Intercultural Adaptation as a Dialogical Learning Process
Acta Universitatis Tamperensis,
No. 1523


By Irja Pietila
July 2010
Tampere University Press
Distributed By Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514480881
280 pages
$87.50 Paper Original

The purpose of the present research was to describe and understand the process of intercultural adaptation and the factors affecting the migrants? motivation to learn more about Finland and adapt to Finnish society. The main theoretical approaches were connected to intercultural communication, dialogue, motivation and sociocultural learning. The research was conducted using qualitative methodology and the data was collected via two main methods: drawing the lines of motivation followed by interviews and focusing on the discussions on their lived experiences of intercultural adaptation processes in Finland.

The intercultural adaptation process was approached from the perspective of two different groups: short-term sojourners and long-term immigrants. The term short-term sojourner group consisted of people who had lived in Finland less than 14 months and whose stay in Finland was temporary. Those in the long-term immigrant group had stayed more than five years in Finland and their intention was to stay for a long time.

The results showed that the two groups seemed to have quite different factors affecting the level of motivation to adapt to Finnish society. The reason for coming to Finland and the planned length of stay in Finland seemed to affect how much the interviewees learned Finnish or about Finnish culture. These factors seemed to affect before arrival and during the adaptation process. Another important motivating factor was connected to the amount of interaction with Finns.

The short-term sojourners had been motivated to learn about Finnish culture at the beginning but their motivation was impaired because they did not find enough Finns to communicate with and feel included. Even if they could speak very little Finnish, they would have liked to use Finnish more. They gave up because they did not manage to create contacts with Finns and thus mainly socialised with other international students. They did not put so much effort to adapt to Finnish society.

On the ohter hand, the long-term immigrants were very motivated to learn Finnish and about Finnish culture before arrival. Poor language skills at the beginning of their stay and even later seemed to be the biggest obstacle for many of the long-term interviewees. They would have liked to be able to express themselves thoroughly in all kinds of situations. Failure in this made them feel helpless. Work, study and social relationships played important roles in their adaptation processes and affected the amount of motivation and learning. They had put great effort into learning Finnish and all the areas of Finnish society.

Intercultural communication situations with Finns seemed to play an important role in intercultural adaptation. Because the two groups had significantly different opportunities to communicate with Finns they also had different opportunities for sociocultural learning and dialogue. However, the short-term interviewees knew that they had become aware of cultural differences which would be beneficial in their future lives. Hence they had increased intercultural sensitivity. The long-term immigrants reported that they had gained multiple identities. Hence they had reached higher levels of intercultural sensitivity.

Yet, both groups emphasized the everlasting process of intercultural learning. Sociocultural learning framework would be a very suitable and beneficial approach in interpreting the intercultural adaptation processes. Dialogue in intercultural encounters would benefit both parties in intercultural adaptation process.

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