Mayor suggests Helsinki declare itself an English-language city

Jon Henley:

Helsinki should consider declaring itself an English-language city, its mayor has suggested, arguing that too many highly skilled international workers are shunning the Finnish capital partly because of exacting language requirements.

Finland’s two main official languages are Finnish, which has 15 grammatical cases and is notoriously difficult for foreigners to learn, and Swedish. Many companies require Finnish and public sector employees must master both.

An increasingly serious shortage of technology and other professionals last year prompted the country to try offering foreign workers and their families the chance to relocate to Finland for 90 days to see if they want to make the move permanent.

But more than 36% of foreign students in Finland leave within a year of graduation, according to government figures, with most citing immigration bureaucracy, high taxation and language difficulties as their main reasons for quitting.

“Helsinki could call itself an English-speaking city, where people who speak English wouldn’t need to speak Finnish or Swedish,” the capital’s mayor, Juhana Vartiainen, told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.