This september ABF-Åland (Workers’ Education Organisation) arranged a ‘language-bath’ in connection with their Finnish sister-organisation TSL.
Seven Finnish-speaking professionals were chosen out of around 40 for five days of practising their Swedish and learning about the Åland Islands through different informative events, language lessons and ‘work shadowing placements’ – a concept in which you go to a work environment similar to your own and try work tasks to practice your Swedish learning in your own profession.
In Finland there are many who have basic knowledge of Swedish but still need to overcome the speaking barrier. Åland is a good place for this, says Mia Hanström, who is responsible for the project. ABF-Åland ran a pilot project for this 7 years ago, they then found funding through TSL from the Swedish Culture Fund. In 2019 they had the first formal ‘language-bath’ with 6 participants, it then had to stop due to Covid-19, but now it is up and running again.
The requirements for the participants were some prior Swedish knowledge and a will to improve it. This years’ participants were between 30 and 55 years old and worked as care-workers, hotel staff, day-care workers, and also with trade unions and politics. In the evenings the participants took part in different free-time programs, where they also got to learn about the Åland Islands autonomy, history and Åland 100 with Barbro Sundback; and spoke about LGBTQIA and Pride with Regnbågsfyren.
“My vision is that they would be able to learn about the Åland Islands and will function as spokespersons for the Åland Islands in Finland. We want people to know about the possibility to come here and practise their Swedish” – Mia Hanström.
“It was good to come here where you have to speak Swedish. Even the Swedish-speaking Finns don’t speak Swedish at home, so you can’t train your language skills.”, said language-bath participant Petri Partanen.
“It was so good to be able to speak Swedish so that you can then use it in when you are working together with Swedish-speaking people. We are a bilingual country, but English has easily taken over. The language-bath is a quick way to learn and develop your Swedish”, said Janne Laulumaa
“There is a slightly different culture on the Åland Islands to how I expected it. Åland is a friendly and open society to visit and I experienced that people are friendly and when they hear that you aren’t from here they ask how you are finding it and how you are doing”, said Riitta Mikola