Language planning and policy are vital elements in establishing a relationship between nationalism, language, and identity. In order to create a strong nation with a unified language, governments have the power to define one or multiple official languages. Being a part of the European Union, France and Finland face migration and the influence of foreign languages. The way these countries’ governments have dealt with these issues through language planning and policy can be defined opposite.
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Finland has a long history of bilingualism; the two official languages are Finnish and Swedish. Being a part of the EU, Finland faces migration and thus accommodates a significant number of languages on its territory (Kartushina 117). In Finland, Swedish is supported by laws and policies; for example, it is taught in schools. Despite the fact that Swedish is less spread than Finnish, their co-existence is generally peaceful (Kartushina 118). The constitution states that no language is forbidden in Finland; people who use other languages have the right to be provided with interpretation and translation. All the official information is presented not only in Finnish and Swedish but also in English. Finland’s language planning and policy clearly work towards developing and encouraging a multilingual society.
French language policy and planning is known to be less open to foreign languages and cultures. According to Devine, the French language has significant cultural value and serves as a symbol of centralized identity and cohesion (45). French has been used as a political tool to consolidate power by uniting and distinguishing French national identity throughout French history. With the purpose of promoting and protecting the language, the French government passed the Toubon Law. The law limits the presence of other languages in the media, official documents, public signage, all workplaces, schools, and even commercials (Devine 9). The law’s passing followed the increasing presence of the English language and American culture to secure French status and purity (Devine 47). The passing of the Toubon Law represents the French government’s fight against foreign languages, multilingualism, linguistic and cultural diversity.
The presence and influence of other languages and cultures forced the Finnish and French governments to take action. There is a clear difference between the ways Finnish and French governments develop language planning and policy. Finland openly welcomes bilingualism by adding a second official language to Finnish, providing freedom and safety for a multilingual society (Kartushina 116). On the contrary, France works toward banishing other languages and cultures from its territory, viewing them as a threat to French existence and purity (Devine 40). By analyzing these approaches, it is clear that the Finnish government identifies its responsibility in protecting citizens and their freedom despite their nationality or language. Opposite to that, the French government perceives the situation as an issue and acts accordingly. The language planning and policy of both countries reflect their views and concerns for the stability of language and national identity.
In conclusion, being a part of the European Union, France and Finland face the inevitable influx of foreign languages and cultures. The approaches these countries’ governments have taken towards this are not only different but opposite. Additionally, the difference in Finland and France’s language planning and policy correlates with their governments’ views on the situations. While the Finnish language planning and policy work to achieve a stable multilingual society, France aims to eject any foreign influence from its territory.
Devine, Mary Catherine. La Loi Toubon: Language Policy and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in France. Carnegie Mellon University, 2017.
Kartushina, Elena A. Language Planning in The Reality of Multilingualism (The Case of Finland). Institute of Foreign Languages, 2019, pp. 113-122.
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