During this time an individual must decide whether they will adopt the ways of the new culture and fully become a part of the local society or remain as they are. I have reached the assimilation phase of my integration process and am fully aware that to reach my full potential in this country, I must assimilate by fluently speaking and writing in Finnish.
In 2012 I started integration classes at Winnova school. There were at least seven different countries and languages represented. Classes were be taught strictly in Finnish and somehow, I was to learn to speak.
What was taught in class was different from what people spoke in the “real world.” I decided that I would never sound like a Finn when speaking. There was one student who, almost every day, would cry in class. After a few weeks, I asked her why she was crying. She told me that she cried daily because the challenge of learning a new language without it being taught to her in her native tongue felt impossible.
I absolutely understood what she was saying and shared the same sentiment. She then told me that she had been one of the highest-level doctors in her country, highly accomplished, well paid, and very competent in her field. She left her career and her life, for love not realizing that she would be starting over again from zero. She could not see herself learning to speak Finnish so well that she could reach the same status in her field, and it was depressing.
This year, I entered the same stage that she had been in. I began to have similar feelings of hopelessness. I felt like my strengths, had become my weaknesses, and began to realize that I am at a point where I must decide whether to assimilate or not.
Assimilation for me includes saying those things that I had vowed that I would never say, like “oho,” no-ni, “semmöinen,” and “tämmöinen,” and those ridiculously long compound words like kahdeskymmenesensimmäinenpäivä.” I have come to realize that to achieve fluency, I must be willing to say what I need to say without fear, in order to get the point across.
This has been a year for me to decide whether I will “heittäytyy” or be stubborn. My decision is that I am going to surrender to the process and go with the flow. I want to speak and write fluently in Finnish and the only way to get to that point is to keep practicing and working hard at it.
This is all a part of the process that most foreigners and newcomers to any area go through. It may happen at different times and the challenges may be different, but it happens to us all. We desire to belong, be successful, and thrive in the environment where we are living and need support to do so.
I must say that this community and my family have been accepting and supportive of me during this process and I am forever grateful. Because of this support, I do not face these challenges alone. I am going to learn this language, speak and write fluently, and remove all limitations. If I can do it, you can do it too! No matter what challenges you may face in life, remember my motto; don’t let life happen to you, you to happen to life!
Granger T. Simmons
Former author of What’s going on in Uusikaupunki