Nothing too much has happened recently, largely as a result of the pandemic killing a lot of daily interests and habits.
However as a result of Brexit I'm having to do some paperwork, apparently I now need to register for permanent residency under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, and that will supersede the permanent residency I previously obtained.
Of course as a UK citizen I've now lost the previously-available freedom of movement. I can continue to reside here in Helsinki, Finland, indefinitely, but I cannot now move to any other random EU country.
It has crossed my mind, more than a few times, that I should attempt to achieve Finnish citizenship. As a legal resident of Finland the process is pretty simple, I just need two things:
- Prove I've lived here for the requisite number of years.
- Pass a language test.
Of course the latter requirement is hard, I can understand a lot of
spoken and written Finnish, but writing myself, and speaking a lot is
currently beyond me. I need to sit down and make the required effort to
increase my fluency. There is the alternative option of learning Swedish, which is a hack a lot of immigrants use:
- Learning Swedish is significantly easier for a native English-speaker.
- But the downside is that it would be learning a language solely to
"cheat" the test, it wouldn't actually be useful in my daily life.
Finland has two official languages, and so the banks, the medical world,
the tax-office, etc, are obliged to provide service in both. However
daily life, ordering food at restaurants, talking to parents in the
local neighborhood? Finnish, or English are the only real options. So
if I went this route I'd end up in a weird situation where I had to
learn a language to pass a test, but then would continue to need to
learn more Finnish to live my life. That seems crazy, unless I were
desperate for a second citizenship which I don't think I am.
Learning Finnish has not yet been a priority, largely because I work in
English in the IT-world, and of course when I first moved here I was
working (remotely) for a UK company, and didn't have the time to attend
lessons (because they were scheduled during daytime, on the basis that
many immigrants are unemployed). Later we had a child, which meant that
early-evening classes weren't a realistic option either.
(Of course I learned a lot of the obvious things immediately upon
moving, things like numbers, names for food, days of the week were
essential. Without those I couldn't have bought stuff in shops and
would have starved!)
On the topic of languages a lot of people talk about how easy it is for
children to pick up new languages, and while that is broadly true it is
also worth remembering just how many years of correction and repetition they
have to endure as part of the process.
For example we have a child, as noted already, he is spoken to by
everybody in Finnish. I speak to him in English, and he hears his
mother and myself speaking English. But basically he's 100% Finnish
with the exception of:
- Me, speaking English to him.
- His mother and I speaking English in his hearing.
- Watching Paw Patrol.
If he speaks Finnish to me I pretend to not understand him, even when I
do, just for consistency. As a result of that I've heard him tell
strangers "Daddy doesn't speak Finnish" (in Finnish) when we've been
stopped and asked for directions. He also translates what some other
children have said into English for my benefit which is adorable
Anyway he's four, and he's pretty amazing at speaking to everybody in the
correct language - he's outgrown the phase where he'd mix different
languages in the same sentence ("more leipä", "saisinko milk") - when I
took him to the UK he surprised and impressed me by being able to
understand a lot of the heavy/thick accents he'd never heard before.
(I'll still need to train him on Rab C.
Nesbitt when he's a wee
bit older, but so far no worries.)
So children learn languages, easily and happily? Yes and no. I've
spent nearly two years correcting his English and he still makes the
same mistake with gender. It's not a big deal, at all, but it's a
reminder that while children learn this stuff, they still don't do it as
easily as people imagine. I'm trying to learn and if I'd been corrected
for two years over the same basic point you'd rightly think I was
"slow", but actually that's just how it works. Learning languages
requires a hell of a lot of practice, a lot of effort, and a lot of
Specifically Finnish doesn't have gendered pronouns, the same word is
used for "he" and "she". This leads to a lot of Finnish people, adults
and children, getting the pronouns wrong in English. In the case of our
child he'll say "Mommy is sleeping, when he wake up?" In the case of
adults I've heard people say "My girlfriend is a doctor, he works in a
hospital", or "My dad is an accountant, she works for a big firm". As I
say I've spent around two years making this correction to the child, and
he's still nowhere near getting it right. Kinda adorable actually:
- "Mommy is a woman we say "when she wakes up"..."
- "Adriana is a girl we say "her bike".."
Tags: bilingual, brexit, childcare, english, finland, finnish, languages, oiva