Face of the year

The Language Centre’s 2018 Face of the Year is Marjatta Alestalo, lecturer of Russian. At the Educa event on 27 January 2018, the Association of Finnish Non-fiction Writers presented Alestalo with a textbook writer’s award for her significant contribution to the production of, in particular, Russian resources for adult learners. Alestalo is creative, reliable and innovative both as a teacher and as an author of learning materials, and her work is characterised by a high degree of attention to detail.

I am grateful for the AWARD. I never expected to receive this kind of recognition, but it is great when people appreciate your work. The award encourages me to continue my work. I am particularly pleased that this year’s award was given to a writer of Russian textbooks. Russian is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, but it is not extensively taught or learned in Finland.

At the LANGUAGE CENTRE, a textbook writer is no rarity. I am sure everyone here has created a wide range of learning material at least for student use. When you use a textbook you yourself have written, you cannot blame anyone but yourself if you notice something that needs improvement. Some students have told me they feel proud to know the writer of their textbook. That, of course, also poses an additional challenge for teaching.

I feel very lucky to work at the Language Centre. I have other experience too, from schools and adult education. I would not change my job for the world. The work itself is very independent and creative, and the students are an ideal group to teach: young, smart university students. And I have amazing colleagues. We can and should learn all the time because the world is changing fast and teaching is changing too. Learning never stops, which I believe is a good thing (too).

I would like to tell ADULT LANGUAGE LEARNERS that motivation is key. I always ask students, particularly at the beginning of introductory courses, why they have decided to take the course. Those who take a Russian course are usually highly motivated, so this motivation should be maintained throughout the course.

I ENCOURAGE my students to speak in class when working in pairs or groups, but also to speak outside the classroom whenever they have the opportunity. You cannot learn to speak without speaking! I sometimes compare speaking to exercising in a gym: you do not get fit by staring at a piece of gym equipment – you have to use it. The same is true of speaking. You can express many things even if your skills are elementary.

I also try to encourage my students to consume all sorts of media by watching Russian-language news on television or Russian films and looking for interesting Russian resources and learning material online. I take authentic material to class and talk about Russian culture and customs. I have received a lot of positive feedback.

The MOST WONDERFUL thing is when a student comes to class and tells me they have been to Russia: “I spoke Russian there!”

Marjatta Alestalo

Photo: Mikael Shepelenko