We had a wonderful celebration here in Charlotte and I was so proud to give a speech at our festivities for over 60 people. Here are some highlights of my first part of the speech (the second part was of course in Finnish).
My name is Kata Hyvärinen and I have been living in Charlotte for almost 5,5 years now. Among you all, 5,5 yrs is still short time period, but for me it’s a lifetime, a completely different way of living.
Finland is, and will always be my home country, place for my soul to be in peace and place that I weekly but happily miss from our sweet Carolinas. I, and my family are 100% Finns, we speak Finnish and I still think and dream in Finnish. It was kinda hard for me to leave my home, family and career in this age, but I have managed pretty well to bring Finland here with me! Being a traditional Finnish bodyworker, although I’m also NC licensed massage therapist, is not only my job, it’s my way of living and my trademark. So, I brought this Finnishness with me and made it my brand. I’d say that it’s something to be extremely proud of. But even more than my work, I’m proud and touched about, is our language: Finnish.
Ok, let’s stop for a moment and emphasize that in Finland we have 2 national languages, Finnish and Swedish, and also Sami languages, Finnish and Swedish Finnish sign language, Romani and Karelian have their semi-official status in Finland. The third biggest languages at the moment is actually Russian, followed by Estonian, Somali, English and Arabic.
Finnish is one the oldest languages in the world and it’s estimated that Finnish was spoken already 5000 years ago. I am grateful and proud about the fact that we have been able to sustain our own, peculiar language in the middle of all the Scandinavian and Slavic languages surrounding Finland. I am thankful for those great men and women that struggled to collect and develop our tongue to one of the official languages of our country. The tongue that has it’s specific status, written form and that we can go to school from Kindergarten to doctoral level using our own language! That’s much more than for example sami people can say (although since 1992 sami has had an official status in northern Finland, meaning that sami people can speak their language in health care and social services, but that’s only in a few cities up north). And actually, several of our related languages (Votic, Livonian, Ingrian for example) are in danger of dying out, or has already died, since there is no common written language. To give you a perspective about this: they speak 3 different Sami language in Finland and those three are as different from each others than Finnish is from Hungarian. They do not understand each others and that could be our situation if were’t Elias Lönnrot, Mikael Agricola and even Aleksis Kivi. Without them I would’t be able to understand some of you even if we would speak Finnish, because the development of spoken forms eventually separates tongues. But today, we don’t have worry about eastern and western dialects of Finnish going farther away from each others, because we have one, common written language to keep us together.
At this point, you have probably figured out that for me Finnish is not just a language I speak, it’s a language of my thoughts, my feelings, it`s my passion and my profession. And I have been able to keep teaching my language even when I live here in NC: who would have thought that they need Finnish teacher here?