16.02.2011

The rationale of the survey


In Finland, officially a Finnish-Swedish bilingual country, English has traditionally been considered a foreign language. In other words: it has not been seen as a language used in internal communication within the country.

Until recently, English has simply been one of the foreign languages studied at school and used mainly in international communication. However, the role and significance of English are now clearly changing, leading to considerable diversity in the way in which people use English and other languages in different social domains, such as


  • work,
  • education,
  • traditional and digital media, and
  • everyday life and leisure time activities.


In many professional settings, the proficiency in English is today a necessity. In education it is the language the overwhelming majority of school children want to study and the most popular language in content-through-language education.

In media uses – in TV series, films and electronic games, for example – English is often the most frequently used foreign language. In leisure activities and lifestyle cultures (e.g. music, sports and fan cultures off- and online) English often functions as an additional language, mixing and alternating with Finnish. Not surprisingly, such changes have also triggered a great deal of debate and concern within Finnish society.


Despite the intensity of the change and the ensuing debates, not much research information has been available. This lack of research is partly remedied by the survey: it provides up-to-date and representative information on the spread of English in Finland and Finns’ attitudes to it.