive school as well as in vocational school.

You may even say that axiomatic Swedish language skills are a part of the Finnish way of life, even though the desire to fulfil this obligation is falling apart.

This is based on social changes, which make it easier to recognize the paradox between the language policy and people's needs.  These changes include deepening globalisation and European integration, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, weakening of national states and the growing significance of language and region as bases of people's identity. International contacts, practical and economic needs and independent interest in other cultures and languages do not fit in with these restrictive language regulations.

To understand the institutional nature of the requirements of Swedish language skills is important, because the freedom of language choice as a goal for the society is not possible in practice without changes in the social and political regulations as well as everyday expectations.  
The social system that emphasises the obligation should change emphasis on the right to the language.

A system even thought to be justified by the constitution does not cease to exist by some publicity stunt, good idea or proposal, but requires long term and massive questioning.

The system falls apart by a multiple and diverse social movement.

This already exists in different ways and on different levels, from grass roots activity to specialist comments and regional political initiatives.

Examples of this are Tohmajärvi municipality's initiative on the Russian language as an optional language beside Swedish, Vuoksenniska parent’s association's action on optional Swedish , professor Arto Mustajoki's initiative on studying one neighbour language as an alternative to Swedish, as well as the Language Political Committee's initiative, where the Swedish language would be optional (option D), and also growing network discussions concerning the matter.  
A reform with important consequences would also be removing Swedish language (second domestic language) from University degrees.

In spite of local initiatives, real discussion on the matter does not yet exist. The subject only comes up publicly every now and then. The situation is naturally based on historical and political traditions.

Politicians and parties think that the current situation based on legislation is the best arrangement. In some way, this is the truth - as long as the citizens do not act on the matter in a persistent way. Public discussion should also include values as well as clarifying the facts connected with them to balance the choices.

The choices should be balanced through values. Swedish language skills and related cultural values are not absolute values, but are to be considered through individual rights and Finnish speaking community's freedom to act, as well as through an economic basis in relation to language skills.  

In the discussion, values are to be weighted, not citizens or citizen groups.

When outlining the activity of the Society, it is important to recognize how the Society's environment described above conditions the Society's activity.

In this situation, the Society sees itself as a small but very important factor in a polymorphic social movement, a sort of reactor questioning and undermining the system.

Because of the limited resources, the Society cannot do much. We also understand that we cannot act on behalf of a people's movement. The Society is not trying to replace people's activities on this matter. The Society supports such initiatives and movements which question the obligation of Swedish language skills and which promote the freedom of language choice.

The emphasis on the lingual obligation of the social system should be changed to emphasise the right to a language.

In this situation, the Society does not present its own comprehensive and detailed language political proposal or list of requirements. At the moment, it is important to make people's diverse initiatives acceptable as well as to question the status quo. All proposals that objectively question the obligation of Swedish language skills as a duty of a citizen, are good.  
We don't argue about the superiority of a proposal, but support and promote those with the right direction. Our principal long term goal is clear:

All foreign language studies, including Swedish, should be optional at all school levels.

Swedish language studies should not be a condition to any degree. Also the requirements for Swedish language skills in public posts should be removed, with the exception of cases in which it is especially justified.
Because of the social pressure, politicians should prepare concrete, practical and in principle good initiatives and solutions in co-operation with the school sector and legislation specialists.