17.02.2011

English in Finns' lives


This section concentrated on what English means to the respondents, where they encounter English, and their attitudes towards it.


To find out how English is present in Finns’ lives even when they are not actively using it, one of the questions in this section asked the respondents to indicate whether they see or hear it in different settings of the Finnish linguistic landscape. The results indicated that English was most often encountered in urban and commercial settings. In contrast, in institutional places, such as offices and churches, it was very typical that only Finnish and Swedish were encountered.


Survey_seeing or hearing English

The frequency of seeing or hearing English in different places. The percentages represent the number of positive responses relative to the total population.

 

The respondents’ attitudes towards English were investigated with the help of a set of assertions about its significance. The responses to this section indicated that the majority had a fairly neutral and pragmatic attitude towards English. They also thought that, excluding elderly people, everyone should know English.


Survey_importance of English

The percentages of respondents who agree with the statements about the importance of English in Finland.

 

Interestingly, only less than a fifth of the respondents felt that English is a threat to the national languages in Finland (18 %) or to the Finnish culture (17 %). More than a half of the respondents also thought that the influence English has on the Finnish language is positive and enriching.


The respondents were also asked what they thought about the English spoken by Finns. They were asked how they felt when they heard a well-known Finn speak English on the TV or on the radio (i) poorly, (ii) fluently but with a Finnish accent, or (iii) fluently, like a native speaker of English. As an illustration of their attitudes, the next figure indicates the respondents’ reactions to hearing a famous Finn speak English poorly. The responses varied quite a lot, but the most common attitude towards such a speaker was sympathy (28 %).


Survey_Finn speaking English poorly

Attitudes to hearing a famous Finn speaking English poorly.

 

Since the use of English has increased in the Finnish schooling system during the past few decades, the survey also sought to find out how the respondents felt about the fact that some Finnish children attend English-speaking schools in Finland. The overall response was quite positive: 48 % considered this a very positive and 41 % a moderately positive phenomenon.


Survey_English-speaking schools

Opinions about Finnish children attending English-speaking schools.

 

The respondents were also asked what they thought about the fact that English is the internal language of some Finnish companies. Again, the respondents’ attitudes were fairly positive: 17 % thought this was a very positive and 45 % moderately positive development. However, the respondents’ attitudes were clearly more negative towards using English in business life than using English in schools.


Survey_English in Finnish companies

Attitudes towards using English as the internal language in Finnish companies.