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Both employees and employers benefit from a language-aware working environment 

Language awareness refers to the continuous consideration of different situations in the use of language, language features and texts. Language-aware thinking takes a respectful and understanding attitude towards different languages and forms of language. This also means assessing one’s own linguistic choices and adjusting them so that they are suitable for the situation. 

This approach aims to remove barriers to understanding and participation in order to make information and activities accessible, regardless of language skills. Working life and education, for example, are good places to promote language awareness.

Multilingual working culture enriches entire organisation

Being language-aware at work eliminates barriers to participation and understanding at the workplace. It helps employees whose language skills are still developing to participate in the work community. A language-aware operating culture benefits both employees and employers. 

Language-awareness manifests itself as concrete choices and practices. Employees can promote language awareness, for example, by acknowledging the linguistic diversity in the workplace and the importance of language in their operating culture. The work community can actively highlight and respect different languages and language forms. Managing an organisation can also become more language-aware. 

In practice, recruitment can be language-aware if, for example, the recruiter reassesses and makes the language qualification requirements more reasonable. However, adjusting language qualifications requires changes to the practices of the entire work community so that the tasks can be performed with lesser language skills or in English. Language-awareness does not, however, mean making the job description or tasks easier. Above all, multilingualism is considered a resource and a positive factor in the workplace. In a language-aware work environment, communicating in several languages is a natural part of the work culture.

Improving language skills can help integration and inclusion 

It is also important to link Finnish language instruction with working life. This will make learning the language more efficient for the immigrants and support their integration into society. Supporting the employees’ Finnish instruction at work promotes their working life skills and integration at the same time. Professional language skills often develop in practical work, and these skills are adapted to the needs of the job. To support this, TE Services offers ‘Työpaikkasuomi’ and ‘Työpaikkaruotsi’ (Finnish or Swedish for work) courses together with employers. Concrete objectives for language learning are defined for each field and work task in these courses.

Developing language skills can also be supported in a work environment with more clear language and repetition. Strengthening competence in plain Finnish in workplaces would promote accessibility both in formal communications and informal discussions. It is important that those with developing language skills also have the opportunity to take part in discussions in break rooms and get to know other members of the work community. 

Recognising the importance of interaction is one of the most important premises of language-aware thinking. The aim is not to achieve flawless language skills but to promote reciprocity, inclusion and mutual understanding. 

More information:

Diversity of working life 
Working life (in Finnish)  
Manifold more project
Language-aware expert work (in Finnish)
Well-functioning diverse working community training (in Finnish)