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Interpreter shortage no hindrance to Congolese learning Finnish

Congolese asylum seekers are learning Finnish at a refugee reception centre in Pudasjärvi, mainly through practical experience. For nearly all of the refugees, their native languages are either Swahili or Kinyarwanda.

Kongolaispakolaiset saapuivat Pudasjärvelle.
Image: Ensio Karjalainen / Yle

In spite of a lack of interpreters, a group of 35 Congolese asylum seekers is assiduously studying Finnish at the Pudasjärvi refugee reception centre.

In all of Finland, there are just three interpreters who are able to speak the native language of the quota refugees, who arrived in Finland at the end of March.

“For the moment, there are no interpreters in Pudasjärvi. The Congolese are learning Finnish mainly through everyday experiences,” said Katja Ruunaniemi, a teacher with the “Part of Finland” project run by the Interior Ministry.

According to Ruunaniemi teaching Finnish to people who speak only Swahili and Kinyarwanda is not the easiest task.

“It really isn’t an easy task, especially when we know that in practice it’s virtually impossible for us to get any interpreters here in the north,” she added.

“All the same, their Finnish studies have gotten off to a good start. All of the refugees show up for lessons and they are very enthusiastic students. Fortunately some members of the group also speak some basic English and French,” Ruunaniemi explained.

The Congolese students have been studying Finnish since the beginning of June and will continue their introductory programmes through the summer.

“Our plans for the autumn curriculum are still a bit vague,” Ruunaniemi said.

Sources: Yle

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