Kom igen! The Language Centre’s Swedish unit participates in the Language Boost project

Before turning my attention to the present and the future, I wish to start by saying a few words about the past. I originally worked as a course assistant coordinator at the Language Centre and then, in January 2021, had the pleasure of continuing in the position of Swedish university instructor. After working in that role for a month, Leena Nissilä, then director of the Language Centre, asked for a meeting with all members of the Swedish unit. The purpose was to get together with Professor Jyrki Kalliokoski, who leads the Language Boost project, and discuss the project and the Swedish unit’s role in it. According to Kalliokoski, one of the strengths of the Language Centre is that we offer basic courses in Swedish to international students with a native language other than Finnish. At the time of the meeting in February 2021, I had no experience in teaching such courses, but luckily my colleague Saila Korvenranta promised to help me as needed. We concluded the meeting by agreeing that I would lead the ‘Swedish as a second language’ part of the Language Boost project, while also being available for teaching in the Swedish unit. Quite a challenge for someone who had just begun to work as a Swedish instructor (although I had taught English since 2010)!

The Language Boost project develops the teaching of Finnish and Swedish to make it a better match with the language proficiency needs of international experts to be recruited to Finland and those already in the country. The project has an extensive target group, including international degree students, staff at higher education institutions, language teachers and Finnish work communities. To achieve the project goals, three principles have been outlined on the basis of the current research knowledge (see image below).

Kielibuustin kolme kantavaa perusajatusta: jatkuva oppiminen ja sen tukeminen kestävän arvioinnin avulla, kielenoppiminen on sosiaalista toimintaa ja opettajasta oppimisen tukijaksi, opiskelijasta toimijaksi.

The duties of the Language Boost project have been divided into four areas:

  • Language learning paths and models from higher education to employment
  • Pedagogical models in support of teaching and supervision
  • Digital solutions for learning and teaching
  • Cooperation between higher education institutions in teaching Finnish/Swedish as a second language: a national collaboration model and platform

The coordinators of each area and the other staff recruited began their work in spring 2021 (regarding Swedish, the work began officially in October 2021).

At the time of writing this article, the ‘Swedish as a second language’ (R2) group (myself, Taija Votkin of Aalto University and Research Assistant Felix Mäkelä) has established and is further developing a collaborative network of R2 teachers from not only the University of Helsinki and Aalto University, but also the Swedish Adult Education Centre Arbis, the Arcada University of Applied Sciences, the University of Vaasa and Åbo Akademi University. In addition, cooperation has been initiated with Luckan, a Swedish-language organisation that has helped international arrivals integrate into Finland, using Swedish, for 30 years. Another important grassroots organisation is Svenska.fi ry, which promotes similar goals to those of Luckan and is currently considering our cooperation proposal. Collaboration with the discipline of Scandinavian languages at the University of Helsinki is about to commence, in addition to which the application of materials available on the Papegojan grammar website and their piloting in R2 teaching will be presented at a seminar held by the Language Boost project on 8 April 2022. Another highlight in spring 2022 will be the Language Centre Days in Vaasa, where Taija Votkin and I will present the activities of the R2 working group and invite other R2 professionals working at Finnish language centres to join us. My role in the project is expected to continue until the end of 2023.

To conclude, I would like to encourage all language teachers, particularly those of Finnish and Swedish, to keep track of the Language Boost project on its website at www.kielibuusti.fi and to contact us by email at kielibuusti-info(at)helsinki.fi to find out more about us and other activities within the project. Although the focus is on teaching Finnish and Swedish as a second language and on integration, the project materials can provide new perspectives on teaching other target groups as well.

Text: Lasse Ehrnrooth
The writer is a university instructor of Swedish and leader of the ‘Swedish as a second language’ group in the Language Boost project.