The educational challenges of maintaining Finnish in the UK:
A longitudinal account of three Finnish mothers
Avainsanat:Finnish, English, education, multilingualism, language mixing
Finnish parents living in the UK face linguistic challenges when their children start formal education. It is the turning point when the community language is used more than Finnish. The aim of this article is to investigate Finnish parents’ perceptions of how the linguistic milieu in nurseries, schools and other communal establishments has affected their language practices over time. The content of this study was informed by an analysis of informal discussions and observations of the language use of three Finnish mothers living in the UK. The data was part of a larger study of 35 trilingual families in the UK with various backgrounds. The informants commented on their families’ language practices over time in relation to the children’s school settings, such as nurseries, pre-schools or primary/secondary schools.
It was found that the mothers spoke exclusively Finnish with their very young children but started to struggle by using more English when their progenies entered school or nursery. Although the parents did not speak English as their native language, they regarded it as important for their children’s academic path, which in effect made English an essential language in their families.