New narrative learning materials facilitate integration into Finnish society.
The University of Eastern Finland is reforming its provision of Finnish language education available to international students and staff. As of autumn 2022, learners can start their Finnish language studies already before arriving in Finland. The selection of courses has been expanded to cater to the needs of learners in the campus cities in Joensuu and Kuopio, as well as to the needs of learners taking courses remotely from abroad.
Studies in Finnish as a Second Language are nowadays included in nearly all Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees completed in English. According to Director Lauri Tolkki of the UEF Language Centre,the reform is a way for the university to strengthen the engagement of international experts with the region.
“In the past, it was sometimes difficult for people to get onto courses if their arrival in Finland was delayed. Now, learners can flexibly start building their language skills already before their other studies begin,” Tolkki says.
The learning materials used on Finnish language courses have also been renewed to form an entity that is both narrative and locally oriented. The characters appearing in the stories are in a similar phase of life and have similar everyday experiences as learners on the courses do. The learning materials that have been adapted to learners’ life situations create common ground and further facilitate integration. The stories are also a natural way to learn about everyday life in eastern Finland, about the campus cities, as well as about Finnish society and what working life in Finland is like.
“The reform has also enabled the development of more tailored solutions and materials for international members of the staff at the University of Eastern Finland. Similar narrative materials have previously been piloted, and further developed based on encouraging feedback, on courses aimed at European students in the YUFE Alliance, as well as on courses for university staff,” says Katri Niemi, University Teacher of Finnish.
The Language Centre offers studies in Finnish as a Second Language for complete beginners and up to level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Niemi and University Lecturer Tapio Hokkanen, who have been developing the new materials, are also delighted about a new colleague, Elina Heimala, joining the Language Centre.
“It is great to be part of an innovative team that develops Finnish language education from the viewpoint of learners’ needs and initial situations. In the end, the adoption of a language and a culture boil down to a strengthened feeling of inclusion and integration,” Heimala says.
The reform has been supported by the university’s strategic funding.
“We’ve also prepared a placement test to facilitate learners’ choice of courses, and we’re currently working on materials that offer a sneak peek into the Finnish language,” Hokkanen says.
New teaching arrangements will be tested this academic year and courses will be further developed based on experiences and feedback received.
For further information, please contact:
Lauri Tolkki, Director of Language Centre, University of Eastern Finland, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 50 308 1799
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