Competing Ideologies of the “Ideal” and “Practical”
In responding to questions regarding the influence of the official language policy on inter-organizational interaction, many of the respondents addressed the difficulties in understanding that may occur if the policy is followed. A closer look into metalanguage regarding different language choices revealed that RM is considered laborious, whereas the most common attribute associated with English was easy. The use of Estonian and Finnish received mainly positive attributes, whereas the use of English was problematized. Figure 3 presents the most frequent expressions attached to RM, and Fig. 4 to ELF. The expressions were first analyzed and categorized keeping the responses in Estonian and Finnish apart and subsequently translated to
Fig. 3 Expressions associated with Estonian-Finnish RM. The numbers refer to absolute numbers of mentions
Fig. 4 Expressions associated with speaking English
English. The expressions used by Estonian and Finnish respondents mostly overlapped, which is the reason for presenting the results together.
As can be seen in Fig. 3, the most frequent expression attached to the use of Estonian and Finnish was hopefully/hope. It occurred predominantly in the answers describing future practices, as expressed in the quotation below from an Estonian respondent:
Loodan, et eesti ja soome keelt. Kardan, et minnakse ule rohkem inglisekeelsele suhtlusele.
I hope that Estonian and Finnish [will be spoken in the future]. I’m afraid that more will be communicated in English.
As the quotation above indicates, many of the responses expressed a contradiction between what the respondents hoped to be the reality of the language practices and what they thought it was or would be. Since expressions such as incomprehensible and laborious were associated with speaking Estonian and Finnish, the prefer?ence for using Estonian and Finnish must have originated from somewhere else than RM being an easy or a practical solution. One source of interest in using Estonian and Finnish was the idea of it being traditional and worthy of respect, as a Finnish respondent expresses below:
Ehka viralliset puheenvuorot pidetaan edelleen omalla aidinkielella, koska molemmilla jarjestoilla on kuitenkin sen verran kunnioitusta saantoja ja ystavyyssopimusta kohtaan.
Maybe the official speeches will still be given in the speaker’s mother tongue, since both organizations have that much respect for the rules and the agreement of friendship.
Using one’s native language was also associated with the notion of national identity, as in the quotation below from a Finnish respondent:
Toivon, etta kansallista identiteettia pidettaisiin ylla ja kutsut yms. virallinen yhteydenpito hoidettaisiin edelleen seka omalla kielella etta englanniksi.
I hope that national identity will be cherished and invitations and other official communication will still be both in our own languages and in English.
Mentioning the notion of national identity resonates with the wording in the original contract; being in contact with the “sibling nation” contributes to having a strong national identity and vice versa. This friendship was regarded as being important in the participant responses, and using Estonian and Finnish was considered to be one way to cherish it. Thus, the respondents regarded using Estonian and Finnish as not only nice, fun and interesting, but they also envisioned it as a means of expressing closeness and mutual respect. In contrast, expressions related to English showed practical value.
As Fig. 4 indicates, English was considered to be an effective language choice, which was also suggested as a reason for preferring it. English was perceived as a lingua franca, both among the members of the studied community and more generally. The following quotation from a Finnish respondent aptly describes the practical value assigned to English.
silla se ei vaadi ponnistelua kummaltakaan osapuolelta ja on muutenkin kansainvalisen kommunikaation kieli.
- since it [English] doesn’t require effort from either side and in general it is the language of international communication.
While Estonian and Finnish were associated with national identity and locality, English represented internationality, and the respondents conceived of English as a practical solution that was best suited to informal interaction (see Ostman and Thpgersen 2010). Some Finnish respondents who contrasted English with monolingual Finnish interaction also stated that they found English to be neutral and polite. They considered it to be safer to begin a conversation in English with a previously unknown Estonian. This is described by a Finnish respondent as follows:
Kaytan suomea, jos tiedan, etta kommunikoinnin toinen osapuoli osaa hyvin suomea ja haluaa puhua sita. - Se, etta olettaa kaikkien virolaisten osaavan suomea, kalskahtaa hie- man imperialistiselta, joten yritan valttaa suomen kayttamista Virossa.
I use Finnish if I know that the other person knows Finnish well and wants to speak it. - It seems quite imperialistic to think that all Estonians speak Finnish, and that’s why I try to avoid speaking Finnish in Estonia.
The respondents used the word “imperialistic” to reflect the stronger cultural influence from Finland on Estonia rather than vice versa. The Finnish respondents indicated sensitivity towards the historical background and possible negative connotations related to speaking Finnish in Estonia. This indicates that even the members of a community where using mother tongues is encouraged do not interpret different language choices only from the organizational perspective, but also consider the way the general relationship between the countries at different times has affected the connotations attached to different languages. In this respect, English was seen as a neutral choice without connotations of inequality (see Kelly-Holmes 2013, 133).